Secularly Speaking
Perkins.theAtheist.net
Home page of John L Perkins

Rationalism, humanism, atheism and economics -  these are my interests. Humanism is ethical atheism. Secularism is political Humanism. Secular solutions are needed now!
 
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26 August 2016 - comment on newspaper article
Burkinis in France
Leave aside the fact that the burkini promotes a false ideology that is arguably the greatest cause of human suffering in the world today. Lets look at the practicalities.

When we go to the beach it is hot. The burkini will make the person hotter. When swimming, we need free movement. While it is argued it is not an encumbrance, the burkini cannot possibly assist in swimming. The burkini makes towelling off and getting dry much more difficult. Contrast that with wetsuit, which is only worn if it increases comfort and amenity.

So why would someone want to wear a burkini to the beach? So that they can "swim and practice religion at the same time". Seems innocent enough, a mere exercise of personal religious freedom. It causes no harm so it is ridiculous for the French to ban them, right?

Perhaps it is not quite so simple and the French ban is not quite so stupid. We can't simply leave aside completely the motivations behind it and the effects on society. Clearly there is a strong motivation to publicly practice religion at the beach, despite the obvious discomforts and impracticalities.

The motivation is the Koran. At 33:59 it says women must cover up so that they not be molested. What the wearers proclaim as their motivation is perhaps not relevant, because it is clear that the wearers are motivated by Islamic ideology, and that is what the ideology appears to require. Despite the fact that the Koran also says "there is no compulsion in religion", it is now characteristic that adherents feel the need assert their religion in this way.

Is it desirable for society that this ideology is promoted at the beach? It asserts that women must suffer discomforts to which men are not bound. It asserts that all responsibility for sexual harassment lies with the woman not covering up, rather than any deficiency in men's behaviour. It suggests that sexism and misogyny are acceptable.

This is not desirable. It is said that the burkini is against French values and customs. It is.  The same ideology promoted by the burkini at French beaches has just been responsible for the brutal murder of scores of innocent people at a French beach. Yet is perfectly acceptable that this ideology be promoted the name of freedom and tolerance?

All personal freedoms are limited by some consideration of the public good. Perhaps it is now time to consider this rationally. We must accept that, as well as being based in unfounded beliefs, many religious practices contradict basic human rights. The promotion of them is not in the public interest. We should consider a ban on all religious clothing in public that is not worn in association with religious ceremonial occasions.

13 August 2016 - comment on newspaper article
Hijabs at the Olympics: acceptance of what?
The appearance at the Rio games of the first US Olympic athlete to wear a hijab in competition was greeted with great fanfare and acclaim. The headline for the article that appeared in The Age was "Game Changer: A Muslim sportswoman strikes a blow for acceptance". But what change is it exactly, that we are supposed to applaud?

The principle that it was assumed that was being advanced was the acceptance of diversity, irrespective, presumably, of any manifestation of race, religion or ideology. The Olympic ideal, of advancing human achievement in the sporting arena would require nothing less.  How then, does the overt expression of a religious ideology in the sporting arena advance this ideal?

Of course, Ibtihaj Muhammad is to be congratulated on her athletic achievement. Just to represent one's country at such an elite level is laudable. But why should the intrusion of religion into a previously religion-free environment be such a cause for celebration? Political statements are not allowed at the Olympics. How is it that hijab wearing is not to be considered in any way statement of political ideology?

Like all religions, Islam is based on contrived myths and constructed legends. For the sake of humanity, it is urgently required that all such myths be demythologised and deconstructed. How does our unquestioning acceptance of the promotion of such myth-based ideologies, particularly given their often-egregious nature, advance the human condition?

Such is the cultural relativism, ignorance and confusion that surrounds the whole issue of the position of Islam in modern secular society, these questions cannot even be asked. Are we to pretend, despite the political aspirations of global Islamist movements that Islam has nothing to do with politics? Despite aspirations for gender equality, are we to ignore that the Koranic motivation for hijab wearing, the protection of women from molestation, is the very antithesis of gender equality?

Given that the most obvious and relevant fact, in regard to the current global jihadist insurgency, is that the Prophet of Islam, after whom Ibtihaj Muhammad is named, was himself a jihadist according to Islamic legend, then it is perhaps no wonder that we are urged to ignore all other issues and welcome the Islamic hijab to the Olympics.

But have all the enthusiasts for the hijab really considered the implications for sport? In fencing, Ibjihad Muhammad's event, we may presume that the hijab is not much of a handicap. But in many other sports, such as swimming, gymnastics and ball sports, especially in hot environments, hijabs and other Islamic garb cannot possibly assist an athlete's competitive advantage. Far from empowering Islamic women, the increase prevalence of hijab wearing serves only to further marginalise them and discourage their successful participation. Is their use then, intended not as a sporting contribution, but as a political statement?

In "striking a blow for acceptance", sadly, the blow that we are encouraged to accept, is actually a blow against the advancement of equality, against the advancement of women, against the advancement of reason and humanity, and against the ideals of the Olympics. How appalling it is, that we have come to regard the demise of such principles as a victory to be applauded?

27July 2016 - email to Maher Mughrahi regarding his article in The Age published as
Call it what you will, but it surely is racism
Dear Maher

I do not support Sonya Kruger, Andrew Bolt or Donald Trump. Bigotry certainly exists and Muslims can certainly be the victims of it. Criticism of Islam does not imply criticism of Muslims is general.

As a rationalist and secularist, a huge problem I face is being called a racist whenever I venture to criticise Islam. My critique of religions in general is that they are based on myths and legends that are assumed to be historical fact when it is known that they are not. Historical and archeological evidence establishes that beliefs evolved over time and were constructed to serve ancient purposes. There is no foundation in reason and evidence for the religious legends of Abraham, Jesus or Muhammad.

My saying this has nothing to do with racism or bigotry. It is simple a statement of fact, as can best be determined in relation to well established independent bodies of knowledge. My motivation to raise these issues is due to humanitarian concern. The pursuance of such ancient unfounded beliefs is not only pointless but demonstrably harmful in numerous ways, and is the cause of much suffering. The people who suffer most from religion are Muslims, in my view.

The only path forward is the path of enlightenment based on critical thinking and the unbiassed evaluation of evidence in relation to beliefs. However reasoned debate in this area is increasingly being stifled by bigots on the one hand and on the other by those who seek to label any legitimate criticism of Islam as racism.

The entire debate on these matters is clouded by a fog of delusion and misinformation on all sides. The most relevant fact in understanding the issues in relation to Islam today is what is regarded as the legend of the prophet Muhammad. You would perhaps be familiar with the biography of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq. By this account, the Prophet was a jihadist of the Islamic Sate kind. (However the legend of the Prophet is not history, it is constructed). This is an undoubted source of jihadist motivation.

My saying this has nothing to do with racism. It is a statement of fact. It does not suggest that all Muslims are jihadists, which is obviously not the case. While there is a great diversity of Muslims there is only one Koran and only one Prophet Muhammad. Is it possible for a Muslim to reject the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad? I wish it were.

There is a difference between racism and bigotry. Whatever characteristics are implied by race, minimal though they may be, are inherent, genetical, and are not a matter of choice for the individual. Religious beliefs are not genetic and are a matter of choice. They are different categories and to confuse them is a categorical error. Attempting to label criticism of Islam as racist is intellectually dishonest and is most unhelpful.

These are issues that need to be discussed. The more that discussion is suppressed, by bigotry on one hand, and accusations of racism on the other, the worse the situation will become.

Best regards

John Perkins
www.perkins.theatheist.net
(no reply was received)

16 July 2016 - email group post
The international court ruling on China's claims to the South China Sea
China's propaganda department has uploada a video to youtube (banned in China) in the form of a childish cartoon "Grandpa'a view". It is infantile in its arguments, but very popular in China, as my associates can attest.

