Secular Sunday #234  'Freedom of Expression is for Christians too' || 14 August, 2016
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter
Andrew Devine-RattiganHi Folks,

Not for the first time, our activity this week has highlighted our position on 'ethical secularism' within public policy, which compliments our broader views on atheism.

Frequently, representatives of Atheist Ireland are required to repeat that we would be just as opposed to the State promoting atheism as we are to the State promoting Catholicism. For our organisation, 'ethical secularism' requires that the State should be neutral with respect to the religious or non-religious views of citizens.

This often means that we spend our time defending the rights of religious people as well as atheists. We have previously helped Catholic citizens who have wished to opt their children out of the more conservative Catholic teachings within our education system and we have opposed other discriminations against Catholics as they have arisen too. We also work actively within a Secular Alliance that includes the Evangelical Association of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ireland.

Most recently, our position on human rights (and in particular the right to freedom of expression within Article 10 of the ECHR and Article 19 of the UDHR) has seen us defend the right of Christian preachers to openly discuss their opinions within public spaces. It seems bizarre that public bodies in Ireland would seek to prohibit discussion of religion. However, the reductio ad absurdum of a decision to ban Atheist Ireland from the Monaghan Market, based on a strict "no proselytising" rule, has caused Christian preachers to be silenced too.

Today, it would be absolutely fine to talk about Jesus at a market in Mashhad, but in Monaghan they feel that public spaces must be protected from all such discussions. It appears then that we still have some work to do, before Ireland can catch up with Iran in relation to freedom of expression for Christian preachers.  :-)

John Hamill


Freedom Of Expression Is For Christians Too

Atheist Ireland has this week written an open letter to every TD in the Cavan-Monaghan Constituency and every member of Monaghan County Council. The full text of this letter is reproduced below.

Dear Minister Humphreys,

As an elected representative for the Monaghan area, I would like to seek your assistance in addressing specific human rights abuses in Monaghan Town. Article 19 within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Unfortunately, the written policy of a body licensed by Monaghan County Council, is currently abrogating the right to freedom of expression within the public spaces of Monaghan Town. Those who have elected you are entitled to expect that you will vindicate this right on their behalf. Read more ...

Vatican sex education to be taught in Irish schools

The Vatican has published a new online course for the sex education of adolescents called the Meeting Point. It was developed with the help of the Subcommittee of the Family and the Defense of Life of the Spanish Episcopal Conference.

The intention is that this new course on Vatican sex education will be introduced into all second level Irish schools. This has consequences for minorities in the education system as their Relationship, Sexuality and Moral education will be taught and controlled by the agents of a foreign state and contrary to their convictions. Read more ...


Upcoming Events

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



August 20th, 12.00-14.00, St Patrick Street (map)
Atheist Ireland Information Table



19 August

World Humanitarian Day



16 August

1950: Margaret Downey. American atheist activist who is the former President of Atheist Alliance International and founder and president of the Freethought Society. She also founded the Anti-Discrimination Support Network, which reports and helps deal with discrimination against atheists.

19 August

1921: Gene Roddenberry (d. 1991). American screenwriter and producer, creator of Star Trek.



As the pace of development within medical science continues to accelerate, bioethicists are being kept increasingly busy. Many will rejoice at the potential for technologies such as gene editing to cure horrible congenital conditions like mitochondrial diseases (excellent explainer video here). However, some of these same technologies could also be used to achieve human enhancement rather than cure diseases. While bioethicists advise our legislators on what it means to be human and what the moral implications of human enhancement technologies may be, religious interests in these questions also seek influence.


Scientists Argue The US Ban On Gene Editing Will Leave It Behind

Alex Pearlman

The legal systems and contexts of science funding, access to healthcare, regulatory bureaucracy and comfort with human embryo experimentation, is vastly different between the US and other countries that are moving more swiftly, such as the UK. 

One only needs to look at a recent Pew study that found the majority of Americans are uneasy with gene editing, and that only 28 percent believe it is morally acceptable to edit genes to give otherwise healthy children a reduced risk of disease. Religion figured heavily in respondents’ reasoning, researchers found, which isn’t always a concern at the forefront of the scientific community. 

“For the people in bioethics, in science, we tend to be secular academics,” said bioethicist James Hughes, Executive Director at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. “It’s sometimes a challenge to factor in the spirituality of the general public.”Read more ...



Americans Are Wary About Body Enhancement Technologies

Cary Funk

People’s views on gene editing to augment human abilities, differ depending on how religious they are. More religious Americans are, on average, less affirming of these enhancements. People high in religious commitment are less likely than those low in religious commitment to want potential enhancements. And, six-in-ten or more of those high in religious commitment consider these enhancements to be “meddling with nature” and crossing a line that should not be crossed (gene editing 64 percent; brain chip implants 65 percent; and synthetic blood 60 percent).

By contrast, majorities of those low in religious commitment are more inclined to see the potential use of these techniques as just the continuation of a centuries-old quest by humans to try to better themselves. Read more ...

The Future Of Genetic Enhancement Is Not In The West

G Owen Schaefer

Would you want to alter your future children’s genes to make them smarter, stronger or better-looking? As the state of the science brings prospects like these closer to reality, an international debate has been raging over the ethics of enhancing human capacities with biotechnologies such as so-called smart pills, brain implants and gene editing. And there’s an interesting wrinkle: It’s reasonable to believe that any seismic shift toward genetic enhancement will not be centered in Western countries like the U.S. or the U.K., where many modern technologies are pioneered. Instead, genetic enhancement is more likely to emerge out of China.

Scientists can be seen as “playing God” and tampering with nature. There are also worries about inequality, creating a new generation of enhanced individuals who are heavily advantaged over others. Either way, this trend is an important development. But for now, it appears that China holds the future of genetic enhancement in its hands. Read more ...

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