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Hiatus

This blog has taken something of an extended break over the last few months. We’re hoping that’ll change and that we’ll have new posts soon.

In the meantime you can find details of our meetings here and contact us here.

You can also visit some like minded sites –

Atheist Ireland

Irish Skeptics Society

Humanist Association of Ireland

Cork Skeptics

Hopefully those groups will provide something for everyone.

He Will be Missed

An Interview with David Norris

I submitted a question about the religious oath required of the President, Norris’ answer is around the 23 min mark. I thought his answer was disappointing and revealed a lack of understanding of the viewpoint of secularists.

The Presidency of Ireland – Atheists Need Not Apply

Article 12, Paragraph 8 of the Irish Constitution states;

The President shall enter upon his office by taking and subscribing publicly, in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, of Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court, and other public personages, the following declaration:

“In the presence of Almighty God I    ,do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.”

This clearly contradicts Article 44, Paragraph 2, Section 3 which states;

The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.

It also effectively bars atheists and others who aren’t monotheists from holding the office of President.

This seems wrong to me and I’d like to suggest a way we can bring this issue to the notice of the mainstream. Any time you interact with the campaigns of the prospective candidates ask them to refuse to swear this oath if they are elected. Explain that the issue here isn’t their personal religious view but rather the wider question of whether it is correct that there is a religious qualification for the Presidency. People could also email, tweet, or write to the candidates and ask them to refuse to swear this discriminatory oath.

So far Sen. David Norris (Ind) and Mairead McGuinness MEP (FG) are the only declared candidates but there are likely to be others who’ll declare as the election gets closer.

Irish Census 2011

In the last few days (or in the next few) someone will have knocked on your door and handed you your copy of the 2011 Census. You need to fill this out on the 10th of April and many of you will have seen the campaigns being run by Atheist Ireland and the Humanist Association asking you to think before you answer the question on religion and to answer honestly.

For Atheists and Free Thinkers this is easy to do, simple mark the “No Religion” box, but for many people this will be difficult. There are many people who have a belief in a god or the supernatural and who were raised Roman Catholic or Church of Ireland but aren’t sure how to describe themselves now.

Below is the current text of the Nicene Creed as used by the Catholic church (it’s due to be changed later this year) and I’d like to suggest that people who find themselves unsure if they are Catholic, Christian or just Theist should read it. If they really believe in everything it says then Catholic or Christian is probably the correct option for them. If not then I’d suggest that they consider marking the other religion box and writing Theist or even Deist.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic
and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the
resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

By way of contrast you might like to read this as well.

An Atheist’s Creed

I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.

I believe that the life we have is the only one we will have, that the mind and consciousness are inseparable from the brain, that we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die, and that it is therefore incumbent on us to enable each person to live their one life to the fullest.

I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

I believe in the power of ideals such as peace and justice and shared humanity to inspire us to create a free and just world.

I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world.

I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural.

I refuse to bow, prostrate myself, or otherwise cower before the deities of any religion.

I am neither tempted by the fiction of heaven or any other form of eternal life nor fearful of the fiction of hell.

I choose to live the dignified and exhilarating life of a free-thinker, able to go wherever knowledge and curiosity takes me, without fear of contradicting any dogma.

Response to Our Candidate Questions from Alan Kelly

Please see the below answers which we received today from Alan Kelly who’s standing in Tipperary North for the Labour Party.

Thanks for your recent email. I set out a response to each of your questions which I trust will be of interest to you.

* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control?

– Labour wants to reform our education system so that it is more democratic, and recognises the diversity of ethos within modern Irish society.

* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime?

– At last year’s Labour Party Conference, the conference called on the Labour Party, that as part of its programme for Government it should promise to hold a referendum proposing to delete the word ‘blasphemous’ from Article 4.1.6 of the Constitution and to repeal any legislation that made reference to blasphemy as a form of defamation. This motion was passed at conference.

* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office?

– Any alteration to the constitution would require a constitutional referendum on the issue, at present Labour does not foresee such a referendum taking place.

* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion?

– The Labour Party policy on the question of Abortion is that we support the removal of the eighth amendment to the constitution and its replacement with modern legislation providing for abortion in defined circumstances. There are in the Labour Party as in all political parties, members who have deep conscientious reservations about abortion. Nevertheless a strong majority support the policy decided at our national conference in 2001 and confirmed in 2003. It is entirely in keeping with the legacy of Dr. Noel Browne that the Labour Party should take a stand against those who would seek to dictate a particular religious dogma, whatever its provenance as state legislation, and which puts the well-being of women at risk.

* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions?

– The state is constitutionally (Article 44.2.2) obliged to remain secular and not to fund any one religion.Religion is a matter of personal conviction, it should be noted that it should not be publicly funded, especially given the more multi-ethnic nature of today’s Ireland and the potential for exclusion for citizens of the state.

Response to Our Candidate Questions from Cian Prendiville

Please see the below answers which we received today from Cian Prendiville who’s standing in Limerick City for the Socialist Party/United Left Alliance.

* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control?

Yes. The state cannot outsource it’s responsibility to education children. I think there have been enough examples that prove the need for public control over public education, and I believe that this should be fully democratic, with the schools run by elected representatives of staff, parents, the community and in the case of secondary schools, students.

* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime?

No. It is an outrage.

* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office?

Yes. I believe people of all religions and none should be equally able to take up public office.

* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion?

