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The Bear Necessities

Chrys Stevenson (Portrait by Michael Barnett)

Chrys Stevenson (Portrait by Michael Barnett)


This blog focuses on religion, science, politics and skepticism – all the things that are dangerous to talk about at dinner parties!

Oh, and the title of this blog?  It’s a mondegreen taken from the hymn, “Gladly the cross I’d bear”.

If only all religious texts could be reduced to the harmlessness of a myopic teddy bear!


I will be at Brisbane Skepticamp on Saturday, 4 July, to launch a major charitable fundraising project.

With podcaster, Jake Farr-Wharton, I will be co-hosting the Australian Skeptics National Convention in Brisbane from 16-18 October at QUT Gardens Point.


If you like my writing, you can see more of it scattered across the internet. My LinkedIn profile

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Many thanks to Glenn Watson for producing the Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear image. Also, thanks to Glenn, keep your eye out for a ‘new look’ Gladly blog. Coming soon!

Perverting ANZAC Day for Jesus

I attended my first (and last) Dawn Service this morning.

I respect our diggers and I am not an ANZAC Day hater.

But ANZAC Day does not belong to the religious right and they should not be allowed to hijack it for their own purposes.

Here is my rant on Doug Pollard’s “The Stirrer”.

Perverting ANZAC Day for Jesus


Chrys Stevenson


Mamamia Promotes Godless Goodness

matthews-baby-feature-picture-720x547Those of us involved with the Jode Matthews Cancer and Family Appeal are delighted to see Jode and Adam’s story shared today on Mamamia.

It’s a great boost for the Appeal, but also fantastic PR for the Australian atheist, skeptical and secular community which has dug deeply to contribute over $18,000 in  just 12 days to help fund vital medical treatment for Jode.

Please share this good news story with your own networks.

Beautiful proof that you don’t need to be religious to be charitable:  “When prayer won’t cut it, practical people need to pitch in.”

“Fortunately for the Matthews …. their community has rallied around them in a touching show of solidarity and altruism.

“Other people might reach out to their church, their service club or sporting organisation,” Adam Matthews tells Mamamia. “When we realised that, in order to save Jode’s life, we needed far more money than we could manage, we reached out to the Australian secular and sceptical community.”

Read more here.

Secular Charity – A Life-Saving Project

Tonight, I launched the Jode Mathews Cancer & Family Appeal at the Brisbane Skeptics Society’s Brisbane Skepticamp at the Hamilton Town Hall.

This is a vitally important campaign and one I hope all my readers will support – whether by donating or by promoting it to your networks.

Here is the text of my short speech.

Ad and Jode Kiss
“Those of us in the sceptical and secular communities hear a lot of bullshit that we are not as charitable as Christians, that we are selfish, unethical and immoral because of our lack of religious faith.

Penn Jilette

All evidence is to the contrary and non-believers are increasingly joining together to form charitable groups and organisations .

We are great supporters of causes, and I’ve seen many instances where individuals in need find support through our various online communities.

Tonight, I’m here to launch an appeal for a member of our Queensland community of skeptics and freethinkers. Jode Matthews and her husband, Adam, were founding members of the Sunshine Coast Atheists. Jode provided editing assistance on Warren Bonett’s The Australian Book of Atheism.

Jode and Adam are skeptics, humanists and atheists. They care about the issues we care about. They move in the circles we move in. They have put their hands in their pockets to support the causes we support. They are contributing members of our online community.

Adam is a cancer survivor. He battled cancer for 13 years before going into remission 10 years ago. Now, Jode, who is just 46 years old, has Stage 4b metastatic cervical cancer. Despite chemo and radiation, the disease is spreading to her other organs. It’s as serious as it gets and, frankly, without some extra intervention, Jode’s prognosis isn’t good.



But there is hope. There’s a drug called Avastin which may extend Jode’s life expectancy. Trouble is, it’s about $20,000 per course. The Matthews don’t have that kind of money.

