Beat Magazine interviews David Nicholls

by Nick Taras
21st February 2012
via Beat Magazine

“There’s a need in civilisation that we have to try a new paradigm because the paradigm that has got us to this stage is also threatening to destroy us,” observes David Nicholls, President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia and one of the key organisers of the upcoming Global Atheist Convention to be hosted by Melbourne in April. From producing the Global Atheist Convention in 2010 to representing the atheist viewpoint at a Federal Senate hearing on funding for religion as well as campaigning the ‘Mark No religion’ movement on the Census question of religion, Nicholls is a prominent atheist figure in Australia.

“I was brought up in a very Irish-Catholic religious atmosphere where priests and nuns and brothers taught me as a child and my relatives, friends, acquaintances were all from the Catholic persuasion, and I was very hooked into it when I was young and not knowing how to think correctly. But as soon as I reached a little bit of maturity of sort, I began questioning some of the things I had been taught. It was a slow process escaping the intense Catholic indoctrination in those days but eventually I overcame and I’ve been an atheist now for maybe 45 years and I’m very happy about that fact”.

The atheist movement is growing at a remarkable rate especially since the 9/11 attacks in America. Famous atheists and highly-respected intellectuals such as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, journalist Christopher Hitchens, philosopher Daniel Dennett and neuroscientist Sam Harris (all four were to appear onstage at this together for the first time at this year’s convention before Hitchens’ passing earlier this year) have released best-selling books as millions worldwide question whether religion is perhaps more poisonous to society than positive. With more and more atheists coming out of the closet worldwide, even in the extremely religious United States where secularism is now the fastest growing ‘religious’ demographic – having doubled in the past couple of decades – the concept of a staging an atheist convention made sense. Whilst being one of the first of its kind, the 2010 Global Atheist Convention, also held in Melbourne, was a remarkable success.

“The first convention was an idea put across by Atheism Alliance International which is a very good international group. They said, ‘Listen would you like to run a convention?’ and we ummed and ahhed about it because this was quite new to the world – even then – there had been smaller conventions all around the place so we eventually agreed to that. And that spanned out quite rapidly to us thinking we might get 200 people, because nobody knew, this was new ground, to eventually getting over 2,500 people to that convention. And everybody enjoyed that immensely. It was just such an incredible time that after that convention the pressure came onto us: ‘Listen, when are you putting another one on?’ and we were getting it from all sides that people wanted to put another convention on…we thought, ‘Hey, listen, with a little bit of support from the government, we could probably put on a convention that will equal or better the last convention’ and that’s when it took off and we’ve been working flat out ever since to make that come true and it is going to come true. This is going to be an absolutely incredible convention”.

With a tagline of “a celebration of reason”, the convention aims to achieve more than just a forum to attack religion and the existence of God.

“The convention has many things it’s trying to achieve. One, it’s going to be a focal point for all those people that really want to be in their own space where everybody around them is a freethinker. This doesn’t happen very often in society and that’s why this is so unique to be sitting in a room where you can just about guarantee that 95 percent, probably more, of the people there are freethinkers that might have different ideas on certain things, but you know you’re in a room of people that have a rough idea where you are coming from.

“If you ask the whole world, ‘Are you an atheist?’ you’d probably get people saying, ‘Gee, no, maybe I am…’ there’s a whole lot of confusion about being atheist, and there’s connotations connected with the word that have negative resonance with some people. Those people are actually atheists if they are freethinkers; they don’t have a religion, they’re actually atheists, and so what has happened, this is sort of a phenomenon throughout the planet, is that atheism and organisations that base their mantra around atheism – which is just a lack of acceptance that there is a god – have become the spearhead of freethinking throughout the world and it’s a phenomenon that is accelerating at an incredible rate and it’s a wonderful thing for the planet. It’s an absolutely new paradigm that we’re going through, and the Atheist Foundation and most atheists are very happy and proud to be part of that whole rise of freethinking”.

The upcoming convention features one of the most comprehensive lists of famous atheist speakers ever assembled. With Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and other speakers such as PZ Myers, Lawrence Krauss, Eugenie Scott, Peter Singer and many more appearing at the convention, it is unlikely that such a lineup will be held on this scale again.

