Secular Sunday #234  'Religiously Inspired Homophobia' || 19 June, 2016
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter
Andrew Devine-RattiganHi Folks,

I'm just filling in for Andrew this week and what a week it has been. The horrible events in Orlando have been so difficult to come to terms with. As more stories have been told, each new detail that has been reported, seems to have been more heartbreaking than the last.

As with all of these attacks, the causes and motivations seem complex and multi-faceted. A focus on any one impetus to the exclusion of all others, would be too simplistic. However, one factor that is hard to ignore is the consistent and pervasive homophobia that exists within all of the Abrahamic religions.

It is trivially easy to find Christian, Jewish or Muslim votaries, who will explain in detail how the god of Abraham wishes gay people to be executed. While we shouldn't fool ourselves that homophobia is only a problem within Islam, we shouldn't fool ourselves that religiously-inspired intolerance of homosexuality, is only a foreign problem either. In Ireland, our State-funded school system teaches our children that the creator of the universe punishes people who engage in homosexual acts.

My thoughts will also be with those in countries where the execution of gay people is carried out not by terrorists, but by the civil authorities. Atheist Ireland will continue to campaign internationally as best we can against this outrage. We will also do whatever we can to reform the patronage system here in Ireland, which hands control of publicly funded services to representatives of the Abrahamic religions (and one in particular).

John Hamill
Guest Editor


How does the Department of Social Protection know which gods exist?

Atheist Ireland has consistently opposed the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act, 2014. This legislation was introduced by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, in order to allow both religious and secular bodies to solemnise civil marriages. However, as reported in the Irish Times recently, it discriminates against non-religious citizens by demanding of them much more onerous conditions for recognition, than those required of religious bodies.

More recently, we have highlighted where this legislation has become dysfunctional, in the efforts of the Civil Registration Service and the Department of Social Protection to define what a religion is. Some bodies that clearly fail to meet the criteria have been recognised anyway. Other bodies that clearly meet the criteria in full, have been rejected. The Department of Social Protection is just making it up as it goes, in a manner that breaches the human rights of Irish citizens. Read more ...


Upcoming Events

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



June 25th, 12.00-14.00, Shop Street (map)
Atheist Ireland Information Table


June 25th, 12.00-14.00, Brown Thomas (map)
Atheist Ireland Information Table


June 25th, Garden of Remembrance (map)
Atheist Ireland walking in Pride Parade


June 25th, 14.30-16.30, Studio (map)
Atheist Ireland Lunch


June 25th, 14.30-16.30, The Linen Weaver (map)
Atheist Ireland Lunch



General celebrations, commemorations, festivals and calls to action likely to be of interest to ethical atheists.


21 June

World Humanist Day

26 June

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture


This Week in History

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


22 June

1633: The Holy Office in Rome forces Galileo Galilei to recant his view that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of the Universe, after heated controversy.

25 June

1947: The Diary of a Young Girl (better known as The Diary of Anne Frank) is published.

1978: The rainbow flag representing gay pride is flown for the first time in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade.



21 June

1905: Jean-Paul Sartre (d. 1980). French existentialist philosopher, dramatist and novelist who declared that he had been an atheist from age twelve. Although he regarded God as a self-contradictory concept, he still thought of it as an ideal toward which people strive. According to Sartre, his most-repeated summary of his existentialist philosophy, "Existence precedes essence," implies that humans must abandon traditional notions of having been designed by a divine creator.

1940: Michael Ruse. English philosopher of science, known for his work on the argument between creationism and evolutionary biology. 

22 June

Julian Huxley

1887: Julian Huxley (d. 1975). English evolutionary biologist, a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis, Secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935–1942), the first Director of UNESCO, and a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund.

23 June

1912: Alan Turing (d. 1954). English mathematician and computer scientist, widely considered the Father Father of Theoretical Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.

24 June

1842: Ambrose Bierce (d. c.1914) American author. Best known for his satirical work The Devil's Dictionary. Some choice definitions are below:
FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

HOMOEOPATHIST, n. The humorist of the medical profession.

OCEAN, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills

PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. 
1915: Fred Hoyle (d. 2001). British astronomer and author. Coined the term "Big Bang" which he intended to be perjorative, as he himself favoured a "steady state" theory.
1942: Erkki Hartikainen. Finnish atheist activist. He is the chairman of the Atheist Association of Finland (Suomen Ateistiyhdistys) and former chairman of the Union of Freethinkers of Finland (Vapaa-ajattelijoiden liitto), the biggest atheistic association in Finland.

1953: Michael Newdow. American physician and attorney, who sued a school district on the grounds that its requirement that children recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, containing the words "under God", breached the separation-of-church-and-state provision in the establishment clause of the United States Constitution.

25 June

Dan Barker1949: Dan Barker. American atheist activist. Co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (along with his wife Annie Laurie Gaylor)
Dan was a Christian preacher for 19 years before becoming an atheist in 1984. Since then, he has written a number of books, including Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist and The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God. He has appeared many times on radio and television, and spoken at countless events across the United States and internationally on religious issues.

27 June

1869: Emma Goldman (d. 1940): Lithuanian-born radical, known for her writings and speeches defending anarchist communism, feminism, and atheism.



This is where your editor usually links to some informed opinion from commentators on secular issues in Ireland. As prerogative of the Guest Editor, I'm going to replace that with a little Popular Science. This week the theme is the search for a Second Genesis and the profound implications that would have for all religions.


Carolyn Porco Turns Her Sights Towards Life Beyond Earth

John Wenz

In the last 33 years, Carolyn Porco has had a hand in some of NASA's highest profile missions. She was an integral part of the Voyager imaging team, then the public face for the Cassini mission. Now, she and her colleagues are now laying the groundwork for a mission to Enceladus, with the goal of finding life.

"We have reasons now to believe that our very best chances of finding extraterrestrial life in our lifetimes – and almost certainly, if it is there at all, a second genesis of life – is the ocean of Enceladus," Porco said. "It is why there are those of us who want NASA to return there as soon as possible with the kind of instrumentation that could say for sure, one way or another, if life has gotten started there.”

But whatever the specifics of her next project, each new mission is the culmination of decades worth of fascination and hard work.

"I was drawn to astronomy by a teenage existential quest," she says. "Around 13, I was deep into wondering about the meaning of life, and what I was doing here. I turned to religion, but that did nothing for me. So, I began studying astronomy and became enthralled by what I learned. By the time I finished high school, I knew I wanted to become an astronomer. By the time I finished college, I knew I wanted to be part of the American space program. And that's exactly what I did.". Read more ...



Andy Weir On Planetary Exploration

Kieran Dickson

If we find alien life on Mars it will be a big deal, but if we find life on Mars that is truly alien – a second genesis – it would be a HUGE deal. 

Were we to discover that Martian life is a second genesis, it would mean that life developed on Mars from a completely separate source from life on Earth. Weir claims that that discovery of second genesis life on Mars would provide near-conclusive evidence that life across the Universe is near-infinite. The discovery that life developed separately on two adjacent planets would give us the reasonable expectation that, if a planet orbits within a certain distance of its host star, it has the ability to host life. 

What should NASA do on a mission, to recognize life on a planetary body like Mars or Enceladus? How do we recognize life that isn't like anything we have on Earth? The fact is, NASA doesn't really have an answer just yet. Read more ...

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