Jode’s cancer may even go into remission if she can access a drug called Nivolumab. It’s showing great results in the treatment of melanoma and lung cancer and the Yale Medical School is now trialing it for use on patients with cervical cancer. Jode can apply to enter the trial, but if she’s accepted, she’ll have to travel to the US and stay there for an extended period. The Matthews have had an awful run of one financial disaster after another and they simply can’t afford that option.

I think we can help. That’s why Danny Jarman, vice-president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, Ron Williams, president of the Humanist Society of Queensland and I have set up the Jode Matthews Cancer & Family Appeal.

I don’t have a lot of time tonight, but you can read all about Jode’s story and the Appeal on our website: www.jodematthewsappeal.com

We also have a Facebook page. Please find it and like it.

Ad and Jode Wedding 2

We already have the support of some of Australia’s leading sceptical and secular organisations. Now, we need your help in spreading the word about this appeal and, if you can afford it, making a donation – however small.

The success of this appeal depends on the networking power of our sceptical and secular communities. It’s true, we don’t have the organizational structures or financial resources of religious groups, but we have a strong, well-connected, international community and with your help we can make a damned good stab at saving Jode Matthews’ life.

We all know that skeptics and atheists OWN the internet.

And, you know, when prayer doesn’t cut it, practical people pitch in.

Thank you

Chrys Stevenson

To donate to the Jode Matthews Cancer & Family Appeal, please visit the appeal page at:  www.jodematthewsappeal.com

Vaccination: Stay Classy University of Wollongong

Brian Martin is Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong and fancies himself as a champion of whistleblowers. When the whistle-blowing is legitimate, that’s a fine and honourable pursuit. But, when someone in a position of authority can’t tell the difference between whistleblowers and conspiracy theorists it’s cause for concern. When those conspiracy theorists actively endanger lives, it’s cause for alarm.

Professor Martin has been a staunch defender of Meryl Dorey and her appalling Australian [anti] Vaccination Network. He is the PhD Supervisor for anti-vax campaigner Judy Wilyman. Wilyman’s Masters degree is currently the subject of investigation for academic misconduct.

But Professor Martin claims he has no ‘strong views’ about vaccination;  that his interest in the anti-vaccination debate is all about free speech.

Free speech is all very well. But, when propaganda and misinformation from uneducated rabble-rousers endangers the lives of children and vulnerable people, I think we can rightly argue free speech must have limits.

Whether or not Professor Martin is an anti-vaxxer himself, his work enables these anti-science, numb-skulled conspiracy theorists. The connection with Professor Martin and the University of Wollongong lends credibility to them while tainting him, and more importantly, the university that supports his and (by association) their work.

Dr Matthew Berryman, author of the complexitydaemon blog,  is appalled by Professor Martin’s involvement with some of this country’s most prominent anti-vaccination propagandists. Dr Berryman is an academic at the University of Wollongong. His degrees are in science, mathematics, computer engineering and systems analysis.

Berryman is the co-author of the 2013 paper “Answering human papillomavirus vaccine concerns; a matter of science and time“, published in Infection Agents and Cancer, an open access, peer-reviewed online journal.

In an interview with the Illawarra Mercury in 2012 regarding Judy Wilyman’s PhD candidature, Dr Berryman said:

“While I’m a big supporter of academic freedom, I somehow don’t think that academic freedom extends to … making unscientific claims discouraging people from seeking appropriate preventative measures for life-threatening diseases.”

In a blog post, published today, Dr Berryman draws our attention to a book chapter written by Dr Martin in Nonviolence Unbound. Martin’s chapter deals specifically with the clash between the Australian [anti] Vaccination Network and Stop the AVN, a Facebook-based citizens group which doggedly opposed and exposed the AVN for years, effectively bringing it to its knees – for now.

That this was all achieved legally, backed by decisions against the AVN’s dodgy practices by various Australian health and regulatory authorities, does not seem to deter Professor Martin one iota. Instead, in Chapter 8 of Nonviolence Unbound he suggests a number of strategies the AVN might use to circumvent the Australian laws which have so constrained them.

