Dennis Prince refuses to let atheist convention go unchallenged

Rupert Murdoch has been hailed as an entrepreneurial risk-taker in launching a Sunday tabloid into the “mature and declining” market of printed newspapers with his launch of the Sun on Sunday.

This has not deterred Dennis Prince from launching The Regal Standard, as a direct challenge to the second Global Atheist Convention to be held in Melbourne from April 13 to 15.

The semi-retired pastor co-founder of Kingston City Church and long-time publisher of Resource Christian Music has produced a (presumably) one-off 12 page tabloid to counter the convention being held “in our backyard – on our watch”.

“If this event were to be held in, say, New York, we would expect Christians there to unite boldly and decisively to honour God and proclaim his greatness. That lot has instead fallen on us,” Dennis says on The Regal Standard’s website.

Dennis told Fairfax Media that he “has a tiger by the tail” by creating the Regal Standard, designed to counter atheist arguments. Fairfax reports that there are already orders for 25,000 copies of the 12-page tabloid, which will be distributed to churches, dropped in letter boxes, given to the curious, and sent to convention speakers.

‘Mr Prince… felt God telling him that the convention was happening on his watch, and he had to respond. He has spent $5000 and some 300 hours producing the paper, and needs to sell 45,000 at an average of 20¢ each to recover his costs.’

Dennis advocated for a positive but energetic response to the convention that would stimulate thought and conversation but could see the gullible “led down the garden path”.

Speakers at the convention include Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Peter Singer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and, perhaps somewhat in the “den”, Marion Maddox, who with a PhD in Theology will participate in panel discussions. (Marion and my paths crossed when we were both children living in and around the Uniting Church’s old Leigh College in South Strathfield…).

Christopher Hitchens is also pictured on the speakers page for the convention, perhaps a sign that the atheist’s are slightly enamoured with the idea of life after death…

PDF sample of The Regal Standard
Atheist Convention 2012

Some Utterance encounters with atheism…

Atheists sick of atheists
Atheism led me to faith
Ethic classes new atheism in slim disguise

Or search the tag atheism

Of evangelistic atheists and an everlasting kingdom

Amazing Grace, First version, in "Olney H...

The religification (my word, I think) of atheism is proceeding at pace and is part of an increased push in the Western world to remove Christian belief from public life.

Stephen Fry tweeted today, “If Christians rose up for Passion of the Christ, so humanists, agnostics, atheists etc might RT [re-tweet] the new film The Ledge!”.

The associated website describes The Ledge as, “the Brokeback Mountain moment for atheists, our tipping point, when we finally get the attention we deserve. Although books have put atheists into the intellectual mainstream, The Ledge is the first Hollywood drama to target the broader movie-going public with an openly atheist hero in a production big enough to attract A-list stars. This is unprecedented.”

Christians will notice close parallels with campaigns circulated through churches to rally support for movies such as Passion of the Christ, Amazing Grace, Bella and various other movies that were seen to authentically present Christian ‘heroes’ and messages.

Meanwhile the Atheist Foundation of Australia is launching a campaign to urge Australians to mark their census, ‘No religion’ as a way of limiting the influence of Christian beliefs in politics.

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And now atheists join the billboard conversation

First the Muslims, then the Christians, and just as Rev Rob Forsyth suggested, now the atheists.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) is preparing for one of its “biggest and most important projects” – a billboard campaign to encourage individuals and families to “think about the importance and impact of their answer to this leading Census question: ‘What is the person’s religion?'”

As the next Australian Census approaches on August 9, there will be concerted campaign by the AFA to have nominal or non-believing people mark their census “No religion”. Their nominated motivation for the campaign – to take religion out of politics on the basis that if there is a larger “no religion” segment of the community, the views of Christians and other people of faith will be less influential in the political realm.

In the meantime, the political aspect of this campaign has led to one of their billboards being refused, much to the AFA’s loud dismay.

Read the full story in Australian Christian News.

Where to with Utterance?

So, I’ve had a very long case of writer’s block. More writer’s coma than block. More writer’s near-death experience than coma. More…

Anyway, I’m just searching for that sweet-spot of an idea for what to do next. Don’t tell me, I’ll get it eventually.

