In response to questions: disclosing where I’m coming from

19 Jan

I’ve noticed on a few blogs that comments have been left about me not revealing my religious/non religious beliefs. Some have speculated that I’ve had a bad experience in my life that has caused me to turn against Christians.

It’s fair enough to expect me to reveal my position. I actually sort of did that in this piece here  titled “Home” just a few days ago, but of course only the blogs regulars will know that.

In fact it was Anglican nuns who saved my life, literally, when I was fifteen. They took me into their care when I was no longer able to stay at home in an extremely dangerous family situation. These women treated me with extraordinary love, concern and compassion, as did the male church members who were involved in the legalities of ensuring my ongoing protection from my family until I was old enough to be independent.

So no, I have had no bad experiences with religious people. Quite the opposite. I feel a gratitude so profound to those nuns that I’m unable to find language to adequately express it.

I don’t  hold any religious beliefs. I’m not drawn to membership of any institutional religion. I am not affiliated in any way with any religion.

I love many of the words attributed to Jesus, and I see him as a man who had much of interest and importance to say. I don’t need to see him as a god, anymore than I need to see anyone else who says wise and interesting things as a deity. I take my nourishment where I can find it, and I range wide.

I don’t believe in any god as described by Christianity, not even the god of my nuns. I do believe in how those nuns looked after me.

This is what makes me angry. Christians who control our laws so that they are exempt from actions that would see anyone else prosecuted. Such as discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace. Christian churches can refuse to employ human beings solely on the grounds of their sexual preference. This makes me angry.

Christians who seek overtly or covertly to impose their beliefs on others. This is tyranny. If it’s done covertly, it’s deceitful and duplicitous tyranny. Christians who insist that there is only one way to live, and that’s their way. Christians who are so enslaved to their ideology that they will do anything to impose it on others.

There are plenty of Christians who are generous, accepting, and as appalled by some of their fellows as am I. To them I’d say, you need to stand up and be counted. You need to challenge those within your communities who will see human beings destroyed, in their efforts to persuade them to their way of thinking. You have this responsibility more than anyone else.

Where are the ordinary Christians roaring in outrage at the churches’ abuses of children, for example? Where are you? How do you remain so silent? Why should I respect you when you don’t protest the vileness in your churches, and keep on protesting it, loudly, over and over?


I like the words of the Leonard Cohen song, Lover, Lover Lover. It’s a dialogue between a man and his god. Here is god responding to the troubled questioner:

“I never turned aside,” he said,
“I never walked away.
It was you who built the temple,
it was you who covered up my face.

Oh lover, lover, lover lover come back to me…”

I’d say this to some Christians: you have built the temple. You have covered up his face.

God, I would venture to suggest, like love, is action. God, like love, is a practice.

I don’t believe that anyone indoctrinated into institutional religious belief and holding to that belief, can make moral decisions separate from that belief. If they do, then they are denying their faith, because one of the commands of religious faith is that follower’s life is lived in accordance with its tenets.

And why should I listen to anything told to me by someone who is denying their faith by claiming it doesn’t affect their moral views?

It’s the denial that tells me who they are.


I’m a woman whose life was saved by Christian men and women. And perhaps because of that, perhaps because of my love for those Christians, I am enraged when I see their faith betrayed.



87 Responses to “In response to questions: disclosing where I’m coming from”

  1. Akira Doe January 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    I am not a regular to your blog (although I think I will be from now on) so thank you for making it absolutely clear, without a doubt where you come from.

    Will you be suing yourself now? Jokes aside, thank you.

    I personally am having a “slight” crisis of faith. When I see certain Christians behaving how you have described above in the name of their faith it makes my blood boil.

    I know this is off topic, but when I discovered (elsewhere) that certain Christian groups were supporting church schools’ right to expel students for nothing more than being openly gay I couldn’t believe it. Myself, I’m not gay so that doesn’t affect me personally, but it’s still outrageous. If down the track my wife and I have children and any of them were gay, I’d hate to think that I’d been a part of a group fighting against their rights. Enter crisis of faith.

    I’m not ashamed of my faith, but I would never try to impost it on others and I am without a doubt ashamed of the despicable acts others do using their Christianity as a justification.


  2. Marilyn January 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    The Anglican priest in my hometown told me my father was not molesting me because he played golf with my father.

    However, some of the best people I have ever met are Jesuit priests, like Frank Brennan.


  3. gerard oosterman January 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    I was a believer in Church, but once masturbation reared its head, ( a sin deserving eternel fire),I was out like Flynn and haven’t looked back since.


    • Ant Allan January 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      Oh, that’d be an interesting contribution to the stories that PZ Myers is posting on Pharyngula…



      • Jennifer Wilson January 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

        should I send it?


      • Ant Allan January 20, 2012 at 6:36 am #

        I meant Gerard’s … but, yes, Gerarld should.


      • gerard oosterman January 20, 2012 at 11:26 am #

        I tried to, but have difficulty registering with Pharyngula. I’ll keep on trying!


      • Ant Allan January 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

        Keep trying! The comments threads are often, um, boisterous, but the posts are rarely uninteresting.

        In the meantime, you could just email the story, with the Subject: Why I am an atheist, to PZ:



        • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

          I’m going to do that tomorrow. We’re still getting traffic here from the pzmyers blog. Thanks for encouraging me!


