To what standards should we hold ourselves in our writing? In a blog post, perhaps we’re forgiven some indelicacies and the odd [sic] or two. In a published book outlining the position of Australian atheists, it is probably more important that the ideas are rigorous and the writing coherent. To do less than this is to invite (quite reasonable) criticism from the detractors of atheism, making it less inviting for people in the sidelines to express their atheistic beliefs.
Max Wallace doesn’t have much of an excuse when he wrote the second entry in The Australian Book of Atheism. He’s a clever guy: he’s the director of the Australia New Zealand National Secular Organisation. And he has a book published! Watch out religious-types: Max Wallace (what a cool name that is) is going to lay an almighty smack down on your woolly-headed thinking. Plus, after the first chapter (atheists are totally persecuted just like African Americans), I didn’t think this book could get much worse.
The tax-exempt status of the monarchy and the churches is the foundation of all subsequent political structures. [Source: Max Wallace, ‘The Constitution, Belief, and the State’]
Foundation of all subsequent political structures? The tax-exempt status of the monarchy and the churches? Foundation? All subsequent?
Something smells like bullshit.
Whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, a portion of our taxes, possibly as high as 10 per cent, in keeping with the ancient tithes scale, go to enrich the monarch and the churches. [Ibid.]
That’s the next sentence. I’m not kidding. He goes straight from ‘the foundation of all subsequent political structures’ to ‘possibly as high as 10 per cent [of our taxes] go[es] to enrich the monarch and churches’. Apparently, this is ‘in keeping with the ancient tithes scale’.
Back in the old days of being intellectually credible, people would research their claims. In this instance, a person could go through an obscure and rarely mentioned document called ‘The Budget‘ to prove their wild assertions. Modern atheists — even those who attain the lofty height of being director of the Australia New Zealand Secular Association — are apparently above evidence. They just know things. It’s atheist magic.
Instead, Wallace hand waves a journal article and vaguely mentions how he came at this ‘approximate figure’:
This approximate figure is calculated by taking religious enterprise subsidies and tax exemptions as a proportion of total government revenue. [Ibid.]
Oh… so it’s not sending ‘possibly as high as 10 per cent’ of our taxes to those institutions ‘in keeping with the ancient tithes scale’? Tax exemption isn’t tithing. It’s nothing like it.
Hidden in the first page is both the point and an unexamined assumption: as Australia and New Zealand are constitutional monarchies and those monarchies have, in the past, claimed a divine right to rule, churches are tax exempt and this is bad.
At no point does Wallace treat the monarchy and the churches as distinct entities, with benefits going to one assumed to flow on to the other.
Our constitutional monarchies [assert] that having a figurehead who is ‘above’ politics is good for everyone, an enduring symbol of national unity that represents a history of some value.
Beneath the patriotic rhetoric, what this arrangement is really about is maintaining church power and monarchical influence in a democracy through the lubricant of tax-exemption and government grants. [Ibid.]
Quite a number of atheist commentators are little more than conspiracy theorists. Here’s a good example of it. Forget what everybody tells you is the case with the monarchy, it’s really about ‘maintaining church power’. No evidence at all is given for this claim, but it is assumed to be true throughout the rest of the article. Did you know — and you don’t because it’s a goddamn secret — that the Queen of England is also the head of the Anglican Church? This is a big secret because:
Most Australians and New Zealanders do not know much about constitutional and tax issues. [Ibid.]
The rest of the article jumps over to the issue of religious education and how it gets subsidised by taxes. It is assumed (but never stated) that this is somehow ipso facto the worst thing ever.
The fight over access to children’s minds, via what they were taught through the curriculum, was one of the routes to political power, for, if you could educate the future nation’s leaders in the one true belief, you could ensure your religion’s prominence in government, and thus promote your particular Christian cause. [Ibid. All sic]
Right, but we also believe in Australia that every child should receive an education. Why shouldn’t the money follow the student for their education regardless of where they choose to be educated? Why should the children of religious parents miss out on funding? These are the sorts of questions you’d expect to be answered by an intellectually curious and rigorous atheist writer. Alas, there’s none of that. Just more conspiracy theories.
Time for some conspiracy theories of my own!
I don’t think that the Australia New Zealand Secular Association really exists. I believe though would never assert (because outspoken atheists are hyper litigious) that it’s a tax dodge for Wallace and an excuse for him to write pompous articles.
Here is his loon submission to the Henry Tax Review. It even reads like a crazy person. Pro Tip: when writing submissions to government, don’t include copies of your book. State your argument clearly and precisely; avoid citing yourself as the authority (especially when you are an obscure nobody).
The website linked in his submission (www.anzsa.asn.au) is no longer operational. Google searches for this association come up with nothing but references to Wallace. Googling ‘ANZSA’ brings up the Australia New Zealand Stillbirth Association and the Australia New Zealand Shakespeare Association. It doesn’t bring up Wallace’s organisation.
The ABN registration brings up a match but doesn’t provide much information. In 2008, it swapped from ‘Australian National Secular Association’ to its current name. The ‘Australian National Secular Association’ was the name of the publisher for Wallace’s book.
Smells like bullshit. At the very least, the whole thing seems outright deceitful.