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World Blasphemy Day 2015 in Limerick

On Wednesday 30 September 2015, World Blasphemy Day, four Mid-West Humanists were in Cruises Street, Limerick, from about 13:00 until about 15:30.

IMG15186m IMG15183m IMG15172m

We had the map of the world with countries coloured by their laws against blasphemy, and a poster inviting people to hold up a picture that some people will see as blasphemous, just for 10 seconds only!

Here are the 4 blasphemous pictures.

Satire Christian 1 Islam Satire 3 Atheist Satire 6 Satire Judaism 1

Some people volunteered to hold up a picture. We hoped not to get arrested, so most of the time the pictures were covered. In our last half hour they were face up on the table.


Either, see you there next year, or

Happy World anti-Blasphemy-law-Free Day 2016!


World Blasphemy Day

On Wednesday 30 September 2015, which is World Blasphemy Day, some Mid-West Humanists will be on the street in Limerick.

We will probably be in Cruises Street, from close to 13:00…
hoping to stay there until 15:00 or so.

We will have the map of the world with countries coloured by their laws against blasphemy.

We will also show a poster inviting people to hold up a picture that some people will see as blasphemous, just for 10 seconds only!

We will have a choice of 4 blasphemous pictures for any volunteer to show – kept in a bag until someone volunteers to show one. We don’t want to offend all of the people all of the time.

Actually, we hope the pictures will make people laugh.

Of the pictures, 3 will blaspheme 3 different religions, and 1 tries to similarly offend people who have no religion.

See you there!

Happy World Blasphemy Day!

Respect for persons; no respect for ideas; Limerick school was right to let Charlie Hebdo in the classroom

While I would like to vote in a referendum to remove the sentence from Ireland’s Constitution that makes blasphemy a crime, I am writing now to help distinguish between (1) respect for humans and their rights, and (2) culture and ideas (including religious culture and ideas) having no rights to respect. Instead, ideas should be open to criticism, and people have rights to make criticism and to live in a society where other people make criticisms too.

Especially when you are a child, but also throughout all of life, a really good society is one where various people are making criticisms of various ideas and elements of culture and society, with no long intervals between such criticisms both in the public news and in your private life. In so far as I have a right to have a good society in which to live, I have a right to such criticisms going on all the time.


The Limerick Leader reported on 05 February 2015

that a teacher at Limerick Educate Together School recently asked pupils to bring in matter relevant to the French Revolution of 1789 and freedom of speech; and a pupil took in a copy of the Charlie Hebdo of 14 01 2015, which the teacher showed to the pupils, and this offended a pupil who is Muslim;
and –
that a parent of this second pupil, as well as complaining to the school, gave the following view to the Limerick Leader – that the cover picture has caused great insult within the Islam community in Ireland and the world; and that the child was “subjected” to seeing the magazine; and that parents teach children to have respect for all peoples and for their cultures and for their religions, of which educators should be mindful. This read as if the magazine being shown in the class took away from such respect.

I agree fully with respect for all people, but disagree entirely with the idea of an obligation to have respect for any culture.

1. I favour respect for all persons and their legal, constitutional, and human rights, and the special rights of children: and special rights means, because they are growing up, that children need both protection from dangers AND open availability of information so that they can grow into good citizens, which includes understanding the cultures of the society in which they live.

Continue reading

FORA.tv – From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair

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Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and Senior Visiting Fellow at the Department of Political, International and Policy Studies at the University of Surrey. His main areas of interest are the history of ideas; the history and philosophy of science; philosophy of the mind; theories of human nature; bioethics; political philosophy; and the politics of race, religion and identity.

Freedom Includes the Freedom to Offend

Geert Wilders is to be tried for making the film Fitna.

A European politician is to be tried for making a film.

I’m tempted to say “Has the world gone mad?” but I don’t want to sound like a Daily Telegraph reader. The most telling line in the judgement handed down by the Dutch court is, “[Wilders’ statements are] so insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute”. This seems to suggest that the reason for the prosecution is fear of a Muslim backlash. Exactly the sort of violent tendencies Fitna criticises.

Don’t get me wrong I understand that Fitna offers a simplistic explanation of a complex problem. Muslim violence isn’t just religious in origin, there are political, economic and historical reasons too. I do think that Islam makes these problems worse though. It makes finding solutions harder and shapes the nature of the violence. The fairy tales of divine sanction and eternal reward make actions like suicide bombing possible.

I don’t want to rhapsodise Western values or to pretend our culture doesn’t have problems but it’s time for the West, in particular Europe, to stop compromising. We need to stand up for what we believe in. With the rapid advance of technology the next 50 years could be a Golden age for mankind but only progressive secular values can make this happen. Isn’t it time to leave the darkness of religion behind?

Edit – I’m not sure how much good these things really do but there is an online petition here.

Islamic Censorship and the Growing Threat to Western Values

The below is taken from a Wall Street Journal article on the upcoming Durban II conference.

