Secular Sunday #249 'Our busiest week ever?...probably' || 2 October, 2016
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter



Atheist Ireland has busy week at UN in Geneva, OSCE in Warsaw and in Ireland


Atheist Ireland has had one of our busiest and most productive weeks since we were founded. We spoke and lobbied at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, and at the annual OSCE human rights meeting in Warsaw, Poland. 

We met with the British Human Association, the Polish atheist foundation, various civil society human rights groups from several countries, the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the Irish and Vatican delegations at the OSCE. 

We took part in the pro-choice march in Dublin and spoke at a debate in UCD and a rally against the new Polish abortion Bill in Warsaw, and we published a comprehensive statement to mark International Blasphemy Rights Day.

Other delegates at the UN and OSCE were very impressed by the efficiency of our committee members at home, with tweets being shared and videos and transcripts being made available online almost immediately after we had made them.

We have included separate articles on these developments in this edition of Secular Sunday, and here is a link to an overall summary if you want to read it all in one place.

Secular Sunday Editorial Committee

Atheist Ireland News

Atheist Ireland tells OSCE to tackle religious discrimination and prejudice-motivated crime


Atheist Ireland has told the annual OSCE human rights meeting that Ireland and other OSCE States must tackle prejudice-motivated crimes and religious discrimination. We also spoke on freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. Read more...

Atheist Ireland tells OSCE to defend secular education, free expression and abortion


Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland has told the annual OSCE human rights meeting that Ireland and other OSCE States must protect the rights to education, expression and abortion as part of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. We also spoke on the need to tackle prejudice-motivated crimes and religious discrimination. Read more...

Holy See responds to Atheist Ireland at OSCE in Warsaw about religious-run schools


The Holy See has responded to Atheist Ireland’s contribution at the OSCE on religious discrimination in Irish schools. We will have a full analysis later, including how the Holy See’s response contrasts with its submission to the UN Committee on the rights of the Child. Here are the relevant sections of Atheist Ireland statements and the Holy See response to us. Read more ...

Atheist Ireland rejects Holy See claims about Irish schools at OSCE


The Irish State has ceded control of most of our publicly funded schools to a Church that swaps at will between being a religion and being a foreign state. This foreign State claims internationally they are not responsible for the running of Catholic schools in Ireland, while at the same time claiming elsewhere that Catholic schools in Ireland come under Canon Law. While the Holy See was trying to fool the OSCE about this last week in Warsaw, the Irish State just sat there and said nothing. This Republic has nothing to say about its failure to protect the human rights of minorities in our publicly funded schools. Read more...

Solidarity between Irish and Polish abortion rights campaigns


The Irish and Polish abortion rights campaigns have been acting in solidarity in the past week.
Nina Sankari of the KLF Polish atheist foundation spoke at a protest at the Irish Embassy in Poland in support of the Irish campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, while last Sunday, Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland spoke at a Black Protest rally in Warsaw to protest against the new Polish abortion Bill. It is great to see this solidarity between the two campaigns, and we intend it to continue. Read more...

Atheist Ireland Statement on International Blasphemy Rights Day 2016

Today, on International Blasphemy Rights Day, the eleventh anniversary of the Danish Mohammad cartoons, Atheist Ireland calls for the urgent repeal of the Irish blasphemy law, and the release of all prisoners held around the world on blasphemy and related charges, of which we include fifteen examples in this statement.

In the last week, Atheist Ireland has raised this issue twice internationally: at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland (the first time an atheist group has addressed the full Human Rights Council in Geneva), and at the OSCE annual human rights meeting in Warsaw, Poland.

Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, told Atheist Ireland at the OSCE meeting that he thought that the Irish blasphemy law had already been repealed, because the Irish Government had committed to doing so. We had to let him know that this commitment has not been kept. Read more...

Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland. 

As I'm sure you can imagine, the type of lobbying described above does not come without a cost. Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue or campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.

Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged and €10 unwaged/student.  If you have read this far and are impressed by what we have achieved this week alone, please consider becoming a member. Membership means:

  • You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
  • You have a say in determining policy and electing officers.
  • You can attend members meetings and our AGM.
  • Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.

 You can join Atheist Ireland here.

Thank you for your continued support.

Atheist Ireland Committee

Places and Faces

Photos from Atheist Ireland events.

