The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

Religion, we are told, is a deeply personal matter.  People’s religious beliefs are assumed to be the business of nobody but themselves, their fellow members of their particular religious community and whichever god they chose to worship.  We who rail against the influence of deeply ingrained religious beliefs on many aspects of civil soiety, in areas as diverse as education and legislation, are asked, not always politely, to mind our own business.  What happens, however, when a society finds itself so much in awe of priests and religious leaders that to challenge them in any way is simply unthinkable?  What happens when democratically elected law-makers will not make a decision without first considering how it will be received by the unelected theocracy of the majority religion of the state.  Click here, and set aside a coupled of days to find out.  The report of the Commission to Inquiry into Child Abuse runs to five volumes and is comprised of page after page of unrelenting horror.  If antyhing tells us of the dangers of religion and unchecked religious devotion it is this report.  The evidence of over 1,000 witnesses details a seventy year reign of terror perpetrated aginst innocent, defenceless children by members of 18 religious orders in Ireland.  The shocking abuses, which included beatings, mental and physical torture and repeated and violent rape and buggery, were not wholly unknown at the time.  Many people, including doctors who would have treated the most seriously injured children, members of health boards, whose job it was to inspect the facilities, and members of religious orders who were not involved in abuse, knew of the crimes which were being commited against Irish children, but failed to act to prevent it.  One victim wrote to a government minister in the 1950s detailing the abuse he had suffered and nothing was done.  The litany of abuse continued for a further 40 years.  None of these people felt that they could challenge the enormous power of the Catholic church.  If questions were asked the church simply denied the allegations and they were believed.

Stand up to religion.  Do not allow inane, unproven fairytale beliefs ever again to gain such a position of influence in civil society.  Let the next generation be the first in human history to grow up free from the brain-washing of  force fed religious doctrine.  If, as i do, you live in Ireland you have little choice but to send your children to a Catholic ethos primary school.  However, you can educate your children that what they hear in school about religion is only an opinion.  You can open their minds to many different opinions and help them to find the established and tested facts that science has given us over the last five hundred years.   Facts that reveal the big lie behind all organised religions.




Just tonight I happened across the site of  The OUT Campaign.  This is an organisation which encourages and supports those atheists who wish to come out of the closet and publicly display their atheism.  The scarlet letter A is their symbol and it is now proudly displayed here at Talking Straight and has been incorporated into the new mast head.  Interestingly, when I tried to link through to the campaign’s home page my ISP’s parental control denied me access.  The reason for this according to my ISP?  The site promotes hate speech!  We have a long way to go it seems.  Check them out.

Quite a stirring God debate over at GUBU today.  Follow the comment thread down for the real sparks!

As always Sarah’s excellent site is well worth a visit.

In the news this evening is a story about a couple, believed to be members of the Jehovah Witness Congregation, who wish to refuse what doctors say is a life-saving blood transfusion for their as yet unborn twin babies.  This, for me, is at the sharp end of the debate that humanity should be having about religion. 

The fact that the HSE has to go to the High Court this Thursday to seek the courts permission to administer vital medical attention to these children is an utter nonsense.

Let us suppose that these parents simply decided that, as an exercise in character building, the children should be left out of doors unattended on the first night of their lives.  No sane person would defend their right to do so.  However, take a similarly irresponsible act and shroud it in the respectability of religious belief and the entire mechanism of our justice system must leap into action to test the veracity of their lunatic ideas.

Surely, with the stroke of a legislative pen, the state can bring about a situation where parents who needlessly endanger their children in  this way can simply be pushed aside, while dedicated medical professionals get on with the job of saving lives.  Our creaking, understaffed health service has enough work to do every day without trotting off to the High Court to beg the courts leave to save the lives of these children.  I would think, too, that our overcrowded courts service could probably make better use of its time this Thursday.

Recently, in the context of the unfolding clerical abuse scandals, we saw evidence of religious officials who were conflicted by canon law versus civil law.  Thankfully we did not see a situation where there was any possibility of canon law taking precedence.  What we also did not see or hear, however, was a resounding declaration from our political leaders, who are charged with framing, enacting and overseeing the enforcement of our civil law, that the very idea of a conflict is a non-starter.  In the real world canon law should have all the significance and importance of the dress code at your local golf club bar.  The latter is often seen as hugely important inside the gates of the golf club, but drive out those gates and nobody does or should care.

