Blasphemy law a return to middle ages – Dawkins

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by ALISON HEALY

THE NEW blasphemy law will send Ireland back to the middle ages, and is wretched, backward and uncivilised, Prof Richard Dawkins has said.

The scientist and critic of religion has lent his support to a campaign to repeal the law, introduced by Atheist Ireland, a group set up last December, arising from an online discussion forum. The law, which makes the publication or utterance of blasphemous matter a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine, passed through the Oireachtas last week.

In a message read out at Atheist Ireland’s first agm on Saturday, Prof Dawkins said: “One of the world’s most beautiful and best-loved countries, Ireland has recently become one of the most respected as well: dynamic, go-ahead, modern, civilised – a green and pleasant silicon valley. This preposterous blasphemy law puts all that respect at risk.” He said it would be too kind to call the law a ridiculous anachronism.

“It is a wretched, backward, uncivilised regression to the middle ages. Who was the bright spark who thought to besmirch the revered name of Ireland by proposing anything so stupid?”

Messages of support for the campaign were also received from the creators of Father Ted Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews, and the European Humanist Federation. The federation, which represents 42 organisations in 19 countries, said it was “appalled” at the new law and it was “a seriously retrograde step”.

At the agm, Atheist Ireland members voted to test the new law by publishing a blasphemous statement, deliberately designed to cause offence. The statement will be finalised in the coming days.

Atheist Ireland’s chairman Michael Nugent said the group wanted to highlight the ridiculousness of the law. Labour Senator and barrister Ivana Bacik told the meeting that an amendment provides for a review of the law within five years. “There’s a great potential to have this very much altered if not removed altogether,” she said. The new law invited people to make complaints to gardaí and would result in “a huge amount” of wasted Garda time, she said.

“So for lots of reasons I think it’s going to be highly problematic . . . and it’s bad lawmaking if nothing else.”

Ms Bacik said the establishment of Atheist Ireland was “long overdue”. More than 150 people attended the meeting in Dublin and the group ran out of membership application forms. “I think it’s also good to see an organisation that has the word atheist in the title because for a long time many of us were in the closet,” she said.

“It’s not fashionable or popular to declare oneself to be an atheist. There are many people in Ireland who would like to describe themselves as atheists and I’m one of them. I think I may be the only self-confessed or card-carrying atheist in the Oireachtas.”

She said there should be space for atheists, agnostics and believers in organised religions. “And that’s the nature, to me, of a pluralist and tolerant and democratic republic, a country in which there is space for all of us, and in which no body’s belief elevates them to any particular position.”

The meeting agreed to campaign for the removal of all references to gods from the Constitution and for a secular education system. Ms Bacik said the education system, particularly at primary level, was “built on sectarian lines. It is a fundamentally sectarian system in which in our equal status legislation, schools are entitled to give priority to children of a particular religion”.

The group also launched a website http://www.countmeout.ie which provides information on how to formally leave the Catholic Church.

Atheist Ireland believes that many lapsed Catholics, agnostics and atheists are counted in the church’s membership and claims that these figures are used by the church to justify its continued involvement in education.

Atheist Ireland will also encourage people to read the Bible. Mr Nugent said an objective reading of the Bible was one of the strongest arguments for rejecting the idea of gods as intervening creators or moral guides.

Dick Spicer of the Humanist Association of Ireland welcomed the formation of the new group and said it illustrated the changes that had taken place in Irish society. “It’s a sign of how far we’ve come in Ireland, so take hope for the future. This society does move and it does move forward, more so, I think, than we appreciate.”

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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11 thoughts on “Blasphemy law a return to middle ages – Dawkins

  1. I find it a win/win situation. Why would an athiest want to speak about a God that they don’t think exists. And why should Christians have to listen to someone blaspheming against the one they follow. You don’t have to agree completely with someone to respect their right to their own beliefs, whether we think they are wrong or not. Instead of fighting negative with negative, perhaps people should start comparing positive to positive.

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  2. What is positive about the Roman Catholic Church?

    They have been protecting child molesters across the world for centuries.

    There is a huge scandal that broke in the USA, in Ireland, in Australia, and many other countries spanning from across Africa, South America, all across Asia etc.

    Nobody, not even a religion or a church should have any indemnity from criticism.

    That is the problem with that stupid law.

    The church’s and religious organizations should be exposed for all their crimes against humanity.

    If they have nothing to hide, then I am sure they can easily defend themselves.

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  3. Thats just humanity brother. You cannot hold the actions of a few against all others. I’m not catholic, but I am a christian. Every one has committed a crime against humanity, atheists, christians, muslims, every one. By saying I am christian does not mean that I’m saying I’m without sin. I am just as upset with the child molesting as you are, no one should ever have the right to abuse a child in any way, no matter their religion. But like I said, not every christian is hiding behind the religion, some are really good people with a really good purpose, as I’m sure there are good people in every religion and culture around the world. Why don’t you try to expose them?

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  4. About 90% of my friends are christians and the rest are from other religions and also some atheists. ALL of them are good people. I have heard a lot of crime against humanity in the name of Jesus, God or Allah, but never in the name of Atheism. I see christianity as the root of all evil, whether you like it or not. I am not an atheist either, at least not yet, I am getting there. I see no reason anymore to beleive in Santa Clause or Little Red Riding Hood. You seé, I’m grown up and not a child anymore. It is said that you must beleive like a child but I am refusing to do that anymore.

