Secular Sunday #5 – Make Your Voice Heard

Wakey Wakey! It’s time for another Secular Sunday.

First things first:

TODAY at 2:00 pm, Atheist Ireland presents “Is Anything Sacred?”, a public discussion of Irish and international blasphemy laws. Our speakers are two world-class experts on blasphemy law: Austin Dacey, Ph.D. from New York, who represents the International Humanist and Ethical Union at the United Nations; and Professor David Nash of Oxford Brookes University in England, who is working with Atheist Ireland on our campaign to repeal the Irish blasphemy law. Join us in the O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel (map) from 2:00.

If you can’t make it in person, you can still be there in spirit, as (barring technical snafus or, ahem, acts of God) we will be live-streaming the event. Go to our UStream page to view and interact. It’s a good idea to do this well before the event starts to make sure everything works on your computer, especially if you haven’t used UStream before.

If you really can’t make it in any capacity – or if it’s already too late by the time you’re reading this – you should be able to watch the event on UStream anyway, and we hope to have it on our YouTube channel shortly.

Now that’s out of the way, here’s what’s in the rest of this issue:

  • News
  • Upcoming Events
  • Building an Ethical Society


  • This week is Catholic Schools Week in Ireland. Like every other week, it would seem. But this week sees a special effort by the Catholic Church to celebrate the role of state-funded schools in indoctrinating children, and has seen a reaffirmation by Cardinal Sean Brady of the policy of segregating children according to the religion of their parents.
    Fortunately there is opposition to this in government; Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, a former school principal and vice-chairman of the Oireachtas Education Committee has publicly stated that “religious ethos has no place in the educational system of a modern republic”, and the Clontarf Report on “Illegal Religious Discrimination in National Schools in Ireland” has been adopted by the Dublin North Central Constituency Council of the Labour Party and widely circulated.
    Atheist Ireland has a website Teach, Don’t Preach with relevant news and resources. You can contact our Education Officer Jane Donnelly if you have any questions or can provide any help. We also have an Education and Children section on our discussion forum if you have a story to share or are looking for advice.
    This week is an ideal opportunity for individuals to lobby politicians and contact local media to highlight the discrimination inherent in the school system.
  • There has been widespread concern about the introduction of new Internet copyright legislation, and its implications for free speech and the democratic process. Learn more about this law and the petition to stop it at Stop SOPA Ireland.

Upcoming Events

  • 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. This event will be co-ordinated by Maureen Meleady (member of HAI) and by Michael Nugent (chairperson of Atheist Ireland and member of HAI) All are welcome. I expect the bar will be well stocked with Johnny Walker Black Label. 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.

Building an Ethical Society

The goals of Atheist Ireland are “building a rational, ethical and secular society free from superstition and supernaturalism.” Generally, we focus on the rational and secular aspects, and while we would probably all agree that the changes we push for would generally make society more ethical, there is obviously a lot more to an ethical society than simply teaching science and not unduly favouring religion.
We want to get your opinions on the subject: to what extent should Atheist Ireland take a stand on ethical issues not directly related to atheism and secularism? For example, should we have a position on gay rights, abortion rights, euthanasia or animal rights? Or free speech like the “Stop SOPA Ireland” campaign mentioned above? If so, what should those positions be? Should we campaign on any of these topics, or explicitly mention them in our constitution? How should we decide which issues to take a stand on? Should we just mention them from time to time so our members are informed, or should we ignore anything outside our primary aims? Add your voice to the discussion on our forum.

That’s all for this issue. If you can, try to come to one of our events.  And if not, you can still make your opinions count via our forum, Facebook page and group, and Twitter.

Till next Sunday,

Derek Walsh
Editor, Secular Sunday
Atheist Ireland

Austin Dacey Ph.D. and Professor David Nash will be speaking at a public discussion of Irish and international blasphemy laws.
Secular Sunday


  1. Avatar
    Sarah January 29, 2012

    Of course Atheist Ireland should have an oppinion on anything that effects the lives of its members. After all the people running Atheist Ireland were democratically elected to represent its members.

    I would just remind those speaking on our behalf that although the members of atheist ireland share a lot of common ground they are not sheep and cannot all be hearded in the same direction all the time.

    I say this as we do not want anybody who may be contemplating joining Atheist Ireland and might have strong veiws about one issue thinking there would be no place at the dinner table for them.

    Maybe an online pole on issues as they arise might be a good idea. This might help our representatives to speak more fairly on our behalf.

  2. Avatar
    Melissa January 30, 2012

    Well, if AI starts taking position on so many issues, it’ll end up a political party!
    Also, it can prevent people who do not necessarily agree or care about all those from uniting to support the very fair cause of atheism in the state. Or divert the focus and waste time and energy of its members taking decisions on the extent or relevance of each particular subject. So, in general, no.

    All that said, there are a few causes that are quite related not because of their roots or ideology but through the way they show the huge political power that some religious groups have in the country. Then it would be reasonable, as a secularist organisation, to oppose their lobby capacity and question their “authority” on ethical issues, regardless of the personal position of members. It is not necessary to have a strong opinion on gay marriage or abortion rights to know that the laws must be made with the people’s wellbeing in mind by their political representatives, and not by woo woo preachers, who should have no more influence in them than they already have as citizens.

    By the way, the Secular Sunday newsletter with the news and events is great! Thanks!