Michael Nugent, speaking at the OSCE in Warsaw

Jane Donnelly, preparing to speak at the OSCE in Warsaw

Atheist Ireland meeting with Marek, Nina, Justina and Piotr of the KLF atheist foundation in Warsaw

Information table, Dublin (with some passing Italian nuns who asked for a photo)

Ashling O'Brien debating in UCD


Atheist Ireland Events

All events are free and open to everyone unless otherwise stated.

All Atheist Ireland events are listed below as well as on our website


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Thursday 6th October, 21.00-23.30, The Linen Weaver
Atheists in the Pub


Thursday 13th October, 19.30-23.30, Mother Macs
Atheists in the Pub


Sunday 9th October 13.30-14.30, A Casa Mia


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Sunday 9th October 13.00-15.00, Trinity City Hotel


Sunday 9th October, 12.00-13.00, Gally's Bar


Watch this space, more events coming soon

Other events of interest

Atheist Ireland are members of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment. The Coalition are running a series of 'conversations about abortion:

Tuesday 4th October, 19.00-20.30, Gresham Hotel, O'Connell Street, Dublin
Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood

Tuesday 18th October, 18.30-20.00,Gresham Hotel, O'Connell Street, Dublin
Abortion and the Law in Ireland

Tuesday 8th November, 18.30-20.30, Venue TBC
Everything you wanted to know about abortion but were afraid to ask

Atheist Ireland also stands in solidarity with Dziewuchy Dziewuchom Irlandia (Polish Women for Choice), who will mark an strike action being held in Poland on Monday to protest proposed legislation that will introduce a ban on abortion in all circumstances and criminalise women.

Monday 3rd October, 17.30-19.00, Polish Consulat, Eden Quay, Dublin
Silent protest in solidarity with Polish women who strike

Ashling O'Brien will be taking part in a panel discussion at World Vegetarian Day. There is an interesting line-up of speakers.

Sunday 2nd October, 11.00-17.00, St. Andrews Resource Centre, Pearse Street, Dublin
World Vegetarian Day


Opinion and Media

Material collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement.

If you are a blogger or vlogger writing or talking about atheism, secularism, ethics, skepticism, human rights etc. and would like us to include your work here please email the link to



Where are all the Irish bloggers? If you are an Irish blogger writing on atheism, secularism, ethics, skepticism, human rights etc. and would like us to include your work here please email the link to


Fleeing Theocracy: An Asylum Seeker's Defence of the West 

by AR Devine

When I was a teenager I went through an intense period of religious belief that lasted no more than two to three years. I converted from being a fairly devout Catholic to a form of Evangelical Protestantism.  Then one day I started to question everything I had believed in. I was no longer sure if I believed in the central claims of the Christian religion, regardless of the sect. Over time and through extensive reading I later concluded that Christianity's claims about the nature of the universe and man's place within it were demonstrably false and nonsensical. However, the important thing to note is that I was able to freely convert from one Christian sect to another and then abandon Christianity all together without worrying that either the state or any Christian authorities would seek to punish me for exercising my right to freedom of conscience.  Also, I was able to openly discuss and air my doubts about Christianity with many Christians and whilst some Christians may become defensive and hostile to having their beliefs having the light of reason shone on them, I was never once concerned that a mob of Christians, egged on by an enraged cleric might kill me for blasphemy and apostasy. Just look at any works of art or controversial plays or films that offend Christian sensibilities, the most extreme Christians might turn out with a few placards and shout 'down with this sort of thing', whilst the rest of them will stay at home and say a well intentioned prayer and work on trying to forgive you. This is definitely a preferable scenario than being chased through the streets by a mob intent on stoning you to death for sharing a cartoon on facebook. Read more...

This House Rejects the Idea of an Afterlife.

by Ashling O'Brien

This evening I took part in a debate hosted by the Literary and Historical Society in University College Dublin. The motion was 'This House Rejects the Idea of an Afterlife' and I was speaking, unsurprisingly, for the proposition. The motion was defeated, also not unsurprisingly. What I took away from the debate was that people are happy to hold faith-based beliefs with no supportive evidence if that belief gives them hope and succour. For most people who spoke or asked questions, the afterlife was a very personal thing, in many cases separate from religion and they seemed to struggle to understand the harm that holding such beliefs could cause. 

This is the text of my contribution to the debate. Read more...