You can read all about it on Dr Berryman’s blog:

The AVN fought the law and the law won: AVN stopped

The University of Wollongong must be so proud that one of its academics can, so cavalierly, aid and abet an organisation which actively compromises the health and lives of Australian children. Stay classy, U of W.

Chrys Stevenson

PS: Ms WIlyman thinks very highly of me, too.


I Run!

“Go!” yelled the event director and I took off in the middle of the pack. Soon, the fastest runners began passing me. Then people who were clearly older and (ahem) larger than me trotted past, followed by people with dogs, ladies with prams and (oh, the humiliation) seven year old children! At one point I looked behind me and there was no-one there. I was dead last of the runners.”

Chrys - Before and AfterOn Christmas Day, 2012 I weighed 129 kg. On 22 August 2013, I walked into the local gym for the first time, weighing 126.6 kg (having lost no fat but an ovary or two in the interim). On 21 March 2015, weighing 65kg, I ran 5 km for the first time in the Golden Beach parkrun. Here is my story, published in parkrun’s national newsletter this week – “I Run!”

Chrys Stevenson

Christians Supporting Equal Marriage

Christians4EqualityIn 2012, I wrote a blog post about Christian clergy who opposed equal marriage.

Within that diatribe I included a list of churches, pastors, ministers, rabbis, etc who don’t agree that Christians should oppose marriage equality and who are proudly aligning themselves with those of us who think that love should be celebrated and recognised, regardless of gender.

Recently, it has been brought to my attention that including that list of liberal clergy in the same post that catalogues the fundamentalists and kooks inadvertently links the names of those who support marriage equality with those who don’t on a Google search.

So, I have uncoupled that list from the original blog post and I’m placing it here.

On a day when it’s just been announced that the Senate supports the call for a conscience vote on marriage equality , I think it’s very appropriate to remind ourselves that the majority of Australian Christians  (and those of other faiths) are not homophobic. Most Christians support marriage equality, and politicians like Fred Nile, political parties like Family First and Rise Up Australia, and lobby groups like the Australian Christian Lobby represent only a fringe group of right-wing fundamentalists.

So, let’s celebrate the ‘goodies’ as our dearly beloved PM would say!

Back in 2011, the following clergy signed a letter of support for marriage equality. Let’s give them some recognition and a hearty round of applause:

