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Decemeber 2012 meeting: plans to encourage the press to contact us

Although the Mid West Humanists have met every month since 2008, at times stories arise in the news here, and we the local group have not put input into local radio or newspapers.

From the meeting in September 2012 the members have wanted to encourage the local press and radio to take input from us on  stories affecting humanist, atheist, and secular people, including cases of discrimination against them.

At the meeting on 19 December 2012 those present edited an information document for the press, and a press release which is due to be sent when the Constitutional Convention starts to look at the Blasphemy provision.
We plan to send the general information document to local newspapers and to local radio stations in the second week of January 2013. It will describe the group and its aims, and provide a contact number and email for any paper or station who want a secular, humanist, or atheist view on any news items in the Mid West region.

We hope this will mean that the local media will give our point of view some airing. We hope this will contribute to changes in society, towards a secular society.

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.
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.

Catholic Church on Civil Unions

Well, it would appear, based on the comments of the wonderfully verbose Cardinal (a fancy word for Mr.) Sean Brady in this Irish Times article, that allowing same-sex couples the legal right to marry or cohabitate and have that marriage/cohabitation recognised as a fully legal civil union, would result in Ireland turning into a country full of lawlessness, unemployment and drug abuse, since British and US studies, according to our wonderfully neutral clergyman, suggest that:

“children born outside of marriage are more likely to do worse at school, suffer poorer health and are more likely to face problems of unemployment, drugs and crime.”

…I’m sorry what?

Cardinal Brady is also quoted as saying that:

“one in four children of cohabiting parents experienced family breakdown before they started school, compared to just one in 10 children of married parents.”

If you actually analyse this statement, all it says is that the family is 25% likely to breakdown before the child starts school. Well, my parents have been seperated since I was 9 or 10, and I do not regularly inject myself with heroin, snort cocaine, steal cars, mug people or spend most of my late nights on the streets of Limerick hunting for food among my drunken peers, so it would appear that even though my family has broken down, I am not contributing to godless anarchy. (I am contributing to widespread godlessness, but that’s actually a good thing!)

It’s interesting that Cardinal Brady envisions that Ireland would be plummetted into some Catholic vision of godless anarchy based solely on the fact that we, the people of this republic, would wish to grant the same rights of marriage and cohabitation to all citizens regardless of gender or sexuality. Only a man tapped into the wondrous drug of religion would make the so clearly obvious connection between civil liberty and godless anarchy.

It makes me wonder whether Sodom and Gomorrah were simply guilty of promoting civil liberties, as opposed to being highly immoral rapists and sodomites. But, wait hang on…aren’t the Catholic priests the immoral rapists…? Oh, no, sorry, my mistake, they already paid for those crimes.

It’s also interesting to see that Cardinal Brady’s utterly rational and sane argument against universal civil union rights relies on the “fact” that

“[Catholic teaching] is linked to the complementarity of the sexes…and this was not something it was possible for any individual to change. It is part of the order of things since Creation.”

I’m sorry…Creation?

Don’t we have billions of years of highly substantiated and valid evidence that renders the Creation myth utterly null and void? – Yes, we do.
And don’t we also have millions of examples throughout biology, in both the macroscopic and microscopic realm, of creatures that do not, in fact, have “complimentarity of the sexes” as a matter of nature? – Yes, we do.

So, even if we accepted for a split-second the Creation Myth, if God created all the biological life on the planet (haha) he would have created those creatures without “complimentarity of the sexes” also, and as such that concept would no longer be unique to human relationships or useful in our discussion.

By the way “complimentarity of the sexes” is simply a highly convoluted phrase used by Mr. Brady to attempt to make those of us who are not paying attention assume that two sexes is all there is, was and ever can be.

So, please, Cardinal Brady, do not try and assert your bare-faced bigotry to anyone else in this country, because none of your objections against allowing men to marry men and women to marry women do not stand up to scrutiny. They merely serve to insult both your intelligence and that of the Irish people you claim to be acting in the best interest of.

If you wish to provide some form of substantial and verified evidence to back up your claims of godless anarchy resulting from the Civil Partnership Bill, we would all love to hear it, but all you have presented us with thus far is “suggestions” of propensities towards anti-social behaviour in children of cohabiting parents, which is really just a way of saying non-married parents have stroppy children, which still remains to seen in an actual study, my dear Cardinal.

The Civil Partnership Bill is set to become law some time next year, and it seems for Cardinal Brady that

“it is difficult to see how anything other than the introduction of de facto marriage for cohabiting and same-sex couples is envisaged”.

Well, yes, Einstein, that’s kind of the point!