“I’m excited about them all. There are people like Annie Laurie Gaylor who has done wonderful things in America with the freethought organisations and I’m dying to hear her speak. Lawrence Krauss has just brought a book out about a universe from nothing – this is going to be very impactful on the psyche of humanity. I’m not a person who likes going to conventions, trust me on that, but this is one event that I wouldn’t miss if I’m still breathing.

“Picking speakers is a very difficult thing. It’s far more difficult than looking from the outside…You start off with a list of people that you’d like to have at a convention because they have some attraction or rather to the public and have an educational base behind them, but then you have to work out if our event is going to conflict with something they are doing at the present time…Getting a list together is an incredibly difficult thing and we are very very happy that we have the list of speakers at this event that is portrayed on our website (also there are more to come by the way) and we just couldn’t be happier about it. This is going to be an absolute unique occasion with the class of speakers we have – it will never be repeated anywhere on the planet. Getting all those people together has been a task that has almost sent the Global Atheist Convention committee insane, if we weren’t insane before even trying to put this on, but we are so pleased that we have ended up with the list of speakers and I would advise anybody who is contemplating coming to the convention, if they are being a little bit, ‘Should I go? Should I not go?’ sit down, have a think, look at that list of speakers because it is not going to happen again”.

The 2012 Global Atheist Convention is being held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday April 13 – Sunday April 15. Check out atheistconvention.org.au for tickets and more information.

11 Responses to Beat Magazine interviews David Nicholls

  1. maikel annaghlee says:

    David,

    It is clear that the truth of your opening: “There’s a need in civilization that we have to try a new paradigm because the paradigm that has got us to this stage is also threatening to destroy us.”
    Thereby negating, as distortions or deformations of this truth, the claims which follow; and which you make without such “a new paradigm” in operation except your well-intentioned “celebration of reason”.

    From the perspective of my work in Cognitive Cosmology as the Science/ Religion of Reason, your “celebration of reason” is well-intentioned, but deformed by its idolatry of ‘God’. So denying the possibility of your sought for “new paradigm”, in Cognitive Cosmology as not only the Science/ Religion of Reason; but also as the Theology of ‘god’.

    Meanwhile atheism continues its ‘slave to superstition’ practice of its idolatry of ‘God’ that has corrupted the process of Reason we call Religion in the millennial evolution of the deformed ‘false beginning’.
    Thereby creating the false schism in nature called the ‘supernatural’ and so creating the false theology of ‘God’, rather than an authentic Theology of ‘god’ and its source in the Science/ Religion of Reason’s evolution of the informed ‘true beginning’.
    .
    In claims such as:

    1. “I was brought up in a very Irish-Catholic religious atmosphere where priests and nuns and brothers taught me as a child and my relatives, friends, acquaintances were all from the Catholic persuasion, and I was very hooked into it when I was young and not knowing how to think correctly.”

    But unlike yourself and the late Bob Gould, I did not see this as just unique to “a very Irish-Catholic religious atmosphere “. My playmates, whether protestant/ jewish/ even (by default) agnostic and certainly too immature to be atheist, seemed all just as conditioned and programmed. And our problematic relations with blood-relatives did nothing to change this.

    2. “But as soon as I reached a little bit of maturity of sort, I began questioning some of the things I had been taught.”

    For myself, as an only child,; and it seemed to me, both then and now, voluntarily isolated by socially atypical parents. I was from ‘pre-maturity’ sufficiently alienated from both my peers and parents, to deny their ability to think for me or even teach me. I was intellectually and still am: ‘a 1940′s wild child’. As my too subjective father, laughingly teased, my too objective mother: ‘ he’s just another Michael Fomenko.’

    3. “It was a slow process escaping the intense Catholic indoctrination in those days but eventually I overcame and I’ve been an atheist now for maybe 45 years and I’m very happy about that fact.”

    And I’m just as happy at my having rejected, despite the isolation it engendered, the seemingly ever present irrational ignorance and brutality of so-called ‘loving adults’ whether secular or religious.
    But in this Jesus was my ally. Not just because of his being ‘a-lonely’ child; but also for his natural and rational obedience to truth; over slavish and hypocritical convention.
    Just as Michael was striving to achieve the promise of freedom, from emulating John the Baptist’s ‘baptism in the wilderness of Nature’; so I, Maikel was striving to achieve actual freedom, from emulating Jesus’ ‘truth in the religion of Reason’.

