Secular Sunday #268 'Does God exist? Michael Nugent to debate William Lane Craig' || 12 February, 2017
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter


Does God exist? Michael Nugent vs William Lane Craig

Does God exist? Atheist Ireland chairperson Michael Nugent will be debating Christian apologist William Lane Craig at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 21st March in University College Cork. The debate will be live streamed online. More details closer to the date.

William Lane Craig established and runs the online Christian apologetics ministry, He has previously debated about God with Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris and others.

If you live in or near Cork, this will be a great opportunity to meet up, before and after the debate, with local members of Atheist Ireland, and find out how you can help us to promote atheism, reason and ethical secularism. For more details contact Ashling at


Atheist Ireland New


Atheist Ireland asks IHREC to investigate human rights breaches in Community National Schools


Atheist Ireland has sent the following letter to the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission, asking it to investigate human rights breaches in Community National Schools.
RE: ETB / Community National Schools / Section 42 (1) IHREC Act 2014

Dear Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission,
We are writing to inform you that the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, the Education & Training Boards/Community National Schools (ETB/CNS) and the NCCA are disregarding their public sector duty to protect the human rights of the persons to whom they provide services.
As you are probably aware, the Minister for Education Richard Bruton is now promoting the Community National Schools with the intention of opening more of them around the country. These Community National Schools are supposed to protect the human rights of all parents and their children, given their public service duty under Section 42 of the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission Act 2014.
The Community National Schools are not inclusive of parents who as a matter of conscience seek a human rights based education for their children. The Community National Schools are ignoring some human rights and disregarding others.
We believe that the ETB/CNS are making religion and belief classes compulsory. These religion and belief classes are called the ‘Goodness Me Goodness You’ programme. Parts of this programme were developed by the National Council for Curriculum & Assessment who also have a public service duty under the Act. The GMGY is supposed to be inclusive of all religions and none given Section 7 –of the Equal Status Act.
The CNS is also encouraging attendance at religious ceremonies and festivals of other religions while failing to inform parents that they have a right to opt out of these ceremonies and festivals.
There is no policy on the website of the ETB/CNS that indicates that all parents can opt out their children from the GMGY programme and religious ceremonies and festivals. In a recent speech, the Minister for Education Richard Bruton has indicated that he is supportive of only certain religious faith groups opting their children out these classes and that is within limits.
In the ‘Goodness Me Goodness You’ programme there is what is called the ‘core’ part and it seems clear from the Minister’s speech that this is made compulsory.
Parts of the core GMGY programme require families to reveal details of their religious or philosophical convictions. The course actively requires parents and their children to speak about intimate aspects of their private life which is contrary to Article 9 and Article 8 of the European Convention. Read more...

Be Good without Gods

Atheist Ireland 'Good Without Gods' Kiva team members have made loans of  $18,050  to 629 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner's social and secular rating here.

Atheist Ireland's '' is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 597 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here


Petitions on Blasphemy and Schools Equality PACT 

Atheist Ireland continues to run two petitions; one for a referendum to remove blasphemy from the Irish Constitution and the other, the Schools Equality PACT seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Please sign and share if you haven't already done so. Thank you.


Tell us what you think.

Have you any feedback that you would like to give us on the Secular Sunday newsletter. What are we getting right? What could  we improve on? Is there something you would like to see included? Drop us an email at

Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland. 

Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.

Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged and €10 unwaged/student. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:
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  • 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 around the country.

Atheist Ireland Information Table, Cork, Feb, 17

Atheist Ireland Events

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

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


Saturday 11th March, 12pm, Patrick Street (outside Brown Thomas)
Information Table

Saturday 11th March, 3pm, Kudos Restaurant, Clarion Hotel

Tuesday 21st March, 7.30pm, UCC (more details to follow)
Micheal Nugent debates William Lane Craig


Sunday 12th February, IFI, Temple Bar


Thursday 23rd February, 7.30pm, Fottrell Theatre, Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway
Does God Exist? Michael Nugent debates Martin Molloy