  4. paul walter January 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    I thought the Leonard Cohen comment striking,because it resonates so strongly with a definitive tract from the NT Acts 17,22-31, where St Paul, an educated, Hellenised Jew, after some rough treatment from his own, visits the Athenian
    Agora, hub of community, to discourse instead with the Athenians on the”Unknown God”.
    In part he says:
    ” The god who made the world… does not live in temples built of human if he has need of these..rather he himself gives life and breath to everyone else… that they would seek him out, tho he is not far from any of us”.
    It bespeaks the best of Christianity, the person, who like Simpson and his Donkey at Gallipoli, actually sympathises rather than despises people to the extent of the laying down of a life, as a scape goat. “Greater love hath no person, than lay down their life for their fellows”, as the ANZAC quote goes
    Religion is not necessarily spirituality, and its true that the concept of God as a well intentioned friend and leader by example, someone we could identify with and draw inspiration from, radically conflicted with the older Manichean concept of God as thug, waiting to trip us up in a lawyers labyrinthe of petty laws and infractions, like a schoolyard bully.
    No, I’m not religious. But I find the sort of God proposed of this sensibility a bit more “real”; the other seems to just indicate a pointless life of fear and inevitable retribution,regardless of whether people did their best, or not.
    And if God is only a thug, why would I bother with God any more than a mob of bikies or fascist skinheads, better avoided..even my own impulses would be better.
    Is there a god in an existential sense? I dont know. I do think its as stupid to proclaim there is no god, as it is stupid to say its been categorically and scientifically proven that there is one.
    I like the idea of god as a friend whos “been there, done that:, who knows from experience when I’m having a crap day.
    “Imaginary Friend”? Yep, Probably. But it makes it a little easier that the road to the grave and end of all things, just as a thought.


  5. Paul Skinner January 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    I can only agree with everything you say. I would be a lot more harsh in criticism of the ‘church’ even with your quality experience. The goodness in people is a natural gift not something any organisation has instilled in them. Generosity of spirit often occurs within the church allowing the ‘church’ to claim credit. I take it to the next level and say that political conservatism will gladly use the ‘church’ as a vehicle to ensure easy transfer of their ideology via ‘family’ and community. Us lefty’s no longer have a medium to transfer our ideology in a subversive way. We just have to speak and write the ‘truth’content and hope we get heard.


    • gerard oosterman January 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

      Very well put Paul Walter and Paul Skinner. The ‘end of all things’ does throw up for me the question in a somewhat more urgent way, getting inexhorably towards the fag-end of life.. I hardly know the question but know that the answer is coming sooner rather than later.

      Jennifer, you have never let your earlier bad experiences embitter your. Not once have I ever noticed you being unduly harsh or throwing personal infective around. You find the good in most of us even amongst those attacking you. It just proves that being good doesn’t have to involve believing in walking on water or wine being made of it.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 6:45 am #

      “All I have is a voice
      to undo the folded lie….” WH Auden


  6. Keith Van Driel January 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    ”Christian churches can refuse to employ human beings solely on the grounds of their sexual preference.” I wouldn’t call it preference, rather ”orientation”

    From dictionary:” the direction of someone’s interest or attitude, esp. political or sexual : a common age of consent regardless of gender or sexual orientation”.


  7. Jason January 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I have several problems with your logic in your piece above.

    First, you only outline a very limited set of your beliefs (albeit, you do give a link to a more extensive exploration). What are your beliefs about sexuality? Why do you believe them? What do you think of morality per se? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Do you consider any activity “immoral”? If so, what and on what basis? You see, it’s easy to target someone like Tankard Reist because she falls under a very identifiable (and largely out of favour) label of “Christian”. It’s an easy, and to some, persuasive strategy. But ultimately it’s just another bad ad hominem argument. You, however, are simply an individual, with an individual view. You don’t carry the baggage, good and/or bad, of identifying with such a group. It makes your job of targeting someone like Tankard Reist very easy because they are ‘other’ to you.

    Second, everybody, if they think their views are important enough for the management of society, would fight for relevant laws to be enacted. In a democracy that’s everyone’s right. That is entirely different, however, from your label of ‘imposition’ of beliefs upon others. It may be argued that enacted laws that represent a laissez faire attitude or much more liberal attitude are just as much an imposition of beliefs as any religious ones.

    Third, if you believe in people’s freedom to practice religion without vilification, then regardless of whether you like it or not, Christians ought to be entirely free not to employ people on the basis of, not so much sexual preference, but sexual activity or promoting forms of relationship that go against historic Christianity.

    Fourth, you have confessed that you’re not part of any organised religion. Then you decry the fact that ‘ordinary Christians’ are not more vocal on child abuse. But the question remains: how would you know if they are or aren’t? It’s easy to criticise because you don’t pay attention, or because you haven’t heard ‘ordinary Christians’ talk about the abhorrence of child abuse. It’s a cheap criticism. Have you actually bothered to check out what measures have been put in place by denominations to deal with child abuse? That’s an easy place to find ‘ordinary Christians’ decrying child abuse. And perhaps you miss the point that, even if there was less emphasis placed on decrying child abuse (as you suggest is the case), perhaps that’s because it is universally accepted by church and wider community alike that child abuse is vile and destructive.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 6:41 am #

      I have “confessed” that I’m not part of any organised religion? That’s a crime? Or something I should feel ashamed or guilty about? “Confessed?????”

      That sentence says everything about where you are coming from.


      • Jason January 20, 2012 at 7:31 am #

        A slight over-reaction, don’t you think? Or a way of avoiding legitimate criticisms? Deconstructing a reply based on one word, which, in its context, is entirely appropriate. It’s got nothing to do with shame or guilt at not being a part of any organised religion – particularly Christianity – and everything to do with your self-disclosure (is that better?) that you don’t belong and yet proceed to condemn ‘ordinary Christians’ for a perceived failure to speak out against child abuse. In other words, you condemn ‘ordinary Christians’ without having regular, ongoing experience of the kinds of things about which ‘ordinary Christians’ are deeply concerned.