In the meantime, it did spark my interest that the 7pm Project discussed falling church attendances tonight. Tellingly, they quoted no hard statistics, quoted a minister from a denomination with famously declining membership due to its abandonment of faith, and quoted an atheist who is too young to have any idea if there is a God or not because he hasn’t lived long enough to have a single conviction tested. Or so it seemed to me.

Host Carrie Bickmore admitted her mother had dragged her along to Hillsong, Steve Price had the usual hackneyed response about churches and money and Hughesy said that if it makes people happy and gives them good values then what’s the problem. The too-young-to-know atheist pondered what would happen without the community  that religion provides, but failed to give an alternative.

Oh, and by the way, on a different note, I’m reading my first Ernest Hemingway book, Death in the Afternoon, which is non-fiction and about bullfighting… well, it was the only Hemingway available at Leichhardt Library – but already I’ve gained a few insights into his approach to writing, which may or may not be a good thing.

Even atheists are sick of new atheism…

I’ve had my share of run-ins with online atheists, ready to drive me into the ground for being a person of faith, and that’s fair enough, after-all I am sticking my neck out here, on purpose.

But it’s interesting to see that even atheists are getting sick of the new breed of aggressive atheism which spreads the message that anyone who believes in God is a moron.

Check out ‘Please God spare us the born-again atheists’  from The Punch .

Suffer into Freshness

I wrote this poem on my phone, hence the short lines and meter. Clearly some angst on this particular day…

Suffer into Freshness

Is there a faith that is safe
From fading vacuous jargon
And well-intentioned simpletons
Who trample through the garden?

The further I remove myself
From religious ways of thinking
The more I notice emptiness
And sentiment that’s sinking.

Is this a sign of my decline
Into a heart that’s hardened?
Or a clearing of my sight
To metamorphing pardon.Read More »

Are we missing the very frontline of faith?

The Australian community is engaged in an extremely active and vigorous debate about the reality of God and I’m not sure the church at large is even aware it is going on.

While we faithful pray in our services and gatherings that God would move in our land, we may be missing the very answer to those prayers. (Try and stay with me my atheist readers, I know your blood pressure just rose at the mention of answered prayer.)

One of the first signs of spiritual revival might well be that people are even thinking about first order issues such as the origins and nature of life, is there supernatural or spiritual reality or only a material universe, and if religious claims are true how do we deal with many apparent contradictions and problems.

These kinds of questions are often and vigorously debated mainly in online forums and often in response to an increasing number of articles in the media addressing these questions from one perspective or another.

I can assure you this was not the case 10 or 20 years ago when most Australians didn’t want to discuss faith at all and where apathy and materialism (in this sense of material gain) seemed far more important.Read More »

God dethroned, humanity is next

The ABC’s Q and A program last night gave a rare display of the logical outcome of secular humanism.

Having begun discussing the relative merits of saving whales verses chickens, the show ended, under the guidance of unethicist Peter Singer, considering that it might not be so bad for humans to have sexual relations with their pets.

While most people on the panel and in the audience couldn’t even engage with that outrageous final topic, it did show us where popular secular thinking is taking us.

Having dethroned God, the next logical step for secular atheism is to dethrone humanity. If there is no God to say that human life is sacred, made in His image, then people are just animals, right and wrong mean nothing and euthanising children and oral sex with dogs is acceptable.

If you don’t believe me, read the transcript. It happened on national television and while hugely offensive, was at least an honest viewing of the dismal trajectory of the thinking of Singer and the secularists.

If you have been flirting naively with some of their ideas, take a good look at the whole murky monster and flirt no more.

Ethic classes – ‘new atheism’ in poor disguise

As the debate rages over the trial of ethic classes as an alternative to Scripture in state schools, those in favour of the new program ask, in a smugly reasonable tone, ‘Why can’t the churches respect parents’ right to choose?’

As if that is all that is really at stake. As if this is really just about a choice between your child going to Scripture, ethics or having a half-hour break.