Saturday 25th February, 12pm, AIB Bank, Shop Street
Information Table


Sunday 12th February, 12pm, Gally's Bar and Restaurant

Saturday 18th February, Main St Killarney
Information Table

Saturday 18th February, Genting Thai Restaurant, Killarney


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Sunday 12 February, The Glasshouse, Swan Point


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon


Other Events of Interest

(Sharing events run by other organisations is not an endorsement)

Wednesday 15th February, 6.30pm, Stanley Quek Lecture Theatre, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Dublin
Public Lecture, Vaccines - benefits, risks, myths and the Trump effect

Abortion Rights Campaign
Monday 20th February, 7pm, Outhouse, 105 Chapel Street, Dublin

Open Meeting

Monday 20th February, 8pm, McSwiggans, Eyre Street, Galway
Galway Skeptics

Northern Ireland Atheists and Atheist NI
Sunday 26th February, 11am, Galgorm Castle Golf Club, Ballymena


NI Science Festival
Sunday 26th February, 5pm, The Whitla Hall, QUB

John Bell Lecture: Quantum Biology w/ Professor Jim Al-Khalili (tickets required)

Coalition to Repeal the 8th
Monday 27th February, 6pm, Outhouse, 105 Capel Street, Dublin

Volunteers Meeting

Tuesday  28th February, 7pm, Back Page Pub, 199 Phibsboro Road, Dublin
Pro-Choice Book Club

Kerry for Choice
Tuesday 28th February, 8pm, Abbey Inn, Bridge Street, Tralee

Open Meeting

Tuesday 24 January - Monday 20 of February
Minister Bruton commences 4-week consultation process on plans to address the role of religion in school admissions
You can find a template to help with your own submission here

Wednesday 8th March, across the country

Wednesday 8th March, 12.30pm, O'Connell  Bridge, Dublin
Strike Assembly

Wednesday 8th March, 5.30pm, Garden of Remembrance, Dublin
March4Repeal/International Women's Day

Abortion Rights Campaign
Wednesday 8th March, 8pm, Sugar Club, Lesson Street, Dublin

No Assembly Required - Variety Show in Celebration of International Women's Day (tickets required)

Saturday 22nd July - Sunday 23rd July 2017, Venue TBC, London
International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century (tickets required)


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



Restoring Some Humanity To The Refugee Debate


By Robert Neilsen

I’ve noticed that most discussions about the refugee crisis discuss the issue in a very abstract way. The proposals are spoken of in a technical and hypothetical manner relating to various treaties, agreements and EU regulations, as well as figures about what may or may not happen. The discussion revolves around quotas and flows, as if refugees were something that come out of the tap. Even worse still, many opponents to refugee resettlement take a simplistic view of “Us versus Them”. “We” have a common culture and heritage that is apparently under attack. “They” are a strange foreign thing, incompatible with us.

Discussions of Muslims often treat them like a monolith as if they all think the same. They are lumped together and smeared as violent, sexist, homophobic, primitive, terrorist, rapist and dangerous. The worst examples are taken as representative as the whole. Every day, crimes are committed by white native Europeans without much comment, yet if a single one is committed by a Muslim, it provokes national outrage and declarations of how they are all like this. Certain people will confidently tell you that Muslims won’t stop until Europe is destroyed and replaced with a Sharia law Calpihate.

It is easy to demonise people if you stop thinking of them as fellow human beings, but instead as a foreign and hostile group. Fear mongers thrive on treating refugees as a faceless horde, which is why it is so important put a human face on the problem. We must remember that refugees are people with hopes, fears, dreams, friends, families, jobs etc. the same as us. When we see refugees as humans the problem doesn’t seem as scary if they are viewed as “them”. Read more... 


94% of integrated education budget unspent due to ‘single minded’ failure to create a cohesive policy?

by Tina Calder/Slugger O'toole

Earlier this week the Irish News reported that the Department of Education underspent a £50m budget by a staggering £47m.

Under the Fresh Start agreement, the money is part of an alleged £500m of new capital funding to support shared and integrated education over 10 years. In its first year, Education Minister Peter Weir has allocated just £3m.