        By the way, on the semantic range of ‘confessed’ – it can have a religious connotation, or a criminal one, but it need not necessarily have either. It can simply mean a person is admitting a fault – in this case, a fault of criticising a group without relevant personal information or experience.


      • Ray January 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm #


        I call MTR an authoritarian moralist because rather than just criticise something on the grounds of immorality, she seeks to ban it. She seeks to extend the powers of the state to censor speech. Her only reason for seeking to censor is that ‘she thinks’ it is wrong and her opinion is apparently the only reason needed. Whenever anyone seeks to impose their will on others they are being authoritarian.

        As for her ideas – indeed, we should criticise those but she keeps much of that close. And what are her ideas? Abortion bad, heteronormal family good, censorship good, heteronormal sex good, non-heteronormal sex bad, etc, etc.


      • nataschayolanda January 24, 2012 at 7:12 am #

        No Jennifer, the fact you didn’t answer the Qs posed:
        “What are your beliefs about sexuality? Why do you believe them? What do you think of morality per se? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Do you consider any activity “immoral”? If so, what and on what basis? ”

        Says volumes and where does Jason state about your guilt or shame of being non religious? For readers who use their logic, it is an obvious deflection to the Qs he posed to you, Why would that be? Nothing to back up your opinions, just hounding a public figure for your own ego perhaps? Do you enjoy rallying people around you to agree with you, based on no actual factual information on your part. It is ironic your blog is called no place for sheep, as this blog seems the perfect place for them.
        Learn to look at facts, do your research people, hate, fear mongering and witch hunting, is for the mindless, who enjoy the bullying of others.


      • Ant Allan January 24, 2012 at 7:49 am #

        If you seek answers to those questions, look around you.



    • Ray January 20, 2012 at 10:28 am #


      Labelling MTR a Christian is a bit lazy. People do it to contradict her push to be seen as a secular feminist. Her Christianity can be judged by what she has said and the company she keeps. She is ant-abortion, anti-gay marriage and every inch an authoritarian moralist who does shy away from censoring, banning, suing and otherwise controlling images, things, people she takes a disliking too. In this she looks a lot like the religious right. So much so that she is often asked to speak at religious right events, churches, etc. There is even footage of her on the internet talking at a conference organised by NZ Family First.

      As for child abuse within religious institutions, don’t get me started. The point is that it should never have happened in the first place. Regret is easy and too late. So how did it happen? How did the very people who were supposed to be our moral guides commit such atrocities.

      My view is that the absolutely last people one should go to for a moral opinion about anything is a Christian, conservative or progressive.


      • Ray January 20, 2012 at 10:30 am #

        That should read , ‘Does NOT shy away from censoring


      • Jason January 20, 2012 at 11:36 am #

        Ray, I don’t know that MTR denies her association with Christianity (haven’t read any of her stuff, have only seen one ABC interview), but I can see why she would seek to be heard for her ideas first and her faith second. It’s easy enough to dismiss a person for their faith, but harder when one has to engage with the ideas presented.

        Why call MTR an authoritarian moralist? If she believes certain things are damaging to society, she has every right to draw attention to them. It’s just the same for those who wish to defend and fight for pro-choice and same-sex marriage. Should I call those people amoral or immoral libertarians who will allow anything, who have no moral or ethical compass? That would be just as dismissive as labelling MTR an authoritarian moralist.

        And on the very painful issue of child abuse within religious institutions, it has been a thoroughly inadequate and many times deeply insensitive response from some institutions and denominations. You’re right, it should never have happened. And you ask a very good question about how it happened. I suspect that at least part of the answer to that question lies in the extreme lengths child abusers go to get access to children, groom them, and have the opportunity to abuse them with near impunity. Take a look at the conviction of a number of teachers, sports coaches and other adult members of organisations that have access to children. But the fact that perpetrators weren’t dealt with swiftly and decisively by various church denominations and hierarchy is profoundly troubling. The systems in place now in some church denominations are obviously much better as a result.

        I can understand your lack of trust of Christians generally, even if I think you’re condemnation of all Christians for the actions of some is unfair.


      • nataschayolanda January 25, 2012 at 8:36 am #

        You’re more than welcome


  8. tsawarong January 19, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I suppose I am one of those “ordinary Christians” who is not standing up to be counted. Like another reader of your blog, I have tried to follow the teachings of Christ, but not very successfully. I have drifted away from the church as an institution. It simply isn’t relevant to me any more. It seems to have become preoccupied with a few peculiar issues and its leaders seem to be living in an alternate universe. Many other estranged “ordinary Christians” have drifted away from churches in droves, as witnessed by dwindling congregations and the empty seminaries. The hard core that remains includes quite a few zealots and also many who seem more devoted to the church as an organisation than to living as a humble follower of Christ.
    So why are the moderate Christians not roaring in outrage, why are they silent? Perhaps because they are simply just estranged by the weirdness, dogmatism and ultimately the irrelevance of the church they once felt a part of, and they don’t give a hoot any more.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 6:38 am #

      It’s just sad, really, that so many decent people feel driven out. Thank you for putting this perspective – I’ve wondered often just what is going on with the churches.