  1. Rev Penny Jones, Anglican Priest, Queensland
  2. Rev Leigh Neighbour, Metropolitan Community Church, Brisbane
  3. Bishop-elect Timothy Mansfield, Apostolic Johannite Church Sydney,
  4. Rev Bill Crews, Uniting Church Sydney
  5. Rev Michael Hercock, Baptist Minister Sydney
  6. Rev Dr Paul Walton, Uniting Church Minister, Queensland
  7. Fr Rod Bower, Anglican Priest, Gosford NSW
  8. Rev Chris Bedding, Anglican Priest, Perth
  9. Rev Steve Thompson, Uniting Church Minister, South Australia
  10. Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, Adelaide
  11. Rev Eileen Ray, Uniting Church Minister, Victoria
  12. Rev Shane Andersen DD, Senior Pastor, Outreach Ministries Church Fellowship, Sydney
  13. Rev Natasha Darke, Anglican Priest, Adelaide
  14. Rev Julie Leaves, Anglican Priest, Brisbane
  15. Rev Canon Dr Nigel Leaves, St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane
  16. Pastor Karl Hand, Metropolitan Community Church, Sydney
  17. Rev Dr Rowland Croucher, Baptist Minister, Victoria
  18. Rev John Clapton, Anglican Priest, Perth
  19. Rev Boris Kleiner, Church Of the First Creation, Queensland
  20. Rev Roger Munson, St James Uniting Church, Canberra
  21. Rev Dr Jonathan Inkpin, Anglican Rector of the Parish of St Luke, Toowoomba
  22. Rev Susan Pickering, Uniting Church Minister, Brisbane
  23. Rev Jonathan Chambers, Senior Anglican Chaplain, Victoria
  24. Rev Dr Ian Mavor OAM, Uniting Church Minister, Queensland
  25. Fr Thomas Leslie, Anglican Priest, Victoria
  26. Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones, Uniting Church Minister, Victoria
  27. Rev Dr Craig de Vos, Uniting Church Minister, South Australia
  28. Rev Tony Johnson, Uniting Church Minister, Victoria
  29. Rev Canon John Fowler, Anglican Priest, Victoria
  30. Rev Andrew Prior, Uniting Church, South Australia
  31. Rev Joan Riley, Anglican Priest, South Australia
  32. Rev Judy Redman, Uniting Church Minister, New South Wales
  33. Rev Murray Fysh, Uniting Church Minister, Queensland
  34. Rev Andrew Eaton, Anglican Priest, Victoria.
  35. Rev Dennis Webster, Anglican Priest, Victoria.
  36. Rev Josie Nottle, Uniting Church Minister, Queensland.
  37. Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, Senior Rabbi, New South Wales.
  38. Rev Tracey Gracey, Anglican Priest, South Australia.
  39. Rev John Maddern, Uniting Church, Past Moderator, South Australia.
  40. Rev Peter Weeks, Uniting Church Minister, Victoria.
  41. Fr Stephen Clark, Anglican Parish Priest, Blackwood, SA
  42. Rev Bruce Stocks, Anglican Priest, Adelaide SA
  43. Rev Caro Field, Uniting Church Minister, Victoria.
  44. Rev Dr Geoffrey D Scott, Uniting Church Minister (ret.), South Australia.
  45. Rev Bill Harris, Deacon, Uniting Church, South Australia.
  46. Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, Victoria.
  47. Rev Christine Garner, Uniting Church Minister (ret.), South Australia.
  48. Rev Dr Michael Godfrey, Anglican Priest, Northern Territory.
  49. Rev Leanne Jane Jenski, Uniting Church minister, South Australia.
  50. Rev Susan Wickham, Uniting Church minister, South Australia.
  51. Rev Brendan Byrne, Uniting Church minister, Victoria.
  52. Rabbi Paul Jacobson, New South Wales.
  53. Rev Andrew Mintern, Anglican Priest, South Australia.
  54. Rev Sandy Brodine, Uniting Church minister, Victoria.
  55. Rabbi Jacki Ninio, New South Wales.
  56. Rev Lucas Taylor, Church of Christ minister, Victoria.
  57. Rev Mark J Dunn, Uniting Church minister, Victoria.
  58. Rev Dr Christopher Page, Baptist minister, Victoria.
  59. Wilma Davidson, Clerk, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), ACT.
  60. Pastor Nathan Nettleton, Baptist minister, Victoria.
  61. Rev Narelle Oliver-Braddock, Priest, United Ecumenical Catholic Church, Queensland.
  62. Roy Freeman, Melbourne. (Jewish Community Supporting Marriage Equality)
  63. Rev Ian Hunter, Uniting Church minister, South Australia.
  64. Prof Emeritus Rev Gary D Bouma, Anglican Priest, Victoria.
  65. Shaku Jo’on Gregg Heathcote, Shin Buddhist priest, New South Wales.
  66. Rev Matt Glover, Baptist Minister, Victoria.
  67. Rev Michaela Tiller, Uniting Church minister, South Australia.
  68. Rev Peter McDonald, Uniting Church minister, South Australia.
  69. Rev Don Catford, Uniting Church minister (past Moderator), South Australia.
  70. Rev David Hunnerup, Uniting Church minister, Tasmania.
  71. Rev Tony Duncan, Uniting Church minister, Tasmania.
  72. Rev Colin Gurteen, Uniting Church minister, Tasmania.
  73. Ms Ann Hamblin, Correspondent, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), WA.
  74. Ms Jennifer Hole, Correspondent, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), WA.
  75. Rev Ojitha Goonetilleke, Uniting Church minister, Victoria.
  76. Rev Dr Richard Mallaby, Baptist minister, Victoria.
  77. Rev Nigel Eynon, Universal Life Church minister, Queensland.

