Suzanne - I was thinking you couldn't be American with your vocab, and assumed a Brit (bloke, tad, thick...) - but actual NSW: great!
Isn't it cool that there is a community of people from around the world, largely civilised and free thinking, that can include some dad in Jersey and a woman in Australia, both interested in rationality, debate etc?
So I saw you are an ex-Catholic: me too. It's amazing how a solid Catholic indoctrination produces the most determined of atheists! I had it from birth, and while it took me over 30 years to escape, when I did, it was not to a fence sitting place. I am part of the fight against them now - but it's a verbal fight and I'm pretty proud of that.
The "civilised" thing is a bit of a front I find: I think lots of Christian visitors here will try to maintain that front, in order to have some ridiculous moral high ground subsequently: ie they can then start throwing tone arguments around when the substance gets too hot for them. Mostly I try not to give them that space either (so I stay reasonably polite), but periodically when they really have stepped far over the line I give in and just say exactly what I think...
Hi Suzanne, thanks for your comment. I'm new to Think Atheist too. Yes, in terms of influencing public policy, non-religious interest groups have a lot of catching up to do. The cost to Australian tax payers of religion is estimated at $29.4B per annum (The Purple Economy). I believe that significantly drowns out the non-religious voice. In Australia, religious leaders (like Pell) and lobby groups (like the ACL) continue to enjoy a previledged position in our democracy. They claim to speak on behalf of the christian majority, but a democracy requires politicians legislate in the best interests of all members of society, especially minority groups. 30% of Aussies are non-christians (last census). In VIC in the '50s, the state government's education department took 1hr out of the middle of the teaching week in public schools. ACCESS Ministries (also the local beneficiary of Howard's NSCP) fills that hour. Families are enrolled in their "Christian Religious Education" by default, and parents need to formally opt-out. During that timeslot the Education Act makes it illegal for children to be taught by a teacher employed by the state. Consequently these kids are segregated, picked-on, etc (http://bit.ly/h684te). I doubt that Victorian parents even know who ACCESS Ministries is. Let alone want them in their local public school playing teacher for an hour. "ACCESS ministries leads the Church in its mission to reach students and school communities in Victoria and beyond with the transforming love of God and His Son Jesus Christ" "Our vision is to reach every student in Victoria with the Gospel. Join the vision and help us transform this nation for God." In QLD, the wealthy evangelical parachurch is Scripture Union (see highcourtchallenge.com). Expect more lobbying from local evangelicals. Church attendence has fallen to around 5%.