China's claim to the northern Paracel islands is understandable although the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea would surely accord Vietnam some claim.

The UNCLOS based tribunal rightly threw out China's "nine dash line" claim. The law is based on proximity to coastline and the southern Spratly islands are nowhere near China. On that basis their claim is ludicrous. But the Chinese have for decades been convinced by their own propaganda that they own it. Chinese 'blue soil' they call it on Central China TV.

Some points to note about the childish video, which is an unintended parody.

* 2000 years? There would be no record whatsoever to support that
* Sinbad inspired by Chinese? The Abbyasids had seafarers 800 years before the Chinese went anywhere
* the pictures of sailing ships are European, not Chinese
* Zheng He. Yes he was a great explorer of the 15th century, (ie 600 years ago) went to Africa, India and Australia possibly. But, when he returned the emperor felt threatened. burned all his ships and the Chinese never went to sea again after that. So much for their claim of continuos possession.
* inhabited islands? by whom?

Last year, I went to the China National Maritime Museum in Shanghai, just curious to see what was there. Big building, fake wooden ship, supposedly of the type use by Zheng He. No mention of the fact that their maritime hero was treated as a traitor. Lots of empty space. No visitors except for us.

However the South China Sea situation is complicated. It was actually the Nationalist Chinese (now Taiwan) who first claimed the Spratleys, in competition with the French. Vietnamese, Japanese, Phillipines etc. It is still the Taiwanese who have maintained the longest standing garrison there of about 600, on the largest island, which has some fresh water.

The PRC has reclaimed land on surrounding reefs. But it maybe that Taiwan has the biggest claim to the surrounding sea. Very difficult for them to prosecute it under UNCLOS. Hence the US does not want to take sides. The PR Chinese SCS claim is tied up with their claim to Taiwan. Hence their increasing brinkmanship.

04 July 2016 - Secular Party facebook post
A comment on the Australian election result
Thanks to all those who voted for the Secular Party and contributed to our campaign. Our facebook campaigning was excellent. A professional job, taking good account of the sensitivities of our voters. Well done Karin.

Thanks to all those voters who put the Secular Party  2, 3, 4 etc. If you care about secularism, please put us no. 1 next time. We remain the only party in Australia with a serious agenda to address secular issues.

The election result is still in doubt, but the blind right are already talking about dumping Turnbull and going back to Abbott. If so, then Turnbull should split and form a new party and go into coalition with Labor. That would be the best thing for Australia. Leave the rump climate deniers to rot on the back bench.

In the Senate, it appears we will have more on the loony right than before. The comments of Pauline Hanson on climate change seem just moronic. She also says that Islam is a "totalitarian political system, including legal, economic, social and military components".

Not that all Muslims follow it in this way, but as a belief system, in which sharia law must dominate, Hanson is actually right about that. It is unfortunate that when loony right are the only ones voicing criticism of Islam, then people assume that all criticism must be right wing, loony, bigoted, "hate mongering" etc.

We will just have to keep trying to prove otherwise.

28 June 2016 - Comment on the British vote to leave the EU
Brexit and the rise of Islamism (see video of talk)
The doom and gloom predicted as a result of the British decision to leave the European Union is unlikely to eventuate. The fears are overblown. There is no obvious increased security risk. The trade issues can be negotiated. Movement of people between borders may change little.

What the vote represents, to a large extent, is a reaction against Islamisation. The average person, from up in the Yorkshire Dales to down in the Mile End Road can see that Islam is not compatible with British values. But the political elites have refused to recognise this or do anything about it. Hence the reaction, which is likely to be replicated throughout Europe. The European Union has more to fear from this result that Britain.

The problem is this. The doctrines of Islam, literally interpreted, are incompatible with secularism, human rights and democracy. This is because the laws of Allah are placed above civil laws. In the political ideology of Islamism, sharia laws must dominate. Not all Muslims support Islamism, but a significant proportion do. The example of the Prophet Muhanmmad, with his mass beheadings, sex slaves and child bride, is not one that should be followed.

The only alternative to rising social tensions and Islamist violence is a more rigorous implementation of secularism. The most important step in this direction is to stop indoctrinating children with religion in schools. Any religion. Children should be taught about religions, including the mythological legends on which they are all based. Children must be encouraged to critically evaluate and make up their own minds about religion based on reason and evidence.

In Australia there is only one political party that is pledged to implement such a policy: the Secular Party. We will not only prohibit religious instruction during school times. We will not fund religious schools. We will stop any school from promoting to children that there is such a thing as the 'one true faith'.

This is the only way we can start to get society back on a more rational track, and address one of the most confronting issues of out time.

June 2016 - Secular Party media release
Halal food and Female Genital Mutilation
A new report prepared by a researcher for the Secular Party has uncovered undeniable links between halal certification of Australian meat products and the genital mutilation of girls in Indonesia.
Australians are legitimately concerned about the humane treatment of animals we export. We must also be concerned about the humane treatment of young girls. It is abhorrent that our meat products should in any way be associated with the promoting of female genital mutilation (FGM).
But they are. The link is exposed in a new report ...[more]

02 December 2015 - the truth that cannot be spoken
The Grand Mufti, the Paris attacks and the cause of terrorism
Many On Nov 17 the Grand Mufti of Australia, the Australian National Imams Council head, Dr. Ibrahim Abu Mohammed issued a statement, commenting on the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris. He blamed terrorism on "causative factors such as racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention".

This caused a furour in which he was called upon to clarify, most recently by Liberal MP Josh Frydenburg. Following that, ALP MP Tony Burke has leapt to the Mufti's defence. This was commented on in an article today in Fairfax by Mark Kenny, headlined "Some say the truth should not be spoken"

That the headline seemed promising, as many people, including many secularists, do appear to think that in these matters"truth should not be spoken". However if you were looking for relevant home truths, you would not find them in Kenny's article. First let's look at what the Mufti said.
Racism: no, it is ridiculous to say racism motivates terrorism. Islam is a religion, not a race.
Islamophobia: no, this is just an excuse, a pretense to try and disable any legitimate criticism of Islam. A legitimate fear is not a phobia.
Securitisation: OK, yes, security crack-downs as a result of Islamist terrorism necessarily focus on Islamic communities and this can indeed lead to alienation and radicalisation.
Duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention: yes this can and does motivate terrorism. When we infidels attack and invade Muslim lands, the Koran mandates that Muslims must fight back.

However these are truths that apparently must not be spoken.  The only way out of this mess is that these truths must be recognised and addressed. The doctrines of Islam are public documents. We need to overcome the farcical charade whereby particular peaceful sounding selections can be made, while pretending that the other selections that motivate terrorism don't exist.

The Koran says that infidels should be beheaded (eg 8:12). Why can the truth not be accepted, that the Koran does actually say that? If someone is a moderate Muslim they must surely reject this. Let them say so. Or is this a "truth that cannot be spoken"?

23 November 2015 - email group post
Maajid Nawaz on the reform of islam
Many atheists and secularists seem to Maajid Nawaz. But does he say waht he rejects in Islam? The texts of religions should be up for discussion and debunking. Otherwise we must accept that there is no truth and everything is mere interpretation. If we do that we abandon the Enlightenment project. Here is a view with some perspective on Nawaz.

17 November 2015 - comment on statement by Turmbull
Terrorism is the work of the Devil?
Malcolm Turnbull, in response to the Paris terrorist attacks, has suggested that terrorism is "a threat in the name of God but is truthfully the work of the Devil".  Really? An idle comment not meant to be taken literally, perhaps. But this not the occasion for idle comments. It is surely the worst comment that Turnbull has made since attaining office as Prime Minister. Since Turnbull is a convert to Catholicism, we cannot discount that the psychology behind the comment had some genuinely religious motive. Turnbull's religious leader, the Pope, with his penchant for exorcisms, obviously takes the Devil very seriously.