Feminists remove flyers advertising an “offensive” talk by Christina Hoff Sommers, claim that their vandalism is “freedom of speech”

by Jerry Coyne

The Young America’s Foundation (YAF) is a conservative organization that runs a conservative website. And it’s on those websites where you’ll find documentation of Regressive Leftism. Don’t look for videos like the following on PuffHo or even the Daily Beast. If you want to see Regression in action, you have to get into bed, at least temporarily, with conservatives. But, you know, sometimes they don’t lie.

So, the story is this. Christina Hoff Sommers, who considers herself an equity feminist but is despised by Third-Wave feminists and regressives, was sponsored by the YAF to speak this coming Tuesday at Cal State University at Los Angeles (CSULA). 

“Where feminism went wrong.” Well, that’s just damned offensive, and so two feminists were filmed by the YAFers going around campus tearing down the posters. Read more...


Holy See ratification of UN Convention against Corruption dismissed as “window dressing”

by National Secular Society

The Holy See's ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption has been dismissed as mere "window dressing" by the National Secular Society.
Senior Vatican officials said the move would help ensure good governance not just internationally but of the city state itself. The Vatican has been rocked by numerous scandals including a far-reaching clergy sex abuse crisis, money laundering and corruption at the Vatican Bank.
Vatican Radio reported that Holy See had ratified the Convention with two reservations and three interpretative declarations. One of these reservations states that the Holy See reserves the right not to participate in any "appropriate mechanism or body to assist in the effective implementation of the Convention".
The National Secular Society, which has been active at the UN in holding the Catholic church to account over its failure to address child abuse within its ranks, said the Holy See's caveats meant the ratification amounted to "mere window dressing". Read more...

Catholic Bishops in Alberta Tell Priests to Refuse Funerals for Patients Who Choose Assisted Suicide

by Hemant Metha

Religion always has a way of taking the least loving side when it comes to controversial issues.
Love between two people? If they’re gay, pastors will throw a hissy fit. Women seeking an abortion after being raped? Some Christians will argue they shouldn’t be allowed to have that option.
And when it comes to people who choose to end their lives on their own terms, the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories are now telling priests to refuse to conduct their funerals. Read more...

Black Salve – Bad Advice… Bad product

by Myles Power

Last month I brought attention to a particularly nasty product currently promoted online to vulnerable people as a cancer cure. Black salve is a paste made from a mixture of Bloodroot extract and zinc chloride that, when applied directly to the skin, will cause the cells to die. It does this by physically burning the skin with zinc chloride and inhibiting sodium-potassium pumps on the surface of the cells with compounds found in the Bloodroot extract. This creates a thick black dry clump of necrotic tissue called an “eschar” which will eventually separate from the surrounding area causing scarring and potentially serious injury and disfigurement. This paste is the stuff of nightmares and will burn whatever human flesh it comes into contact with yet despite this undeniable fact, there are some online that promote the idea that it has the magical ability of “drawing out” cancer from underneath the skin and that it won’t harm healthy cells. Read more...

When It Comes to Activism, There Isn’t Just One Way To Do It Effectively

by Hemant Metha

It’s one of the most common questions I receive on this site: What can I do to help? A lot of people want to be activists, but they don’t know where to start. What do you do if you don’t have a platform or political connections, but you are passionate about causes involving science, reason, and non-religion?
Dan Arel has written a book answering that question. It’s called The Secular Activist: A How-to Manual for Protecting the Wall between Church and State (Pitchstone Publishing, 2016). Read more...

Dr. Richard Carrier Has Sued Several Atheists and Their Blogging Networks on Charges of Defamation

by Hemant Metha

Dr. Richard Carrier, the author of several books about ancient philosophy, religion, and science, has filed a lawsuit against multiple atheists, their blogging networks, and an atheist conference on charges of defamation (two counts), interference with his business (one count), and emotional distress (two counts). They stem from posts made about his alleged sexual harassment, an accusation he repeatedly denies. In the lawsuit, which we obtained through publicly available court records, Carrier asks for a total of $1,050,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $1,050,000 in punitive damages from all defendants. Carrier says that PZ Myers and the Freethought Blogs network took part in making false, defamatory statements against him. Read more...



In this section, we have previously discussed the expressly anti-scientific Roman Catholic insistence that there was a first human and that this 'Adam' character was the ancestor of all subsequent humans. There is overwhelming evidence from genetics, anthropology, anatomy and other areas of evolutionary biology, which demonstrate that this cannot possibly be true. One obvious question that this raises for the Catholic Church is, if the Fall of Man was not a historic event and the story of Original Sin is allegory, then did Jesus die for a metaphor? However, the articles below are relevant to another related question for votaries of the Church considering our evolutionary history ... did Neanderthals have souls?   


