How I Officially Lost My Religion

How I Officially Lost My Religion

I recently lost my religion. Gosh, that does sound odd. Like it slipped behind the cushions on the couch or slipped away from me while I wasn’t paying attention and now won’t return my calls or my lengthy drunken late-night text messages.

Wine picture from Shutterstock

No, I didn’t lose it really — it lost me a long time ago — but it’s hard to go past the reference to the 1991 REM hit. I just love those mandolins.

On a recent trip to the north coast my mother brought a folder of papers from my childhood. Drawings, school reports, awards . . . that kind of stuff. Inside the folder, wedged between some awkward teenage poetry and a lacklustre maths appraisal, was a small black-and-white piece of A5 paper that served as my official Catholic baptism certificate. I guess it’s cheaper to print off two kids per A4 page that way.

I found my religion! Mum had it all along. And now that she’d brought it back to me after all these years of apostasy I could return to the Catholic Church — to ask them for an excommunication.

I contacted Lismore Dioceses and sent Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett with a short letter asking to be excommunicated. Jarrett contacted me by phone, which turned into an hour-long conversation. He explained that his bosses can’t excommunicate me unless I do something wrong.

I didn’t really want to do anything harmful to the church, and my day-to-day blasphemy, crude though it is, isn’t enough for a Catholic expulsion, it turns out. We agreed that the best way forward would be an official annotation to my baptism. That is, they would update my baptism records with my request to essentially have it voided.

After some time, a good six months or more, I received an email with the news. I guess it was cheaper than printing off another A5 certificate. The subject read “No longer a member of the Catholic Church” and the specific wording of the baptismal update read:

I received your correspondence and accordingly I entered in the Baptismal Register (No: 2782). The Annotation in the Register is “Dylan Thomas O’Donnell no longer regards himself as a member of the Catholic Church from 7 June 2013. He notified to Lismore Bishop. Lismore Bishop notified to the parish of East Victoria Park, WA. Please see correspondence in the confidential file in the parish”.

My Catholic childhood and education were great, and I’ve never been done wrong by the church. I bear it no ill will as many other justifiably aggrieved people do. Bishop Jarrett, in his grace, reminded me I’d be welcome back.

There is some personal satisfaction however in being officially a documented non-Catholic. Somewhere in a little filing cabinet (or excel spreadsheet) in a rectory in Western Australia is my briefly-worded goodbye.

So I updated my Facebook relationship status : “Ended relationship with the Catholic Church.”

It’s not you — it’s me. Sure we can friends. No, I’m not seeing other religions. Yes, you can have your records back. No, please don’t text me after 9pm.

Dylan O’Donnell last wrote for Lifehacker when he described working for six months as an IT pro while living in a car. This experience sounds less painful.


  • I’m not even a catholic. does that make me excommunicated?

    Here’s another one, If I go to hell, will I still have asthma? If not then it’s an improvement.

    • Hell is apparently a literal hole in the ground where innocent children were burned and sacrificed to atone for our sins. Some chalk it up to a Hebrew mistranslation of that as to why there is even a metaphorical hell. So of course, if you were to go sit in a hole in the earthly ground, you would still have athsma. Sorry bud!

    • The good news is that ‘Hell’, in the fiery sense, is a purely Christian creation (from an Abrahamic perspective) – despite all the nasty stuff in the OT it’s not actually in traditional Jewish teaching – there is a form of judgement and purgatory, but no eternal damnation

    • In the same sense that one can be fired from a job one did not have to begin with.

  • So, if I eat Pasta, does that get me excommunicated from the church of the Flying spaghetti Monster? Religion is a scam.

  • Not sure why you’d need to even bother with getting excommunicated… It’s not like it will make any difference one way or the other…! I was baptised “Church of England” but when I joined the Army, I simply put Religion Nill…! Problem solved.

    • Depending on how these statistics are calculated (which vary country to country), “officially” leaving the church means you may reduce the figures involved when it say “Catholics (or …) believe/want X”.

      • I think the point of the article was that the author no longer believes in religion… I could be wrong, but it seems like it would be a fairly pointless article otherwise…! Statistics don’t enter into his sentiment..! 🙂

        • I was addressing your point of “why bother” and why a difference can be made.

  • The Pope recently announced that the fires of Hell (and Adam and Eve, and who knows what else) don’t really exist and were just literary devices.

    • Yeah, that’s another example of religion down through the ages… Something doesn’t fit anymore, change it… something needs to be changed to make the population more susceptible to indoctrination… Change it…!!

        • You’re forgetting the negative effect religion has had down through the ages. Society has been subverted and manipulated many times by religious tampering…!

          • In the relatively short time it’s had a chance at the reins of power, atheism has not exactly had a good record. Stalin is the particularly shining example here.

            That’s not to say that religion has had a uniformly positive influence, just that those who blame all the evils of the world on religion are missing the whole story. Most of the evils attributed to religion can be traced to people wanting power or else deeper cultural differences. This is also true of atheism.

            Personally I count myself agnostic; it’s hard to run a double-blind test for the existence of God when He doesn’t want to cooperate. Religion may be a delusion, but it is (or at least can be) a harmless, and in many cases beneficial, delusion.