As a former primary pupil, mother of a nursery child and PTA member of Hazelwood Integrated Primary in Belfast I was horrified.

To hear that money set aside to develop inclusion, diversity and cultural understanding in our school system has been unspent is disappointing but hardly surprising given recent political scandals and financial mismanagements.

How could any government department could justify allowing money to be returned to the UK Treasury that could benefit the education system here? Read more...


by Barry Purcell

When you want to be reasonable in an unreasonable situation, you might say, “Let’s be logical about this.” When you want tell your friend, Jim, he’s about to make one of his famously poor decisions, you might say, “That would be illogical, captain.”

Everywhere, logic is held up as the supreme arbiter of whether or not something is A Good Idea.

For informal usage, that works fine. For philosophers and mathematicians, logic is a series of tools to determine conclusions from premises.

A “premise” is a bit of information we start with. If you see philosophers using the phrase “fallacious premises” (and boy do they love that phrase), it means nothing more than “the bits of information we started with are wrong”. Philosophy, like most disciplines, has its own gang of unnecessary terms to scare off the n00bs.

Unfortunately, logic has no way to determine the truth value of premises, and is therefore utterly useless at determining the truth value of its conclusions. Logic is essentially tautological. It’s worth typing again: Logic cannot tell you whether or not something is true.  Read more...


When I left Iran


by Maryam Namazie


The below is the unedited piece for #Iamamigrant campaign.

I left Iran in 1980 with my mother to go to India to continue my education after my school closed down. My mother was meant to settle me in and return but stayed when things got worse. After a few months, my father and 3 year old sister joined us. I was 13.

Things were changing quickly in Iran after the Islamists took over and crushed the hopes and dreams of the Iranian revolution. I can still remember the ongoing executions on TV, the bodies of women being blacked out with markers on magazine covers, Islamists coming to my school to segregate the boys from girls in the playground whilst we ran circles around them, and the dirty looks I got from hezbollah-types for not being veiled (it hadn’t been made compulsory yet).

The day I left with my mother was not meant to be the last time I ever saw Iran, or my grandmother, or some of my closest family and friends. If I had known I would never be able to return, I would have paid more attention to the little details. I would have hugged my grandmother more closely. When she died, we could not even return for her funeral.

In May 1983, my mother, sister and I arrived in New York, three days before my 17th birthday (via India and Britain where we were not given residency). The immigration officer confiscated our passports at the airport but let us in temporarily. What a relief to see my father again; he had come earlier to prepare for our arrival.

I’ll never forget the day we got to our new home. It was early morning when we arrived at our flat – or at least that is how I remember it. There were mattresses on the floor and a TV in the living room – that’s it. My father took us to Pathmark, a supermarket near us, where we gawked at how big it was and that it was open 24 hours a day. Read more...


On Punching Nazis and the Justifications of Violence


By Secular Detective

Much has been opined already on the subject of the punch dealt to Richard Spencer during the recent protests on the day of President Trump’s inauguration. My intention here, is not to concentrate on the specific event which has given rise to this subject of discussion, but rather to examine the principles behind it. I know little about Spencer, and my task will hardly be made easier by taking time to examine his policies or beliefs in order to accurately represent them somewhere within our equation. Instead, I propose that we proceed by steelmaning the supposed position that physical force is justified against individuals or groups who spout true racism and policies – that if actualised – would constitute threats to members of our society based on the caprice of their unchosen physical manifestations. My position here will not rely on any context, or questions about the degree to which an individual is a Nazi. I will say at the outset that I believe no such violence is justified, and that this is true when my position can be tested to its limits when considering a real Nazi, who actually wishes to re-implement the policies of the Third Reich.

I am no pacifist. To posit that no problem is better solved through violence speaks plainly of a lack of imagination (or memory) on the part of the espouser. There are circumstances where violence (and I use the term here and throughout to mean the application or threat of physical force, be it a shove, a punch, a bullet or a missile) is entirely justified. There are also certain circumstances where there exists a moral obligation to apply or threaten physical force against someone. Take in the first instance, the position of an unarmed police officer who upon entering a dwelling finds a person armed with a kitchen knife, who upon seeing the officer, threatens to murder him. Assuming that a tactical retreat and containment is not an option, the officer is well justified in using violence in order to prevent injury to himself. Consider in the second instance, an armed police officer entering the same dwelling to find the same person armed with the same knife, but now threatening to murder their spouse who is in the next room. Here the officer is morally obliged to use violence in order to prevent injury to the spouse. Read more...


