I think it is useful to continue this discussion, so this is a response to Ophelia’s interim post about mine yesterday, which she has titled:

“Thou shalt respect The Leaders.”

That title is based on a misreading not only of my post, but also of my entire life philosophy and political activism. Actually:

  • I wrote that “I believe that atheist and skeptic people and groups, like all people and groups within society, should promote compassion, empathy, fairness, justice, equality and respect for people, combined with robust rational analysis of ideas.”
  • I also wrote that “I believe that we should robustly question the ideas and behaviour of people who are, or who are perceived to be, authority figures in our own spheres of activity.”

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Let me preface this post by saying that I accept that I might be mistaken in anything that I write, and that I am open to changing my mind on the basis of reasonable civil discussion. Also, I assume that I have done variations of at least some of the things I am complaining about others doing here.

I believe that atheist and skeptic people and groups, like all people and groups within society, should promote compassion, empathy, fairness, justice, equality and respect for people, combined with robust rational analysis of ideas. I believe that this should include tackling sexism, racism, homophobia and other discriminatory biases in society.

I believe that the approach taken by PZ Myers, and by some other people on (for shorthand) the FreeThought Blogs perceived ‘side’ of some disagreements, is counterproductive to these aims. It is also unjust and harmful in itself, because it routinely demonises decent people who support equality but who have a different approach to it.

I am also concerned that distorted versions of these disagreements are now leaking into more mainstream media, as evidenced by recent sensationalised newspaper articles about Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and by Mark Oppenheimer’s recent article, ‘Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement?’, which is more comprehensive but not fully informed.

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My late wife Anne Holliday was buried last week, three years after she died and donated her body to medical science. After the burial, I discussed with Joe Duffy on RTE the new secular memorial stone that the Dublin Medical Schools have erected on their cemetery plot, and Anne’s plans for assisted dying. Thanks to Joe and everyone else for your kind expressions of sympathy and compassion on and since Anne’s burial.

New secular memorial stone in medical school cemetery

Preparing for assisted dying


The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and the Apprentice Boys of Derry will soon take part in a march in Edinburgh to oppose Scottish independence. The march is organised by the Scottish Orange Order.

At face value it is what you would expect from a pro-British, pro-Union organisation. But in a significant way, this march contradicts the underlying political position of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland.

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We must repeal the 8th Amendment to respect the human rights of pregnant women

September 6, 2014
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This new secular memorial stone is a fitting tribute to my late wife Anne Holliday who is buried today

September 5, 2014

My late wife Anne Holliday will be buried today in Glasnevin Cemetery, three years after she died of cancer and donated her body to Trinity College. Today, in a positive move towards an inclusive Ireland, the Dublin Medical Schools have respected Anne’s wish for a secular burial. They have replaced the decades-old religious memorial stone […]

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Evolution, Vatican Toy Town, God and the Easter Bunny – Richard Dawkins on RTE’s Late Late Show five years ago

September 3, 2014

Five years ago this month, Richard Dawkins was interviewed on RTE’s Late Late Show about his then new book The Greatest Show on Earth. It is fascinating look at Irish television when Atheist Ireland was less than a year old. It was a time when host Ryan Tubridy could interview Richard Dawkins about a book […]

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Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss to attend Belfast Q&A after screening of The Unbelievers

September 2, 2014

The Strand Arts Centre in Belfast will be screening The Unbelievers documentary on Tuesday 21 October. Here is the Facebook Event Page. Tickets will go on sale today, Wednesday 2 September, from the strand box office online and direct at a price of £16.50. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss will be in attendance for a […]

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How do Educate Together schools teach religion and spirituality? A conversation on Twitter with Educate Together Chairman and COO

September 2, 2014

Yesterday Dave McGinn tweeted that somebody had said they attended an opening ceremony of an Educate Together school, at which seven religious preachers addressed the audience. Update: Emer Nowlan, Educate Together’s Chief Operating Officer, has since clarified that this ceremony did not take place in an Educate Together school. She understands that it took place […]

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Boris takes the Mice Bucket Challenge

September 1, 2014

Nina the cat, who owns Ashling O’Brien, has nominated Boris to take the Mice Bucket Challenge, which involves tipping a bucket of toy mice over Boris and donating to an animal charity. Like Ashling, I’m donating to the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which you can do here. Boris has nominated Natalia’s […]

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