Secular Sunday #4 – You Gotta Fight For Your Rights

It’s time for another Secular Sunday, the online weekly newsletter of Atheist Ireland.

In this issue:

  • News
  • Upcoming Events
  • Young People These Days


  • Five Steps to Civil Rights in a Secular Ireland
    Atheist Ireland wants a secular Irish State, where we each have the right to our religious or non-religious philosophical beliefs, and where the state remains neutral on these beliefs. To that end we have drafted a document to send to all TDs and Senators. Read the latest draft and join in the discussion on our forum.

Upcoming Events

  • Saturday 28 January, 6:30 pm, The Lord Edward, Dublin 8 (map)
    Skeptics in the Pub – New Year Edition
    The monthly meeting of Dublin Skeptics takes place upstairs in the lounge of the Lord Edward. Facebook page.
  • Sunday 29 January, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm, O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel, Dublin 2 (map)
    “Is Anything Sacred?” Austin Dacey Ph.D. and Professor David Nash will be speaking at a public discussion of Irish and international blasphemy laws. Facebook page.The event will be live streamed so if you can’t make it in person you can still get involved. And if you aren’t available at the time, you should be able to view it later on our Youtube channel.
  • Sunday 5 February, 4:00 pm, Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2 (map)
    This month’s Humanist Association of Ireland meeting will be a tribute to and discussion about the late Christopher Hitchens. Details
  • Tuesday 7 February, DIT Aungier Street, Dublin (map)
    Michael Nugent will be debating with Hamza Tzortzis of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA). The topic will be “This house believes the world would be a better place without religion.” Michael and Hamza have previously debated with each other in NUI Galway, UCD and RCSI. Video extract from RCSI debate
  • Thursday 9 February (tentative), Dublin
    Atheists in the Pub will be hosting our first speaker of the year, Vanessa Lacey from Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI). More details will be available soon.
  • Friday 24th February 2012, 7:00 pm, Trinity College, Dublin 2
    The annual Darwin Day Lecture, as arranged by the Humanist Association of Ireland, will be given this year by Dr Stephen Oppenheimer, on the subject: “Tracking Migrations with DNA: relevance to Britain and Ireland”.
  • February (date to be arranged), Galway
    Michael Nugent will be debating at the NUI Galway Law Society on a Wednesday to be arranged during February, and not on the tentative date of 25 January that we published last week. If you would like to talk to Michael and Jon Pierson before or after the debate, about helping to start a local Atheist Ireland group in Galway, please email us at
  • 25-27 May, Cologne, Germany
    The European Atheist Convention is a few months away but if you’re thinking of going, it might be time to start planning. Facebook page

Young People These Days

Two teenage atheist activists have appeared in the news recently, for standing up to religious oppression. Their passion, bravery and enthusiasm deserve commendation and remind us that people of any age can make a positive difference.

  • Jessica Ahlquist, a 16-year-old from Rhode Island, USA won a legal battle to have a religious banner removed from her school. A court ruled that the banner violated the First Amendment. Jessica has since received death threats and was called “an evil little thing” by a state representative.
  • Rhys Morgan, a 17-year-old from Wales, was threatened with violence and expulsion from school for posting a picture of webcomic Jesus and Mo on his Facebook page. Rhys has a history of upsetting purveyors of nonsense, having previously received legal threats from representatives of the Burzynski Clinic for highlighting the ineffectiveness of the clinic’s cancer treatment.

That’s it for this week. Remember, if you want to get involved at any level, just drop us a line. You don’t have to wait for a group to be formed in your area, you can help to set it up. And even if you find yourself an island of atheism in a sea of conservative Catholics, you can still help by keeping an eye on local media, and writing letters to newspapers or calling in to radio shows to give an atheist point of view. Even just letting us know when any relevant news happens in your area can help, and we can highlight it nationally if appropriate. Lobbying politicians is also something that can be done on an individual level and as we roll out campaigns we’ll need people to get in touch with their own TDs and local government. There’s a guide to lobbying on our website.

We’ll be back next week with more news and links. Till then, get the latest news on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

Take care,

Derek Walsh
Editor, Secular Sunday
Atheist Ireland

Secular Sunday


  1. Avatar
    ryan January 23, 2012

    Any chance you could post figures for the numbers attending ‘Secular Sunday’ events as compared with the numbers attending Church on Sundays?