Ignoring for a moment the vacuous and baseless claims provided by the insightful Cardinal, what would actually be wrong with having de facto marriage for cohabiting and same-sex couples?

Oh, yes, that’s right, nothing.

Although he would never admit it publicly, I’m fairly confident (though I freely admit I have no evidence for this, unlike the Cardinal) that the charming Cardinal’s views are not far from those of the vitriolic Pastor Fred Phelps at GodHatesIreland.com

Patsy McGarry, the author of this Irish Times article mentions:

In his address to the Céifin conference on November 4th, Cardinal Brady indicated that the Government could face a legal challenge if the Civil Partnership Bill became law. “Those who are committed to the probity of the Constitution, to the moral integrity of the word of God and to the precious human value of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of society may have to pursue all avenues of legal and democratic challenge to the published legislation if this is the case,” he said.

Those who are committed to the probity of the Constitution have my support, however those who are committed to the “moral integrity” of the “word of God” need to watch out, as they have no place whatsoever in civil matters. Just as campaigners for the views of the Flying Spaghetti Monster would be thrown out of any serious discussion on laws affecting the country, so too should the Catholic church and any other religious parties be thrown out of the discussion. If your opinion is solely informed by your religious sensibilities and/or beliefs, then your opinion has no place anywhere other than your home or your pulpit. It most certainly does not belong in the laws of our country. (Or any country for that matter!)

If the Catholic church is stupid enough to challenge this bill, I will be right behind them pulling their “arguments” out from under them, and I suggest you do the same should it come to it!

And as for those who are to committed to the “precious human value of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of society” let me say this once and once only. The quality of a child’s upbringing and their resulting contributions to (or detractions from) our society has got absolutely nothing to do with the fact of whether or not they grow up in a home with a female mother and male father. It has to do with the quality of the parents and their care for that child. I can almost guarantee you that a cohabiting gay couple committed to each other and the happiness of a child in their care would be much better parents than a large proportion of our married heterosexual population. And that is merely one possibility in a multi-faceted situation.

Man and woman as the foundation of society is a dead concept and is no longer relevant in our modern society, and while the religious types are stuck in an apopleptic fit about marriage being a thing of the past, we as a society are moving onwards to a society where uttering a phrase such as “complimentarity of the sexes” as support for a religiously informed opinion would earn you a swift smack on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. (Not the Irish Times in this case!)

People are the foundation of society. Black people, white people, mocha people, sane people, crazy people, religious people, irreligious people, heterosexual people, homsexual people, bisexual people, transexual people, young people, old people, big people, small people, important people, regular people, disabled people, homeless people, they all play their part.

As do you. Peace.

A New Atheist Group?

I know some of you have already been active in this discussion over at atheist.ie.

To give some background Dick Spicer from the HAI wrote an article on atheist.ie suggesting a new more assertive atheist group should be set up.

While there has been much to and fro on the topic the general feeling seems to be supportive of such a move.

The suggestion I made for a next step is below, what do people here think? What would people think of the MWH offering to host such a convention?

Do people think we need a new national organisation? Should we concentrate on building the membership of the HAI instead?

If we do want a new group I’d suggest we call a convention. What I mean is that we form a temporary organising committee and then select a date and location and advertise as widely as possible with the aim of starting a mass movement with local branches throughout the country. The convention would have to run over a couple of days and work on a constitution, name, aims & objectives. This might need to be done by a series of committees and then voted on by those present. Existing groups like the HAI and ISS should be invited to participate.

As I see it the rationalist position will only be treated seriously when we have numbers, another 200 member group won’t change anything. People have criticised the HAI but please remember that it is a entirely voluntary organisation. If we can garner enough support we can have full time paid staff, that means people who are available to write press releases/blogs and appear on TV or radio. There is only so much free time people can give to any organisation.

Irish Skeptics Meeting

The Irish Skeptics next meeting is on Tuesday November 18th at 8.00pm in the Gandon Suite of the Davenport Hotel, Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Their speaker is Julian Baggini who’ll talk about his latest book “The Duck that Won the Lottery“. More details about the event can be found here.

It sounds like it’ll be an interesting discussion, to help get you in the mood you can listen to Julian being interviewed on the Little Atoms Podcast.

Today’s Budget

As I type this the Irish Minister of Finance is delivering this years budget. FXM over at Irish Atheists asks the question why not remove the tax exempt status from the Catholic Church?

I can see no good argument for continuing to give tax breaks to any religion. The Catholic Church in particular owns large amounts of property throughout the country and doesn’t face the sort of inheritance tax that helps to keep property in circulation.

So today’s questions are  – Why am I wrong and what did you think of the budget?