    4.”Whilst being one of the first of its kind, the 2010 Global Atheist Convention, also held in Melbourne, was a remarkable success.”
    I am quite certain ‘god’ would not agree, given the crimes perpetrated in its name, by both atheistic and irrational religions since then.

    5. “This is going to be an absolutely incredible convention”.
    Fully agreed, and ‘god’ is certainly counting on it being ‘incredible’ also, and as you fully intend and clearly state: “a celebration of [R]eason.”

    6. Yet you then negate the truth of your previously stated intention by irrationally claiming: “the convention aims to achieve more than just a forum to attack religion and the existence of God.”
    But it is plain to see, a self-evident irrationality, when you capitalize ‘god’ and un-capitalize ‘Reason’.

    7. ““The convention has many things it’s trying to achieve. One, it’s going to be a focal point for all those people that really want to be in their own space where everybody around them is a freethinker. This doesn’t happen very often in society and that’s why this is so unique to be sitting in a room where you can just about guarantee that 95 percent, probably more, of the people there are freethinkers that might have different ideas on certain things, but you know you’re in a room of people that have a rough idea where you are coming from.”.

    David, I so agree with your intention; but clearly it’s not possible, given the essential irrationality of atheism.

    8. “If you ask the whole world, ‘Are you an atheist?’ you’d probably get people saying, ‘Gee, no, maybe I am…’ there’s a whole lot of confusion about being atheist, and there’s connotations connected with the word that have negative resonance with some people.”

    I agree. Surely the best way to solve the problem is to avoid the “confusion about being atheist”; and at the same time do away with “the connotations connected with the word that have negative resonance” by identifying atheism and atheists as irrational processes and proponents of false religion, a paradigm without the foundation of Reason and its quintessential symbol: ‘god’.

    9. “Those people are actually atheists if they are freethinkers; To claim “people are actually atheists if they are freethinkers” clearly contradicts the truth of your opening claim: “There’s a need in civilization that we have to try a new paradigm, because the paradigm that has got us to this stage is also threatening to destroy us.”

    For we are worshipping or opposing a false idol: “God’, whilst in reality, it is only ‘god’, the quintessential symbol of Reason.
    So I join with you in a celebration of Reason’s gift of ‘god‘and the freedom to practise it, in the religion of Reason we call truth.

    10. “they don’t have a religion, they’re actually atheists”. “

    Religion is a process, whose authentic practitioners are all freethinkers; but unfortunately it is often deformed by the zombie-like ‘living dead’ into a system of belief. This is why science and religion are so often seen to be in opposition rather than unity.

    11. “and so what has happened, this is sort of a phenomenon throughout the planet, is that atheism and organizations that base their mantra around atheism – which is just a lack of acceptance that there is a god”.

    Not so in the Cognitive Cosmology of Reason. According to Reason, atheism is just as responsible for the false idol of ‘God’ as those who worship it.. For by denying, (also quite irrationally,) “that there is a god”, it is in essence, also denying its original source Reason. It is for a valid symbolic processing of thought by Reason that the symbolic concept of ‘god’ evolved.

    12. “ – have become the spearhead of freethinking throughout the world and it’s a phenomenon that is accelerating at an incredible rate and it’s a wonderful thing for the planet.”

    As always, atheism like irrationality only prolongs the agony and the ecstasy of the purposeless passion that both the worship/opposition of the idol ‘God’, engenders in the Mind of Human-kind.

    13. “It’s an absolutely new paradigm that we’re going through, and the Atheist Foundation and most atheists are very happy and proud to be part of that whole rise of freethinking.”