The belief that they should not receive blood transfusion is hugely important to members of the Jehovah Witness Congregation.  However, outside of that community, when the lives of two children are at stake, we should treat this ideology with the contempt it deserves.

If I had my way these idiot parents would be charged with recklessly endangering the lives of their unborn children.

Update – Thursday 24th April 2008

The High Court today, as expected, granted the HSE an order allowing them to administer the life saving blood transfusion that these unborn twins will need.  There was never any doubt that this would be the case.  That the state had to bow to idiotic religious practice and waste valuable court time to assert the blatantly obvious is utter nonsense.  Isn’t democracy just fabulous?


1. to preach the gospel to.

2. to convert to Christianity.

Gerry Thornley observed, after Ireland’s defeat by Wales recently, that Eddie O’Sullivan seemed offended that the Welsh had the cheek to score tries off Irish turnover ball, ‘as if this was somehow cheating’. This despite the fact that Ireland had scored a good couple of tries against Scotland a fortnight earlier from Scottish turnover ball.

John Gray, writing in the Irish Times yesterday, rails against what he terms ‘evangelical atheists’ and their campaigns against organised religion. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Philip Pullman appear to be Gray’s least favourite of these campaigners with their hundreds of thousands selling books, The God Delusion, God is Not Great and Northern Lights, the latter made as a movie titled The Golden Compass.

Gray finds great offence in the fact that these and others are engaged in proletising for atheism as if this was somehow a bit of an underhand tactic. Organised churches would never resort to these black arts, surely.

We learned this week that the Archbishop of Dublin has decided that every home in the Archdiocese will receive a visit from representatives of the Catholic Church sometime next year as part of a programme of evangelisation.

(I’m thinking of those sneaky Welsh again.)

I suppose I should lay my own cards on the table.

I don’t believe in God. In fact, I am more certain that God does not exist than I am of anything else that I believe. God is a fiction, Santa Claus for grown-ups. God and Gods were invented in human ignorance to explain that which we did not and could not understand. The leaders of organised churches then usurped God as a source of fantastic power, a power which they have maintained to this day.

So, no misunderstandings there, then.

This week we also learned that weekly attendance at religious services in Ireland has dropped from a high of 91% in 1981 to less than 50% today. You might think that this would reflect a similar fall in levels of religious belief, however the same nine yearly survey shows that over 80% of Irish people do still believe in God and do still believe in heaven.


Why, when we live in such an enlightened age, an age in which we are now, slowly learning the secrets of the origins of the universe in which we live, do so many otherwise rational and intelligent people put such faith in something which so completely defies the known physical laws of the universe? Something for which they can see no proof of any kind. Something which they must surely know that they believe simply because it is what they have been told by people in authority since childhood. As I say in my bio page on this site, this is something that completely baffles me. I can fully understand how children can be inculcated into religious belief and how that belief will stay with them into and through their teenage years. If one pays even the slightest of attention to modern scientific thought then one can only conclude that the basis for most organised religions is completely preposterous.

People will say that Christianity is a wonderful way to live ones life, and they are quite correct. I have two small children, one of whom is making first holy communion next month, and they are being raised to know and respect what most of us would consider to be Christian values. Christian values are essentially very decent, human values. However, I will ensure that my children are also exposed to the truth that lies outside of religion, the truth which science has been revealing to us ever since Gallileo and Newton and Einstein and Hubble, the truth of Darwinian evolution, which reveals the unbelievable arrogance of mankind in believing ourselves to be special, the arrogance of believing in our status as the chosen ones. I said recently that socialism was a wonderful way to order human society but it didn’t and couldn’t work. I doubt that many readers of this page are clamouring for the establishment of a socialist republic along the lines of the USSR or the Peoples Republic of China. Similarly, while Christian values are a valuable tool in the ordering of society those of a zealous religious mind are I find often very intolerant of any opposing view and are therefore wholly unsuited to positions of authority and influence.

