Frequently Answered Questions

Atheist Ireland is a voluntary organisation. We are always happy to answer sincere questions about what who we are and what we do. Sometimes, even after we have clarified a situation, some people keep asking the same questions anyway, and we simply do not have the time to keep repeating the same answers indefinitely. We have therefore prepared this list of Frequently Answered Questions to which we can refer people when we are responding to similar questions in future.

Contents

1. What does Atheist Ireland represent?
2. What are Atheist Ireland’s priority issues?
3. What are Atheist Ireland’s achievements?
4. Who does Atheist Ireland represent?
5. How does Atheist Ireland operate?
6. Where can I find Atheist Ireland online?
7. How can I get involved in Atheist Ireland?

1. What does Atheist Ireland represent?

Atheist Ireland is an Irish advocacy group that exists to promote atheism and reason over superstition and supernaturalism, and to promote an ethical and secular Ireland where the state does not support or fund or give special treatment to any religion. Any person who agree with this mission and aims can become a member of Atheist Ireland.

2. What are Atheist Ireland’s priority issues?

Our priority issues include challenging religious discrimination in the Irish education system and Constitution; removing the Irish blasphemy law; promoting human rights standards in Irish law; helping nonreligious and minority faith families vindicate their right to a secular education; and working on specific issues such as the Civil Registration Act, State funding of chaplains, and repealing the eighth amendment. 

We do this by national lobbying of politicians and government; international lobbying at the United Nations, Council of Europe, OSCE etc.; and promoting atheism, reason and ethical secularism generally through media interviews, newsletters, conferences, talks, information tables and brunches. We spend the vast majority of our time on these issues.

We also respond to topical issues such as the revised Angelus on RTE, the crucifix in Kerry County Council, the cross on Carrauntoohil, and the invitation to watch the 1916 Rising commemoration. We spend proportionally much less time on these issues. However, we believe it is important to constantly highlight and challenge the background noise of religious influence in Irish public life, as many people are desensitised to it by its constant presence.

3. What are Atheist Ireland’s achievements? 

We have helped to normalise the use of the word atheism in public discourse. It is no longer unusual for the Irish media to interview a spokesperson for an atheist advocacy group, and Irish politicians now expect to be lobbied by atheists promoting secular policies. In the Oireachtas, parliamentarians used the words atheist and atheism as many times last year alone, as they did in the fifteen years combined before Atheist Ireland was founded.

We have brought the human rights of freedom of religion or belief, freedom from discrimination and equality before the law to the centre of dialogue about secularism in Ireland. We have had the first ever meeting between an Irish Taoiseach and an atheist advocacy group, as members of the ongoing dialogue process with the Irish Government and religious and nonreligious groups. We regularly lobby and brief the UN and other international human rights bodies, and we have contributed to several key recommendations to Ireland with regard to separation of Church and State.

We have gradually refined a human rights based approach to secular education, centred on our Schools Equality PACT, which is an acronym for Patronage, Access, Curriculum and Teaching. We have got the Oireachtas Education Committee to agree that multiple patronage and multiple ethos of schools can lead to segregation and inequality. We have got the State to retreat behind a new claim that it is constitutionally obliged to buttress religious discrimination in Irish schools. Without us, many people would be naively welcoming government plans that seem progressive on the surface, but that hide the maintenance of religious discrimination.

We helped to restructure and write a new constitution for Atheist Alliance international. We hosted an International Atheist Convention in Dublin in 2011, at which delegates adopted the Dublin Declaration on Secularism in Public Life. We hosted an International Conference on Empowering Women Through Secularism in Dublin in 2013, at which delegates adopted the Dublin Declaration on Empowering Women Through Secularism. We and other members of AAI use these documents as part of our national and international lobbying.

We work with other Irish human rights advocacy groups, both in Ireland and internationally. We help parents to vindicate their human rights in schools, through direct advice and referrals to statutory bodies that can help them. We have recently formed an alliance with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Ireland, as three groups with very different world-views who are united in being discriminated against by religious discrimination in the education system.