The Unitarians, Quakers and Metropolitan Community Church at Granville NSW also support same-sex marriage at a denominational level in Australia, while the Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, Asia and New Zealand put their support for marriage equality on the record in June 2011.

The Victorian Council of Churches, while not necessarily giving blanket support for same-sex marriage has certainly distanced itself from the obsessive homophobia of the Australian Christian Lobby and their ilk.

In Queensland the Very Reverend Peter Catt, the Dean of St John’s Cathedral heads, A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia), set up to provide an alternative to the unrepresentative hate-based agenda of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Similarly, Blackwood Uniting Church minister, Leanne Jenski (with her partner, Rev. Susan Wickham) formed the Christians For Gay Marriage lobby group noting, “Be assured there are many Christians out there who stand in solidarity with us.”

Also to be lauded is Christians 4 Equality. Among others, this group includes broadcaster, Exodus Foundation founder and Ashfield Uniting Church minister Bill Crews and Rowland Croucher of John Mark Ministries, one of the most influential Baptists in Australia.

Standing against the ACL’s homophobic position on gay marriage, Crews wrote:

“Today in Australia we all live in a secular non-discriminatory society. Gay couples should be as free to marry as any other human couple. If people wish to be married within a religious or spiritual institution’s framework then they should accept the rites and rules of that institution. However it is the state that legitimises all marriages.”

Similarly, Croucher says:

“How can I, a heterosexual who’s been very happily married for 50 years, tell anyone else they don’t have the right to form a loving, committed, lifelong union and enjoy the fruits of marriage as I have done? Marriage is not a club to be restricted to some – like the Gospel, it is a blessing to be shared.”

Amen! – or Ramen! – whatever floats your boat!

Chrys Stevenson

Voluntary Euthanasia and the NSW election

Dying with Dignity NSW – Pollies Register: A searchable survey on the position of sitting members and candidates for the forthcoming NSW election on voluntary euthanasia/assisted dying.

DWD Right to Choose

The NSW state election is to be held on 28 March 2015.

There are many issues which impact on a voter’s decision to back one political candidate over another. But, at the heart of any decision we need to ask, “Will this candidate accurately represent the needs and wants of their electorate?”

Being a political representative is not about getting into parliament to advance your own particular interests and ideology. It is about being a voice for the people you represent.

No! That doesn’t mean politicians have to ‘give in’ to populism.  It’s give and take. If a politician sees that his or her constituents have based their opinions on misinformation or are lacking vital information there is certainly a need  to exercise leadership skills by informing and persuading  them towards an alternative viewpoint.   But, to do this, a politician should act honestly in presenting well-researched data and evidence from mainstream, credible sources – even if that evidence does not support their own prejudices and preconceptions.

This is the mark of that rare beast, an honest politician.

One way in which a politician’s commitment to honest and fair representation can be measured is by their answer to the question, “Should terminally ill patients be able to end their lives with medical assistance?”

A recent survey of NSW residents by the ABC’s Vote Compass found a total of 72 per cent agreed (either ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’) with this proposition, compared with only 16 per cent who did not.

Substantially more than 50 per cent of Greens, Labor and LNP voters supported legalising voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill. And yet, when the issue was last put to the NSW Parliament, not one LNP candidate voted in favour. Not one. How representative is that?

Further, Vote Compass found that 68 per cent of NSW Catholics (somewhat or strongly) support voluntary euthanasia. That’s right! The Catholic Church does not even represent its own constituency on this issue.

The figures are nearly identical for those who identify as Protestants.

The voters of NSW want voluntary euthanasia legislation and there is no good reason they should not have it.

Ideological objections aside, there is simply no reason for this legislation not to be introduced. VE or assisted dying are already legal in 13 countries and jurisdictions around the world. The practices are well-tested, incredibly well researched and scrupulously monitored. Not only is it proven safe, but credible research shows that where VE is legal, the rate of euthanasia performed without the specific consent of the patient tends to fall (not rise, as is often claimed by its critics).