  9. paul walter January 20, 2012 at 6:27 am #

    Jason, fair enough in theory, but most of us know “astroturfing” when we see it. Those of us following US politics are well aware of the role of astroturfing in weakening the sort of influences Tsawarong identifies that were once responsible for helping to gatekeep for a civil society, before the intemperate era of invasions of other countries for private gain, and the great Wall St Heist underway over the last decade, that is beggaring Americans by the millions.
    Is it an accident that the people who gave Wall St this power, were also the sort of dingbats who beleive that people used to ride to work on dinosaurs and that science, from Darwin to Global Warming is just a hoax?
    We’ll talk more about the morality of child abuse, when the religious conservatives and their big business string-pullars in the US bring in their shuddersome child labour laws.
    By the way, did you know that the conservative state of Arizona has removed Shakespeare from school curricula because he’s “too liberal”?


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 6:46 am #

      Is that true? They’ve removed Shakespeare? Dear god the end times the end times!!!


    • Jason January 20, 2012 at 7:50 am #

      Paul, I also follow US politics a little. First thing – it’s not Australian politics (we have elements of a US-style politics, but we are still very far from it). Second, I love a good conspiracy theory, and your suggestion that there is a deliberate connection between those in power and the Wall St collapse is particularly good. I think it has more to do with the average US citizen’s (as well as big business’) penchant for rejecting government regulation and intervention of most sorts. Third, fair cop about some Christians who are so desperately reactionary against Darwinism (and evolutionary biology more broadly), Climate Change, and Shakespeare (in Arizona). Removing Shakespeare – that’s absurd, if it’s true.

      Personally, I can’t stand many of the things the Republican movement stand for. The fact that they have had the support of American evangelical churches is something I can’t get my head around. It baffles me.


  10. paul walter January 20, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    Gerard, you are only as old as I feel.


  11. AJ January 20, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    All ideologies eventually codify into a rule set often infiltrating the political/legal system. Basically any of the Christian branches and all the other religious systems out there become hard line such that some benefit and some lose from it. Your either one of us (in power) or one of them (not) – Australia reflects this with the growing divide between rich and poor. There are few exceptions anywhere in the world to this and its a sad state of affairs that humans feel compelled to treat each other that way usually due to greed, power hungriness, pettiness or plain envy. Its petty but as good as it gets. @Jason You do realise Charles Darwin was largely rebelling against his own family background when he decided to take a scientific approach to understanding the world? I have seen societies try to live on survival of the fittest and they tend to be disastrous. Its a lofty notion, but forgets the mass extinction that inevitable results. The answer? I think we need to mature to a more reasoned thoughtful approach that BELEIVES that people have a basic human right to live in safety and with basic needs met, not harming others, not plundering and destroying nature. It might sound idealistic, but its possible.


    • Helvi January 20, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      AJ, we are a very long way of being mature, see what has been dished out to Jennifer.. I have always strived to be civil or at least tried to ‘soften’ disagreements by humour, but have not received curtesy in return.
      I have been reading Jennifer’s blog from its beginning, and have observed that she treats everyone with respect.


    • Ray January 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm #


      If you look closely at the history of Christianity you see factionalism. The early Christians belonged to many different factions. The Catholic church attempted to stamp out ‘heresy’ but failed. After the Reformation Christianity began to splinter into many factions. If you disagreed over doctrine you simply set up your own church. If I recall there are well over 200,000 different Christian denominations. There is often more bickering between Christians than there is between Christians and secularists 🙂 LOL


      • samjandwich January 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

        Hello Jason, AJ, and Ray

        Just quickly, I’ve always thought the best way to describe the difference between a religious and a secular* world view is found in the distinction between “believing” and “knowing”. Once someone has accepted the idea of a god. it is possible for them to accept the teachings of that god without necessarily examining the veracity of each of them (though arguments may be held over the interpretation of the teachings), since the source of those teachings is taken as irreproachable.

        Being secular on the other hand entails constructing one’s own understanding of the world by examining every piece of information one comes across and incorporating the results of that into the wider context. It is for this reason that secular people are so concerned with seeing evidence of something. It’s the difference between “believing” and “knowing”. and it is also the reason why secular people won’t take kindly to being asked for details of the origins of their world views – because to do so implies that you are questioning that person’s capacity to make such deductions.

        I think what Jennifer has done through this blog is shown that it is possible – or even rational – for an educated person to arrive at a world view that privileges individuals’ entitlement to make their own destinies, as long as this occurs within a framework where people can be held responsible for the consequences of their thoughts and actions.

        It does however pose a dilemma for those people who choose to follow a religion, as often to do so entails sharing your “faith” or your views with those who have not yet seen the “truth. Hmmm, it’s hard to talk about this in a forum such as this, though I’m sure you’ll find it in a Christopher Hitchens essay somewhere.

        *and I don’t like the term “secular” because it signifies a binary relationship to religion – which is to ascribe religion a sense of significance that it doesn’t have. It is better to describe it as “intellectualism”.

        And me? Well following a very pleasant visit to the Kavalan factory yesterday I’ve decided to become a follower of Jim Murray’s


        • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

          I know you are having a great time there but I need you here! You have no idea how viral all this has gone and I’m in fights bloody everywhere. LOL. Have a good time.


  12. Ray January 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm #


    I forgot to mention that as far as I’m concerned MTR’s ideas are based on her faith. She may argue that they are based on evidence but when you dig deeper you find the evidence disappear and her faith appear. A good example is her argument over the sexualisation of girls. The term sexualisation implies a deviation from a norm: giving something a sexual meaning that is not normally there. But what is that norm? When pressed MTR refers to ‘reports prove’. In most cases she cites the American Psychological Association taskforce report. This is where MTR’s evidence begins to disappear under scrutiny. I’ve read the report (as have many others) and it simply does not say what MTR makes it say. I’ve also read peer reviews of the report and many have argued that it is deeply flawed and its conclusions next to worthless. When you dig deeper the harm MTR argues exists is nothing other than a belief of harm. Dig a bit deeper and the harm becomes a deviation from what MTR believes is the ideal – and that looks the same as the deeply conservative Christian moral ideal. IOW, it is morality disguised as evidence based argument.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

      I’ve had the same experience when I researched the APA report on sexualisation.