          • To borrow a quote an analogy: Stalin was responsible for millions of deaths. Hitler was responsible for millions of deaths, therefore, moustachioed men are evil.
            Nothing Stalin did was in the name of ‘atheism’. I don’t deny that he destroyed churches and the influence of the Russian church, but seen in historical context, it was the church that maintained the Tzarist regime. Its wealth and its power owed a lot to the church. The entire Romanov royal family are now Orthodox saints.
            Stalin was a monster, but it’s not his atheism that made him that way.

            Also, atheism is about belief and agnosticism is about knowledge. They are not mutually exclusive and really are answers to different questions. Most atheists would also count as agnostics.

          • On that basis I would have to say I was agnostic about Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy and the Norse gods as well, but that would be a lie.

            The original atheists were defined as those who didn’t believe in the Roman gods (ie especially including Christians). All adherents of religions are at least nominally atheistic about every other god, without much evidence.

            I think it’s more intellectually honest and practical to state that I’m an atheist, rather than suggesting I’m stuck on an infinite series of epistemological fences regarding each supernatural entity.

          • Agnosticism answers the question of whether the answer to “Does a god exist?” is “knowable”. In that sense one could be:

            – an agnostic theist – “I have a belief in at least one God even though I don’t KNOW for a fact that there is a God, and I don’t think it is possible to KNOW”
            – a non-agnostic theist “i believe in at least one God and I believe it is possible to know this for a fact”
            – an agnostic atheist – ” I lack a belief in any gods, and i do not believe it is possible to know whether there is a God or not”.
            – a non-agnostic atheist “I lack a belief in any gods, and i do believe it is possible to know for a fact whether gods exist or not”

            Atheism on the other hand is simply a lack of belief in any gods. This covers both strong atheism (the position of positively asserting that no Gods exist) and weak or passive atheism (the position that while I consider the existance of Gods is a possibility, I have not formed a positive belief in any Gods – possibly because no convincing evidence has been presented to me).

          • Athiesm isn’t being questioned here, religion is…!
            However, if want to take that path, then you will end up in a culdesac, because it is not a belief system, it’s just another way on saying you don’t believe..!

          • Sorry I thought we were taking about change. You’ll find the reverse is also true. Religion has been altered by changes in society as well. It’s a two way street.

          • No.. it’s a no way street, as I’ve tried to explain… Religion is unprovable, because the only recourse for proof is faith. Faith is not proof, it’s just a way of believing in something that can’t be proved…!

        • Not sure how that works, Science and religion are diametrically opposed…!
          Science in general has seen man advance, not regress, although politicians have used science on occasion to subvert society (nuclear bombs etc) science in and of itself is harmless.

          • Are you saying that it’s your opinion that, when people use science to subjugate others that it’s the people’s fault, but when people use religion to subjugate others, it’s somehow religion’s fault?

            Isn’t it possible that science and religion can both be used improperly, but that both when taken in their correct context can be beneficial?

          • Science and religion are more closely related than you might think. Science is a form of faith – you can’t “prove” science works in every domain of existence any more or less than you can “prove” God does. That’s the basis of induction – that science sets itself up to always work by only judging itself by its own standards – the same way religious people think everything otherwise inexplicable that happens must be an “act of God” (or whatever). People choose not to believe in science regularly.

            That doesn’t invalidate science, its use application, or your belief in it in any way, it’s just that using science as the basis for belittling other belief systems is definitively ironic.

            The argument that science is inherently exempt from ethical considerations falls down with the flamethrower – a device that exists entirely because someone, somewhere once said “I want to set that guy over there on fire, but I don’t want to have to actually go there to do it” (with thanks to G Carlin).

            As to religion being inherently detrimental to society, well, your science justification applies just as equally. Almost no war has every actually been fought over religion (sounds crazy, I know). Religion is used as a recruitment and organising tool for what war is always about – land. Name any war that is regarded as a religious war, and you’ll find that it was almost always actually a war over ownership of a territory – from the Crusades to the “War on Terror”, religion is the excuse, not the cause.

          • Please point me to any scientific theory or discovery that requires blind faith for it to be explained. I haven’t seen one yet, unless you think mathematical proof is faith.. Which is is not..!

          • Seriously…? which part of science are you having trouble with the empirical evidence…?
            Science isn’t a belief system, it’s a way to understand, and create stuff..! Stuff gets built, and new information gets learned about how stuff is created all the time.. How do you not believe that stuff is scientifically created and therefore exists…?

          • @Timmahh

            Religious people use exactly the same argument: miracles happen, God gives them strength, the sky man made the crops grow, etc. You’re providing examples, not proof.

            I’m asking, “prove science”. Not the bits that work – all of it. When you do that, you’re saying “science works because I’ve seen it” in the same way the religious person says “God works because I’ve seen it”. What’s the scientific explanation for the perfection of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night? The joy in The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night? The sorrow in Keating’s Ode to a Grecian Urn?

            None of this invalidates science – of course wifi and microwaves and rockets work. But it’s all still based on a belief system just as much as any religion.

          • OK.. I see where you’re coming from… your equating science to a belief system…? I think you are over thinking it… Science isn’t a belief system, it a process… Cave man learns how to use animal bone to club things, early man learns how to make the wheel, modern man learned how to build CPU… It’s not faith, it’s a process, nothing more that that. You’re labeling this long term learning curve as a belief system, it’s not… it’s just the progression of knowledge. Religion, however was indoctrinated into early man by those who wanted the populace to do his bidding… Do as you are told, or the almighty will smite you…!! If you stop overthinking it, it will make perfect sense….! 🙂

          • Science isn’t about finding proof and facts, though. The best a scientific principle can attain is a theory. You amass evidence and attempt to find a theory that matches. Any of those theories can technically be struck down by new evidence to the contrary (if, say, you come up with evidence science doesn’t exist). It’s just the best explanation we have to work with right now.