The draft declaration… goes after the West’s freedom of speech and antiterror laws under the guise of protecting religion (read: Islam) from “defamation.” The entire West will be in the dock for allegedly persecuting Muslims. “The most serious manifestations of defamation of religions are the increase in Islamophobia and the worsening of the situation of Muslim minorities around the world,” the draft reads. “Islamophobia” is a term used to brand any criticism of Islam as a hate crime.

The Islamic terrorists who have killed hundreds of thousands of their co-religionists get a free pass. Instead, the draft calls for a media code of conduct and “internationally binding normative standards . . . that can provide adequate guarantees against defamation of religions.” If this sounds like censorship, that’s because it is.

If the Durban II drafters have their way, any challenge of Islamic teachings, including teachings used to justify violence, would be taboo. Reprinting the Danish Muhammad cartoons, exploited by Muslim agitators in 2006 to incite riots around the world, would be a criminal offense. Even gross human-rights violations in Islamic countries — such as stoning adulterers in Iran — could be immune from criticism.

It seems pretty clear that this is just another attempt at special pleading by the religious, in this case Islam. The Canadian government has already said it will not participate in this farce and it seems likely that the US will follow suit. It’s probably too much to hope that the EU will take a similar stand.

Free speech is a core western value and we cannot accept any erosion. My advice to Muslims (or anyone else) is simple, if you can’t deal with open debate, if your faith is so weak that it cannot stand up to any criticism, then you need to seriously examine the validity of that faith. The future has no place for ancient magical superstitions.

Edit: I take the point made by commenters below. What I should have said is I hope the future has no place for ancient magical superstitions, but people will have to embrace reality on their own and in their own time. It certainly isn’t something I could or would force on them.

via Butterflies and Wheels

Romanian Anti-Science, Vatican Bigotry and the Myth of Islamophobia

To Romania first and the news that the Romanian Ministry of Education has removed the teaching of Evolution from schools. This is apparently prompted by a growing conservative movement in the country.

Information on natural selection, how fish turned into lizards and, more or less, a summary of the first 4.5 billion years of the world until man walked the earth is now optional.

Meanwhile, in religious classes, pupils are taught that the world was created in seven days and God made plants on the third day and the sun on the fourth. Textbooks claim the first man was Adam, who was ‘made of ground’, and that Eve, the first woman, was made from one of her husband’s ribs.

In case you’ve forgotten Romania has been an EU member state since last year. Hooray we have our own Kansas now 😦
Romania please learn a lesson from Ireland, they only way a poor country can become a prosperous one is by throwing off the shackles of religious dogma and embracing science and technology.

via Bad Astronomy

In case that’s not depressing enough, news that the Vatican’s oft touted ‘Culture of Life’ apparently doesn’t extend to gay people. OK, maybe that doesn’t actually count as news.

When France proposed a resolution seeking all nations to decriminalise homosexuality, the Vatican immediately said it would oppose the resolution. This is despite the fact that up to 70 nations still have legal punishments for gay people including, in some instances, the death penalty. In a number of Islamic countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, homosexual acts are still a capital offence.

The UN resolution is due to be proposed by France later this month on behalf of the 27-nation European Union. But Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican opposed the resolution because it would “add new categories of those protected from discrimination” and could lead to reverse discrimination against traditional heterosexual marriage.

So to sum up, better that a few Gay people get killed than we risk “traditional heterosexual marriage”, you know where your parents chose your husband or wife. If we’re not careful you might end up with people who love each other making solemn life long commitments!

Last but not least, another in a long line of daft articles about European ‘Islamophobia’, all the usual canards are there – Islam is a race, no mention of the inherent sexism of Islam and of course no acknowledgement that Europe is open to those that embrace our values but is going to be pretty uncomfortable to those who want to follow idiotic tribal religions. The article itself is fairly weak stuff but some of the comments are on the money.

Anyway, I have to go and weep softly at the foolishness of man.

I’m Sick of Being Polite About Religion

They were walking to school in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a group of teenage girls discussing a test they had coming up, when two men on a motorcycle sprayed them with a strange liquid. Within seconds a painful tingling began, and there was an unusual smell as the skin of 16-year-old Atifa Biba began to burn.

Her friend rushed over to help her, struggling to wipe the liquid away, when she too was showered with acid. She covered her face, crying out for help as they sprayed her again, trying to aim the acid into her face. The weapon was a water bottle containing battery acid; the result was at least one girl blinded and two others permanently disfigured. Their only crime was attending school.

The next time someone uses the phrase “militant Atheist” remind them of this picture

Girl burned with acid

Girl burned with acid

This is what “militant Theists” do, today, in the 21st Century!

from The Guardian via Butterflies and Wheels.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Viability of Hope

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American Jewish Committee
Washington, D.C.
May 2nd, 2008

Seeking a New Global Order: The Viability of Hope featuring Ayaan Hirsi Ali in conversation with David A. Harris.

Former Dutch Member of Parliament and author of Infidel Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a conversation with American Jewish Committee Executive Director David A. Harris about her life’s journey from being raised a devout Muslim to leaving her religion and seeking asylum in the Netherlands.

They cover issues of tolerance, freedom of expression, and how Muslim immigrants integrate into western culture.

Christopher Hitchens on Religion