What it is really about, and why some churches are fighting so hard, is the final and complete secularisation of public schools, fueled by the rampant new atheism which views religion as poison.

No matter what politically correct sounding arguments emerge from both camps, at stake is the privilege of access to public schools.

The goal of the new ethic classes is to so threaten the status and viability of Scripture that it will eventually disappear.

Of course the Minister for Education will never say that, in public, nor the proponents of ethic classes. But you can hear it slipping through in an odd angry shot at the Anglicans or the Catholics during media debates, and it is rampant in the unofficial grassroots commentary.

My children attended a school that did not have Scripture, in which recognition of Easter and Christmas was completely secular. Christmas carols were out, ‘seasonal songs’ were in.

Parents of faith often felt under siege and so desolate was the atmosphere of the place, I eventually pleaded to be allowed to organise an assembly that in a light-hearted way, told the real Christmas story.  One half hour in an entire year…

So what is at stake is not so much the to and fro over Scripture and ethics. It is the choice between a completely secular atheistic system or one where there is some decent recognition that people of faith exist.

But we shouldn’t be surprised by these battles. The secularisation of society has been raging for many years and, in reality, the institutional power of the church (which gave it the right to Scripture classes) has long been in decay.

Christian commentators such as Joel Edwards of Micah Challenge have said that the church needs to accept the demise of institutional power, and take up the opportunity of grassroots influence.

Newer churches, such as the Pentecostals, have never had institutional power which is why they have been so much better at grassroots influence.

Maybe the way to win the current battle, is for Scripture and the Christian communities of inner city to be so vibrant, so alive, so full of grace and power, so full of kindness and generosity and love, so authentic in relationships across dividing lines, that instead of relying on ancient privilege, they benefit from a new invitation to participate in schools, organisations and communities… PH

How atheism led me to faith…

If several billion God believers can’t dint the unbelief of an atheist, perhaps just one family member’s faith might make the difference.

Christopher Hitchens is famous for his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and is one of the poster boys of the new atheism secular liberalism. He was a special guest of this month’s Sydney Writers Festival as he promoted his memoir Hitch-22.

But while Christopher has been busy debating Christians and even threatening to have the Pope arrested, his brother Peter has rediscovered faith and published The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.

As the Hitchens brothers’ books battle for bookstore ascendency, we see a microcosm of the struggle between belief and unbelief in the world.

While most atheists will cite logic and reason for the reason of their non-belief in God, behind this for many is a personal religious atrocity that has led them from grace. For Christopher Hitchens it may just have been the brutal, even sadistic regime he encountered at a church boarding school from the age of eight.

And while brother Peter went through his own atheistic ‘revelation’ it was not to last and his book now attacks the blind spots and flaws of atheistic argument.

There is no doubt much more to run in the story of these two men’s lives, and it is a reminder that wherever darkness seems to flourish, a resilient light is close at hand. Pray for Christopher and Peter Hitchens, that both would find themselves beneath the grace of God as they play a part on the world stage.

An excellent article on the belief and unbelief of the Hitchens brothers appears in the Fairfax media today . It is written by Simon Smart, the head of research and communications at the Centre for Public Christianity. PH

Writers’ festival ‘undefends’ God…

Read, Rethink, Respond... catch-line for Sydney Writers' Festival

At first glance, Christians might be gratified to learn that the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May will feature a session called, In Defence of God. Closer examination though suggests a name change is in order – God Thrown to the Lions… Media reports say festival director, Chip Rolley, felt that ‘God deserved some time’ after recent visits to Australia by high-profile atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Good one Chip, are you having a joke with us? The session will be chaired by atheist and publisher-in-chief at Melbourne University Press, Louise Adler, and the two speakers are Eric Lax, a lapsed Episcopalian, now described as a ‘hopeful unbeliever’; and Reza Aslan, an acclaimed Muslim scholar and writer. Reza’s surname is the only (accidental) positive reference to Christianity (think CS Lewis). 

The plot (pun intended) thickens when it is realised the session will be held on Sunday 10am (May 23). Now, where would most Christians usually be at 10am on a Sunday?

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