When Gruen crossed the Rubicon

This week’s #gruen ‘Pitch’ finally crossed a kind of cultural Rubicon. For the uninitiated,The Gruen Transfer is our national broadcaster’s clever show about advertising. A highlight every week is ‘The Pitch’ – a difficult task put to two advertising agencies. It asks them to sell the unsellable, such as bottled air, relocating the national capital, or that Facebook is uncool.

But this week’s Pitch was a campaign to make Australians think that banning all religions would be a good idea. It was mean-spirited, and presenter Wil’s valiant attempt to position it as hiply controversial didn’t quite take.

There was not the slightest attempt at even-handedness. For something this loaded, each agency could have argued each side of the case. But no. The first agency sold religion as the kind of outdated idea that’s up there with child sacrifice and the burning of ‘women’ (not ‘witches’? didn’t want to offend, I suppose). The second agency frankly stated that religion was such a dangerous source of social conflict that it is, effectively, unAustralian.

Not a hint that ‘religious’ people are over-represented in Australian volunteer work. No interest in the ‘religious’ NGOs that uphold communities everywhere, both here and overseas. (This week, Anglicare Sydney started a fight for three classes of housing insecure and marginalised women.) No mention of the violence, orders-of-magnitude greater, perpetrated in the name of nationalism and economic systems. Not a hint that a religion’s founder (e.g. Jesus) might be vastly more hostile than your average Aussie to religion’s failures.

Tonight Gruen simply ran a secularist political platform. We’ve long known that the ABC is not a culture friendly to people of faith, but at least it pretended a kind of indifference. But no longer – now the gloves are off. This week’s Pitch was simply free evangelism for the new atheism, pure and simple. Even one of the panel joined in: ‘I’ve never believed in imaginary friends,’ she enthused. If it were QandA and she said this on an appropriately ‘balanced’ panel, fine. But this week Gruen proclaimed as mainstream the assertion that atheism needs no defence, has no case to argue, and deserves taxpayer support without question. That has become the ABC’s interpretation of its chartered mandate to ‘reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community’.

Maybe next week’s ‘Pitch’ will even the scales. Perhaps it will task advertisers to warn Australians that religion-hating atheism offers nothing to society, stirs up fear and prejudice, makes you bitter, and is best avoided. If so, I’ll retract much of what I’ve said.

Andrew Cameron lectures at Moore College, chairs the Social Issues Executive and blogs at Joined-up Life

*See part two of this blog here

Andrew Cameron is Director of Moore College’s Centre for Christian Living and chairman of the Social Issues Executive of the Diocese

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