4. Who does Atheist Ireland represent?

Atheist Ireland represents our members, who adopted our founding constitution, and who attend an AGM every year to elect officers onto a management committee that runs the organisation on a day-to-day basis. If you share our aims of promoting atheism, reason and ethical secularism, then we would love for you to join us and help us to promote these aims together.

Nobody represents all atheists. Atheists are individual people who typically value their personal philosophical independence. If you are not a paid-up member of the advocacy group called Atheist Ireland, then we do not represent you or claim to represent you, although we do try to represent the best interests of atheists generally in an ethical secular State.

Some people have suggested that the name implies that we represent all Irish atheists. This is not the case. Most reasonable people understand the accepted conventions for naming organisations. The National Women’s Council of Ireland does not represent all Irish women, the Irish Labour Party does not represent all Irish workers, the Football Association of Ireland does not represent all Irish footballers, and Atheist Ireland does not represent all Irish atheists.

5. How does Atheist Ireland operate?

We elect officers to a management committee at each AGM. All of these positions are voluntary. To facilitate regional involvement in AGMs, we hold every second AGM outside Dublin. The management committee uses, as its criteria for taking decisions, which decision would be most consistent with our mission and aims. This helps to depersonalise the decision-making process, by having an objective set of criteria to match options against.

Our management committee consists of a Chairperson, Secretary, Finance Officer and Regional Officer (who are elected at each AGM) plus any other co-opted positions that the management committee deems useful to create or abolish from time to time. This currently includes our Human Rights Officer, our Secular Sunday Editor, and our representative on the Board of Atheist Alliance International.

Our full committee consists of the management committee plus the Chairperson of each regional group, which would hold their own regional AGMs. In practice, this aspect is evolving on an ad-hoc basis as we seek to establish regional groups throughout the country. If you would like to help us in establishing a regional group in your area, please contact our Regional Officer who will be delighted to hear from you.

We review policy at each AGM, and we may also consult members directly between AGMs to get feedback on our work. Our most recent direct consultation with members was an email survey of all members in 2015, the results of which were discussed at the 2015 AGM in Cork. Feedback from members was overwhelmingly positive with regard to our policies on secular education, repeal of the eighth amendment, the marriage equality referendum, the revised Angelus on RTE and the erection of a crucifix in Kerry County Council.

6. Where can I find Atheist Ireland online?

Atheist Ireland has websites at
http://atheist.ie
http://teachdontpreach.ie
http://blasphemy.ie
http://goodwithoutgods.ie 
http://www.notme.ie
https://www.kiva.org/team/atheistireland

Atheist Ireland has a twitter account at @atheistie

Atheist Ireland has Facebook Pages at
https://www.facebook.com/AtheistIreland/
https://www.facebook.com/TeachDontPreach/
https://www.facebook.com/blasphemy.ie/ 

Atheist Ireland has a private Facebook Group for Atheist Ireland members only. You can access that by joining Atheist Ireland.

Atheist Ireland did have a discussion group called Atheist Ireland Connect, which is now closed for reasons outlined here.

7 How can I get involved in Atheist Ireland?

Atheist Ireland always needs more members. You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland. You have a say in determining policy and electing officers. You can attend members meetings and our AGM. You can examine our accounts at each AGM. Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.

We would welcome your involvement, either as a passive paid-up member or as an active volunteer at whatever level your skills and commitment coincide with our needs. Typically with voluntary advocacy groups, some active volunteers come and go on a rolling basis, because we all have to balance our voluntary work with our other life commitments. So even if you can only work with us for a short period of time, we would still appreciate it.

Have you experience with other secular or human rights organisations? Have you experience in law, media, advocacy, politics, administration or organisation? Would you like to help to set up a local brunch or local meeting? Please let us know, at [email protected]@atheist.ie if you can contribute any time or expertise.

If you don’t have time to commit, please consider becoming a paid-up member. The membership fee is nominal, just €25 a year or €10 a year if unwaged. We can keep our costs low as our work is done by volunteers, often in the face of counter-lobbying by better-funded religious lobby groups. We are now reaching a tipping point with regard to secularism in Ireland. The more paid-up members that we have, the more effectively we can continue to lead that agenda. Please join us at http://atheist.ie/information/join/