Secular Sunday #248 'Historic Happenings' || 25 September, 2016
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter



Atheist Ireland addresses UN Human Rights Council on blasphemy, schools and abortion


Atheist Ireland told the UN Human Rights Council that Ireland needs to remove the ban on blasphemy, religious discrimination in schools, and the ban on abortion. In doing so we became the first atheist advocacy group to address the full UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Council was reviewing Ireland’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review process. We spoke as members of Atheist Alliance International, which has accredited observer status at the United Nations which enabled us to speak.

We will next be going to Warsaw, where we will address the annual OSCE human rights meeting on Monday and Tuesday.

Atheist Ireland’s speech

The chairs of both major UN Human Rights Committees have strongly criticised Ireland’s lack of separation of church and state.

Ireland now claims that it is constitutionally obliged (not merely permitted, but obliged) to allow religious discrimination, in order to buttress religion, including in publicly funded schools.

Ireland needs a Religious Equality Referendum to be able to meet its UN human rights obligations.

Law Against Blasphemy

Ireland should urgently hold a referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation seeks global laws against defamation of religion. As part of this, Pakistan at the UN has cited specific language from the Irish blasphemy law.

Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, has advised us:

“The major damage done by this law is international. Those countries that have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask Western hypocrisy.”

Religious Discrimination in Education

Nine different sets of United Nations and Council of Europe committees have concluded that Irish schools breach the human rights of atheist and minority faith children, families and teachers.

Irish schools breach very fundamental human rights like freedom of religion and belief, freedom from discrimination, equality before the law, and no effective remedy.

Ireland should oblige publicly funded schools to deliver educational services, including employment, state curriculum and enrolment, in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner, and with no religious discrimination of any kind.

Law Against Abortion

We support the many recommendations to strengthen women’s right to abortion in Ireland.

We support the Campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, to enable the Irish Parliament to legislate for the right to abortion.

You can read more here and watch the video of the speech here.

Secular Sunday Editorial Committee

Atheist Ireland News

Atheist Ireland took part in the 5th annual March for Choice.

Atheist Ireland joined a record number of people (25,000+according to estimates) who gathered in Dublin to call for a referendum for the repeal of the 8th Amendment and for access to safe, legal abortion in Ireland. There are photos in the 'Places and Faces' section and a round-up of the media coverage in the 'Media' section. 


Atheist Ireland Christmas party something special this year

This year the Atheist Ireland Christmas party will be something a bit more special. We don't want to say too much yet, but there is a big hint in that it will be held on Thursday 15th December.... More information to follow soon.

Atheist Ireland continues to run two petitions.

Support the Schools Equality PACT and call for a referendum to repeal Ireland's Blasphemy LawPlease sign and share if you haven't already done so.

Good Without Gods

Atheist Ireland Kiva 'Good Without Gods' team has made loans of over $16,300 to entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here.


Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland. 

  • 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.

Atheist Ireland is an entirely voluntary organisation. We receive no grants or government funding and rely completely on membership and donations to continue our campaign work. Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged and €10 unwaged/student.  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.

March for Choice, Dublin, 24th September 2016

Geneva, 23rd September, 2016


Atheist Ireland 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.

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


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Saturday 1st October, 12.00-15.00, outside Brown Thomas, Patrick Street
Information Table

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


Saturday 1st October, GPO O'Connell Street
Information Table


Watch this space, more events coming soon


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon.


Watch this space, more events coming soon.

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 allthe 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





Peter Singer’s new books on ethics

by Jerry Coyne

Peter Singer’s new book on ethics, a series of short essays about real-world ethical issues, came out September 13 (Princeton University Press), and already it’s Amazon’s #1 release in “Philosophy of Ethics and Morality”. I’ll be reading it for sure, as Singer is one philosopher who has something to say about how real people live their lives. He’s a clear writer, and tries personally to adhere to his ethical conclusions. Here’s the Amazon blurb; click on the book’s screenshot to go to the Amazon order page:

Now, in Ethics in the Real World, Singer shows that he is also a master at dissecting important current events in a few hundred words.

In this book of brief essays, he applies his controversial ways of thinking to issues like climate change, extreme poverty, animals, abortion, euthanasia, human genetic selection, sports doping, the sale of kidneys, the ethics of high-priced art, and ways of increasing happiness. Singer asks whether chimpanzees are people, smoking should be outlawed, or consensual sex between adult siblings should be decriminalized, and he reiterates his case against the idea that all human life is sacred, applying his arguments to some recent cases in the news. In addition, he explores, in an easily accessible form, some of the deepest philosophical questions, such as whether anything really matters and what is the value of the pale blue dot that is our planet. The collection also includes some more personal reflections, like Singer’s thoughts on one of his favorite activities, surfing, and an unusual suggestion for starting a family conversation over a holiday feast.

Provocative and original, these essays will challenge–and possibly change–your beliefs about a wide range of real-world ethical questions. Read more...