DWD Graph

Source: YourLastRight based on official Dutch and Belgian statistics.

In Australia, voluntary euthanasia is already practiced routinely in hospitals and nursing homes throughout the country, despite it being, technically, illegal.

Here, having your end-of-life wishes respected is a matter of happening upon a sympathetic medical practitioner who is willing to negotiate the loopholes in the law which allow them to end your life without spending the rest of theirs in prison.  It’s a crap shoot. That’s not how our health care system should operate!

Legalising euthanasia in NSW (or elsewhere) won’t make it any more or less prevalent. It will, however, bring it under the control of the government, make it transparent, introduce rigorous monitoring systems and ensure those patients who wish to avail themselves of it can, and those who do not have that clearly documented. It is about choice not imposition or coercion.

There is no evidence, anywhere in the world, that legalising voluntary euthanasia results in anyone being euthanized without their prior consent or for very, very good reason.  While it is true that consent may not always be possible at the point at which the medication is administered, the consent of the family (in consultation with a medical team) is obtained in a vast majority of cases. Those few cases where consent has not been obtained are properly documented and explained to the satisfaction of the relevant authorities. Legalising the practice makes it transparent.

When Cate Faehrmann MLC presented her Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill to the NSW Parliament in May 2013, it was defeated after an outrageous but determined campaign of propaganda and misinformation by the religious right and operatives representing the Catholic Church’s shadowy Opus Dei.

I contend that, ultimately, the bill was defeated by cowardice and laziness:  NSW politicians were either too scared to represent the views of their constituents on this issue for fear of losing ‘the religious vote’ or they were too lazy to seek out accurate, credible, mainstream research and evidence on legalised voluntary euthanasia.

The people of NSW do not deserve a Parliament which does not represent their wishes. They do not deserve politicians who won’t do independent research. They don’t deserve politicians who are in politics to advance their own religious and ideological views. Nor do the people of NSW deserve politicians who are too frightened to stand up against churches, their party or other vested interests to deliver legislation which the vast majority of the electorate (Protestant, Christian and ‘nones’) support.

But, how do you know which politician you can rely on?

Dying with Dignity NSW has put a huge amount of time and effort into making the task easy. Over the last eight months, members of DWD NSW have been writing to sitting MPs, asking for their view on legalising voluntary assisted dying. Since the candidates contesting the forthcoming NSW election were announced, they have also been approached and asked to share their views.

As a result of this work, DWD NSW has compiled a Polies Register, which sets out the responses of Lower House candidates for the 28 March NSW election.

Here, you can easily check to see the views of your local member and candidates and factor this in to your voting decision.

If you are a supporter of voluntary euthanasia, may I suggest you contact your local member and candidates, let them know you have viewed the DWD NSW register and tell them that, while it may not be the only issue influencing your vote, it is an important indicator of how well they will represent the views of your electorate. You might also point them towards the Vote Compass research.

If you’re a NSW voter, please share the link to the Pollies Register with your own networks through Facebook, Twitter, etc. or on your own blog.

If you are in contact with people who are centres of influence in the NSW community, please let them know about the register and ask them to share it too.

Voluntary euthanasia needs to become a ‘hot topic’ in future elections. We are all going to die and it is in everyone’s interest to have the best death possible – for them.

For some, this means eking life out to the very end. For others (like me) it means being able to choose when to make a graceful exit.

If your political representative will not support your right to die with dignity – for you to make your own end-of-life decisions rather than have them imposed upon you by someone else’s religious views or ideology – how will they represent you fairly on other issues?

Their stance on this issue is a good indication of what kind of representative they will make in general, I think.

Dying with Dignity NSW – PolliesRegister: A searchable survey on the position of sitting members and candidates for the forthcoming NSW election on voluntary euthanasia/assisted dying.

Chrys Stevenson

Related Content:

Dr Catherine Lennon – Any Means to a Moral End?

Dr Catherine Lennon, Doctors for the Family – NSW Hansard

Related Links:

Dying with Dignity NSW

Voluntary Euthanasia Party