            What you’ve been describing is mostly a philosophical question, and could equally be applied to ‘prove maths’ or ‘prove cats’. Science doesn’t answer that. Science can provide a bunch of circumstantial evidence that there is a cat, and science can posit a tonne of theories about how and why the cat is there and what could have led to the cat existing.

            I agree that science and religion aren’t completely different, but saying they’re basically the same thing is a bit off. Science has things it can’t yet explain but one day hopes to, religion has a lot of questions it cant answer and never intends to.

            tl;dr: You are using a philosophical question to equate two different things, when it applies to every damn idea and object in the world.

          • @Timmah

            I don’t think we’ll see eye-to-eye on this, so I won’t labor the point after this for both our sakes. 🙂

            But science is very much based on belief. The process you describe is exactly the same as the process for creating the book of Pslams – structured documented learning progressively developed by extensive research.

            This comes out when you have to research the philosophy of science, and find that there are many conceptually different aspects of scientific theory and process. Is science embedded in a physical invention, or in the notebook pages of the inventor, or in the inventor’s head, or bits in all 3, for example?

            If you’re interested, some of the works of Karl Popper are worth reading – that’s where I started. I disagree with many of his conclusions, but they demonstrate how much of science is belief, and how even fundamental scientific beliefs should at least be challenged. I don’t necessarily agree with falsificationism (the belief that in science would should be actively looking to prove theories wrong, rather than proving them right, basically), but it did make me re-examine how the current scientific belief system can be too influenced by the prejudices of individual scientists and their “picking winners” when it comes to advancing theory.

            It’s lengthy, tedious and irrelevant in practice for most people, so I fully understand if you wouldn’t want to look into it.

          • @stove

            I get your point, though I don’t agree – I think you’re selling religion very short, and putting science on a pedestal that it shouldn’t be on.

            Religious and deeply spiritual individuals I’ve known would argue that religion is entirely about answers. They regard questioning their beliefs and assumptions as an essential part of their faith. The nature of those answers when comparing “science” and “religion” usually come down to some variation of the difference between “fact” and “truth”, but they’re all about answering questions.

            The problem with not treating – or at least recognising – science as a belief system – or regarding it as superior to other belief systems – is that it requires accepting the science-based belief system unquestioningly – and that science will eventually provide the answer to everything. At that point, the philosophy of science and the practice are indvisible. If hypothetically, that day arrived, what would the answer be to “Can we ask any more scientific questions?”. If the answer is yes, then science can never explain everything (and my belief is that that is OK, and it shouldn’t seek to). If no, then then you’d need some frame of reference beyond science to prove that, i.e. you’d have to be “God”.

            This has been recognised for a long time – Hume wrote about it in the 18th century, and basically concluded that this natural contradiciton in science – as being both a rational system of developing knowledge and an irrational belief that the universe is esentially ordered in a way that will let us explain everything – is OK. We just need to be aware of it and continue getting smarter and better. (Or at least, that’s how I interept it – there are many other interpretations)

            My concern around this debate is always with the condescending attitude that many “anti-religion” arguers present the pro-science side in. That they do so in a way that can only be described as zealous – the unquestioning faith that science is the be all and all, and superior to everything else. Scientific zeal is no less scary than any other form. If someone who believes in science can’t – or won’t – question their assumptions and beliefs in a similar way … no good can come of that.

          • Jesus existed- it’s documented in Christian and non-Christian texts.

            I believe in Jesus. And I believe in Science. The two come together without any issue in my world and are based on sound knowledge.

          • Except it’s not based on sound knowledge.
            There are plenty of people in the world who accept science and believe in the supernatural, but to do so requires a certain level of cognitive dissonance.
            Eg A jug of water cannot, under any circumstance, spontaneously turn into wine. So to maintain the belief, one either has to disregard what is possible and accept the miracle, or move miracles into the ‘allegory’ basket (what is Jesus without actual miracles?). Neither option is intellectually honest.

          • Ah.. No. Just no. Obviously.. oh so obviously, you have no idea what science is, how it works or even what defines it.
            Whether you choose to believe in science or not is totally irrelevant. You can choose to believe the earth is flat as much as you want, that will never make it so. Flat-earth, young-earth, magic-man-in-the-sky, whatever it is… no matter how hard you believe, clicking your heels together and saying “there’s no place like home” won’t help.

            And I call bullshit on ‘religion as an excuse’. It’s not an excuse, it’s a justification. The people that actually went on crusades sincerely believed they were doing god’s work. Jihadi’s sincerely believe they are doing Allah’s work. Once you believe absurdities, you can commit atrocities.

          • As most of your comment is pure ad hominem, I’ll just say that you hilariously sound exactly like a devoutly religious person does when their religious belief is questioned (for exactly the same reason, it appears, in the way I said originally, which is sad).

            In terms of “you have no idea what science is, how it works or even what defines it”, all I can do is suggest you start reading through the history of scientific philosophy. Try starting with my favourite – Hume’s Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1740) and work your way up to Popper’s Conjecture’s and refutations (1963).

