It wasn’t so long ago that most atheists kept their non-belief of a God or other deities largely to themselves. They lived in a world where most people believed - and continue to believe – there is a God or some other spiritual being that is at the controls of everything around us - even if some people can’t put their finger on who or what this Force is.
But now a new strand of atheist is emerging. Independent thinkers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are prepared to speak out publicly and condemn established religious beliefs, accusing the "God followers" of having a dangerous influence on society.
Is this new atheism at risk of causing a new battlefront of conflict and division in society? Monash University Professor and Anglican priest Dr Gary Bouma seems to think so. He told the Studies of Religion in Focus conference in Sydney today that atheists or people without a specific faith are fuelling sectarian conflict and creating problems for interfaith tolerance in Australia.
According to ABC News, he aimed his criticism at groups that vilify or deny the right to build mosques and those who say that religious voices should be driven out of the public policy area or that religion shouldn’t be in schools, etc.
The battlelines between atheism and religion appear already to have been drawn in New Zealand at least. Last month, atheists who wanted to run an advertising campaign on buses across the Tasman proclaiming "There is probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life" were blocked from doing so by one major company.
While Christianity remains the most dominant religious faith in Australia, there are also signs that this country is becoming a more diverse society. At the same time, the 2006 Census identified 18.7 per cent of Australians claiming they had "No Religion", a percentage that has been steadily increasing.
As many of the newly-arrived and long-established faiths seek to co-operate in creating a more tolerant nation, the strand of atheism that expresses hostility towards all religious belief and seeks to convert the world to one of non-belief threatens to destabilise that process.
Contrary to what some atheists believe, the world would not be a better place without religion.
Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here