      • Ray January 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

        Yes, and there’s some substantive criticism out there.


    • AJ January 20, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Only babies are near perfect, the rest of us bear the scars, nuances and character of our experiences good and bad. It makes for interesting people, thought provoked and somewhat more genuine given that they become reality tested individuals. Enough of the pontificating, I’m off to give the performance of my life on Ukulele at the local 🙂


      • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

        Well I hope your audience appreciate you AJ. I quite like the ukelele.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

      This is a brilliant post as PW observes. I haven’t had much time to connect with you Ray, due to other circumstances. But I hope we can be blog friends. PW have you been to Ray’s blog? You’ll enjoy it.


    • Hoffmann January 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

      For Example:
      One Topic

      The Christian Feminist fringe {oxy moron X 10} (where MTR appears to be most popular. Go figure.) think songs can exacerbate/perhaps cause the rates of rape in Western Society.I did bit of digging on the crap about the evidence in the UK and found nothing but ‘opinions’ from a few female bobbies with a barrow to push.
      The lack of any evidence or any substance is MTRs meat and potatoes.
      Pick and choose the data syndrome is common (In both ways).
      When it comes to just saying stuff,she is a guru.

      order in the court……………………


      • Ant Allan January 21, 2012 at 10:54 am #

        “a few female bobbies” — do you mean “bobbies” (police officers) or “boobies” (stupid or childish people)? 😉



  13. paul walter January 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Ray says the most profound thing yet. You have to fit your theory to the evidence, not the other way round. His entire post is a gem,
    My suspicion remains that here IS a darker agenda involved, of a ninetheen thirties type, Jason’s comments unwittingly alert to me that religion IS being employed as a Trojan Horse for a corrupt ideology that works in the interests of the one per cent, it serves these well, as the tilting point reaching to neo fuedalism demonstrates in the USA and Europe at this time.
    This is an Anders Breivik age.


    • Ant Allan January 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

      Ah — “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” (usu. attributed to Seneca)



      • Ray January 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

        Ant Allan,

        Love it. The Romans have been much maligned. Western civilization based on Christian values? Nonsense. We’re Roman through and through. Seneca nailed it.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

      It’s a great post isn’t it.

      Those crazy Republican presidential candidates bother me. anti abortion, ant choice, think women came out of man’s extra rib –


  14. Jules January 20, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Hi Jennifer, I’ve been reading your blog since you and MTR first hit the headlines. Just wanted to say thanks for this post, it is wonderfully eloquent. It is everything I feel but can never quite express as succinctly as you have.

    “I love many of the words attributed to Jesus, and I see him as a man who had much of interest and importance to say. I don’t need to see him as a god, anymore than I need to see anyone else who says wise and interesting things as a deity. I take my nourishment where I can find it, and I range wide.”

    is gold.

    Cheers, J


  15. clyde1120 January 20, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    The two big issues that drive me away from religion are 1. sexuality and the close mindedness of some within the church and 2. The issue of religion in schools and how as I see it Christianity wants to be the only religion taught in Australian schools.

    This is where I am at currently although there is still much to read, digest, comment on and rally against and the current shit fight between NPFS and MTR has only revved my engine just that little bit more. Giddy-up!


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      Well, I love to inspire! You sound like you are enjoying yourself, Clyde, and good on you.


  16. Hoffmann January 21, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    (MTR) = (Negative Energy) + (problems) +(exclusivity)

    (Jennifer Wilson) = (positive energy) + (solutions).+ (inclusiveness)

    Your choice punters.

    Selfish egotist, versus, generous humanitarian.

    Or, as Dennis Leary would say,whining maggot versus vivacious butterfly, but he could, he has $$ for lawyers!


  17. Doug Quixote January 21, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Jennifer, refering to your statement, It strikes me that religious people are good, caring people in spite of their religion rather than because of it.

    There are good people everywhere, just as there are bad ones; some of the worst hide behind religion, and they are usually miserable sods. But the worst glory in it, as everything they choose to do is the will of god.

    It must be wonderful to know god is on your side; if things go adversely, you are merely being tested. Hallelujah, and Allah be praised.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 21, 2012 at 9:11 am #

      Yes, I think that’s probably so. These are human characteristics we’re talking about, and religion is often credited with creating what is already in place. It’s more a matter of finding an ideology that suits the characteristics.


    • AJ January 21, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      There’s nothing wrong with having a set of beliefs, the problem starts when you feel the need to impose them on everyone else, the most extreme example lies in “All wars are religious based” – Discuss


    • Helvi January 21, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Doug, if I remember right you once confessed studying the Bible for fifty years…My question to you ‘Why so long ?’ got lost in the drum somehow 🙂 No need to reply…I just thought you must have found it very captivating…


      • Doug Quixote January 22, 2012 at 12:17 am #

        Confessed? Not the right word. But yes I have studied it almost all my life; it is a fascinating historical and mythical record, a unique record of one of the great motivating factors behind our modern world.

        It is inescapable for anyone raised in the western world.

        And I do not believe a word of it, if it is to be read as holy writ. Since I was about 18 I have regarded its study under the heading “Know the Enemy”. Some Intelligent idiots still think it is literal truth; others think it should be interpreted as they see fit, to accommodate their own agenda.

        It should have been filed under ‘myths and legends’ in the library since about 1880.


