60 years on, time to remove the Angelus from RTE

This week 60 years ago, on the request of the Roman Catholic Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, Radio Eireann started to broadcast the Angelus. This daily call to prayer, still gifted by RTE to the Roman Catholic Church as a free prime time advertisement, has no place in a modern pluralist republic.

Recent attempts to soften its impact, by illustrating it with nonreligious images and rebranding it as a pause for reflection, simply make it worse. This suggests that people of all religions and none can unite under a Roman Catholic call to prayer.

If RTE was to broadcast a minute of atheist propaganda at prime time every day, most people would intuitively realise that this would be inappropriate. And the problem would be made worse by illustrating atheist propaganda with religious images.

In a religious State, the State broadcasting system would be promoting religion; in an atheist State, the State broadcasting system would be promoting atheism. In a secular State, it would do neither, and that is what Atheist Ireland wants to see happen.


“Clock outside RTE’s Cork studios” by Bods is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Michael Nugent


  1. Avatar
    Tom August 17, 2010

    I will start work on a quick vid about this. Has AI been in contact with RTE ?

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    Steve Dugges August 17, 2010

    Does anyone have sound mixing software? I’m thinking of a remix of the Angelus with the Muslim Call to Prayer, Buddhist incantations, hindu stuff. Throw some Hitchens and Dawkins soundbites in for good measure. If I had the software I’d do it myself.

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    Anonymous August 18, 2010

    But what will I listen to when I need to stare off into space before the news?

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    Majella Furlong August 18, 2010

    So you are the people who believe there is no God.

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    Caligula August 19, 2010

    How much money would RTE get from equivalent advertising? RTE are complaining that things are bad for them financially yet they allow free advertising for an organisation that fiddles with kiddies.

  6. Avatar
    Adam M August 20, 2010

    Hate to disagree seeing as we’re all part of the same herd of cats, but even as an atheist I don’t object to the Angelus. Darwinian natural selection is implicit in a lot of nature shows, especially the later Attenborough stuff, but there’s no religious objection to that. Okay, the Angelus is a lot more explicit, but seriously – two minutes a day of explicitly religious programming from a public service broadcaster in a country with a partially Catholic population isn’t even the thin end of the wedge, it’s just a fair share.

    Freedom from religion for some has to be compatible with freedom of religion for others.

    Speaking of freedom from religion, do we need to start gathering signatures for a constitutional amendment so that we can get rid of that ridiculous blasphemy law…?

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    Steve Dugges August 20, 2010

    @Caligula I calculated if they could fit 4 ads in that would make about €20,000 per night

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    Padraig August 23, 2010

    I agree with Adam M, let them have their one-minute. There are far more offensive things on RTE… for example Nationwide. 😛

    Whatever the majority of people want is what goes on public tv… it doesn’t matter whether we like it or whether we believe in it etc. RTE News is also fictitious a lot of the time. That’s why I think that it’s more an issue of taxpayer-funded tv not making sense in the first place rather than the Angelus being particularly bad.

    There are a lot of old people who are extremely fond of the Angelus and wait for it to come on every day. It was a big blow to them that all the old religious imagery was taken away from them. There’s nothing wrong with religious imagery.

    So while I’m batting for the same team as you here, I don’t understand what cutting the 1-minute Angelus would achieve and there are many other atheists that don’t want it to be cut either. Just because you find something you don’t like on tv doesn’t mean you can just cut it out for no reason…. the fact of whether people believe in it or not doesn’t make a fundamental difference. Let’s say certain people believed Star Trek is true, does this make a fundamental difference to it such that we can’t have it on tv? No I don’t think so.

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    Tom August 24, 2010

    @Padraig, I don’t think comparing Star Trek to religious practices or religious propaganda is correct, one of the parts of religion is go “spread the good news” in other words inflect religion onto others whether they want it or not, if they don’t want to know, get offended.

    Nothing wrong with Mass on Sunday, or covering religious events that many people follow.