            I’ll wait for your more informed response when you’re done.

          • @lies

            It’s Latin for “playing the man and not the ball”, i.e. you don’t have an argument, so you attack the person instead.

          • So you do know. Good. We’re making progress. Now explain to the people at home how anything I said is an ad hom.

            Things to note, insults are not adhoms. Criticisms are not ad homs. Calling you out for being absolutely wrong about your understanding (or lack thereof) of what science is, is not an adhom.

            In your own words without being a complete douche, how did I attacked you and not your asinine un-argument. (also, not an adhom).

          • @lies

            Since you’ve just demonstrated you can’t tell the difference, it would make debating you on (a) the topic or (b) the method of argument, redundant.

          • @sparhawk0
            All you needed to do was point out my adhom argument. Quote it. If it exists, it’s right in front of you. How stupid will I look if you can simply point it out.
            Don’t back out now, you’re so close. Just quote it.

          • @lies

            Mate, that is now three times in a row you’ve argued against my comment on your argument rather than justify your “argument” (that I “have no idea what science is”) against my claim. Do you want the evidence to get so recursive it forms a singularity and starts dragging in comments from other posts?

          • @lies, is it worth pointing out all the atrocity done in the name of atheism? The point is that anything can be used as justification. It’s intellectually lazy to single out religion for that.

          • Like the “sciences” of phrenology and eugenics? If we’re going to look back at various atrocities committed in the name of religion in the past in order to preach the virtues of science, arguably one should also look at the various atrocities committed in the name of science (however misguided they are).
            And this is even before we get into things like fraudulent studies in more contemporary times.

          • Whats your point…? phrenology and eugenics were pseudo science in there day at best, not actual science..! The only thing that true believers have going for them is Faith, which is just a way to say, you can’t change my mind on the subject, because I just believe… As for those atrocities you mention, as vile as some of them were, at least they were based on verifiable evidence…!!

    • I’m interested in following up on this quote. Can you provide a citation for me?

        • Oh, jeez, sorry for spreading a hoax, folks. It’s just that, well, it’s the kind of thing I’d expect the guy to do, so while I was surprised, I found it believable. (I haven’t “given back” my Catholicism yet, but have been less than pleased with some of the stuff done by the church, so I find Pope Francis interesting as someone who bucks the status quo.)

          • Several fairly reputable news agencies also fell for this, so I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it.

            He’s a Jesuit, and those statements – while false in his case – are in line with what you might hear from many other Jesuits – in fact, comments like “the fires of hell don’t exist” would be mild by the standards of some of them. They often have such a broad view of spirituality that “ecumenicism” would be too narrow a description. I once had a Jesuit priest have to come in and do a scripture class at school because some Anglican evangelicals demanded a session with the Anglican students, so they needed to “balance it out”. The Jesuit was so anti the imposition of religious studies in a public school, he spent the lesson teaching us basic meditation techniques using Buddhist mantras.

            For a comparison of what the Pope has said vs what he is claimed to have said, have a look at this (particularly the “bombshell pope quotes” at the bottom):


  • This is cool!

    If I cared enough, I would do the same. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I don’t care.

    – Agnostic Atheist.

  • I didn’t go that far when i ‘left’, i was in grade 2 3 or 4 (and it would have been much earlier if i knew of the horrible things they did that that i know now) when i decided is was all BS after giving them ample chances to prove themselves (though i continued in catholic schools at the behest of my parents).

    I think that going to that extent (requesting formal ‘cancellation of membership’) legitimizes them, and i refuse to give them any sense of legitimacy.

    If memweaver is correct, they can count me as catholic in their numbers for all i care, i know they are over inflated anyway. The best way to get those number is by census, i wonder if anyone has done comparisons between what the church says and what the census says.

    • The framing of census questions has been problematic as people tend to put themselves down as whatever faith they were brought up, or due to a cultural affiliation. They may have no current beliefs, or ever attend church outside of hatch/match/dispatch ceremonies, but dutifully check off a particular religion or denomination … and in doing so freely (lazily?) give political power to the hierarchies of those institutions.

      The last committee appointed to look at issues relating to faith representation in government matters ( I can’t remember which it was specifically, but I did write a submission) was exclusively drawn from religious faith communities. So it was very much a fox guarding the henhouse arrangement.

      • I have no real current beliefs (something like an athiest leaning apatheist) but i’ve never put down a an actual religion on the census, i don’t recall the question being very problematic.

        • If so many “irreligious” people essentially classify themselves as Catholic or whatever, rather than “no religion” in the census then that is a problem which may manifest in (more) money given to put chaplains in schools etc.

          • Yeah well if they classify themselves as Catholic that’s their issue if they cant decide what they are,

  • As a Christian I find that whole process (Leaving the Church) convluded and unnecessary. Why is there so much red tape and politicalness in the Catholic Church (Though I’m sure it’s not the only type of Church)? Being a Christian is ultimately down the the belief and relationship with God, not an association of a man-made institution.

    • Ssssshhhhhhhh you’re not supposed to tell people that, or they’ll stop going to church and donating money for the ’cause’.

      • Let’s not forget that a lot of great charities have been born out of the Churches/Christians over the course of history. Salvos, World Vision, Lifeline are some high profile ones to name a few. So their ’cause’ isn’t as bad as you may think.