    If only it were “an absolutely new paradigm” and a “rise of freethinking”. But even though Pope Benedict recently recognized his moral affinity with atheists, in this schismatic sacred and secular world,, he does not appear as one of your keynote speakers.
    14. “The upcoming convention features one of the most comprehensive lists of famous atheist speakers ever assembled. With Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and other speakers such as PZ Myers, Lawrence Krauss, Eugenie Scott, Peter Singer and many more appearing at the convention, it is unlikely that such a lineup will be held on this scale again.” And for this reason, Reason inspires me to fully support your endeavors.
    15. “I’m excited about them all. There are people like Annie Laurie Gaylor who has done wonderful things in America with the free thought organizations and I’m dying to hear her speak. Lawrence Krauss has just brought a book out about a universe from nothing – this is going to be very impactful on the psyche of humanity. I’m not a person who likes going to conventions, trust me on that, but this is one event that I wouldn’t miss if I’m still breathing.”
    This mainly sounds good; but Lawrence’s book seems problematic, as it is clearly irrational at the quantum information level. And as you state: “very impactful on the psyche of humanity”; but only even more negatively, than CERN’s ‘God particle’.
    16. “Picking speakers is a very difficult thing. It’s far more difficult than looking from the outside…You start off with a list of people that you’d like to have at a convention because they have some attraction or rather to the public and have an educational base behind them, but then you have to work out if our event is going to conflict with something they are doing at the present time…Getting a list together is an incredibly difficult thing and we are very very happy that we have the list of speakers at this event that is portrayed on our website (also there are more to come by the way) and we just couldn’t be happier about it. This is going to be an absolute unique occasion with the class of speakers we have – it will never be repeated anywhere on the planet.”

    Your efforts should be rewarded by even more participants. In particular, those who see that the unsought alignment between the Pope and atheists in idolatry of ‘God’ is both un-natural and supernatural.. And without the informed ‘true beginning’ of either Science/Religion or Reason and symbolic ‘god’.
    17. “Getting all those people together has been a task that has almost sent the Global Atheist Convention committee insane, if we weren’t insane before even trying to put this on,” This is to be expected given your failure to align Science/Religion with Reason and ‘god’; instead of the un-natural and supernatural.

    18. “ but we are so pleased that we have ended up with the list of speakers and I would advise anybody who is contemplating coming to the convention, if they are being a little bit, ‘Should I go? Should I not go?’ sit down, have a think, look at that list of speakers because it is not going to happen again”.

    And I certainly agree. Reason and ‘god’ deserve better than the conventional irrationality of atheism and ‘God, which serves to only further wound the Mind of Human-kind, with the schizophrenic schism of the un-natural and supernatural, from millennial evolution of the deformed ‘false beginning’

  2. Hello Maikel,

    Lots of words leading nowhere there. By the way, it was a phone interview and upper-case ‘G’od is not my work. I write the Christian god as ‘God’ and ‘a god’ if being generic. You have spent considerable time in achieving little. I don’t have that kind of time to waste.

    Your overly long diatribe is not worthy of a proper reply when you have no idea that freely chosen atheism in a democracy has nothing whatsoever to do with forced atheism as part of a dictatorial ideological tyrannical system.

    David

  3. maikel annaghlee says:

    David,

    Thank you for your prompt and clear reply. I’ll do likewise.

    Para. 1
    “By the way, it was a phone interview and upper-case ‘G’od is not my work. I write the Christian god as ‘God’ and ‘a god’ if being generic.”
    Comment: My point is that idolatry of God; prevents a full and free Celebration of Reason. This is the basic message of the ‘Son of Man’ in both Old & New Testaments. This is why even the Pope is now seeking to renounce his idolatry of the Christian symbolic god as God.

    Like yourself, he seeks sanctuary in Reason; but it is irrational, to engender a schizophrenic splitting of this sanctuary into theism and atheism, when there is no Reason in so doing .

    Para. 2 “freely chosen atheism in a democracy has nothing whatsoever to do with forced atheism as part of a dictatorial ideological tyrannical system.” Comment: Atheism like theism is never freely chosen because they engender an irrational ‘false’ dichotomy, that distorts and
    deforms Reason irrespective of the political system.

    maikel

    • Maikel,

      I’d rather you peddle your quasi-religious ‘ideas’ elsewhere. Maybe start your own club and spread the word, whatever that may be amongst the likeminded if there are any. And don’t try to explain. I am not interested. Let us depart each other’s company as friends.