  2. Avatar
    Secular Sunday January 23, 2012

    Why, ryan? Would those numbers make you feel better about your choices?

  3. Avatar
    Sarah January 25, 2012

    Just to make Ryan feel better. I guess the numbers are levelling out slowly but surely.

  4. Avatar
    ryan January 25, 2012

    I am very happy with my choices for Sunday morning. But, I do like the occasional gloat. I’d say that the smallest village in Ireland would have more people attending Mass every Sunday morning than the total number attending ‘Secular Sunday’ events. Get over your persecution complex. Next thing you know, Ireland’s atheists will be asking for Saint Patrick’s Day to be longer a holiday, as it is discrimanatory against them. It could be worse. You could be living in the UK. They have ‘God’ in their national anthem over there. UK atheists seem to accept it. If they tried that here, Ireland’s atheists would be up in arms and whining about how unfair it all was.

  5. Avatar
    Melissa January 25, 2012

    I’d be interested too in those figures… pro-rated by life expectancy >:-)

  6. Avatar
    Derek Walsh January 25, 2012

    Ryan, I don’t think anybody would begrudge you the occasional gloat. If you enjoy the sense of smugness you get from being part of a larger group than someone else you will undoubtedly have years – maybe even a decade or two – to continue gloating in the same manner; probably even longer, if you stick to the smallest villages in Ireland.
    Ridiculing imaginary future or parallel-universe campaigns is a little odd but if that helps with the smugness, go right ahead.

  7. Avatar
    ryan January 25, 2012

    Melissa, the problem with your request to have the figures ‘pro-rated by life expectancy’ is that, as life expectancy decreases with age, interest in religion increases. Many the atheist at 17 (when he/she thinks life they’ll live forever) is quite religious at age 70. You’ll find that time flies by and that life expectancy is but a moment in time that is over in a flash.

    Anyway, this isn’t the point. The point is that, as of now, the vast majority of people in Ireland describe themselves as belonging to a religious organisation. That being the case, there is no justification for erasing all mention of God from the Constitution or for booting religion out of the public sphere. Almost all countries in the Western world have references to God in their Constitution. In many European countries, the Head of State is Head of the Church. In the USA, ‘In God We Trust’ is the national motto and on the currency. Your fellow atheists in the UK not only have to put up with the Head of State being Head of the Church, ‘God’ in their national anthem, but also with the singing of ‘Abide with me’ at the FA Cup Final. Far fewer people in the UK go to Church than in Ireland, yet there is no campaign (with ay support) that is out to abolish these manifestations of the UK’s Christian heritage. If things change and atheists become a majority in Ireland, I am sure that they can change those aspects of the Irish Constitution that so offend them. In that unhappy and very unlikely eventuality, Christians in Ireland would have to accept it. Indeed, I suspect that they would be relieved if the then atheist majority limited themselves to that, given the history of persecution of Christians in atheist-run countries.

  8. Avatar
    Sarah January 25, 2012

    Ryan . Getting all worked up like this will get to your blood pressure. If God does exist wont he feel like a bit of a nancy having sombody else fight his battles for him. Dont THEY say hes all powerfull. Let him out to fight his own battles.

  9. Avatar
    Melissa January 26, 2012

    Whoa Ryan, did they give you that amusingly accurate and flawless piece of analysis in church? That priest must be a double PhD in logic AND sociology.

    Well I guess you have to be somewhat gullible in the first place to believe in magic beings, let alone to be firm in the conviction that everyone else should be forcibly exposed to their nonsense.

  10. Avatar
    Derek Walsh January 26, 2012

    Ryan, I’m concerned that you seem to think “majority rules” is an acceptable way of running a country. Basically, you’re happy with denying people rights as long as they only make up a minority of the population. That’s truly frightening. Luckily, there are laws and conventions on human rights that guarantee the same rights to all citizens regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or religion.
    Being part of a majority can make it difficult to understand the complaints of minority groups, but imagine if YOU had no choice but to pay ME to indoctrinate YOUR child in MY religion.
    Nobody wants to deny you your right to practise your religion as you so fit, only your desire to impose it on those who do not practise it.