Secular Sunday #6 – Blasphemy, Blaspheyou

Welcome to this week’s Secular Sunday.

We have a packed issue this week with a focus on blasphemy, our first competition, and news of upcoming events, including not one but two events outside Dublin! But first this:

Today at 4:00 pm. A celebration of Christopher Hitchens at the Humanist Association of Ireland’s monthly meeting in Buswell’s Hotel, Dublin 2 (map)
This event will be co-ordinated by Maureen Meleady (member of HAI) and Michael Nugent (chairperson of Atheist Ireland and member of HAI).  The event will be an opportunity for freethinking discussion and you do not have to be a member of the Humanist Association to attend.


  • Last week David Nash and Austin Dacey spoke in Dublin about the history and future of blasphemy laws. Thanks to our speakers, to those who braved the inclement weather to attend, and to all who struggled through the poor audio on our live feed. We will have better sound for future events, but the weather is beyond our control.  You can now watch the first part of that discussion on YouTube. It has vastly better video and sound than the original feed, so those who had to give up on the live feed can catch up.
  • Austin Dacey has very kindly donated a signed copy of his new book The Future of Blasphemy: Speaking of the Sacred in an Age of Human Rights for one lucky reader of Secular Sunday. To be in with a chance of winning, just send an email to and tell me the title of Austin Dacey’s other book. The winner will be chosen at random (or through a computerised non-random process designed to emulate a random event) from all correct entries received before 12:00 noon on Saturday 11 February. No purchase necessary, judge’s decision is final etc. The winner will be announced in the next issue.
  • On Tuesday 31 January, along with Professor David Nash, Committee members of Atheist Ireland met with TDs, Senators, and their representatives, at Leinster House to brief them on the need to repeal the Irish blasphemy law. Read more
  • Following that meeting, Senator Ivana Bacik requested a Senate debate on the Irish blasphemy law and its international implications. Read more
  • Two Irish Senators have asked the Irish Government to support Alexander Aan, the Indonesian civil servant who is facing blasphemy charges for writing on Facebook that God does not exist. Read more
  • Atheist Ireland urges all our members and friends to highlight Alexander’s case to their local TDs and senators, and to the Indonesian Consulate (contact details). A Facebook page has been set up in support of Alex, and there’s a petition available to sign.
  • Atheist Ireland attended a briefing session at the Dept of Foreign Affairs on Friday 3 February on Ireland’s Fourth Periodic Report under the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We raised the issues of the Irish Education system, Blasphemy, Religious oaths, Equality and non-discrimination and the Rights of the Child. Next week we will be outlining our main points and in the next couple of months sending in a formal written submission. Later this year we will be making a written Submission under the Covenant to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
  • Atheist Ireland is preparing a Submission to the Council of Europe under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. We will be raising the following issues: Blasphemy, Equality and non-discrimination, Religious oaths and the Irish Education system. Submission are due before the end of March 2012.

Upcoming Events

  • Monday 6 February, 8:00 pm, Best Western Hotel, Sligo (map)
    Some members of Atheist Ireland are meeting for drinks and social interaction. Anyone in the area is welcome to go along. If you can’t make it but are interested in being involved with an Atheist Ireland group in Sligo, email and I’ll pass on your details.
  • Michael Nugent will be debating three times this week against Hamza Tzortzis of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA). Michael and Hamza have previously debated with each other in NUI Galway, UCD and RCSI. Video extract from RCSI debate
    More details will be available on our website shortly. 

    • Tuesday 7 February, 2:00 pm, Philosophical Society, Trinity College Dublin
      “Can We Be Good Without God?”
    • Tuesday 7 February, 6:00 pm, Dublin Institute of Technology (venue TBA)
      “Is the World a Better Place Without Religion?”
    • Thursday 9 February, 7:00 pm, National University of Ireland, Galway
      “The God Delusion or Solution?”
      If you’re based in or near Galway and 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
  • Thursday 9 February, 7:30 pm, The Bankers Bar, Dublin 2 (map)
    Atheists in the Pub will be hosting our first speaker of the year, Vanessa Lacey from Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI). Facebook event page.
  • Friday 10 February, 5:30pm, The Exchange, Temple Bar (map)
    Skeptics in the Exchange. Dr. David Robert Grimes will be speaking on the subject of “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”. Also, we’re informed there may be cake. Facebook event page
  • Sunday 12 February, 2:30 pm, Natural History Museum, Dublin 2 (map)
    To celebrate Darwin Day, some Atheist Ireland members and their families will be going to the Natural History museum. There’s a family-friendly Darwin Day tour scheduled for 3:00 pm, entitled “Monkey Business”. All are welcome. Facebook event page
  • 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”.
  • 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

What better way to end this week’s newsletter than with a quote from Christopher Hitchens on the subject of blasphemy:

“Nobody should shrink from the accusation of blasphemy. It is a term of moral blackmail, used by the dogmatic to put an end to discussion.”

Till next time, don’t stop blaspheming.

Derek Walsh
Editor, Secular Sunday
Atheist Ireland

Secular Sunday