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  5. Dudethatacrazy; why are you concerned about blasphemy? What is the word for the same action against atheists? We don’t believe; you do. But when we speak out at the institutions that conduct rape and abuse of children we are labeled blasphemers. Why? When Christians were killed by the Roman Empire it was wrong. When the Christians killed the Muslims during the Crusades it was wrong. When the Roman Catholic Church tortured and killed non-Christians during the Inquisition it was wrong. And now they are abusing children. Haven’t they learned anything from the past? We are in the 21st century now and we want to make laws protecting someone’s belief system. Protecting is one thing, but to want to throw people in jail is another. Soon you will see religious wars all over again. Where is humankind going? Haven’t we learned through history that the human mind will always question things? But it seems that the only thing history has taught us is that the person with the biggest club will knock the “disillusioned” into submission?

    ErickV; good reasoning. Start reading science books, if you are not doing so already. Science explains the workings of Nature, and the findings keep closing the gaps offered by the religious that “god-did-it”. Good luck in your search for the scientific truth.

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  6. The law is about any religion blespheming about any religion. Not just about christianity. I think it is a step to living with tolerance. I think it would be easier to tolerate other religions and not speak out against them. If it is your belief or non belief- who am I to say you are wrong. That is my only statement. I am not standing behind all the wrong doing that people (no matter what their religion) has been over the last centuries. I don’t back the mistakes that were made in the passed, but if it also means allowing the fall of your country or belief system, you wouldn’t just lie and take it either. That’s why I think the law is a good idea, for tolerance, for a little peace between religions.

    Just because they believe differently than me doesn’t mean that I don’t care for their well being as much as the same ones that believe as I do. Its just difference of opinion, it doesn’t make your self worth any different than mine. I don’t understand why people have to speak out against a religion that they don’t believe in, just leave it alone. I don’t spend all day long talking negative about everyone elses beliefs. I just want to be left alone in mine and not have to listen to some one bad mouth my God. God just makes sense to me, I’m not going to push it on you, I’m not going to make you agree with me…its not possible. Why should anyone hate against something they don’t believe, its just choice.

    As for being thrown in jail – throw as many evil do-ers in jail as you want to. I agree to it.

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  7. “I don’t back the mistakes that were made in the passed, but if it also means allowing the fall of your country or belief system, you wouldn’t just lie and take it either. That’s why I think the law is a good idea, for tolerance, for a little peace between religions.”

    Who decides what the “belief system” of one’s country is? The RCC, the Muslims, the Hindu’s? What makes a country fall when a “belief system” is not adhered to?

    “As for being thrown in jail – throw as many evil do-ers in jail as you want to. I agree to it”

    You must be careful what you say here. Who are the evil doers? The atheists? The Muslims? The RCC? The Mormons? If you have the big club then whoever does not think your way is an evil-doer. Back to the dark ages; but why? Because people do not think for themselves anymore! Shit, it is going to be a very interesting future with people who do not think for themselves. The politicians and clergy will run rife.

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  8. For one you are taking what I am saying out of context. Just read it for what it says. When someone attacks your “Country or belief system” you will take action, it doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand. Look at the OR in that sentence. The evil – doers are just the ones that don’t abide by the law, or do horrible things to humanity no matter what their belief system. You are looking way more into this than there should be. I’m not one of those psycho’s that are discriminate against races and cultures. I know there are some like that, but its just not me. If you want to attack someone go attack someone who is attacking you. I’m actually standing up for everyone, not just christians. I’m saying you have a right to believe whatever you want and i’m not going to push you or say you are wrong, and you are still trying to dig at me to make me look stupid. Look at yourself. You think Christians are bad, stop hating me because I said I am one when you don’t even know who I am.

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  9. “..you are still trying to dig at me to make me look stupid. Look at yourself. You think Christians are bad, stop hating me because I said I am one when you don’t even know who I am.”

    I am not taking a dig at you. I am also not taking a dig at Christianity. I do not try to make you look stupid. All I try is to argue with you.

    Religion is a failed philosophy. So are other mystic believes; failures. None can sustain scientific scrutiny. There is no repeatability in any religious belief system. Science makes TV systems work; your prayers do nothing; except in your minds.

    Do not hate atheists; we don’t hate you. But you believe in absurd thinks. And we will not tolerate your beliefs; we hate your beliefs, not you.

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  10. If believing in God makes me a better person than why hate what I believe in. In some cases it doesn’t, but in my case it does. I don’t see the harm in believing that some day I will be in heaven and everyone is going to have to account for all the bad they have done, whether they get caught on earth or not. If I choose to believe that after I die I just become a pile of bones there’s just not enough reason for me to keep on living, it would all be in vain. You have to understand that I think that you believe in absurd thinks as well. Agree to disagree, thats what I think this law will help Ireland do – Agree to disagree.

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  11. “Agree to disagree, thats what I think this law will help Ireland do – Agree to disagree.”

    No, it is one-way traffic. The religious can say what they want to atheists and there is no law protecting the latter. But if anyone says anything against the religious they get prosecuted. Where do you see the agree to disagree law helping the atheists in Ireland?

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