Just following up on media reaction to the recent Global Atheist Convention, held in Melbourne from March 12 to 14. I didn't see that much of this coverage. One TV news report I saw showed the audience give keynote speaker Richard Dawkins a standing ovation. This act of hero worship was somewhat ironic in the context of the event. Controversial newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt has gone in to bat for people of faith, taking some of the convention speakers to task for their mockery and ridicule of religion and public figures with religious beliefs. What makes this particularly interesting is that Bolt is an agnostic. Meanwhile, Barney Zwartz, his broadsheet counterpart, was less strident in his criticism. Melbourne pastor Rob Buckingham also weighed in with his five cents (Please note that five cents is the smallest denomination of currency in Australia).
Atheists are right to point out that they are often treated with suspicion by society at large. There is a place for critiquing the place of religion in society, but how many different ways are there of saying that religious people are deluded? Many atheists would already hold this opinion, so there was little need for convention speakers to make the same point over and over again. I also wonder if atheist fears about the church having too much influence in society are somewhat exaggerated. In public discourse, the church is just one of many voices that must compete to be heard, so our secular democracy is hardly under threat by closet theocrats.