      • Helvi January 22, 2012 at 12:44 am #

        Of course I meant ‘confessed’, so not an errant arrow, just carelessness…again.


  18. Tiga Bu January 21, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    I have several problems with your logic in your piece above.

    First, you don’t really outline a set of your beliefs, though your method speaks volumes (you don’t give a link to a more extensive exploration, care to elaborate?). What are your beliefs about sexuality? Why do you believe them? What do you think of morality per se? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Do you consider any activity “immoral”? If so, what and on what basis? Do you separate your (obviously) intellectual self from your religious self? You see, it’s easy to target someone like Jennifer Wilson because she falls under a very identifiable (and largely out of favour) label of “Libertarian”. It’s an easy, and to some, persuasive strategy. But ultimately it’s just another bad ad hominem argument. You, however, are simply an individual, with an individual view, tainted by an, as yet, undisclosed set of moral, philosophical and ideological guidelines. You carry the baggage, good and/or bad, of identifying with such a group . It makes your job of targeting someone like Jennifer Wilson very easy because they are ‘other’ to you. It is a fact of life that all of us, even those in agreement, are ‘other’ to each.

    Second, everybody, if they think their views are important enough for the management of society, would fight for relevant laws to be enacted, just as Jennifer has been doing by this and other media. In a democracy that’s everyone’s right. That is entirely different, however, from your label of it being Jennifer’s ‘job’ to question when people in the position of Tankard Reist attempt to foist their beliefs upon others from the relative sanctuary of pseudoscience and vox populi. It may be argued that enacted laws that represent a laissez faire attitude or much more liberal attitude are just as much an imposition of beliefs as any religious ones, yet there exist ample evidence to the contrary, so the argument is not a particularly robust one.

    Third, if you believe in people’s freedom to not practice religion without vilification, then regardless of whether you like it or not, Atheists, Agnostics, Prevaricators, etc., ought to be entirely free not to employ people on the basis of, not so much religious preference, but religious activity or promoting forms of relationship that go against historic and cultural practices, both within and without of Religion. One ‘man’s’ terrorist is another man’s lover.

    Fourth, you have not confessed whether or not you’re part of any organised religion. Then you decry the fact that ‘ordinary Christians’ are more vocal on child abuse than the empirical evidence indicates. But the question remains: how would you know if they are or aren’t? It’s easy to criticise because you have something to protect, or because you haven’t heard ‘ordinary non-Christians’ talk about the abhorrence of child abuse, because they fall outside your sphere of influence or control. It’s an extraordinarily cheap criticism. Have you actually bothered to check out what measures have been put in place by non-religious types to deal with child abuse? I know, you’re too busy with the flock; it is hard, isn’t it. There’s an easy place to find ‘ordinary Christians’ decrying child abuse; it just isn’t inside mainstream churches. And perhaps you miss the point that, even if there was less emphasis placed on Jennifer Wilson pointing out the distinct lack of Christians vociferously decrying child abuse (as you suggest is the case), perhaps that’s because it is universally accepted by the wider community alike that child abuse is vile and destructive, and the mainstream churches have done next to nothing to prevent its continuance.


    • Jason January 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

      Tiga Bu,
      Really, that’s your response?! It has all the insight of a child’s mockery of someone by repeating what that person says.


    • Ant Allan January 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      It seems you’re deaf to irony as well as reason, Jason.

      Well played, Tiga Bu!



      • Jason January 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

        I didn’t read much of Tiga Bu’s response, perhaps that explains missing any irony there might have been. There was no more reason to read Tiga’s entire post than there is to listen to a child’s taunting mimicry.

        Deaf to reason? Is that better or worse than using cheap insults?


      • Tiga Bu January 21, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

        Jason, it appears I have wounded your pride; perhaps I should have said “put up or shut up”, either way, you’ve dodged answering the questions you posed to Jennifer. A child would merely repeat verbatim. What I did was critique using your own method, and you folded. Goose. Gander. Pot. Black. Whisky? Why thank you…


      • Jason January 22, 2012 at 9:12 am #

        How very postmodern and deconstructionist of you to critique me using my own methods and words. A tipping of the hat to the late Jacques Derrida (never went much for his book Glas, though you obviously did).

        It has nothing to do with wounded pride or ‘folding’. In the real world, when someone like Dr Wilson asserts and concludes certain things in a public forum, then she is open to criticism. I offered my critique. Dr Wilson chose not to engage in the issues I raised, which is her right. It is nonsensical to suggest I have to answer for myself the questions I posed or points I raised with Dr Wilson.


      • Ant Allan January 22, 2012 at 10:08 am #

        “I didn’t read much of Tiga Bu’s response” — To reply without having done so was imprudent and impudent.

        When someone like you asserts and concludes certain things in a public forum, then they are open to criticism. And if someone else offers their critique, it behooves someone like you to actually read it before rebutting it (or attempting to).

        I hardly think Tiga Bu’s critique was postmodern, more like jazz improv.



  19. Jo Hilder January 21, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    I stumbled across your blog after I read retweets by Catherine Deveny. As a Christian, many of the things people have to say about Christianity make me cringe, but I accept that’s so because many of those things are true. I know it. I won’t try and justify myself by listing all the things I think are wrong with my religion, because you’ve already mentioned a few of them. I don’t understand why many Christians continue to defend their prejudices. I don’t understand my religions standard position on homosexuals, or why I’m supposed to mindlessly oppose pro-choice, as if the only choice wonen were ever faced with was whether to abort or not. I also don’t know why we continue to send our money overseas to India and Africa, while refusing to address racist attitudes toward the indigenous in this country. When I stood up and said I thought it was a human right for homosexuals to have access to marriage, they told me I wasn’t really a Christian, and that I’d be going to hell too. But I digress. I can’t apologize on behalf of anyone but myself, so I do that, and i promise that I will not be quiet on these issues when I’m amongst other Christians. All I ask is that people do not presume all Christians hold the same views. Thanks, and I’ll be following your blog with interest.
    Jo Hilder


    • Jennifer Wilson January 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

      Bravo, Jo Hilder. You are a brilliant brave woman and Im proud to have you comment on my blog.