It’s time for an end to special religious privileges: we need a secular state


by National Secular Society

Should the Anglican peers in the Lords be joined by religious leaders from other faiths? Ought the BBC be required to make religious programmes? Should religious groups enjoy more legal protection? The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life set out 37 recommendations – which, argues Steven Kettell, are deeply problematic in a society where half the population say they have no religion.
The last few decades have seen significant changes to the landscape of religion and belief in Britain. According to surveys by British Social Attitudes the proportion of the adult population describing themselves as 'Christian' fell from 67% to 41.7% between 1983 and 2014, while the proportion self-identifying as having 'no religion' rose from 31% to 48.9% over the same period. These developments pose a number of important challenges, thrusting concerns about social cohesion, debates around national identity and questions about balancing the rights and duties of citizenship to the forefront of British public life.
In December 2015 the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (CORAB) published a report entitled: 'Living With Difference'. The report made a total of 37 recommendations, covering a variety of themes. A notable feature of the CORAB report, however, was that it paid insufficient attention to secular views and voices. Of the twenty members making up the Commission, just one – Andrew Copson, the chief executive of the British Humanist Association – was from a 'non-religious' organisation. And despite acknowledging the rise of non-religion and the growing diversity of religion and belief in Britain, the CORAB recommendations sought a more prominent role for faith in public life. Read more.


Podcasts, Videos and Interviews


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.


Sam Harris: Winning the War of Ideas - Real Time with Bill Maher

Godless Spellchecker: Mall Dillahunty - Free speech and Violence


Media Watch

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








This Week in History

Celebrating/remembering a momentous event in atheism, science, skepticism, secularism or human rights, plundered shamelessly from Wikipedia and other sources.


14th February, 1989 - Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini charges that Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, is blasphemous and issues an edict (fatwa) calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie.

The Satanic Verses controversy, also known as the Rushdie Affair, was the heated and frequently violent reaction of Muslims to the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, which was first published in the United Kingdom in 1988. Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy or unbelief and in 1989 the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. Numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings resulted from Muslim anger over the novel.

The Iranian government backed the fatwa against Rushdie until 1998, when the succeeding government of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said it no longer supported the killing of Rushdie. However, the fatwa remains in place.

The issue was said to have divided "Muslim from Westerners along the fault line of culture," and to have pitted a core Western value of freedom of expression—that no one "should be killed, or face a serious threat of being killed, for what they say or write"—against the view of many Muslims—that no one should be free to "insult and malign Muslims" by disparaging the "honour of the Prophet" Muhammad. English writer Hanif Kureishi called the fatwa "one of the most significant events in postwar literary history." Read more...



The Satanic Verses Affair Salman Rushdi Documentary

The Rushdie fatwa




Celebrating the life and work of notable atheists born this week in history.

12 February

1809: Charles Darwin (d. 1882). English scientist and theorist who demonstrated that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed that this evolution is due to a process he called natural selection. All of his writings can be found at Darwin Online

1948: Ray Kurzweil, American engineer, author and futurist. Advocate of transhumanism

15 February

1564: Galileo Galilei (d. 1642). Italian astronomer and physicist. Discovered four moons of Jupiter.

16 February

1822: Francis Galton (d. 1911). English polymath, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician. He was a half-cousin of Charles Darwin, and was so gripped by the publication of The Origin of Species that he devoted much of the rest of his life to exploring variation in human populations and its implications.

1834: Ernst Haeckel (d. 1919). German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology.

18 February

1838: Ernst Mach (d. 1916). Austrian physicist and philosopher

19 February

1473: Nicolaus Copernicus (d. 1543). Polish mathematician and astronomer. He formulated a heliocentric model of the universe.





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