Protect the rights of the non-religious in education, says British Institute of Human Rights

by National Secular Society

The British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) has endorsed several recommendations made by the National Secular Society, in a submission to the United Nations.

The BIHR launched its Joint Civil Society Report, which is formed from evidence given by 175 civil society organisations across England, Scotland and Wales, including the NSS, and which has now been submitted to the United Nations for the UN's Universal Period Review of the UK.

The NSS also made a separate submission to the UN for the Universal Periodic Review.

The BIHR report reiterated a number concerns regarding state education raised by the NSS, including faith schools' ability to discriminate on religious grounds. Read more...

Atheist Ireland Tells UN Human Rights Council About Nation’s Church/State Separation Problem

by Hemant Metha

Atheist Ireland just became the first explicitly non-theistic advocacy group to speak in front of the full UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and leaders of the group used the opportunity to denounce their nation’s blasphemy laws, ban on abortion, and religious discrimination in public schools. Read more...



Richard Dawkins has said that “faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence”. Religious people can often see this in those of other creeds, but it applies in a secular context too. People have faith in many things other than religions, including all sorts of supposed ‘miracle cures’. One of the conditions that attracts more than its fair share of such pseudo-scientific treatments is autism. The articles below describe of the efforts to find an effective treatment that is supported by evidence, while both religious and non-religious faith-based considerations frustrate these efforts.


The Dangers Of Snake-Oil Treatments For Autism

by Alisa Opar

When her daughter was diagnosed with autism in 2004, Ariane Zurcher threw herself into researching a condition she knew nothing about. Everything she read indicated a bleak future for Emma, then a toddler. It led Zurcher to believe Emma would never form deep relationships, and would probably lack empathy. She might have compulsive behaviors and meltdowns or try to harm herself. She might never speak or be toilet-trained, and, once Zurcher and her husband died, she might have to be institutionalized. Zurcher says she felt as though she were “descending into hell.”

“I was desperate to save my daughter,” says Zurcher. “We went to everybody. We tried everything.” She and her husband took Emma to neurologists, gastroenterologists, behavioral, speech and occupational therapists, nutritionists, naturopaths, a shaman and homoeopath, a craniosacral therapist, and a Qigong master. A developmental pediatrician—who didn’t take insurance, charged at least $200 per visit and had a months-long waiting list—recommended they call a psychic in Europe; the psychic, ironically, refused payment because she didn’t pick up a ‘signal’ from them. They tried dozens of treatments that claimed to have ‘recovered’ children with autism, including numerous vitamin supplements, topical ointments, restrictive diets, chelation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, brain scans, a so-called detoxification system, and stem-cell therapy. Read more ...


CoI Pulls Invite To Evangelist Preacher

by Aine McMahon


The Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Dublin has withdrawn an invitation to a controversial evangelist preacher who was written about ridding gay men of their “demonic” urges. Argentinian Ed Silvoso was due to speak at Redcross Parish Church in Arklow, Co Wicklow on Sunday, a year to the day since the Marriage Equality referendum was held. The archdiocese announced on Thursday that the Rev Roly Heaney, Rector of Dunganstown Union of parishes in Co Wicklow, had since withdrew the invitation. 

Mr Silvoso who is in Ireland to speak at another event in Bray on Saturday, is known for his views on Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) issues and particularly gay men. Mr Silvoso has also been widely known to propound the idea that LGBT people and those with personality disorders, including autism, are demon possessed, and to have practiced “deliverance ministry” in which it is claimed demons are cast out of the sufferers. Read more ...


Autism May Diminish Belief In God

by Stephanie Pappas


People who have more traits of autism are less likely to believe in God that those that do not have such traits, according to new research that suggests that belief is boosted by the ability to see into the minds of others.

This ability, often called theory of mind, or mentalizing, is diminished in people with autism spectrum disorders, a cluster of conditions marked by communication and social difficulties. Because people's beliefs in God are often marked by feelings of having a personal relationship with the deity, prayer and worship may require a sense of what God could be thinking, researchers report. 

"Believers intuitively treat gods as intentional agents with mental states who enter into social relationships with humans, using supernatural powers to assuage existential concerns, respond to human desires and monitor their social behaviour", the scientists wrote. 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.


One from the (Atheist Ireland) Vaults

WIll the Pope visit a Catholic Ireland in 2018? Michael Nugent on Today FM (2015)

Catholic belief system in Ireland and human rights abuses from child abuse to symphysiotomy (2014)


The Free Thought Prophet - Karen Garst

Media Watch

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



March for Choice News Round-up




International Days of Observation


26th September

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons


28th September

World Rabies Day

30th  September

International Blasphemy Rights Day encourages individuals and groups to openly express their criticism of, or disdain for, religion. It is celebrated on the anniversary of the publication of satirical drawings of Muhammad in one of Denmark's newspapers.