Neanderthals Were Cave Building Complex Structures Much Longer Ago than Thought

by Alessandra Potenza


Ancient piles of broken stalagmites found deep inside a cave in France were made by Neanderthals about 176,000 years ago, way before modern humans were around. This is the first time archaeologists have concluded that our cousins ventured underground and built complex constructions. The structures are proof that Neanderthals were pretty smart and organized, according to the study authors. The meaning of these constructions remains a mystery, but for at least one archaeologist they suggest that Neanderthals may have been religious. Read more ...

Humans Mated With Neanderthals Much Earlier On And More Frequently Than Previously Thought

by Ann Gibbons


Members of our species had sex with Neandertals much earlier—and more often—than previously believed, according to a new study of ancient DNA. As some of the first bands of modern humans moved out of Africa, they met and mated with Neandertals about 100,000 years ago—perhaps in the fertile Nile Valley, along the coastal hills of the Middle East, or in the once-verdant Arabian Peninsula. This pushes back the earliest encounter between the two groups by tens of thousands of years and suggests that our ancestors were shaped in significant ways by swapping genes with other types of humans. Read more ...


The 2 Million Year Melee - Neanderthals Versus Humans

by Kyle Frischkorn


"Forget this image," says Dimitra Papagianni, pointing at the depiction of human evolution projected behind her: an ape crouched on all fours, followed by the early hominids carrying rock tools and spears, walking ultimately to the modern human form. While the image is iconic, Papagianni explains that the casual saunter from species to species doesn't do justice to the 2-million-year epic story of how modern humans beat out their Neanderthal cousins to survive and thrive in the bitterly cold lands of modern day Europe. Read more ...



Podcasts and Videos


Do you host an Irish-based podcast on atheism, secularism, science, skepticism, human rights etc.? Let us know and we will link to it here.

Atheist Ireland at UNHRC UPR2016

Atheist Ireland, OSCE, 2016

Atheist Ireland, OSCE, 2016


One from the (Atheist Ireland) Vaults

No reason to believe in God? Full debate at UCD with Michael Nugent (2015)

The Blasphemy Referendum 1/2 - Michael Nugent debates Christian callers on 4FM (2014)

The Blasphemy Referendum 2/2 - Michael Nugent debates Imam Ibrahim Noonan on 4FM (2014)

Atheism, morality and vegetarianism - Michael Nugent, World Vegetarian Day (2013)


The Free Thought Prophet: 'Atheist Parenting' with Tara Mowery

The Free Thought Prophet: “Cats and Compatibilism” with Dr. Julian Baggini

The Gad Saad: Blasphemy Laws Belong in the Dark Ages

Sam Harris: The End of Faith Sessions 3

Media Watch

News and views from Ireland and around the world. Sharing is not an endorsement. 








5 October

World Teachers Day

10 October

World Day Against Death Penalty

World Mental Health Day

This Week in History

Anniversaries of momentous events in atheism, science, skepticism, secularism and human rights, plundered shamelessly from Wikipedia and other sources.

6 October

1995: 51 Pegasi is discovered to be the first star other than the Sun to have a planet orbiting around it.

9 October

2012: Members of the Pakistani Taliban made a failed attempt to assassinate Malala Yousafzai on her way home from school.



5 October

1951: Bob Geldof. Irish singer/songwriter, organized the Live Aid and Live 8 charity concerts.

6 October

1903: Ernest Walton (d. 1995). Irish physicist, and Ireland's only Nobel Prize laureate in science, winning the prize in 1951 along with John Cockcroft for their "work on the transmutation of the atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles" (popularly known as splitting the atom).

7 October

1885: Niels Bohr (d. 1962). Danish physicist, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 for foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory.
1939: Clive James. Australian author, television presenter and cultural commentator
1964: Dan Savage. American author and sex advice columnist.
1975: Tim Minchin. Australian comedian, actor, composer, songwriter, pianist, musical director, winner of the 2005 Best Newcomer Perrier Comedy Award.

10 October

1959: Julia Sweeney. American actor and comedian. Alumna of Saturday Night Live, author/performer of a one-woman autobiographical stage show about finding atheism: Letting Go of God.


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