        • and we should also remember all those secular charities (UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, RedCross, Oxfam…etc) have been born without any intent on spreading a particular religion.
          you tell me which is more noble, charities that are doing good work because people there have been promised eternal happiness or charities that help others because they see it as their duties to help fellow human beings.

          • Ummm, the Red Cross is VERY much a religious affiliation – in the Muslim world, it’s the Red Crescent, and the front-runner for the non-denominational version is the Red Diamond, from memory.

            If they’re doing good and helping people, does it matter if they’re religious or not? Why does one have to be better than the other?

          • did you get your information from your backside? if you visit the red cross web site, you would have found out that they have specifically stated that they are NOT religious and those symbols are used in country so they are instantly recognisable. seriously google your stuff before you speak.
            and I just noticed you bolded the “cross”. the fact is that that symbol is a reverse of the Swiss flag and it was where the organisation was founded and where the HQ still is. it is NOT a symbol of Christianity.
            if non-religious people are doing the same charitable work as religious people, then the argument that “we need religion becuase they do good work” is no longer valud. just give them one less excuse to exist.

          • Mean and bigoted? Well, you sure win at the Internet.

            Why do you think there is a cross on the Swiss flag? Surely there’s no connection between, say, the Swiss military and the Catholic Church at any point? There’s surely no connection between the Swiss and militant religious orders, right? And the Red Crescent isn’t religiously symbolic, is it, even though it’s the same organisation? Particularly not because it was developed in response to the religious imagery associated with the cross?

            Let me try and make it clear: the cross on the flag is perceived as religious symbolism, and in its current form, has a strong association (if removed just barely by a single degree) with Christianity, regardless of what the organisation puts on their website or charter (which is hardly an unbiased source, since they want to downplay the association in the first place), and regardless of whether or not that is the intent.

            Which goes back to my original question – what does it matter if the organisation is (or in this case, is perceived as) religious if they help people? Other than the fact that you appear to be prejudiced against religious organisations?

          • bigoted? do you even know what that means? calling someone else bigoted for calling you out on your lies and BS isn’t gonna help you.
            you said “Redcross is very much religious” and I just proved that you made that up. and now you try to prove your point by talking about the Swiss military and symbolism? what does that have to do with “Redcross is religious”? you are just forcing your own opinion on them because it suits you? when they specifically states otherwise? are you for real? I have seen deluded people in my life but you are something else entirely.
            My point was religion does not have the monopoly on “good” and they certainly are not as noble as they make themselves out to be. they can’t justify their existence using excuses like charity when other secular organisations do the same thing.

          • @mavx4

            I apologise if you’re not a bigot when it comes to religious aid organisations. You said at the end of your reply that you want religious organisations to stop existing, seemingly for the sole reason that they are religious. That sounds like anti-religious bigotry to me, but if that isn’t what you meant, I’m sorry.

            I said “The Red Cross is very much a religious affiliation “. THE Red Cross. THE Red CROSS. The proper noun for the symbol. The actual symbol on pretty much everything that they do. Where did I say that the organisation is a religious one? I’ve said that in non-Christian countries, the symbol of the organisation has lead to it being perceived as religious, hence the adoption of other religious symbols. Do you disagree that this is why there is the Red Crescent also?

            My point was that whether or not the organisation is religious makes no difference to whether or not they can or do do good. Religious charities can be bad or good. Secular charities can be bad or good, too. Do you think that being a religious charity means they’re inherently less “good”? And if they are doing good, what does it matter whether they believe they are doing God’s work or humanity’s?

          • @Sparhawk0

            not religious organisations, I want religion to stop existing. and how is that bigotry? I also want the KKK to stop existing, does that make me a bigot? you can’t call someone a bigot just because they don’t agree with you.
            The cross doesn’t mean jack. There is a cross on the Swiss army knife and my Victorinox kitchen knives, I bet no one on earth would think the company is religious and anyone holding those things are cutting meat in the name of god. You are simply reading too much into it. The Ottoman Empire adopted the Crescent symbol because it was offensive to muslim soldiers to use a Cross and they wanted something that was instantly recognisable not because they want to appear as religious.
            all I am saying there was doing good work is not a reason for religion to exist. I feel like I am talking to a brick wall here, how thick do you have to be to not understand that? I am gonna leave this as is since you are something else entirely (not a compliment btw).

          • @mavx4

            “not religious organisations, I want religion to stop existing. and how is that bigotry?”

            1. intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.

            “I also want the KKK to stop existing, does that make me a bigot?”

            To a member of the KKK, it probably would. Go ask them. I want the KKK to stop existing, too, so I can’t tell you. I also want NAMBLA and Blackwater to stop existing, and host of other organisations that do very bad things regardless of being secular or religious. So, yeah, I’m bigoted against them. It’s the paradox of intolerance.

            “you can’t call someone a bigot just because they don’t agree with you.”

            True, but I can when you are completely intolerant of my view or anyone’s that differs from your own, simply because it’s not your own. It’s right there in the definition, plain as day, and yet you say I’m thick and you’re talking to a brick wall?

          • The Red Cross is VERY religious? You can’t be serious? Please cite one.. JUST ONE piece of evidence of a sectarian red cross.
            Do you even know WHY it uses the red cross? Google it.

            Your wealth of ignorance is breath-taking, as is your willingness to state as fact that which is not fact , that you clearly and demonstrably have no idea about.
            (also, not an adhom).

