Editor, The Age: Sir, The spectre of religion has affected me from an early age.

AT SCHOOL: If you are not attending religious instruction, sit outside in the passage!
JOIN A GANG: Not a Protestant or Catholic? You’re out!
IN HOSPITAL: No religion? You must have one! We will put you down as CoE.
IN COURT: (giving a character reference for a teenager). You must swear to tell the truth on the bible. There will be no affirmation in my court!
ADOPTING A CHILD: You must get two Ministers of Religion to recommend you!

And so it has gone on for over 70 years, as I witnessed in our secular country, governments going to war in the name of God, granting vast funds to religious schools (rich and poor) and church institutions, giving tax concessions and rate exemptions to large church holdings and investments  and exemptions from equal opportunity legislation.

Under the misapprehension that religion is the sole foundation of ethics and morals, we open our Parliament sessions with prayers and – fearing opposition from religious groups – our representatives disregard popular demands for abortion, voluntary euthanasia and official recognition of same-sex relationships.
Now, while I continue to try to join with my religious and atheist friends in responding to the bells tolling for justice and equality, I look forward to the 2010 atheist conference in the hope that it will foster a greater understanding of atheistic thought.

– Keith McEwan, CLA member, Bendigo.Victoria

12-14 March, Melbourne: Rise of Atheism conference, Atheist Foundation of Australia and Atheist Alliance International,  Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Info: http://www.atheistconvention.org.au/

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