1st October

International Day of Older Person


This Week in History

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


25th September

1909: The first National Aeronautic Show opens at Madison Square Garden.
1942: The War Labor Board orders equal pay for women in the United States.
1974: Scientists warn that continued use of aerosol sprays will cause ozone depletion, which will lead to an increased risk of skin cancer and global weather changes.
1983: Maze Prison escape, County Antrim, Northern Ireland; 38 IRA prisoners escape in the largest prison breakout in British history.
1992: NASA launches Mars Observer probe; it fails 11 months later.
1996: Ireland’s last Magdalene laundry closes; begun as asylums to rehabilitate “fallen women,” they increasingly took on prison-like qualities.
2009: US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy jointly accuse Iran of building a secrecy nuclear enrichment facility.

26th September

1580: Sir Francis Drake returns to Plymouth, England, aboard the Golden Hind, after a 33-month voyage to circumnavigate the globe.
1829: Scotland Yard, the official British criminal investigation organisation, is formed.
1960: Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy participate in the first nationally televised debate between presidential candidates.
1983: In the USSR Stanislav Petrov disobeys procedures and ignores electronic alarms indicating five incoming nuclear missiles, believing the US would launch more than five if it wanted to start a war. His decision prevented a retaliatory attack that would have begun a nuclear war between the superpowers.
2008: Yves Rossy, a Swiss pilot and inventor, is the first person to fly a jet-powered wing across the English Channel.

27th September

1540: The Society of Jesus, a religious order under Ignatius Loyola, is approved by the Pope.
1791: Jews in France are granted French citizenship.
2003: European Space Agency launches SMART-1 satellite to orbit the moon.
2007: NASA launches Dawn probe to explore and study the two larges objects of the asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres.
2008: Zhai Zhigang becomes the first Chinese to walk in space; he was part of the Shenzhou 7 crew.

28th September

1885: Riots break out in Montreal to protest against compulsory smallpox vaccination.
1904: A woman is placed under arrest for smoking a cigarette on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
1913: Race riots in Harriston, Mississippi, kill 10 people.
1924: Three U.S. Army aircraft arrive in Seattle, Washington after completing a 22-day round-the-world flight.
1928: Sir Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin when he notices a bacteria-killing mold growing in his laboratory; it remained for Howard Florey and Ernst Chain to isolate the active ingredient, allowing the “miracle drug” to be developed in the 1940s.
1959: Explorer VI, the U.S. satellite, takes the first video pictures of earth.
1996: Afghanistan’s former president (1986-92) Mohammad Najibullah tortured and murdered by the Taliban.
2008: SpaceX launches the first private spacecraft, Falcon 1.

29th September

1513: Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean.
1941: 30,000 Jews are gunned down in Kiev when Heinrich Himmler sends four strike squads to exterminate Soviet Jewish civilians and other “undesirables.”
1962: Canada launches its first satellite, Alouette 1.
1979: John Paul II becomes the first pope ever to visit Ireland.

30th September

1846: The first anaesthetised tooth extraction is performed by Dr. William Morton in Charleston, Massachusetts.
1960: Fifteen African nations are admitted to the United Nations.
1962: U.S. Marshals escort James H. Meredith into the University of Mississippi; two die in the mob violence that follows.

1st October

1847: Maria Mitchell, an American astronomer, discovers a comet and is elected the same day to the American Academy of Arts—the first woman to be so honoured. The King of Denmark will award her a gold medal for her discovery.
1908: The Ford Model T, the first car for millions of Americans, hits the market. Over 15 million Model Ts are eventually sold, all of them black.
1946: Eleven Nazi war criminals are sentenced to be hanged at Nuremberg trials—Hermann Goring, Alfred Jodl, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher, and Alfred Rosenberg.
1957: “In God We Trust” appears on US paper currency as an act to distinguish the US from the officially atheist USSR; the motto had appeared on coins at various times since 1864.
1960: Nigeria becomes independent from the UK.
1964: The first Free Speech Movement protest erupts spontaneously on the University of California, Berkeley campus; students demanded an end to the ban of on-campus political activities.
1971: The first CT or CAT brain scan is performed at Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon, London.
1974: Five Nixon aides–Kenneth Parkinson, Robert Mardian, Nixon’s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell–go on trial for conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation.
1989: Denmark introduces the world’s first “civil union” law granting same-sex couples certain legal rights and responsibilities but stopping short of recognising same-sex marriages.



Marking the Birthdays of famous atheists, secularist, humanists and scientists.


26th September

1833: Charles Bradlaugh (d. 1891). British political activist and Member of Parliament, freethinker, radical and champion of popular causes, and one of the most famous English atheists of the 19th century.
1849: Ivan Pavlov (d. 1936) Russian Nobel Prize winning physiologist, psychologist, and physician; widely known for first describing the phenomenon of classical conditioning.


28th September

1912: Saraswathi Gora (d. 2006): Indian social activist. Along with her husband Gora she established the Atheist Centre with the intention of promoting human values based on atheism, rationalism and Gandhism.  The Centre campaigned against untouchability and the caste system, and is active in promoting rural development and disaster relief, and fighting against superstition and intolerance.



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