Occasionally we get religious leaders here claiming that New Zealand is a “Christian nation.” Some even want to enshrine this claim in law and will organise demonstrations demanding this (see Destiny of Christian privilege?). These people blithely ignore the fact that only 50% of New Zealanders describe themselves as Christian, and 32% claim no religion at all (2006 Census).
Even the claim that the country is culturally or historically “Christian” purposely ignores the largely secular input into our history and culture.
However, the “Christian nation” demand does appeal to some people. It’s necessary to oppose it because the political consequences of such a demand is theocracy – with a loss of human rights and social gains since the enlightenment.
I therefore welcome the upcoming conference “Secular twins: Australia New Zealand’s Secular Heritage and its Future.” Organised by the Australian Secular Associations (ANSA) the details are:
NSW Parliamentary Theatrette, NSW Parliament, Macquarie St, Sydney. Sponsored by Greens MLC Dr John Kaye.
9am – 5pm Wednesday 9 July 2008. Conference dinner optional.
Conference papers include:
- Helen Irving: ‘Australia’s Foundations Were Definitely and Deliberately Not Christian’;
- Max Wallace: ‘Aspects of Secularism in Australia’;
- Bill Cooke: ‘Is New Zealand a ‘Secular Nation?’;
- Jane Caro: ‘Free, Secular and Compulsory – the Ideals Behind Our Schools’.
- Moderated afternoon panel session with invited religious speakers. Questions from the floor.
Interested readers can contact ANSA by email (email@example.com), phone (0412 707 428 or 0413 604 754) or mail (ANSA, PO BOX 554, AAILSONS POINT NSW 1565, AUSTRALIA).
Information on speakers:
Jane Caro is the author, together with Chris Bonnor, of The Stupid Country, UNSW Press,
2007. Her soon to be released book (co-written with Catherine Fox) is The F Word: how we learned to swear by feminism. UNSW Press, 2008. Jane is a widely published commentator and convenor of the public education lobby group, Priority Public.
Bill Cooke is a New Zealand academic. He was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy of the University at Buffalo (2003-2006). He is Senior Editor of Free Inquiry, the bimonthly magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism. His books include Heathen in Godzone: Seventy Years of Rationalism in New Zealand, 1998; A Rebel to His Last Breath: Joseph McCabe and Rationalism 2001, and A Dictionary of Atheism, Skepticism and Humanism, 2005.
Jim Dakin was a Professor of Continuing Education at Victoria University, Wellington. He made a significant contribution to the secular cause in New Zealand.
Helen Irving is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Sydney. In 2006 she was Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School where she held the Harvard Chair of Australian Studies. She is the author of many works on constitutional law including Five Things To Know About The Australian Constitution, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
John Kaye is a member of the Legislative Council of NSW representing the Greens. John has spoken frequently on public education.
Lee Rhiannon is the Leader of the Greens in the NSW Legislative Council.
Max Wallace is the Director of the Australian National Secular Association. His book, The Purple Economy: Supernatural Charities, Tax and the State was published in December 2007.
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