What could the explanation be for Turnbull's devilish comment, apart from an indication of his hidden religious mindset? The comment conjures up an apocalyptic vision of Good versus Evil. There are many religious people who would interpret it this way. This is not a helpful contribution to debate. If Tony Abbott's repeated "death cult" comments had the potential to demonise certain Muslims, then surely Turnbull's comments are much worse, literally "demonising" the Islamist extremist perpetrators.

The "in the name of God" part of Turnbull's comment is certainly correct. Recognising the religious motivations behind Islamist terror is certainly necessary. Too many people still seek to pretend otherwise. Despite all the peacefully sounding quotations from the Koran that can be carefully selected, the doctrines of Islam are public documents for all to read. From the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, we can see that the Prophet's example is being carefully followed by the Islamic State today.

Given that there is no military solution, as in the "war on terror", what should our approach be? Many Muslims have called for a reform of Islam. Less are keen to specify exactly what that might entail. Some of the braver of them have called for an end to the literalist reading of the Koran.
This is a critical step. The Enlightenment came to the Christian world when it was generally accepted that Bible was not the literal word of God but a collection of man-made manuscripts. People could belive it if they liked, but it could not be taken as a source of inerrant knowledge, or, of course, legislation.

The Islamic world has not made this transition. The Koran is still taken as the exact word of Allah. Hence it is supposed to be an unquestionable source of guidance and of Islamic law. This is the cause, not just of terrorism, but of the global humanitarian disaster that Islam represents today.
Reform of Islam is up to Muslims, but non-Muslims can help. Just as we do not accept that the Bible should determine laws or behaviour, we should accept that the Koran should either. We can help the Muslim reformers, not by acceding to the demands of the Islamists, but by defending secular values against them.

Religion is the problem and secularism is the solution. Rather than blaming the French for their bans on religious symbols in schools, we should follow their example. Encouraging freedom of thought, rather than supporting indoctrination in schools, should be our first priority. A rational approach is what is needed, not a militaristic or demonising one. Divine revelation is not a valid epistemology. It is not an inerrant source of knowledge. We should lead by our own example, following the universal principles of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice, and abandon our reliance on religious dogma, it all their forms.

17 November 2015 - email group post
Maajid Nawaz on Paris attacks
Maajid Nawaz, is a media darling, making very nice sounding statements, but he is always short on specifics. In this interview apart from saying "Islamist ideology" and "community based strategy", he does not answer any of the questions put to him about Islamist motivation, appeal, and tools to combat it.

16 November 2015 - email group post
Alienation in Muslim communities in Denmark
Clinical testing by a psychologist shows big differences in cultural attitudes cause alienation, crime, terrorism. In these following four areas Westerners and Muslim are quite different, even diametrically opposed in their attitudes: anger versus weakness, honour versus security, victim-hood versus self-responsibility, Muslims versus non Muslims. Recent events in Paris brought this article to light.

28 August 2015 - Let's not bomb Syria
We need to address the cause, not the symptoms
Tony Abbott's motivations for wanting to bomb Islamic State in Syria are typically cynically politically calculated and in accord with his Christian zeal. Unless there is an urgent humanitarian issue, like saving the Yazidis from imminent massacre, I do dot support bombing Syria.

It is surprising that A.C. Graying, on ABC Lateline last night (27 Aug) came out in support of such interventions. His justification was that the behavior of IS is so evil that we are morally obliged to counteract it. This seems to me to be rather short sighted. To participate in the conflict in this way would also be illegal. It would also be counter productive and strategically stupid. It ignores the wider issues. Without a Security Council resolution, such action would be legal. Australia should be working to strengthen and widen the application of international law, not blatantly breach it and undermine it.

It is nonsensical to militarily attack Islamic State while failing to properly identify and criticise the ideology behind it. It is a denial of reality to contend that Islamic State is "un-Islamic", when its fighters are meticulously following the example of the Prophet. Without any attempt to defuse the ideology, militant attacks by "infidels" will only serve to strengthen it. Military intervention in Syria would be devoid of any strategic objective. Weakening IS will strengthen the Assad regime. How can "victory" be defined? What is the exit strategy?

Finally, why Australia? Neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have air forces that are already within range and capable. The fact that these Sunni Islam countries are far more enthusiastic about targeting their Shia opponents in Yemen and elsewhere, should be enough, alone, to indicate that we should not take sides in this inter-Islam dispute.

The result is a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions. The human cost in death and destruction is greater than any natural disaster. There are more newly displaced people now than at any time since WWII. Yet the trouble that all Islamic countries now face cannot be blamed on colonialism, imperialism, or indirectly on poverty, alienation, authoritarianism or oppression.

The basic cause, which all seemingly which to deny, is Islam itself. The doctrines of Islam are incompatible with democracy, human rights and secularism. Unless and until a concerted effort is made to defuse and demythologise these doctrines, then the human suffering they cause will only grow and intensify.

30 April 2015 - Secular World (Atheist Alliance International)
Why the Islamic State is attractive to recruits
Many people, including Islamic apologists, express doubt as to whether the behavior and methods of the Islamic State are a true reflection of Islamic doctrine. They suggest that the violence and repression of IS are merely an extremist interpretation, an aberration of the true 'religion of peace'. They are mistaken. The Islamic State is attractive to recruits for the very reason that it is authentic to the history and doctrines of Islam. It represents a historic revival of the military campaigns that first established the religion.  ... more

04 April 2015 - Rally in Pacific Park, Newcastle
The solution to Islam: reclaim secularism
I am an infidel. I don’t belive in Islam. I don’t believe in any religion. I don’t believe anything unless I see a good reason for it. But I do believe this: Islam is a problem. So being one of those wicked unbelievers, I am delighted to be here.  ... more

08 January 2015 - Secular Party media release
Terrorist Attack in Paris
Following on from the terrorist attack in Sydney in December, we have now witnessed a further fatal attack by Islamist gunmen in Paris. Apologists for Islam may again seek to obfuscate and divert blame. We certainly do not need to further provoke community disharmony; neither should we attempt to deny the truth.

As with the Sydney attack, John Perkins, Secular Party President, again identifies the cause: "Of course we should not blame peaceful cultural Muslims. But we must blame religion", he said.

How do we explain Islamic terrorism? Some blame politics. Some blame culture. Some blame ignorance. Some blame alienation. Some blame mental illness. Some profess not to understand the cause. Some say it has nothing to do with the true "religion of peace".

All these are excuses and diversions, Perkins said. The motivation for terrorism is contained in the Koran, and was laid down by the Prophet Mohammed himself. This is perfectly clear from the Islamic scriptures and from the testimonies of the terrorists themselves. "We need to face reality: the problem is religion, and the only solution is secularism", Dr Perkins added.

The critical examination of religion is almost totally lacking from the current debate. Beliefs should be justified by evidence. However the historical origins of religions all show them to be based in ancient myth. "Before our societies are further traumatised by religions and their adherents, we must realise that reason and rationality are the only appropriate antidotes", Perkins said.

The Secular Party stands for freedom of and from religion, and is opposed to the indoctrination of children. When Islamists attempt to suppress freedom, we will seek to defend it. When religions, including Islam, cause oppression, especially of women, we will offer critical comments. When religious adherents, including Islamists, conduct egregious acts of violence, we will continue to be resolute and fearless in ascribing blame where it is due.

"Universal values such as honesty, justice, freedom and compassion should be our guides", Perkins concluded.

16 Devember 2014 - Secular Party media release
Islamic Flag in Martin Place
We have now witnessed the first act of Islamic terrorism in Australia, since perhaps, the attack in Broken Hill on 1 January 1915. Australia is not immune from this problem. But what is the cause? John Perkins, Secular Party President, identifies it: "We should not blame Muslims. But we must blame religion". he said.