Yes there are many, many good and decent people within organised churches and they do many wonderful things, but the doing of good acts is not confined to those with faith, and without faith good people would still be good people and would still act for the betterment of human society. Human goodness does not stem from religious faith.

Islam, we are constantly told is a religion of peace, a religion where everyone is treated with decency and respect and yet wherever Islam is practised we find the most despicable intolerance and inequality and discrimination. The treatment of women within most Islamic societies is nothing short of barbaric. Being gay in most western societies is difficult enough but is a picnic compared to homosexuality in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia. When do the leaders of Islam ever deafen us with their condemnation and their disowning of those who commit unspeakable acts in the name of Islam? How deafening was the silence here in Ireland when Catholic priest were raping and buggering children in their care? The good and decent people in the church who knew of these acts were shamefully silent because of the power invested in the institution of the church by ordinary lay people. Even now the disgust at what was done by Michael Woods in protecting the assets of the church before considering the rights of victims is unseen and unheard.

So, my Easter message to you this weekend is this. If you live in Dublin, when the man from the church calls to your door in 2009, take him gently by the hand, offer him a cup of tea and do some evangelising of your own. Give him a copy of Professor Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale or The Blind Watchmaker; read him a few passages from The Fabric Of The Cosmos, by Brian Greene; tell him about the reaction of the church authorities in medieval Italy when Copernicus presented his helio-centric view of the world, probably the most significant scientific discovery in human history, and then ask him to come back in 2010 so you can see if he is still a Christian. If he is then he is an idiot.

Happy Easter.

PS. None of the above precludes me from believing that a large bunny rabbit is going to leave a delicious chocolate egg at the end of my bed tonight. In our house he comes down the chimney, just like Santa Claus.

So, Fr trendy himself is worried about getting nicked for drinking and driving.

In yesterday’s Irish Times Fr. Brian Darcy was expressing his concern about Catholic priests over indulging in wine during the eucharist, therefore putting themselves over the blood alcohol limit before getting into their cars and driving on to the next parish to continue God’s work.

Only here in Ireland and only with the Roman Catholic Church could such a story arise.

First, a couple of facts.

Fr. Darcy is a pioneer. For those of you not completely au fait with mid to late twentieth century Irish history, this does not mean that he headed west in a covered wagon, running the gauntlet of marauding bands of savage natives to establish a civilised society west of the river Shannon. No, it simply means that he is a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinance Society. In short – he does not take alcohol. In fact he has taken a solemn vow to abstain from alcohol for life.

In the real world this would mean that Fr. Brian Darcy does not drink.

Howwever, Darcy does not live in the real world. He lives in an alternate reality created by the Catholic Church where not everything is as it seems. In Darcy’s world he can swig away on all the wine he likes, and as long as he prays over it and says that it is the blood of a prophet who died two thousand years ago he is not actually drinking alcohol.
Scientific measurements taken at the roadside here in the real world might show that Darcy or any other Catholic priest is over the limit for driving. However, Darcy can then, in all seriousness, claim that he has not been drinking.

This is a man who claims that he does not drink alcohol and yet as part of his job he is required to drink wine every day.

How would this play out in court, I wonder. I would love to see the first test case.

Something which had escaped my attention until yesterday is the fact that Catholic priests are forbidden from using non-alcoholic wine to celebrate the eucharist. Even a priest who might be an alcoholic is told that if he wants to continue to be a priest he must continue to drink alcohol every time he celebrates a mass. This, as Fr. Darcy pointed out, could be as much as three or four times a day.

Is that just mad or what?

Is there, however, something more sinister buried in this story? Is Fr. Darcy dropping a large hint to the Gardai that maybe they should turn a blind eye when a priest is found to be drunk behind the wheel? After all he is only doing God’s work and the rules do not allow him to do that work without taking alcohol. The more of God’s work he does the more pissed he may be behind the wheel. So let him on his way and if he mows down a small child or two on his way, well maybe that’s all part of God’s great plan.

He does work in mysterious ways, you know.

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