          • I didn’t say the Red Cross was religious, but the Red [beat] Cross is seen as a religious affiliation – the connection between the cross and medical treatment is from the Knights Hospitaller, and why in non-Christian countries they employ other symbols (which are also religious symbols). It does raise the question, though, that if the symbol isn’t religious, and clearly isn’t universal, why is there so much resistance to changing it?

            Which brings me back to my point – if they help people, why does it matter if they’re religious or not?

          • to quote you word for word “the Red Cross is VERY much a religious affiliation”. you didn’t say “the Red Cross is SEEN a religious affiliation” I thought Christians aren’t suppose to lie?
            Red Cross has a third symbol which is the Red Crystal. They started using that because people like you keep thinking they are a religious organisation.
            and the reason they kept the existing cross and crescent was that they are actually part of the Geneva convention, not because they are secretly religious like what you make them out to be.

          • @mavx4

            I think Christians are allowed to lie, but you’d have to ask one – I don’t know.

            If it’ll shut you up, I’ll happily concede that I could’ve worded that sentence better. Since I’ve made it clear that the way you keep interpreting it isn’t what I was trying to say, but you keep banging on about it, I can’t see how that concession would make a difference, particularly you’ve already reached the idea that I’m some kind of anti-secular, Christian extremist, but it’s there now if it helps.

            But again, the Red Cross – the symbol – has created the impression in the non-Christian parts of the world (which is a lot) that the Red Cross – the organisation – is a Christian one. And again, if they are helping people, why does it matter if they are or aren’t?

          • @mavx4

            So you’re admitting I’m right? How gracious of you.

            EDIT: You know, I’ve given this some though about why your attitude pisses me off so strongly. What I realised was that it can be summarised in this sentence which is so self-evidently ignorant: “I want religion to stop existing. and how is that bigotry”. That desire seems to be based on your feelings about Christianity – it’s the only religion you’ve mentioned (other than to parrot my mentions of Islam and Judaism). But according to Wikipedia (not the best source, but stick with me here) there are over 4,000 religious and spiritual systems in the world ( So, I have to ask: what is your deep understanding of the flaws in the Bahai faith that lets you condemnd it to non-existence? What research have you done into Shaktism that allows you to pass judgement on it and call for its abolition. How many Oomoto have you spoken to then figure out that what they beleive in is just plain wrong?

            It seems like you feel you can call for the disregarding of thousands of different ways of life for billions of people around the world, because you assume you’re smarter than all of them – to only your own level of satisfaction – for achieving a realisation that – in your mind – the Christian God doesn’t exist. It’s the same smarmy elitism that “you know better” that has led to government-lead, church-enacted atrocities such as the attempted wiping out of Australia’s Indigenous population. How could you possibly let these backwards, stupid people going believing what they do, when it is clearly to their detriment? These religious minded people that you stand in judgement of are more primitive, simple and gullible than you, because they haven’t figured out that there’s no such things as God (regardless of whether or not it’s actually “God” they believe in – but these religious-types are all the same, right?), so clearly, you know what’s best for them. That’s the bigotry in a nutshell. The absolute lack of consideration that perhaps it’s your perception (and those of people with a similar outlook to yours) of the world that is incomplete or inaccurate. As a result, it’s perpetuating the very thinking that you use against people with religious or spiritual beliefs and call for “religion to stop existing”.

            Worst of all, the attitude is irrational – it flies in the face of reason. There’s no logical or empirical justification for assuming that you’re wiser and know better than more than half the world’s population. That’s incredibly offensive to me. And, it’s coupled with the other thing that I really fucking hate – ignorance. I could be wrong, but you don’t strike me as someone who has an extensive background in studying the nature of various world religions, and yet are willing- in ignorance – to condemn all of them. I’m not religious, and that’s why it offends me. You’re disgracing the basis of scientific advancement – rational, clear, unprejudiced thinking based on an a clear, evidence-based understanding of the topic under discussion.

          • Two responses:

            1.religious institutions use their charitable activities to bolster a tax-exempt status for the entire institution, including their evangelical and political lobbying operations.
            2. Some of these religious institution charities such as Mother Theresa’s infamous missions actually only exist to evangelise rather than help the poor and sick. The money is diverted away from actually doing good to unaccountable parts of the Catholic Church and possibly as local bribes. Steve Jobs could have learnt a lot from her iabout reality distortion zones.

          • “Promoting Religion” is enough to qualify an organisation as being a charity, although I am unsure what qualifies as a religion.

          • Both your points are right, but one-sided. For example:

            Employees of and groups in non-religious charities in Australia also enjoy some spectacularly good tax benefits – it is possible for some employees of health charities to structure their salary in a way that is close to 100% tax exempt (and so they should – they usuall get paid far less than they would in private or government). They also use funds to support lobbyists. Neither are intrinsically bad.

            I could be wrong, but I think I recall claims that several non-religious charities were accused of siphoning most of the donations (up to 75%) made to Boxing Day Tsunami victims into administration and bonuses for employees, rather than to victims. The argument is that that is normal, and that people alarmed at that just don’t understand how donations work, but the argument about how much and where the money goes applies to both religious and non-religious charities. UNICEF (and the UN in general) is seen – particularly in the Middle East, and to a lesser extant, Eastern Europe – as being a front for promoting Western lifestyle, culture and beliefs.

            Religious belief is neither a necessary or sufficient to ensure an organisation is bad, and non-religious belief is neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure an organisation is good.