  20. Simplexion January 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    This was a great blog; I just have a problem with 1 thing. I am becoming very tired of people referring to Jesus as a person who existed. It is extremely unlikely that this man existed. It seems a lot of people (especially atheists who wouldn’t call themselves sceptics) accept the historicity of Jesus without question.
    I find it is always best to refer to Jesus as a mythical/fictional character who did and said some wonderful things.


    • AJ January 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      References please? There is no proof either way that he did or didnt exist although it appears there was a historic character that seems to have attracted enough attention to have been written about and followed for 2 millenium by some parts of the world.. To me Jesus the man was merely an enlightened character with a great power of observation and a different recommendation for social order than existed in Judiastic Patestine at the times. He to me is neither the son of God or a God. I also believe a lot of what was written at the time is no longer required in the modern civilised world. That said, I would prefer you back up your claim that he didnt exist at all with some evidence. Now I don’t really care if you choose to respond or not, however please refrain from making unsubstantiated opinions at least in reply to my post.


      • Ant Allan January 24, 2012 at 11:29 am #

        References please? There is no proof either way that he did or didnt [sic] exist although it appears there was a historic character that seems to have attracted enough attention to have been written about and followed for 2 millenium [sic] by some parts of the world.

        What are your standards of proof here, AJ?

        You acknowledge that there is no “proof” that Jesus did exist, and I have no argument with you there, other than to say that I’d prefer to talk about evidence and conclusions (as “proof” is something that belongs to logic and mathematics, not science or history).

        And you also say that there’s no “proof” that Jesus didn’t exist… Well, I suppose there isn’t, but it’s quite as rational to dismiss the postulated existence of Jesus Christ as it is to dismiss the postulated existence of God, given the lack of evidence for His existence when we would expect there to be an abundance.

        Which is not to say that there wasn’t a charismatic preacher called Jesus (or Joshua or Yeshua) living at about that time. But then Jesus wasn’t an uncommon name.

        There was Jesus ben Pandira, a miracle-working apocalyptic preacher hung on a tree a century before the Christian Jesus; Jesus ben Ananias, an apocalyptic gadfly who died in the Siege of Jerusalem, and, at about the same time, Jesus ben Gamala, a politician who advocated peace, and Jesus ben Thebuth, a priest who bought his own neck by selling precious artefacts from the Temple. Then there was the second-century Jesus ben Stada, crucified by the Romans for being an agitator; and Jesus ben Damneus, a high priest at roughly the same time as the (hypothetical) Christian Jesus was preaching, who had a brother named James.

        But there’s no historically attested Jesus that was the Jesus of the New Testament — even though that Jesus seems to have shared – or accreted – some of the attributes of these others. (Just as there’s no historically attested Dark Age Arthur who was “Arthur, Kind of the Britons” and no historically attested early mediæval Robert/Robin who was “Robin Hood”.)

        Leaving aside all of the “miracles”, Jesus of Nazareth ostensibly rubbed shoulders and butted heads with some of the most famous and most powerful people in first century Judea. Surely, then, contemporary histories should mention him?

        Consider the Dead Sea Scrolls — an entire library of original documents authored by Jews in Jerusalem before, during, and after the entire possible timespan of Jesus’s alleged life. Not a peep.

        And then there’s the well-provinanced collected works of Philo, King Herod Agrippa’s brother-in-law and the philosopher who first brought the Greek Logos into Judaism, who was old enough to be Jesus’s father, and who went on an embassy to Caligula in Rome in the 40s to protest against the unjust treatments of Jews. Not a whisper.

        Nor is there any trace of the Nazarene in the writings of Juvenal, Martial, Petronius, Persius, Seneca, Plutarch, Justus, Damis, Epicetus, Aristides, &c., &c., &c.

        Against this, the documentation we do have of the origins of Christianity, including the works of Justin Martyr and Lucian of Samosata, unambiguously paint it as a fraudulent pagan syncretism.

        Not to mention the contradictions and inconsistencies between the four Gospels.

        Given all of this, it is only rational to conclude that the likelihood of Jesus Christ’s historical existence is vanishingly small — as close to zero as makes no difference. (Yes, that position would be revised if evidence for His existence emerged… but we would also need an at least plausible explanation of how all of these contemporary writers completely overlooked “the Greatest Story Ever Told”!!)


        PS. The above leverages multiple posts by Ben Goren @ WEIT, for which, thanks.

        PPS. So, I’m sorry, Jennifer, but anything of interest and importance that Jesus had to say was a complete fabrication — or at best a misattribution. Which is not to say that it’s any less interesting or important as anything that any literary character might say. But then there are all those other words attributed to Jesus that are pretty goddamned foul…


        • Jennifer Wilson January 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

          That’s OK, Ant Allan, I don’t really care who said the bits I like.


  21. Jolly January 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    While I quite like reading people explaining where they come from, this post included, I wonder whether you could explain how you came to think that “the followers of the doctrine of the virgin birth” believe “that sex filthies the human female” or that the need of the “boy god” for a virgin was to do with being “fresh” and “unsullied”.