Some blame politics. Some blame culture. Some blame ignorance. Some blame alienation. Some blame mental illness, Some profess not to understand the cause. Some say it has nothing to do with the true "religion of peace".

All these are excuses and diversions, Perkins said. The motivation for terrorism is contained in the Koran, and was laid down by the Prophet Mohammed himself. This is perfectly clear from the Islamic scriptures and from the testimonies of the terrorists themselves. "We need to face reality: the problem is religion and the only solution is secularism" Dr Perkins added.

The critical examination of religion is almost totally lacking from the current debate. Beliefs should be justified. But the historical origins of religions all show them to be based in ancient myth. "Before our societies are further traumatised by religions and their adherents, we must realise that reason and rationality are the only appropriate antidotes" Perkins concluded.

The Secular Party stands for freedom of and from religion and is opposed to the indoctrination of children. Universal values such as honesty, justice, freedom and compassion should be our guides.
 

06 November 2014 - Comment on The Age's editorial policy
The Islamic doctrine at the core of Islamic extremism is ignored?
Since the advent of the Islamic State, there have been numerous articles in The Age speculating about the causes of Islamic extremism and its possible solutions. The causes have been attributed to disaffection, alienation, insanity, prejudice against Muslims, Western aggression etc. The solutions have been suggested are state-funded deradicalisation programs administered by Imams and Islamic academics.

Others have speculated that we must endure this conflict for 100 years, even though the response threatens basic freedoms and social harmony in our society. Julie Szego (06/11) despairs about finding any solution.

All this apparent bewilderment indicates a dedicated desire, perhaps even an editorial policy, to ignore the elephant in the room: religion. In Koran, at verse 8:12 for example, Allah declares “I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!”. Could it be that these doctrines have perhaps a just a skerrick of relevance?

The problem is religion and the solution is less religion. How far do the values of our society need to disintegrate before we are able to recognise this? Why cannot we use reason and rationality to defuse myth and superstition? Compassion, honesty, justice and freedom are the only moral principles we need.

10 October 2014 - Comment on Islamist dissembling
Islamists on ABC Lateline: genuine and sincere?
On ABC Lateline, on October 8 2014, the guest was Wassim Doureihi of the anti-democracy Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Wassim is a character I debated at UWS a couple of years ago. As in the debate, Wassim was vehement and articulate, and true to Islam. Despite repeated questioning, he refused to condemn anything that Islamic State has done, and instead launched into obstinate polemics about supposed Muslim victimhood. Host Emma Albirici continually talked over him in an attempt to insist that he answered the questions. This was probably the most confrontational interview that has ever been on Lateline.

Of course Doureihi would not condemn Islamic State because that is what Hizb ut-Tahrir wants. A caliphate is their objective. It is important to understand that Islamic State is simply following the aims, methods and example of the Prophet Muhammad himself. Of course Doureihi could not express his enthusiasm for IS, because he would be in danger of violating new anti-terror laws. I sympathise with him in this. These laws should not restrict freedom of speech and Hizb ut-Tahrir should not be banned. We need to hear their views openly and debate them.

What we need to do is to seek to undermine the ideology of Islam that causes otherwise reasonable people to behave in such unreasonable ways.  ... more

18 June  2014 - Comment on the situation in Iraq
Collapse of the Iraqi army
The dire situation in Iraq and Syria is the direct result of the free world's abject failure to recognise and respect the importance of secularism. The post-invasion constitution in Iraq totally failed to mandate secular values: the separation of religion from the institutions of state, impartiality between religions and protection of human rights from religious oppression.

Secularism was the solution to hundreds of years of sectarian conflict in Europe. In the Middle East, where the potential for sectarian conflict is so much greater, and the need for secularism so much more desperate, the concept is apparently not even thought worthy of consideration.  Muslim countries, and the entire world, will be forced to suffer the consequences for decades to come.

The underlying reason for this disaster is a perception of cultural relativism: the idea that cultural and religious norms are somehow immune from objective evaluation and criticism. Symptoms are the attempt to put the blame on politics or economic deprivation, rather than identifying the true cause: the religion of Islam itself.

Jihadists are simply following the dictates of the Koran and seek to emulate the Prophet Muhammad, as they are required to do. Unless a brake is applied, the entire Muslim world will be heading for failed state status. The whole world will suffer.

What will it take for people to realise that reason and evidence should be the arbiters of belief? That the universal principles of compassion, freedom, honesty and justice should be our only ethical guides?

18 April  2014 - Video of Symposium speech
The growing problem of Islam - an atheist view

4 April  2014 - Comment on Clive Palmer on Lateline
Natural CO2 emissions are not the problem
Last night on ABC Lateline, Clive Palmer and Ross Garnaut had a debate on the carbon tax and climate change. Clive did not want to be interrupted especially when he dismissed the latest IPCC report saying "You need to have a proper report with people that can do something".

It is clear that Palmer is a global warming denier and that the carbon trading scheme is doomed in the new Senate. His main argument was that human carbon emissions account for only 3 percent and natural emissions are 97 percent. So therefore we should do something about the 97 percent first. Garnaut responded that there was a natural balance that fossil fuel emissions had disrupted.

I was aware that about half of fossil carbon emissions are absorbed and the rest stays in the atmosphere so I was highly sceptical about Palmer's 97 percent figure. So what are the relative proportions of natural and human caused emissions?

Palmer was not that far out. In gigatonnes of carbon, annual emissions are: plant respiration, 60; land respiration and decomposition, 60; and sea respiration and decomposition; 90. Thus total natural emissions 210 gigatonnes. Human emissions are 9 gigatonnes, which is 4 percent, so 96 percent is natural.

Of the additional 9 gigatonnes, three are absorbed by land, two by sea, leaving an additional four gigatonnes, or 44 percent of human emissions, to accumulate in the atmosphere. This is an annual addition of 0.5 percent to the atmospheric carbon mass.

So if the problem is to be addressed by limiting natural emissions, as Palmer suggests, what could be done? Palmer needs to explain how microbial respiration and decomposition can be limited on a global scale. Presumably he does not envisage a King Canute type solution, but some kind of massive geoengineering.

How would we pay for that without a tax Mr Palmer?

25 March 2014 - Letter to the Editor of Australian Rationalist
Understanding Islam - not being deceived by Sherene Hassan
Islam is certainly something that needs to be understood. Professional Islamic dissembler Sherene Hassan would have us believe that Islam is entirely benign and all criticism of it is xenophobic (Understanding Islam, A.R. Summer 2013). However we may perhaps gain a truer understanding of Islam if we are aware of the extent of misrepresentation, disinformation and indeed taqiyya, that is present in Hassan's article. Here are some of the most blatant examples.
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21 March 2014 - Reply to criticism of my speaking at Symposium
Critics of Islam are frequently accused of prejudice, extremism, alarmism, bigotry etc.
"Before engaging in such behaviour, apologists for Islam are invited to consider first the relevant aspects of Islamic doctrine and their implementation." By apologists I particularly include atheist apologists.
An email exchange showing criticism of my speech on Islam and my responses. I am publishing this because the attitudes expressed are typical of many atheists. I certainly wish to encourage debate on these issues.
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9 March 2014 - The growing problem of Islam: an atheist view
Talk presented to the 1st International Symposium on Liberty and Islam in Australia
Geert Wilders, in his speech in Australia last year, particularly mentioned that he welcomed the participation of atheists and humanists. So as an atheist and humanist I am delighted to be here.

We may have our differences regarding religion, but regarding Islam, we are all on the same side. We recognise that Islam is a significant problem we need to deal with. Most people, unfortunately, don't. This applies also to many of my atheist and humanist colleagues. They strive to be opposed to all religions equally. But some religions are worse than others. By reasonable objective criteria, Islam is the worst. We need to recognise this.

