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23 November 2017

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Phil, thanks for your comments. However I could give you a list of embarrassing errors and mistakes that I myself have made, but it would take too long. I could name many many missionaries who have been more faithful and consistent than I have.

If Ken Logan, former Kiap, was still alive he could elaborate further on some of my failings, as could some of my own colleagues.

I do respect the courage and honesty of those who are open about their atheism, and if criticism of the churches makes us a bit more self –critical then it can be helpful.

Being an atheist is a personal thing that I worked out for myself when I was about ten or eleven.

I'm a vegetarian too and I worked that one out by myself as well.

Both are positions that I feel comfortable about and, unlike Dawkins et al I've got no desire to force them on other people.

I suspect that most atheists are similarly inclined - in much the same way that many Christians are inclined to do with their beliefs.

I dislike pushy atheists just as much as I dislike pushy Christians.

That's not to say that my atheism doesn't inform my thoughts on different matters.

As for Catholics, I think if all the priests and nuns were like Garry the world would be a much better place.

Most of the churches did good work in the areas of education and health.

On a personal note, my mother was educated by Catholic nuns in Port Moresby, and I owe thanks to the sisters of the Catholic hospital at Megende, Chimbu, for the birth of my first child.

A good account of the history of the Catholic Church in PNG was written by Georges Delbos: “The Mustard Seed: From a French Mission to a Papuan Church, 1885-1985”.

Unfortunately many atheists fail to grasp that science is limited to the empirical, natural world and is incapable of saying anything about a non-empirical, spiritual realm—except to deny it exists.

In “The God Delusion” (2006), the militant atheist Richard Dawkins wrote:

“Whether we ever get to know about them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine.”

So Dawkins can conceive of “god-like” beings, but only in the far distance, not so close where they might be a constraint on his own ego.

As an atheist I try to be careful to separate in my mind the great work that the missions have done and continue to do in PNG and their proselytising of beliefs that are, in my mind at least, not dissimilar to the myths of primitive people.

PNG would have done very well I think if there had been secular missions instead of religious ones doing good work there.

Of all the missions in PNG the Catholics seemed the most comfortable separating these two things when required.

Their attitude to leaving alone practises that had no bearing on their proselytising, such as how people dressed always impressed me.

I guess good people intent on making a positive contribution to the world are attracted to the missions simply because there are few other places for them to go.

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