Secular Sunday #116 - They Think It's All Over Ireland || 16 March, 2014
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter
Derek Walsh
We've a couple of events coming up this week including what I believe is a first for Atheists in the Pub: a speaker who is not only a theist but a theologian! If you can, come along for what promises to be an interesting evening. Details are below. You know how this works by now.

- Derek Walsh, Editor



Robert TobinIn Memoriam - Robert Tobin

We have received news that Robert Tobin has died following a long battle with cancer. Robert lived in Australia but posted regularly for several years on the Atheist Ireland Facebook group page and the forum on our website. He campaigned against the evils of religion and of the Catholic Church in particular. He had planned to visit Ireland but his illness made it impossible. He is pictured here at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne in 2012.

Regional Groups

Atheist Ireland has recently established a regional group in the Cavan/Monaghan region. The group, chaired by John Hamill has already been noticed by local media. The Northern Standard announced the setting up of the group while the Anglo-Celt reported the group's efforts to get politicians in the areas to sign Atheist Ireland's Declaration on Secularism. This week, a group will be meeting to establish a regional group for the Dublin area. See the Calendar section for details or contact organiser Ashling O'Brien if you want to get involved.
Regional groups are a great way of starting initiatives for reaching out to the community, promoting atheism, lobbying local politicians and organising social events. If you want to help establish a group in your area please contact our Regional Officer Kevin Sheehan.

Religious Education and Dogmatic Thinking

BenBaz Aziz, the Egyptian atheist who is now free after a year in prison in Kuwait on blasphemy charges, has written a second article for Atheist Ireland, in which he argues that religious intolerance in Islamic education will persist, regardless of what is in the curriculum, unless wider society replaces dogma with critical thinking. You can read it here.




Upcoming Events

All events are free and open to everyone unless otherwise stated. Listing is not necessarily an endorsement. Listings sorted alphabetically by county, then chronologically.


Tuesday 18 March, 7:30 pm, The Workman's Club, Wellington Quay, Dublin 2 (map)
Dublin Atheists in the Pub. This month's speaker is Gary Keogh, a theologian and lecturer at All Hallows College, DCU and Hibernia College. He is the author of numerous articles on religion in Ireland and the recently published book Reading Richard Dawkins: A Theological Dialogue with New Atheism. Facebook event page

Thursday 20 March, Trinity Capital Hotel, Pearse St., Dublin 2 (map)
Meeting to set up an Atheist Ireland regional group in Dublin. Facebook event page


Wednesday 19 March, 8:00 pm, Absolute Hotel, Sir Harry's Mall, Limerick (map)
The Mid West Humanists will meet. (Ask at the hotel reception for a card key to get up the lift to the meeting, which is usually on the third floor.)




20 March

International Day of Happiness

21 March

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

22 March

World Water Day

This Week in History

16 March

1995: In the USA, Mississippi formally ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment was officially ratified in 1865.

19 March

1987: Televangelist Jim Bakker resigns as head of the PTL Club due to a brewing sex scandal; he hands over control to Jerry Falwell.

20 March

1916: Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity.



16 March

Herschel Caroline 1829.jpg1750: Caroline Herschel (d. 1848). German-English astronomer, discovered numerous comets and was the first woman to be paid for her contribution to science, to be awarded a Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, and to be named an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society. Also named an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy of Dublin. Sister of William Herschel with whom she worked throughout her career.

20 March

1904: B. F. Skinner (d. 1990). American psychologist and author . A pioneer of modern behaviourism, he argued that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action.


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

Health policy must be formed the basis of evidence, not scaremongering

by David Robert Grimes

David Robert GrimesThere are certain topics I write about that generate howling letters of disapproval. Topics like abortion, climate change, secularism, gay rights, nuclear power, and homeopathy have all garnered me angry tweets, emails and in some more disturbing cases long rambling letters with vague threats. I accept this as an occupational hazard - the more prominent your forum, the more likely you are to get projectiles lobbed at you and while that's never justified I accept it for what it is - I'm extremely privileged to be both lucky and ostensibly articulate enough to get the odd say in two prominent papers, and hopefully have been able to sway some people towards an evidence-based approach to certain topics, which has always been my primary goal in writing for a mainstream audience. Read more

Peer Review for Conspiracy Theorists

by Conor Farrell

Conor FarrellI listened to RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke today, which featured Declan Waugh (expert in misrepresenting research) and Gerry Byrne (science writer) discussing water fluoridation. It made me recall previous interviews I’ve watched and heard, and I wondered how long it would take for anti-fluoride campaigners to start demanding to know “who is paying this so-called Gerry Byrne, really??? Is he being paid by Big Pharma to lie to the public about fluoride??”

Comments like this are not uncommon: many campaigners believe that a company can pay a researcher to publish a paper in their favour in a journal. This isn’t really possible to do, and I cringe when I hear people embarrass themselves in the media by showing how they don’t know how academic research and peer review works. Moreover, when people start making claims that researchers are deliberately undertaking professional misconduct for financial reward, this can very possibly lead to defamation cases in the courts. Read more

David Quinn retreats from open civil discussion on Iona Institute, by calling me a virtual stalker

by Michael Nugent

Michael NugentDavid Quinn of the Iona Institute has retreated from an open civil online discussion, about the Iona Institute and Atheist Ireland and religious and atheist morality, and he has called me a virtual stalker for asking him questions about how Iona decides on its policies.
This is ironic because, when he recently sued RTE, he complained that calling Iona derogatory names was aimed at closing down open civil debate on the very issues that I am now trying to discuss with him. The two most recent questions which David has declined to answer are:
  • You say Iona decides which Christian values to promote or not based on what makes most sense. What criteria do you use?
  • You say Iona’s arguments re marriage are not even specifically Christian. Then what are they based on? Read more

Fundamentalist Levitican Anti-Gay Man-Child Runs for Election to Students Union Equality Officer

by Bock the Robber

SBock the Robberubjected throughout his short and ill-informed life to unremitting fundamentalist propaganda, forced to protest outside the Dáil while still only a child, Enoch Burke has not had a normal development.
The very fact that somebody thinks homosexuals are an abomination and still runs for office as equality officer is telling in itself.  He clearly lacks the normal mechanisms that regulate human interaction,or perhaps has been deprived on them.
And yet, ironically, coming from such a large family, all fundamentalists thanks to their parents’ zeal, there’s a good chance that at least one of them is gay. Read more


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