I may also say that I come from a different political perspective from many of you. Again, when it comes to recognising the perils of Islam, we are all on the same side. I don't see why it should be a right wing or left wing issue. We all simply need to be aware of the facts. Islam is a danger, a threat, and it causes immense suffering. Anyone, whatever their political persuasion, should be able to recognise that. Recognition of facts does not make us extremists.

I am a humanitarian, and a social liberal. That is why I am opposed to Islam. Islam causes suffering and oppression, especially for women. Those who suffer from it most are the Muslims themselves. Hence, as Geert Wilders and many others have stated, we are not against Muslims we are against Islam. It is nothing to do with racism. Those who claim to be feminists and humanitarians but turn a blind eye to the misogyny and social oppression of Islam are hypocrites. We need to raise people's consciousness. We need to focus on the facts.
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15 July 2014 - Population and Growth
A reply to Kelvin Thomson at the Skeptics Cafe
On 17 Feb. 2014, Kelvin Thomson MHR gave a lecture at the Skeptics Cafe on "Population Policy". I normally find these talks interesting and informative. Out of about 50 people there, I was the only one who voiced any dissent from the views put. The rest were all appeared to be in support of Thomson. I did make some comments, but there was no chance to explain my views. Hence I posted the comments below to the Victorian Skeptics email list.

Is there any other area, apart from economics, where the less people know, the more they think they know? Has there been any other occasion when the Skeptics have gratefully and willingly swallowed such a load of complete codswallop? I am talking about Kelvin Thomson's lecture tonight.

Economics is about supply, demand, prices, incomes, growth, wealth, poverty, the allocation of resources, the distribution of income, development, opportunity costs, GDP, revenue, expenditure, national income, macroeconomic management, inflation, unemployment, interest rates, exchange rates, imports, exports, microeconomic management, production, wages, profits, etc etc. After finishing a science degree I studied economics for ten years and then worked in the field for another thirty years. I did that because I saw that economics was highly relevant to the nature and well-being of society. Some economists use their knowledge to espouse a right wing ideological view. I don't. Yet I know that my views differ from most or all of my freethought colleagues.

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15 July 2013 - Letter to the Editor
Move from carbon tax to ETS poor judgement
In the wake of Kevin Rudd’s announcement that an Emissions Trading Scheme will replace the existing carbon tax a year earlier than scheduled, Secular Party spokesperson, John Perkins, has stated that the  shift to an ETS, either now or in the future, is not good policy.

Dr Perkins is a senior economist specialising in global warming models, and is the President of the Secular Party of Australia.

“Trading schemes are a fashionable way of seeming to do something but actually doing nothing,” he said. “There are two problems. Firstly, the market price may be too low to do anything, as now, or too volatile, so that you don’t have a secure base for long-term investment planning. Secondly, the foreign credits purchased may be for bogus schemes such as promised deforestation reductions which either don’t happen or else would have happened anyway.”

Dr Perkins said that environmental costs have to be paid by the market in some way. “A levy is the best way of doing this,” he said. “A price of at least $30 is needed to produce any shift in production away from coal. Australia's grand plan is not to reduce emissions but to buy permits from countries like Indonesia. This is unlikely to result is any global benefit.”

Dr Perkins said that wealthier countries such as Australia needed to invest in and develop technologies for the mitigation of climate change, to give developing nations a chance to implement required technologies at a cheaper rate. He said that a carbon levy would encourage such investment, while the ETS concept was a “sham”.

“Of course, all this debate completely ignores Australia's role as a coal exporter,” he added. “The emissions from Australia’s exported coal dwarf our domestic emissions. What Australia should be doing is seeking cooperation with other exporters to impose a carbon tax on coal exports.”

Dr Perkins concluded that people need to wake up to the fact that the two greatest threats to humankind are religious fundamentalism and anthropogenic global warming. “Given the serious consequences of such threats, we feel most Australians would appreciate a government whose policies were based on reason and evidence, as opposed to those who are more interested in deception in pursuit of the popular vote.”

14 July 2013 - Letter to the Editor
Egypt and democratic failure
Western democrats and those unfamiliar with the inherent tensions in Islamic societies struggle to understand why Egyptians would want to overthrow their first democratically elected Islamic government. The basic problem lies in the fact that Islam itself is anti-secular and anti-democratic. The law of Allah, sharia law, cannot be changed by democratic means. Hence when sharia is constitutionally imposed, democracy cannot survive.

Egyptian liberals, secularists and moderate Muslims understand this. Waleed Aly (12/7) does not. This is perhaps understandable as Mr Ali is a devout devotee of Islam himself. He sees the situation as one in which the secular military is the enemy of democracy and the Muslim Brotherhood is the defender of "democratic principles".

In fact, democracy is more than just majority rule. It must also entail basic human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which must include, in this case, the freedom to reject Islam. When sharia law is enshrined in the constitution, these freedoms are forbidden. Hence it is no surprise that Egyptians, having suffered decades of tyranny from one form of totalitarianism, do not want it replaced by another. Secular principles are the only guarantee of democracy, Mr Ali.

An edited version this letter, was published in The Age on 16 July 2013, from John Perkins, Secular Party

22 February  2013 - LTE
Geert Wilders has the right to be heard
The views of Dutch MP Geert Wilders, currently visiting Australia, have been widely condemned. Moreover, his right to be heard has been severely limited, with numerous venues refusing to host his talks, leading to cancellation of his Perth talk.

While we do not support all his views, we strongly support his right to be heard. If we are intimidated into silence by fear of recrimination, our basic freedoms are eroded, just as Wilders suggests.

We disagree with Wilders' suggestion that immigration from Islamic countries should be stopped. It should be emphasised to potential immigrants, however, that they must comply with secular Australian values, including gender equality.

Wilders describes Islam as a totalitarian ideology. While many Muslims are moderate, the precedence accorded to sharia law over civil law indicates that Wilders’ description is substantially correct.

Wilders also points out that the Prophet Mohammed was a violent military leader, and that Muslims are duty-bound to emulate him. Uncomfortable as this truth may be, it is essential to understanding the role of Islam in the modern world.

The solution is informed debate, reason and evidence-based thinking, and emphasis on the universal humanist values of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice.

7 December 2012 - LTE and media release
Secular voices fight to be heard in Egypt
After the decades long inexorable rise in global Islamism, we may be reaching a turning point. For the first time in a Muslim country, we are now seeing open and specifically secular opposition to an Islamist government. In Egypt, a "unified secular opposition" is voicing its opposition to the imposition of an Islamic constitution.

The stakes are high. Islamic constitutions effectively prohibit secularism and mandate sharia law. Inexplicably, this is just what the post-invasion constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan have done. The inevitable result will be religious oppression, and social and economic disruption and stagnation.

The beliefs of all religions are contradicted by reason and evidence. The privileges granted to religions are thus not justified. In democracies we can say this. In Muslim countries it cannot be said. We should offer our support to those in Egypt fighting for this basic freedom.

News item.
 

5 December 2012 - LTE and media release
A new future Australian Head of State
A new royal baby is on the way, it has been announced by the palace. A future king or queen. An occasion for congratulations from Prime Ministers and a media frenzy of news stories about the happy royal
couple, no doubt. Good luck and best wishes to them.

Amidst all the sycophantic adulation however, there is another aspect which is overlooked: unless something changes, the new baby will one day be the Australian Head of State. Rather than choosing our own, our Heads of State are created by an act of British royal copulation. It that what we really want?

The concept of a hereditary Head of State does not make any more sense than a hereditary carpenter, doctor, lawyer or politician. A new baby is very nice, but bring on the Republic please.
 

28 November 2012 - Religious Challenge Media Release
Religious beliefs are a product of socialisation - the $100,000 Religious Challenge five years on

People believe what they are told as children. Hence, adherence to religious belief is merely a product of culture and socialisation. This is perfectly obvious, otherwise religious beliefs would be spread randomly around the globe.

