Nearly 100 years ago, on the 24th of February 1924, the Brisbane Courier carried the following announcement:

  • The first number of The Rationalist, a monthly paper published by the Rationalist Association of Australia, has come to hand. It claims that the advance of modern thought necessitates a revision of the popular views on the bible and religion, and it proposes to present, in non-technical form, the latest results of Christian and scientific scholarship.
  • The principal contents of this issue are: The Catholic Church and Universities; the Bible War; the recent Heresy Case in America; Buddhist criticism of the teachings of Christ; the Virgin birth – why Modernist Thinkers Reject the Story. There are many interesting notes and reviews.


The time has come to make another announcement in the long history of the Australian Rationalist journal.

After nearly 100 years publishing a hard copy journal, the Rationalist Society has made the difficult but exciting decision to ‘go online’.  The name of our new venture is “Rationale”, a title with obvious links to the name of our society but also, we hope, to the nature of the items we will include in it.

Rationale will continue the RSA’s mission to inform, educate and entertain, but going online will mean we will be able to incorporate features not available to hard copy publications: the use of colour photos, the inclusion of audio and video files, interactive feedback, and more flexible publishing schedules.

The RSA board has thought long and hard about this move. We appreciate that many RSA members like their hard copy magazine. It is easily transportable, can accommodate underlinings, highlighting and notes in the margin, and be passed easily from person to person. But, not to put too fine a point on it, it is simply unsustainable. The current journal costs the Society around $50,000 a year1. This is members’ money, and the board is very conscious of its responsibility to use that money prudently.

Over the past few years, online platforms have become better and better. The old days of eye-strain-inducing squint trying to read a pdf version of a magazine have been replaced with stylish, easy-to-read and well-designed pages, particularly user-friendly on the now almost ubiquitous tablets. Online magazines like Quillette and Areo have garnered thousands of loyal and avid readers.

Going online will enable us to market Rationale to a new range of potential readers. Currently we distribute The Australian Rationalist to selected news agencies across Australia; we pick up a few sales here and there and the occasional new member. But the returns do not justify the cost. We have to try new ways of marketing.

Rationale will continue to publish articles on Science & Technology, Ethics & Religion, Philosophy, Law & Politics. We will continue to feature our regular columnists and the Editor’s cover story. But we will be able to introduce features such as podcasts, videos and interactive chat rooms.

As I said above, the decision to go online was not taken lightly. Before the board made the decision, we surveyed members to assess their views.

I must say it was very gratifying to read comments like:

    • There’s nothing else like it. It is a prompt every few months to sit down with a coffee and read interesting and accessible articles on big and complex issues.
    • Absolute quality… I have the very first journal and it has come a long way since then.
    • I always look forward to the next issue.
    • Articles are precise, give a good feel of the subject without too much detail.

On the other hand, some improvements were suggested:

    • More colorful artwork please.
    • Layout? Offer an internship to a whizzy young magazine/graphic layout type person?
    • Less philosophical meandering. Many contributors forget it’s meant to be about Scientific Rationalism, which includes empiricism, not philosophical rationalism, which is the opposite of empiricism. So there is too much theological-level philosophizing.

And while some affirmed the hard copy (“Great to get hard copy .. I like the fact there is a print journal as I spend enough time in front of a screen as it is”), others said they’d be happy to see a move to online:

    • I would be just as happy to receive it by email as a pdf saving the cost of sending, printing & paper.
    • Could it be made available in PDF format instead of print please?
    • Whether it be on-line or on paper keep up the good work. The rationalist view needs to be articulated as widely as possible.
While the move to an online magazine will not please everyone, we hope Rationale will at least keep our loyal readers satisfied and attract many more new followers, suitably marking a new era in the RSA’s nearly 100 years of publication.