About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why no funding for the Global Atheist Convention?

The Global Atheist Convention 2010 in Melbourne, Australia is expected to be the largest gathering of atheists, rationalists, humanists, sceptics, free thinkers, etc. ever run in Australia and possibly in the world (it is projected to attract over two thousand people).

The Atheist Foundation of Australia, which is running the convention, applied for government funding months ago, but has not yet received a response. Compare how governments support religions and large religious conventions. Here in Australia, exemptions or concessions apply to religious organisations in relation to income tax, fringe benefits tax, GST, payroll tax, land tax, stamp duties, car registration fees and municipal rates. Consider the millions of government dollars that will help fund the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne this coming December and the $120m the World Youth [i.e. Catholic Youth] Day in Sydney cost Australian tax payers (and let’s not even start on the civil liberty restrictions associated with World Youth Day…).

It’s time our parliamentary representatives actually represented all citizens and supported the Global Atheist Convention. Alternatively, they could stop using tax-payers' dollars to subsidise religion. At the moment there is an unacceptable double standard.

Please help by spreading the word – raise this issue on blogs, in conversation and anywhere else the politicians might hear you.

Footnote: I have (somewhat freely) adapted this wording from here. I don't necessarily agree with every sentiment expressed there, so I've rewritten it somewhat and cut it down, but I think the above is the gist of it that many of us could agree with.


Gingerbaker said...

That your government likes to financially support religious organizations seems to me to be a separate issue from why they should also financially support a convention of atheists.

Are you arguing that atheism is a religion? It seems to me that atheism is quintessentially secular.

Would you expect governmental funding for a meeting of the garden club or a labor organization?

And have we not seen the proposition advanced that we, as atheists, would love to see the status of religious organizations demoted to garden club secular status? Did you not just argue that religious organizations should lose their tax advantages and convention funding?

Why is it not then hypocritical for a group of atheists to demand government funding as if they belonged to a religious organization, which, by the way, should not enjoy government subsidies?

Russell Blackford said...

My preference is that goverments fund neither, and that they stop giving tax breaks to religion.

But if the idea is to fund anything that brings tourists into Victoria, which is the rationale for the funding to the religious conventions, why shouldn't large anti-religious conventions be equally eligible? It has nothing to do with whether atheism is a religion. It is to do with whether rules about funding conventions for their alleged economic benefits are applied equitably.

Gerald said...

I'd love to go, but I'm still waiting to know if we'll be allowed to take pictures... Missed the gold tickets already :-(


On the funding subject, I agree with you: Fund everybody on tourism grounds.

About tax breaks, again agreed, or alternatively tax breaks should be extended to religion-*related* orgs, including atheist orgs that are related to religion in that they don't want it. :-)

Sean Wright said...

On numbers alone the convention should be getting about 1 million. Add to that we are materialists and the funding should double :)

Anonymous said...


The Victorian government gives events funding if there is benefit to the economy. If there is significant attendance to an event then assistance is usually forth coming.

The immediate funding and sponsorship of "The Parliament of World Religions" is an example of a past decision were there was no hesitation to fund or not.

mb said...

From a pragmatic point of view I guess the lesson is to check the availability of subsidies first and only then decide where to host the event.

Scott H said...

Great meeting you in Burbank, Russell.

We need more concrete examples just like these to show all the little ways that religion really does receive special treatment. Your criticism is spot on.

Anonymous said...

Theres no need to speculate over whether atheists are eligible for funding. We are, you can read the requirements for any group here


The Convention meets the requirements for funding and yet we have not even received a reply letting us know why they are ignoring us.

Gingerbaker said...

"...But if the idea is to fund anything that brings tourists into Victoria, which is the rationale for the funding to the religious conventions,..."

Ah - so it is tourism dollars. That makes sense. In my defense, these seems to be no mention of tourism in your post, Russell. My American atheistic paranoia is showing.

I share your opinion about tax breaks to religion.