    But the Angelus is a call to catholic prayer provided by our impartial state broadcaster, ever since growing up the RTE Angelus was never a relaxing reflective minute, but an awkward uneasy silence. Now if in someone’s house and it comes on, I will test the water and act as I don’t know what it is, and talk, suddenly no awkward mutual silence, as normally the other person talks back, and then find remote, turn those annoying Dongs down or off. For many irrespective of religious beliefs just find those Bongs & Dongs extremely annoying.

    For many if not most the start of the Angelus is not a call for Prayer or search for eternal truths, but a quest to as rapidly as possible find the remote.

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    Adam M August 24, 2010

    I think Tom’s kind of made the distinction to consider – should we look at RTE as the state broadcaster and expect it to be impartial, or as a public service broadcaster and expect it to cater for everyone? Given that the constitution is Catholic in tone, and the State similarly so, we can’t expect the State broadcaster to be non-Catholic without changing the constitution or nature of the state. We shouldn’t expect a public service broadcaster not to show religious content (whether the Angelus, televised mass, or whatever else) in a partially religious country.

    We could expect them to provide balance and include a prime time secular slot – Tom, how’s that vid coming?

    Perhaps a campaign for a 7pm atheist reflection – sotto voce readings from Bertrand Russell, Hume’s “Dialogues concerning natural religion”, Nietzsche? CGI evolution scenes to the soundtrack of NIN’s “Heresy”? Trying to agree the content would probably be harder than trying to get such a slot in the first place, but you get the idea. I feel that promoting our non-belief is far better than taking away the expression of someone else’s belief.

    On the other hand, how often do people actually watch RTE now, given the prevelance of satellite and cable TV?

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    Lucinda Ramsay August 27, 2010

    I don’t really get how one can compare Darwinian evolution as brought to us by Sir David Attenborough in his scientific research based brilliantly educational and enlightening documentaries with the broadcasting of The Angelus which having been brought up outside of Catholicism I don’t find educational, enlightening or based on scientic research- a terrible fault of the Irish is to assume everyone who’s Irish is catholic or that everyone in Ireland who is atheist was once a catholic. Granted it is the religion of the majority but do we really need our culture to be defined by religion in today’s world? Personally I feel that religion no matter how traditional and quaint has no place in the media. Whereas Attenborough programmes and their like should be encouraged.

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    Adam M August 30, 2010

    Personally I’m English and ex-C of E, but my point is that a tolerant society should be able to find room for all things on a public service broadcaster.

    “Freedom of conscience, religion and belief are unlimited. Freedom to practice religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.”
    – 1 minute of The Angelus twice daily on RTE is hardly an infringement on our rights as Atheists – or on the rights of an Agnostic, a Muslim, Protestant, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, & c.

  13. Avatar
    Adam M August 30, 2010

    Sorry, I hasten to add that I’m also living in Ireland for the last fifteen years and settled here, just to avoid any confusion that I might be living in England and having no real business involved in this discussion…!

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    Kimpatsu September 03, 2010

    Angelus, and the second response is posted by Conor? When did Buffy’s ex-boyfriend show up? Oh, he was Irish, after all…

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    Dam0 September 04, 2010

    Its high time those of us who are tolerantly religious take on the militant atheism which seeks to impose its will on our society.Those fanatics who believe that all religion must be erased from our societies.We have taken enough of their bullying.Maybe we should take a more “islamic” attitude to those who p*ss on our beliefs…

  16. Avatar
    Adam M September 17, 2010

    “Islamic”? You mean “Surrendering”? Don’t surrender Damo, stand up for your rights – but don’t stand in the way of ours.

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    logiaclthinker September 20, 2010

    Yeah damo ssshhh. If we had rte broadcasting something atheist before the news there’d be uproar. Religions aren’t tolerant of us and I’m sick of religion beng forced on me.
    So let religious people walk over you if ya want by all means but do as adam says and don’t stand in our way.