        • I think that the cause can be boiled down to human altruism and compassion, which doesn’t require religion. Specific religious institutions provided the social and economic framework for creating these charities but so many exist that explicitly don’t: the Red Cross, Medicins sans frontieres,

          A few months ago I was talking to an Australian woman who had worked for British charities to organise fund raising. She was boggled by how much Australian regulations favour religious institutions to get charitable, tax-exempt status. The bar is set very low for them in terms of economic management and social accountability (ie even after so many documented cases of abuse). Secular bodies on the other hand have much greater hurdles to registering, partly because of the lobbying done by churches.

    • If you don’t officially leave the church, it will continue to count you in it’s numbers when it wants to impose it’s morals on everyone else.
      Eg.. Archbishop Pell claiming to represent the views of x-millions of catholics when he is opposing gay-marriage and IVF.

      Dylan has set a great example of all non-believers whose baptism (or whatever) has them a life-long member to whatever cult got them. If you don’t believe, get out and stop letting the Pells ‘represent’ you.

      • I can definitely understand where the Author is coming from, RE: Being counted, when he does not support the Churches views.

        My comment was more referring to the fact that someone needs to actually go though that whole process to get their name off the list. People leave (and joint) Churches all the time. It just shows how political the Church has become and departed from being a place for people who share the same faith to Worship together to something more “business” focused (for want of a better word).

        My Church does not keep figures of who is Baptised/attending let alone reporting it higher up the chain.

        • The harder they make it, the more likely someone will give up before you finish the process… they still own you 😛

  • What did it for me was reading Richard Dawkins’ “The Ancestor’s Tale”. I was already teetering on the precipice of disbelief anyway (always had problems reconciling Faith with Science), but the quietly and logically laid out arguments in that book had me asking why I was hanging on to the beliefs of ancient Middle-Eastern goat herders.

    I never went as far as to have myself officially removed from the flock though. I wonder if I’m subconsciously having two bob each way… nah, more that I can’t be arsed.

  • My beliefs mean that the Roman Catholic church considers me anathema – which, according to Wikipedia, means “something dedicated to evil and thus accursed.” It would be excommunication, but for the fact that I’ve never been part of the roman Catholic church in the first place.

    And all because I believe that a person is saved through faith in Jesus Christ, and not dependent upon their works…

      • The scriptures contain the proof the same way a scientific paper can be believed to contain proof of science. Both have significant history, can be independently verified and have research and acts to back them up.
        In both cases, simply rejecting out of hand what is written without any research of your own is unsupportable.
        It’s like Aristotle standing in front of Newton and saying “Sure, you can believe that objects fall at the same speed and an object in motion will stay in motion – But don’t present it as fact.”

        • Wow…! just Wow…!
          You are deluded mate… The scriptures as you put it were written by many people over many centuries and adjusted and edited many times to suit individuals in power and enable them to achieve more control and power. Science on the other hand is tested and rigorously vetted by peer review. Not dictated by men in power. You are simply deluded if you think blind faith is the answer to your beliefs. Science can actually be tested for its effects and theories, and outcomes that can be physically tested and created….! Sorry if you think I’m being blunt here, but faith is a path for those who won’t or can’t see any other recourse because there is none…!

          Given your comments above I can see there is no point in continuing a discussion that will only lead to vitriol from a true believer.

          • I’ve heard you say this before, but I was wondering what your sources are? The scriptures I’m talking about are the originals that are referred to each time a new translation for a more modern audience is required. The ones that, although they are many thousands of years old, can be compared to the same documents found in the 1940-50s in the Dead Sea archive are shown to have not changed over that time. What I’m also trying to draw a distinction to here is the difference between the original tenants of faith from Jesus and the early church, as opposed to some religions that have sought to control their people by denying them access to the scriptures and making it forbidden for any but the elders to “interpret” them for the congregations. I do not believe that faith based in that environment is valid any more than you do – but faith that comes through careful research? That can be counted on.
            Incidentally, I resent the implication that I am somehow stupid of gullible simply because I have faith.

            Edited for spelling and I stuffed up the Dead Sea dates!

          • Ok last time… use google and look it up for yourself…! there’s nothing more I can add without you, or one of your fellow believers kicking me in the teeth for having the temerity to not believing in something that can’t be proven…!

          • I apologize if you feel I’ve been kicking you anywhere – certainly not my intention. Hate is directly opposed to my faith and I’m sorry if others who share my belief make you feel hated.

            I believe faith, or not, of anything is an informed choice. There is just a lot of bad information out there on both sides of the argument and no-one seems interested in exploring that. No offence was intended, and I won’t continue this reply thread.

          • 1. having something written down that get passed on for thousands of years does not gives it more creditbility than lets say “three little pigs”.
            2. I am not sure where you were going with having documents that are comparable in different time periods help you. that does not make it more “real”. a remastered edition of star wars may have better effects and make it more convincing to newer audience but that doesn’t mean the story actually took place long ago in a galaxy far far away.
            3. Timmahh had a point about heavy editing in the scriptures where they took out bits that made the whole thing unbelievable. my favourite bit was about infant Jesus repelling dragons (yes dragons).
            4. what careful research have you done? and by research I mean do you have any verifiable evidence that can be presented here?

          • I think @timmah was disagreeing with you about scriptures being independently verifiable in the same was as a scientific paper.