      David

      • maikel annaghlee says:

        David,
        My belated but sincere thanks for pointing out the “quasi-religious” taint of my ‘ideas’.
        I now more fully understand how important atheism and atheists are in
        the ‘celebration of REASON’.
        If only Pope Benedict would come out of his ‘superstitious-religious’ closet and fully embrace the ‘celebration of REASON’ as he claims atheists do.
        I’ll try and see if he’s as rational as he claims.

        maikel

        • The Pope is very rational.
          He perverts the innate trusting natures of infants, and the accumulated power of his empire to build and maintain a lifestyle of parasitic privilege and power in his palaces.
          It would surprise me enormously, and shock me to the core to find out that Il Papa was not in fact 100% without a belief in gods.
          In other words, that the Pope is an atheist, as well as sociopathic power-hungry psychopath.

  4. maikel annaghlee says:

    David,
    “I’d rather you peddle your quasi-religious ‘ideas’ elsewhere. Maybe start your own club and spread the word, whatever that may be amongst the likeminded if there are any.” IF only….
    “And don’t try to explain. I am not interested.” I FULLY understand.
    “Let us depart each other’s company as friends” AGREED and thanks for your courteous replies.

    maikel

  5. Robert Tobin says:

    I would like to point out that tha average Zchurch attendance in Australia is 7%, official figures. As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, it is in a state of crisis: parishes with no priests, the Society of Jesus with only 150 priests and brothers.

    In Ireland Roman Catholics are quitting in droves. I belong to a group, Anti Catholic Church Ireland. In twelve months their peaceful protests outside St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dublin for a proper memorial to be erected in the Cathedral for the victims, living and dead of pedophilia and sexual abuse have resulted in Sunday Mass attendances being reduced from 18% to 14%. In some a parishes Mass attendances are 2%. My friends in Ireland want the RCC out of Ireland and like Michael Collins beating the British for a free Ireland, we shall defeat the Evil Rotten Roman Catholic Church.

    THERE IS NO GOD, so stop worrying.

  6. Brian Paterson (ojnab) says:

    Dear David & Lee, perhaps I have missed something somewhere, if I had not read your answers on “Online Opinion” recently where you made reference to the Convention I would not have known it was on, to my knowledge there has been nothing in the Advertiser, or other papers, that such an event was taking place in Melbourne, this worries me as being an Atheist as you know, and there may be many others in Adelaide who write to “Letters to the Editor” who are probably not members of the Atheist Foundation, I feel these people should also be given the opportunity to attend as well, this brings to my mind a Convention run by say the Jehovah’s Witness, just for a group of that religion, and all else who may not attend that church but have the same beliefs are kept out. David as you know I am a “Free Thinker” and do not need the trappings of a Convention to make me more Atheist than I already am, it would change nothing, but at the same time an offer to attend through an Advertisement somewhere would have been appreciated, one wonders how many other Atheists are in the same boat. I do think your advert on U Tube is most impressive, and feel it is such a shame that all those people like me unless foretold somewhere and not through the Atheist report have no idea the Convention is on
    I do wish you well and I am sure with your expertise that it will be worth the effort that you and your committee have put in to making this event happen, we will be on the high seas heading to India at that time. Regards to you both,
    G & B

    • Hello Brian,

      Advertising is very costly and it needs repetition which makes it even more so. If we advertised in every state and territory with one large advert each it would cost around 70K. One advert is not enough I’m afraid. Halve the size of the advert and double up on the number of times and the result is the same.

      The 2012 Global Atheist Convention Committee has sent many Media Releases to all outlets, informed similar organisations, used social media extensively etc, all within the limits of the very tight budget we have.

      Of course, there is nothing stopping individuals writing letters to editors and phoning talk-back radio and demanding nicely that they cover the convention in their reporting.

      It is very unfortunate that the media don’t take a greater interest in this growing worldwide phenomenon of people moving away from religion and becoming Freethinkers in their droves. It is more than newsworthy; it is one of the largest and most rapid and significant social changes that has ever happened in all of history
      .
      I think there are a lot of people in the ‘establishment’ with their heads in the sand hoping it will all just go away. It won’t.

      David

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