    It may not be as important as questions of how defamation law can be used, as with respect to the more personal parts of your MTR post, but isn’t this the sort of thing where it woudl be goo dto know whether your claims are based on evidence, repeated form somewhere else, or simply speculation dressed up as assertions.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      I would love you to tell me where I can find any evidence at all about the virgin birth. It is a story. Therefore anyone is allowed to interpret it as they wish, and they do. I’m sure all followers don’t think that but it is one interpretation of the story. It’s unlikely to be an interpretation endorsed by the doctrine’s followers though.

      I once met an ex-nun who said she’d been “raped by Jesus.” It was her description of her experience. These things are not about evidence, they are about faith and belief. They are open to anybody’s interpretation.


  22. Jolly January 24, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    I didn’t ask anything about your interpretation of a story. I asked about your description of how it is understood by believers (which quite clearly implied that you were attributing it to at least almost all followers).

    No doubt your explanation is a natural or convenient interpretation for anyone who does have those views of female sexuality for whatever reason, but you were implying that these views generally accompany a belief in the virgin birth. What do you base that on?


    • Jennifer Wilson January 24, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      Anecdotal evidence.


      • Jolly January 24, 2012 at 10:35 am #

        Then perhaps you should stick to asking why noone is asking MTR (or others) about their views of female sexuality, rather than telling us what they believe.

        (For what its worth, I agree that a focus on the virginity of the God-bearer and other traditions associated with Christianity do not give the best representation of female sexuality [or sexuality in general], and no doubt the doctrine of the virgin birth has been tangled in with all of this in several ways, but I think it is a mistake to imagine that it is either the basis of or inextricably linked to these views.)


        • Jennifer Wilson January 24, 2012 at 11:01 am #

          We have been asking MTR and her followers for at least two years and they will not even reply, let alone discuss. Someone is asking her again in the Age today. I’ve asked her various public forums to tell us what she thinks a good representation of female sexuality might be. She NEVER answers anybody’s questions.

          If her beliefs are to be shrouded in secrecy she can’t blame people for making informed assumptions based on her action, and her refusal to answer very straightforward questions relevant to her public work.

          Cheers for the last bit. I guess they are inextricably linked for some Christians and not for others.


          • Jo Hilder's Blog January 24, 2012 at 11:28 am #

            Jennifer, speaking as a Christian woman here, I think the reason questions about what “a good representation of female sexuality might be” from a Christian woman’s perspective go unanswered is because *we* don’t actually seem to have one.
            Conversations around what Christian women expect the landscape to look like after the current enthusiastic deconstruction of 1) the misogynist constraints of Christianity 2) the feminist offence against conservatism and 3) the liberal sexuality of post-modern society haven’t really progressed beyond “But we don’t want that. Stop it.”
            I would perhaps be more inspired to support the causes of Christian activists if I could understand what political and social utopia I’m meant to be aiming towards…. or if I could be convinced that aiming towards that utopia in itself isn’t harmful in itself, because God knows, sometimes it proves to be just that.


            • Jennifer Wilson January 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

              I had come to that conclusion, after casting about all over the place to find such a thing. I know we were taught at my convent (Anglican) that we should keep ourselves for marriage and that we should dress and behave with modesty. Churches have always been frightened of female sexuality as far as I can see, and have done their best to control it through all manner of means. Religious morality inevitably seeps into the rest of society.

              Lately I’ve noticed in the more evangelical, fundamentalist churches there seems to be an embracing of the shiny haired, orthodontically perfected, smooth skinned young woman who wears cool clothes and swings her hips singing for Jesus. I don’t know if this is accidental, and they deny the sexuality in this model of young Christian womanhood, or what. Or if they are saying yes Im sexy but you don’t get any of it till you marry me. I got a few tweets (objectionable) from a woman with just such an avatar who identified as “the pastor’s wife” till I blocked her.

              That image sits well with that type of Christianity’s message of “its OK to be as wealthy as you like, God wants you to be rich and comfortable.”

              On the whole, though, I think religion has served as society’s police over female sexuality, and much of that lingers even now.


              • Jo Hilder's Blog January 24, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

                Yes Jennifer, I certainly know the ilk of whom you speak. These ones have no idea what kind of political or social landscape they want as Christian women – they are too busy organising twee little fundraisers for the latest trendy social justice cause sweeping their congregations. In recently endorsing a friends book addressing gender inequality in the church, I wrote “For many Christian women, an active involvement in social justice is the only avenue available by which they may work through their collective apology for having both the ‘misfortune’ to be born female, and the audacity to find the traditional roles the Church has asked us to submit to somewhat less than satisfying.” Christian women are frustrated, thanks to feminism, but many still refuse to give it an inch of credit for the freedoms they enjoy, within the church and in society. We (Christian women, particularly in more socially active, contemporary charismatic denominations) have yet to even begin conversations around why “pro-choice” must mean “pro-abortion” (a discussion I personally would love to be involved in) and why exactly Christians are the boss of everyones marriage. I write, I try, but no women wish to even discuss it, at least not in this country. I have far more success discussing it with my US sisters.
                Personally, I think Christian women ought to get the “housework” sorted out way before we start seeking public profiles. You only have to look at the kerfuffle surrounding Ps. Margaret Courts absolute bafflement as to the level of peoples anger at her comments about her homosexual peers to see how unprepared we are to even enter the conversations. I weep.


  23. Jo Hilder's Blog January 24, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Sorry about the typo in the last paragraph 😦


  24. Wil January 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    fair comments but i have met people who articulate the socialisation of children issue that are NOT religious at all and still dont agree with changing the marriage act, should i now yell, scream and rant at them because they dont agree with me?

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, ive seen just as much intolerant atheism as i have religious bigotry


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