Yet beliefs are more than just expressions of cultural loyalty. They are held to be actually true. That is historically why they generate such passion, and also the religious violence, war and persecution that continues today. It is also why religions are given exemption from tax, from discrimination laws, and even from criminal prosecution.

Given the damage and conflict caused by such "cultural truths", it could be imagined that societies may seek to resolve the issue by asking the simple question: which religion is true? Yet asking this question is culturally suppressed. It is considered taboo, impolite, offensive. University religious studies departments never ask this question. The United Nations is urged to mandate blasphemy laws so that asking it is illegal.

The answer, of course, is that no religion is true. All religions rely on beliefs in historical events that never happened. Their beliefs are contradicted by historical, archaeological, biological and geological evidence. Religions are known to be false. If religions were true, they would not be religions.

But the truth about religion is unwanted, so it must be suppressed. Societies are in a state of mass psychological denial. It is a dangerous departure from rationality that increasingly imperils humanity.

To highlight the absurdity of this situation I have previously issued the $100,000 Religious Challenge.
http://challenge.theatheist.net/

It is now more than five years since this challenge was issued. Not a single response has been received. Is it cognitive dissonance or wilful blindness? The issue remains. I hereby reissue this Challenge.

C/o Melbourne Atheist Meetup Group

13 November 2012 (Letter to the Editor and media release)
Child abuse inquiry exposes deeper questions
The Prime Minister is to be congratulated on heeding calls for a wide-ranging inquiry into child abuse in religious institutions. To improve the operation of these organisations, it should be made mandatory that all disclosures of criminal activity, whether in a confessional box or elsewhere, be reported to the police. Failure to do so should be a criminal offence. The time for such exemptions for religious bodies has passed.

The inquiry raises a deeper question. Why is it that religious organisations have been able to indulge with impunity in gross abuses for decades? What is it about the nature of society’s attitude towards religion in general that allowed this to occur?

Blame must be attributed to the archaic legal status attached to the advancement of religion as being, of itself, a charitable purpose. It is legally assumed that all religious activities are not merely benign, but beneficial. All the subsidies and tax concessions granted to religious organisations derive from this legal status.

It should by now be obvious that religions are not necessarily beneficial, and indeed can be harmful. Hence their unwarranted charitable status should end. Ethics and morality are better determined on the basis of the universal principles of compassion, honesty, justice and freedom.

John Perkins, Secular Party. (edited version published in The Age 14 Nov)

12 November 2012 (Secular Party media release)
It's time... for a national Royal Commission
Following the latest devastating revelations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, and of the ongoing and systematic campaign of cover-ups by the Catholic Church, the Secular Party of Australia asserts that there is an urgent need for a national Royal Commission into this important issue. We are not convinced that the government of either New South Wales or Victoria is serious in their respective inquiries. Both of these governments are very reluctant to instigate a state Royal Commission with appropriate and wide-ranging terms of reference and full powers. One obvious question is "Why?" Is it possible that although the DLP has only one sitting MP, Peter Kavanagh, in the Victorian Legislative Council, its descendants are still a political force in other parties and governments? The Coalition in NSW springs to mind, with a high proportion of members with Catholic Church affiliation, including the Premier, Barry O'Farrell.

In the New South Wales Commission of Inquiry the focus will be restricted to the police handling and investigation of allegations of cover-ups in the Hunter region only, rather than on the Catholic Church itself, the abuse it has perpetrated on innocent and vulnerable victims, and its covering-up of these offences.

Surely this is where the root of the problem lies. It appears that neither the NSW Commission of Inquiry nor the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry is really serious about getting to the heart of the matter: who knew what about this, when did they know it, and what did they do about it? As yet no victims have been called to give evidence to the Victorian inquiry. At least now the Catholic Church in Victoria has agreed to co-operate with the inquiry and provide access to its own private files on reported cases of abuse. This is a step in the right direction. However it is to be hoped that none of the seriously incriminating material in these files will be withheld, and that none of it has already been destroyed. The NSW Government claims that its inquiry will have all the powers of a Royal Commission. Why then does it not yield to the growing calls for a proper Royal Commission into this appalling affair? Nothing less will satisfy either the victims or the general public.
 

19 October 2012 (Letter to the Editor and media release)
Religious discrimination in schools
The Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal's finding that Christian Religious Instruction in schools does not discriminate against non-Christian children is a bad decision.

The judge contended that "attendance by a child at special religious instruction does not, necessarily, indicate that the child, or the parents, hold any particular religious beliefs". We disagree.

We wonder how many Jewish, Muslim, atheist or other students go to Christian Religious Instruction.  If these are not the people who are opting out of CRI, then who are? The ability to opt out does not mean there is no discrimination.

What we have now is classes segregated along religious lines.  Is it possible to have segregation without discrimination? We do not think so. How can this possibly good for building harmony and social integration?

The Education Minister Martin Dixon and Access Ministries chairman Bishop Stephen Hale have welcomed the finding. So we now have the Education Minister of our public school system 'in bed with' an evangelical church with its mission to 'go and make disciples'.

Governments should not promote religions in the minds of children at taxpayer expense. It is the policy of the Secular Party that Religious Instruction in schools be replaced with studies of comparative religion and ethics.

The original secular ideals of our education system have now been trashed. Unless this is reversed, the future harmony of our society is in grave jeopardy. Only secular values, based on the universal principles of compassion, honesty justice and freedom can provide a system that is of benefit to all.

John Perkins, Secular Party.

12 October 2012 (Letter to the Editor and media release)
Religion does more harm than good
The Victoria Police report into the Catholic Church's involvement in child abuse says that the Church has continued to impede the police investigation of paedophile priests, has continued to protect offenders and has exacerbated the plight of victims.

Why is it that our supposed moral guardians are in fact so prone to indulgence in moral depravity? The answer, we believe, lies in the psychological processes that are associated with religious belief itself. When reason and evidence are eschewed in favour of adherence to ancient dogma, then there is no constraint on what adverse results may ensue.

Together with the known propensity for religions to promote social disharmony and conflict, this further confirms our view on religions: they do more harm than good. In which case, why do we continue to grant religious organisations billions of dollars in tax concessions, and why do provide billions of dollars in funding to religious schools?

Moral questions are best considered without any reference to religion. We can simply let the universal principles of compassion, honesty, justice and freedom be our guide.

John Perkins, Secular Party.
 

23 September 2012
Protest at the State Library in Melbourne
Following a violent Muslim protest in Sydney the week before, a further Muslim protest was planned in Melbourne for the following Sunday, 23 September. It was then reported that the Muslim protest was to be cancelled, but further protests by racist anti-Muslim groups were expected to be held.

Some atheists thought that the best way to respond to violence by Muslim groups and their attempts to deny free speech was to make no comment at all, and that all opposition to such events should be left to racist extremists.

Some of us thought differently. Some of us thought that it was most important that the voice of reason, rather than the voice of prejudice, should be expressed as a positive response to religious violence. Hence we decided to hold our own protest at the State Library. We made placards and turned up, despite concerns at the possibility, however small, that we ourselves could be on the receiving end of violence.

We engaged in discussion, but disengaged ourselves from the heated exchanges that the extremists were involved with. We achieved our aim, and we are proud of what we did.

Some atheists, who themselves were too afraid to make any comment on Muslim violence whatsoever, apparently see this as damaging to atheism. We disagree. Courage, not cowardice, is what is required to defend freedom and uphold the atheist ideal.

News report.  Video. Further comment on the protest: Why Islam is false.