            A scripture, as you describe it, can be independently verified against other discovered scriptures. You are demonstrating that it has been written down before and has not changed from the present, but this does not give the content of the scripture any more validity.

            When a scientific paper is independently verified, You follow the same method and should end up with the same conclusions – it’s like a recipe. with the same starting ingredients and the right method, you can demonstrably end up with bread at the end. If you end up with pancakes, either you or the recipe writer made a mistake and you should get some other people involved to figure out which it is.

            The equivalent for the scriptures would be if we could say ‘if we commit x amount sin in this city, it will be destroyed by god’ or ‘prayers of this type are 70% likely to be answered’. That’s not how religion works.

          • If we restrict “proof” to that which is possible to be independently verified through the scientific method, then there’s lots of stuff that can’t be proven. e.g. How can you prove that the Big Bang actually happened? It’s not like we can replicate one (yet).

            But that doesn’t mean the Big Bang didn’t happen. We can have lots of people look at the traces it (supposedly) left behind, and seeing what conclusions they come to. You can then compare the quality of their work (e.g. rigour of analysis, reasonableness of assumptions, bias, etc.) and see who agrees and disagrees. Finally, you can weigh up the evidence and the explanations of the evidence and decide what most likely happened.

            Similarly, we can’t prove that Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo. But we can look at the traces the event left behind (i.e. all the people who talked about it) and see what they say. Not all sources may agree (after all, in the confusion, it was initially reported that he had WON), but you can weigh them up against each other and come to your own conclusion about the events.

            I put it to you that the purported events in the Christian scriptures are similar: Are there traces left behind by what is supposed to have happened? If so, are the traces from different sources? What is the quality (e.g. proximity to reported events) of the sources? Do they agree or disagree? What is the most likely reconstruction of the supposed events?

  • I am sure things would be different if my parents were aggressively religious, but the whole concept never seemed plausible to me.

    In primary school I went to the Religious Education (Christianity) classes like pretty much everybody else at my public school, but I don’t recall there ever be a time when I thought the stories I were hearing were true.

    I don’t understand how somebody can hear, as an example, the story of Genesis and go “Wow, that’s how the world was created” rather than “What an interesting story”.

    • 🙂 I was a royal pest in those classes, so many questions, so few actual answers that didn’t require me to have Faith…! 🙂

      • You should keep asking 😉

        I and I’m sure many others have persisted in questioning and have received answers that didn’t require faith. Just an open mind (not to say that you don’t, just that most people tend to close their minds once they’ve settled on one explanation).

        Oh and if you do come across someone/group that palms it off to just requiring faith, they’re probably the wrong people to ask.

        • Just believe in god, totally.. then he will give you the answer as to why you should believe in him. If you don’t get those answer, you obviously don’t believe in him enough.

        • How do you answer a question about faith, or a religious concept that can’t be answered definitively..? If I ask you to prove God exists, can you…?

  • I honestly think everyone should try giving up religion, at least for a little while. You’ll find that nothing untoward will happen to you now, or ever and that life goes on, except you’ll have time to spend with family on Sundays and feel relieved that you’re living a good life, free of judgement.

    If you have a hole in your heart from where religion once sat, do some volunteer work or donate the money you would have given to the church to something else. That hole will soon close and you’ll be the same great person, but without guilt!

  • Now I’ve got that R.E.M. song stuck in my head, by the way losing my religion is a southern US term for losing one’s temper.

  • Science: I observe phenomena, I develop a hypothesis as to a principle that causes the phenomena, I make predictions using my hypothesis (under the assumption that it is false) and I perform experiments and record my observations. If enough observations match the predictions of my hypothesis, the postulated causative principle becomes a theory. My peers replicate my results and try to make and test other predictions using my theory, modifying improving or disproving my theory in the process. The theory is the most authoritative statement in science. It is never a statement of truth, it is a model of the world based on observation. It is always open to being questioned, altered or overturned, based on objective observation. It is never ever proved (proofs only exist in self-contained systems like mathematics). There is no proof in science, only evidence that supports or undermines a theory. Science requires no belief, the strongest statement is “Theory X is the best current explanatory model of phenomena a, b and c – as supported by experiments Y and Z” this is a statement that can be shown to be demonstrably true.

    Religion: I observe phenomena, I postulate a supernatural cause for everything. I posit moral maxims including one that states my postulation is the ultimate and unquestionable truth. The end. There are no requirements for repeatability, or falsifiability, or parsimony for any claims I make. There are no controls for confirmation bias or any other cognitive biases. There are no requirements of observability. The highest standard of proof (for unlike science, religion requires no evidenbce, only absolute proofs) are anecdotal tales of unverified, supernatural events, subjective experiences (that are usually more easily explained as related to the observers psychology rather than anything external), and arguments from authority. All the “observations” made by religion have superior natural explanations that would require fewer baseless assumptions than those offered by the religion.

    • Where the hell were you at the beginning of the argument….? 🙂 Please feel free to jump in next time this silly subject drags it’s sorry ass into the pages of LH/Giz, because sadly, I’m sure it will….! 🙂

  • Hardly a fair comparison – when judging religion and science by the standards required of science, you find science superior. That’s pretty much a given. To judge both on equal footing, you’d need an external frame of reference that can evaluate both impartially.

    What you’ve provided is an excellent start for discussion, not a justification for closing it.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!