The Monash Religious Centre

A tour in words of my favourite place on campus. It was going to go on Facebook, but then it got too long.

The university likes to tell us – and everyone else – about what a diverse place it is. Let me take you on a tour of the place that, I think, is the most diverse building on campus.
 
It’s lunch-time when we meet near the campus centre and head east towards a building that you sort of always thought was some sort of alien space-ship that had landed by mistake and turned into a second, smaller, Rotunda.
 
As we approach the building, you can see a lot of people gathered on the verandah. There are barbeques out, and lovely smells, but as we get closer, you notice that the men all have little doilies on their heads – kippot – and that some of them have knotted strings hanging out from their shirt-hems – tzitziyot. It’s the Kosher lunch, and one of the rabanim nods at us as he hurries past with an armful of barbeque-cooking implements.
 
We head inside the nearest doors, and it’s no less busy inside. Sure, it’s not exactly the Menzies foyer at class changeover, but there are people going in all directions. You need the loo, so we head straight to the ladies’ nearby. Someone yelps as we crack the door open. “Sorry!”
 
It’s opened from the inside, and we squeeze through, dodging through people to get past the sinks. There are girls in every space – adjusting hijabs, washing limbs, talking – “Am I going to get through prayer before halaqa class starts?”
 
Escaping from the press of people in the ladies’ room, we come out into the corridor, where there are fewer people, most of them moving about purposefully. There’s probably one person standing around, looking lost. “I was told to come to the religious centre for the meeting, but where do I go now?”
 
After directing her to her own chaplain, we head down the curving corridor which runs alongside the main chapel. The first room we pass is a meeting-room, and there’s movement inside it, too – a prayer meeting, of one of the evangelical Pentecostal student groups. The door’s open, and we nod at them, but continue on.
 
At the end is the chaplain’s office, with unlikely religious props stashed in every corner, and a trolley of tea-making facilities, and a massive pile of flour along one wall for the pancake breakfast for international students in the morning.
 
In the middle of the room is a circle of chairs and people with Bibles in their laps, talking over them. It’s the Catholics having a Bible study, but it’s being run by a high-church Protestant girl who’s teaching them Bible verses.
 
This is the Religious Centre. It’s a space that’s unique in the country, and it deserves much more attention than it gets. Most students probably don’t know about it unless they’re religious – and even then, some still don’t.
 
There is a building on campus where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and everyone else co-exist happily… And you know how much bad blood there is – literally blood, over the last thousand years – between Catholics and Protestants, between Christians and Muslims and between Muslims and Jews.
 
This is a place where three chaplains can have a perfectly rational discussion about just who it is who keeps leaving the sound system in the main chapel turned on so the battery’s run down by Monday morning. It’s a Catholic, an Orthodox, and an Adventist, and you know how Adventists feel about Catholics. But no-one accuses someone else’s leader of being the Antichrist, and no-one tells anyone that they’re not a Christian because they have three extra words in the middle of the Creed.
 
Yes, there are differences of belief. Yes, everyone aware of that, and everyone conducts their faith lives separately. There are some good, amicable discussions of differences in theology. But everyone does their thing side-by-side, cheek-by-jowl, without argument or bloodshed. Everyone gets on with a smile, appreciating the chance they have to use this amazing space.
 
The university likes to tell us – and everyone else – about what a diverse place it is. If you get a chance, come and visit the most diverse place of all – a place they probably didn’t even tell you about.

 

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Dawkins: A Response

Submitted February 2016

In logic class, we watched Dawkins’ “The Problem with Religion” and answered the following questions on an online forum: Is the accusation fair? Is the logical argument sound (why/why not)? This was one of the first assignments, so I didn’t talk much about the logic.

Dawkins’ primary argument in this clip is that children are provided with an indoctrinated in a faith or worldview, answering the questions of why we are here, why we were born, and where we came from, without allowing them to ask these questions for themselves. He claims that faith, unsupported by evidence, is a dangerous weapon, and insinuates that Christianity was invented a mere 2000 years ago based on pure folly.

While I agree that faith without evidence can be dangerous, Dawkins here makes the assumption that any faith in God, in a religious setting, must be without evidence. Both theistic and non-theistic worldviews have the evidence of observations of the world around, leading to a faith or belief in how that came to be so. Some beliefs perhaps have more evidence than others, but I imagine it is pretty hard to believe something with absolutely no evidence for it at all. I could write a lot more about different sorts of evidence and the nature of conclusions and beliefs drawn from that evidence, but our lecturer has warned me sternly about going over the world limit (too much).

People, including children, naturally and necessarily ask questions about origin and purpose because they are raised by the world around them and their presence in it. When children voice these questions, their parents and others around them give answers; or perhaps they teach the children without being asked specifically. The answers vary, of course, based on what the person answering has seen, has understood, has read, and therefore believes.

It seems to me that Dawkins’ problem is not that the questions are being suppressed, nor even that they’re being answered, but that they’re being answered in a way which does not line up to his own beliefs – indeed, his own “faith”.

Three Scientific Principles Contradicted by Big Bang and Evolution Theory

Or, Two Valid Scientific Principles and One For Fun

Here I present two valid, readily-observable scientific principles, and point out how it is contradicted by either the Big Bang Theory or the Theory of Evolution. The third isn’t a scientific Law, it’s still a theory (I think), although I won’t deny that there is evidence, even in chicken-rearing, that unhealthy creatures don’t (without outside intervention) live to reproduce.

I’m not going to tell you, for the first two, how the Bible agrees with these (and other scientific Laws); I’ll leave you to work that out for yourselves, unless someone asks me to do another post. I’m not going to push the Bible or Creationism in this post, I’m simply going to point out the flaws in Evolution and Big Bang Theory.

Now, on to the post, before the introduction gets longer than the post itself.

(Newton’s) First Law of Motion: “If a body is at rest, it remains at rest, or if it is in motion, it moves with uniform velocity until it is acted on by a resultant force”

Or, “Things stay the same unless something else makes them change” (see simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton’s_laws_of_motion)

So, you have nothing, or a ball of supercondensed matter (it’s your choice, really), and then it explodes and becomes matter. What set off that explosion? Why did it change?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics: “The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium”

Or, “Things tend towards maximum disorder and maximum uselessness” (see simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics)

Here, the Big Bang Theory has some credibility: a nice little uniform ball of supercondensed matter explodes and becomes more and more disordered and spread about.

However, how, then, did the disordered chaos of atoms come together to form stars and planets? How did those planets become living soup, which then became separate creatures?

Perhaps another way of stating this is, “Things devolve”. Evolution is the principle that things change to become better. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that things change to become worse.

Natural Selection

Why, oh why, do we have two genders? If all life was once a single-celled organism capable of reproducing itself, what possible use is becoming an organism which requires another organism to reproduce? Particularly a creature whcih not only needs another creature to reproduce, but must rule out 50% of the other members of its species in its quest to do so?