17 September 2012 (Letter to the Editor and media release)
Innocence of Muslims
The film "Innocence of Muslims" has provoked a violent response from Muslims around the world. The film may be amateurish, its origins may be less than auspicious, it may be offensive to Muslims, but the Secular Party defends the right to make such a film. Freedom of speech should not be surrendered in the face of threats and violence.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not include the right not to be offended. Those who may be offended by the film need not watch it.

The film may in fact serve a useful purpose in highlighting the nature of the Prophet Mohammed in early Islamic history. According to the original biography by ibn Ishaq, it was Mohammed's military campaigns that enabled Islam to be established in Mecca in the year 630. This legacy is reflected in the Koran, and it is a relevant factor in understanding the motivation for current day terrorism and insurgencies.

Rational debate is the only solution. We should be encouraged to examine our beliefs in the light of reason and evidence. If our beliefs are found wanting, we should discard them. The truth may be uncomfortable, but it is ultimately gratifying. The secular values of honesty, compassion, freedom and justice provide the only lasting path to peace.

John Perkins, Secular Party.

14 September 2012 (Letter to the Editor and media release)
Islam and terrorism
Following the arrest of another local Muslim on terrorism charges, we again wonder as to the motivation for such behaviour. To explain it simply in terms of religious extremism is to misunderstand it. For a deeper explanation, we need to look at the origin and history of the ideology of Islam, which, in this regard, is quite different to that of Christianity.

Islam was established in Mecca in the year 630, following a successful insurgency led by the Prophet Mohammed. This military history of Islam is reflected in the Koran. This legacy is a highly relevant factor in explaining current day terrorism and insurgencies. Thankfully, not all Muslims follow this tradition to extremes, however it does mean that Islam has certain characteristics that are different from other religions. Like it or nor, we all should be aware of this.

What is the solution? We should be encouraged to examine our beliefs in the light of reason and evidence. If our beliefs are found wanting, we should discard them. The truth may be uncomfortable, but it is ultimately gratifying. The secular values of honesty, compassion, freedom and justice provide the only lasting path to peace.

John Perkins, Secular Party.

30 November 2011 (Letter to the Editor, published in The Age, unedited version)
Islamic constitutions are not democratic
It is reassuring that the Islamic parties set to dominate elections in the new Arab democracies have a positive side (Wadah Khanfar, 29/11). However there is a critical issue that is being overlooked.

All this new-found democratic fervour is taking place within the context of Islamic constitutions that predicate these countries being "Islamic states". Not even lip service is being given to the concept of "separation of mosque and state". This concept is not just the basis of secular democracy, but of democracy itself.

Only secularism provides a guarantee of religious freedom, which Islamic constitutions effectively forbid. Without the "freedom of thought conscience and religion" as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there cannot be true freedom.

Islamic constitutions mandate sharia law, that is, the rules laid down in the Koran. These rules cannot be overturned by an elected parliament. Thus democracy is limited. Worse than that perhaps, the whole legal system is subservient to religious leaders with the responsibility for interpreting the basic law.

Koranic law can be, and is, used to justify any number of abuses, from the oppression of women to jihad, to the killing of apostates. Unfortunately, the Arab spring is likely to become an Islamic winter. But how can we blame the Arabs for abandoning secularism, when with our massive subsidies to religions of all kinds, we have all but abandoned it ourselves?

John Perkins, Secular Party.

15 November 2011 (Letter to the Editor, The Age)
No mystery in Afghan soldier attacks
There should be no mystery as to why Australian soldiers are being shot in the back by their erstwhile Afghan allies (Clive Williams 14/11). It is only a mystery because we underestimate the role of religious ideology in such conflicts.

Those who are mystified just need to study Islamic history and read the Koran. The Prophet Mohammed was the leader of a military insurrection. Islam was first established in the Arabian peninsular, and beyond, by means of military conquest. The Koran contains many of Mohammed's war proclamations. These characteristics of the religion are highly relevant to any understanding of Islamic insurrections and terrorism today.

The fact that such things apparently remain a mystery is a sad commentary on our inability to subject religious ideologies to rational analysis and criticism. The false assumption that religions are just benign charities is costing us dearly.

As societies, we cannot forever maintain the pretence that all religious beliefs are true, even when we know for sure that in many cases they are not. Our counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts make no attempt at all to engender a more rational and evidence-based approach to the underlying ideologies. As such, they are doomed to failure. We need to at least aspire to a more rational world.

John Perkins, Secular Party.

2 August 2011 (Letter to the Editor, published in The Age)
Violence and religion
It is true, as Waleed Aly suggests (1/8) that violent Islamists and violent defenders of Christendom, as seen in Norway, have certain things in common. They both believe that defending their religions, with their perceived cultural benefits, gives them a moral authority that transcends normal limits.

Aly is incorrect however, to conclude however this is leading to world in which there are "no consistent principles", and "no solution". Secularism provides both consistent principles and a solution. Secularism was devised after hundreds of years of religious wars in Europe. The more we forget about secular principles, the more dangerous the world becomes.

Secularism does not just mean government impartiality between religions. There is a certain moral imperative that we seek beliefs based in reason and evidence. Without that, there is no progress. As ever, ethics and morality are best based on the universal principles of honesty, compassion, freedom and justice.
John Perkins, Secular Party.

28 July 2011 (Letter to the Editor, published in The Age)
Clarifying Chaplains
It is quite impossible for the role of school chaplains in schools to be clarified, as the Ombudsman requires. This is because chaplains are required to be religious (i.e. Christian) and yet they are not supposed to be religious in their work. To believe they can do that would be a leap of faith. Those who are possessed of religion are required to make all kinds of leaps of faith, and this is another one that the Christian Minister for Education, Peter Garret, seems determined to make.

Here is how the situation can be resolved: require all chaplains to be qualified counsellors and remove the religious test for appointment, as the Australian Constitution requires. Then they would be counsellors, not chaplains, so rename the program the Australian Schools Counsellor Program.

That way, we will begin to restore a semblance of secularism to our education system, a noble ideal that has been all but subverted. As ever, ethics are best determined on the basis of the universal principles of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice.
John Perkins, Secular Party.

18 July 2011 (Comments to Q &A)
The program "A spiritual special"
To: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/contact-us.htm
Your panel on Q&A today was very disappointing. There was noone effectively representing an atheist or secular position. The only balance was provided by the questions and twitter.

Do burkas erect barriers between people? Of course they do, that is their purpose. Yet the questioner was rudely put down by Eva Cox.

Religions cannot possibly all be true because they contradict. We know that many religious doctrines are false. Could you not find anyone to ask the simple question: should we not try to believe what is true?

11 July 2011 (The Age LTE and press release)
Carbon tax is a phoney proposal
The government’s carbon tax proposals are a step forward, but as such will do little to reduce our emissions. A tax of $23 will only cause a small shift from coal to gas fired electricity generation. For so-called emissions reductions, the proposals rely on us buying possibly phoney credits from other countries that undertake to preserve their rainforests.

We would achieve more by scrapping the plans for a trading scheme and just having a carbon tax. This needs to ramp up to much higher levels in order to justify major investment in alternative energy.

Meanwhile, we continue to overlook the elephant in the room, which is our coal exports. In its full page advertisements, the Coal Association is attempting to erect a smokescreen. The 250 million tonnes of coal that we export will produce 750 million tonnes of carbon dioxide when burnt, which is far more than all our other emissions, and is not subject to any tax.

If we were to join together with Indonesia and South Africa to impose an export tax, which would then apply to the bulk of the world’s coal exports, this would be a more effective way of reducing global emissions, while protecting our coal industry at the same time.
John Perkins, National Institute of Economic and Industry Research.

27 June 2011 (The Age LTE)
The fallacy of "climate fallacy"
It is a fallacy to claim that greenhouse gas induced global warming is a fallacy, as claimed by Bob Carter in The Age 27/11. The fallacy in his argument is easily exposed. Greenhouse gases are not the only factor that effects global warming. The solar cycle is also a factor, and this has been on a downcycle since 2001. It is now on an upcycle and we can expect that this, combined with increased greenhouse concentrations, will lead to a resumption of the observed warming over the next decade at an accelerated rate.