Yes. There is no nice way out of a crisis pregnancy. No one is ‘pro-abortion ‘ as the religious right claim. In my view there is abortion for people in Ireland already, you just have the extra expense and stress of having to travel. I believe we should support and facilitate the decisions of women in crisis pregnancies.

* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions?

Yes, I don’t believe the state should subsidise any church. The idea of non-denominational centres, for instance in hospitals, for people of all religion or none to go to relax and contemplate however is something I would support.

Election 2011

Knowing who to vote for isn’t easy.

Conor McGrath of Atheist Ireland has prepared a secular analysis of several of the parties manifestoes which I’ve linked to below –

You might also like to look at the responses to Athesit Ireland’s questions from candidates and parties here.

Below are the answers we received to the questions we sent to local candidates. As you can see we received only a small number of responses and I’d like to thank all those who took the time to respond.

Jim Connolly – Ind. – Clare
Hi Jason,
You are right on being busy — I am canvassing all day and have 30 emails to deal with. I believe in debate and never give sound bite opinions. In haste please see http://www.td4clare for evidence of my lifetime involvement with humanitarian / quality of life issues.
Regards,Jim
*******************************************************************************************************
Michael McNamara – Labour – Clare
In line with our Labour policy, here is my response.
* Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control? Yes
* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime? No
* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office? Yes
* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion? Yes
* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions? Yes
*******************************************************************************************************
Olwyn O’Malley – Green Party – Tipp North

Dear Jason
Thanks for corresponding with me.. unfortunately I don’t have much time or the resources to reply to the mountain of correspondence I am getting so please find my succinct replies below
*Do you favour a secular education system fully under state control? The green Party is in favour of a secular state education system
* Do you believe blasphemy should be a crime? No
* Do you favour removing the constitutional requirement that judges and the President swear a religious oath upon entering office? Yes
* In light of the recent ECHR ruling, do you favour the introduction of legislation to regulate abortion? Yes
* Do you favour the removal of funding for religious chaplains in state funded institutions? No if they are carrying out a necessary role within that institution such as counselling services but there should also be secular services available
Hope this addresses your queries
kind regards
*******************************************************************************************************
James Breen – Ind. – Clare

Dear Mr. Spratt,
While I understand that each of these issues is very important to you, I think that it is also important that we realize we are in a time of crisis in our country.  While each of us carries burning passions for issues (my own is healthcare in Clare), we must prioritize fixing our broken country.
In order to do this, I propose that we reform our government, go after the speculators and banks who put us in this position, kickstart our economy by setting up centers for innovation, investing in education and smaller class sizes, investing in top class healthcare for our citizens and reducing the cost of prescription drugs in line with other countries in the EU, tackling crime and protecting our environment and natural resources.
Once we have righted ourselves as a nation then we can tackle our other issues, but until that time, I promise you one thing; I am committed to doing whatever is in my power to creating a climate where the best solutions are brought forward and implemented by our government and the people of Claire are represented in Dail Eireann.
Thank you for your interest in my campaign,
*******************************************************************************************************
Kate Bopp – Ind. – Tipp. North

Dear Jason,
Thank you for your email.
Below are the answer previously given,
1) Yes, this is contained in my policies. I intend to campaign for a secular educational system with he removal of any religious preferences from publicly funded education
2) Again; Yes.
3) To quote from my own website: ” I will call for removal of references to religion in the constitution. Revision of the Defamation Act to ensure compliance with the Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution ensuring Freedom of Speech.”
4) I will support and call for removal of any religious ethos from all publicly funded institutions including hospitals. However privately funded institutions should have the freedom to promote their own religious ethos
5) Yes.
6) Yes, although the implementation of this will need very specific & detailed study.
7) I am a strong supporter of freedom of religion as well as freedom of speech. This means that everyone should be free to believe in whatever they want to choose not to have any religion. However it also means that religion is a private matter and should in no way be part of public life or institution.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

*******************************************************************************************************

Hope all of this is some help in guiding your decision.

“What Should Replace Religion?” – Daniel Dennett

I’m very late adding this but the UCC Atheists are hosting a free lecture by Daniel Dennett on Friday 28th of January at 18.00 in Boole 4 on the UCC Campus.

Professor Daniel C. Dennett is arguably one of the greatest philosophers alive today, and one of the most prominent voices in the debate on scientific explanations of human consciousness and free will. He is co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies in Tufts University, as well as a noted atheist and advocate of Darwinian evolution. He has written such widely popular books as ‘Consciousness Explained’, ‘Freedom Evolves’, ‘Darwin’s Dangerous Idea’, and ‘Breaking the Spell’.

On Friday the 28th of January he will be speaking in UCC on the decline of religion in Western society in recent years, and what future, if any, we see for it.

This event is open to all and FREE. (His talk at Seminars in Dublin the night before costs €40 per ticket!)

Please come along and invite any friends you think might be interested! Arrive early to avoid disappointment!

You can get more details and indicate you’re going on Facebook here, or just turn up on the night.

Two Debates

Two recent debates which people may find interesting. The first is Christopher Hitchens vs William Dembski on the topic “Does a Good God Exist” and can be found here. Hitchens looks surprisingly well and is in flying form. More thoughtful and soft-spoken than he often is.

The second is between Matt Dillahunty and  Hans Jacobse on the topic “The Source of Human Morality”. The first part is below and the rest can be found either here or here. The debate starts out friendly but the religious speaker ends up Godwining. An experience I’ve had when debating Christians myself.