As a consequence of the prominence given to the views of the warming deniers, public opinion has been manipulated to an extent that puts our future in further jeopardy. There is a cost to the environment to greenhouse pollution and this cost is currently external to the market economy. We need to internalise this externality. We must pay the price. If we don't begin to pay this price while it is still manageable, then the cost to future generations will be insurmountable.

21 June 2011 (Letter to Minister Ferguson)
The Coal Association advertisements
Rt Hon Martin Ferguson
Minister for Resources and Energy

Dear Mr Ferguson

I write with regard to the full page advertisement in The Age today, with a proposal that I think will not only answer such critics, but provide a path to assist finding a solution to greenhouse emissions globally.

This is an issue with which I have been concerned for some time, and about which I have conducted my own economic model research. I include some references below.

The Coal Association refers to the fact that Australia produces less than 6% of world coal output. What they neglect to say is that Australia provides approximately 45% of world coal exports, a proportion that we may expect to rise, in the long term, as other producers become depleted.

Another highly relevant fact in this matter, that no-one is at all keen to acknowledge, is that more carbon leaves Australia in coal ships than leaves as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In fact, the proportion is far greater and rising.

Rather than seeing these facts as a threat to our coal industry and as a weakness for Australia in the global greenhouse debate, what I propose is to turn the threat into opportunity, and the weakness into strength.

The Coal Association says that our coal customers will simply turn to Indonesia and South Africa for their supplies. My proposal is simply this. Seek arrangements with Indonesia and South Africa for their cooperative introduction of similar carbon and resource rent taxes.

Such an agreement would not only be in the interests of all countries concerned, in terms of revenue and industry protection. It would be an important factor in putting a price on carbon globally.

Australia can and should have a key role in engineering this solution because we are by far the biggest exporter of coal. Seeking an agreement between a limited number coal exporters is obviously far easier than attaining a global agreement to replace Kyoto.

Another aspect of this, is that in a world of diminishing reserves and increasing resource prices, to avoid international tensions, resource exporters will need to be seen to be acting responsibly in the management of their resources. It should therefore be a part of the international negotiations, that a proportion of revenue be paid into a global fund to assist developing countries with mitigation adjustment issues.

I hope you are able to see in this proposal what I think would be a double win-win situation. It would be a win for the coal industry and for your government. It would also be a win for both Australia and the global community.

If you are interested to know more of my research please do not hesitate to ask.

Yours sincerely

John Perkins

3 May 2011
The death of Osama bin Laden
It seems that Osama bin Laden was shot dead while unarmed. This is not how it should have ended. We should not rejoice in anyone's death, including Osama bin Laden. All the gloating over his killing smacks more of primitive revenge rather than any sense of justice.

It would have been far better if bin Laden had been captured and put on trial by the International Criminal Court. Then, justice would have been seen to have been done. An ex-judicial killing by means of a long distance raid is really behaving in a manner that is little different to the terrorists themselves. Dying in this way is exactly what Osama wanted. Granted however, the complicity of the Pakistanis may have left little choice.

The death of Osama bin Laden will do nothing to end global terrorism. In the so called "war on terror", bin Laden has for a long time been little more than a figurehead. His operational base was destroyed soon after September 11. The continuing war in Afghanistan has little to do with that.

All counter-terrorism operations will ultimately be doomed to failure until it is properly understood what is behind the basic ideological motivation for Islamic terrorism. The prophet Muhammad was himself the leader of a military insurgency, a very successful one. Hence the terrorist motivation is not just an extremist phenomenon. It is an intrinsic part of Islam.

Therefore the only long term counter-terrorism strategy that will ever work is one that promotes reason and rationality as an alternative to religion. We must promote the questioning of the fundamentals, not just of Islam, but of all religions. That is our only hope of achieving peace and harmony. As ever, ethical judgements are best made in the light of the universal principles of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice, rather than on the basis of any religion.

25 April 2011 (LTE)
Learning about Christianity
Religion was responsible for the Dark Ages in Europe, a time of countless religious wars, inquisitions and persecution. The values on which our civilisation is based to not come from this, but from the secular values of the Enlightenment. When Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freir  talks about the benefits of a Christian education, it seems that he himself has a bit to learn.

Frier should also be more informed about the difference between knowledge and belief. One is based on reason and evidence, the other is based on faith. Christian doctrines are the latter, not the former. Children should certainly be educated about religion, but not indoctrinated in a religion. Ethical values should be based not on doctrine, but on the universal values of honesty, compassion, freedom and justice.

11 April 2011 (LTE)
Religious education, not instruction
It is great that Barney Zwartz (The Age 11/4) concedes that advocates of religious instruction in schools are on a losing wicket. But he misconstrues the secularist position when he says that their aim is to “expunge religion from public life”.

Secularists welcome discussion about religion, particularly discussion about the truth claims of religions. We think that children should be taught about religion, not instructed in religion. The Australian Human Rights Commission agrees.

Religions may instruct children, in government schools, that: “If you don’t believe what you are told, you will burn in hell forever”. The secularist alternative would be: “Religions teach that if you don’t believe what they say, you will burn in hell forever. There is no evidence for this. Make up your own mind”. Which is preferable Barney?

Traumatising children with divisive religions can indeed be a form of child abuse. Instead, we should be giving children the freedom to make up their own minds. Ethical values are best determined on the basis of reason and universal principles such as compassion, honesty, justice and freedom.

5 April 2011 (LTE)
Religion should not be promoted in schools
When government-funded education was founded in Australia in the 19th century, it was established on the basis that education should be “universal, secular and free”. In spite of the Australian Constitution, it seems we have abandoned all these principles.

"The internationally recognised right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, does not provide for the religious indoctrination of children in schools", said Secular Party spokesperson John Perkins. "On the contrary, religious indoctrination of suppresses children's right to freedom of thought", he said.

A recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that there was a critical need for education about religion, rather than instruction in religion.  The Report acknowledged that religions are divisive. "How can Australia's system of government-funded religiously segregated schools possibly promote social harmony?", Dr Perkins asks.

Human knowledge has increased to a vast extent since religious schools were established in Australia. It is high time that the whole system of government-funded religion in schools was reassessed. In its submission to the government's Schools funding inquiry, the Secular Party stated: "To receive funding, schools should not endorse, assist, or promote the advancement of particular religions."

Reason and rationality, combined with universal principles such as compassion, honesty, freedom and justice, provide an ethical framework that is equal to, if not better than, that provided by any religion.

25 March 2011
Islam and violence
We can agree with Anglican vicar Mark Durie (The Age 25/3) that Muslim violence cannot be explained by mere exclusion and Islamophobia", as Muslim student Rachel Woodlock suggests (The Age 23/3). But what then is the underlying cause and what is the solution?

Violence in Islam cannot be understood without reference to Islamic history. Unlike other religions, Islam was founded by a military leader. The Prophet Mohammed was not just a religious leader, but also the leader of an armed insurrection against the existing order in Mecca. Many of the war verses in the Koran are war proclamations issued as part of his successful military campaign.

Thankfully not all Muslims take all of the Koranic injunctions literally. However some do, which is cause for legitimate concern.

Durie’s solution is to foster debate. This is fine, but what should Muslims and Christians debate? Which religion is more peaceful or more gratifying? Or which religion is true?

Secularists would welcome this debate, and the solution we would propose is the promotion of reason and secular values such as compassion, honesty, justice and freedom. Such universal values are preferable to those of any religion.
 

Atheism is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural. Atheist Foundation of Australia.

John L Perkins
PO Box 6004, Melbourne 8008
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