Atheist NII’m very pleased to see the formation of Atheist NI, an advocacy group that seeks to represent the views of atheists in Northern Ireland, and to work towards a rational, ethical and secular Northern Ireland, free from superstition and supernatural beliefs.

Northern Ireland has had as strange a relationship with its atheists as has the Republic of Ireland, both before and after the island was partitioned.

An atheist and a violent party man

In April 1859, a Belfast Presbyterian was horrified when he was accused of being an atheist. James McAldin had been removed from a jury panel in a court case, and he believed that it was because his name “had a Roman Catholic sound to official ears”. However, the Attorney General told the House of Commons that McAldin had been set aside because he was “an atheist and a violent party man”.

McAldin wrote a letter to the Times saying that “the charge of atheism is such an odious accusation that I trust to your sense of justice to permit me to repel it.” He was also upset by being called “a violent party man” but he described this accusation as being “not so damaging” as being labelled an atheist.

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After I criticised PZ Myers and others for smearing the atheist movement and individual atheists, PZ responded by falsely accusing me of defending and providing a haven for rapists, and he has now refused for ten weeks to withdraw and apologise for this defamatory smear.

In this article I will analyse, quote from, and link to examples of PZ’s years-long pattern of smears that led to my original criticism. PZ promotes himself as The Happy Atheist, but his writing conveys more anger and causes more hurt and harm than happiness.

There are now so many smears that each can hide behind the others, as PZ drags us on a desensitising race to the ethical bottom, many levels below the basics of civil discourse, evidence, fairness, empathy and justice. Ironically, any one of PZ’s smears, if viewed on their own, might stand out as worse than the suffocating tangle of smears that has evolved as he gradually lowers our expectation of decent behaviour.

Despite this, you could excuse many of these smears by interpreting them charitably, particularly if they were made by somebody who is normally charitable, who has been misinformed or is writing in anger, and who either substantiates them or apologises and changes their behaviour. But the sheer relentlessness of PZ’s smears, and his reluctance to apologise, brings as a wider problem their cumulative impact.

PZ Myers’ unethical behaviour is harmful to the atheist and skeptic movements, and to the cause of social justice, as well as being hurtful and unjust to the individuals that he smears. It also discredits the American Humanist Association and the IHEU, who gave him a Humanist of the Year award in 2009 and International Humanist Award in 2011, and it disrespects other Humanist awardees who try to promote ethical rather than unethical behaviour.

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I Keano MCD

It’s now ten years since I co-wrote the comedy musical I, Keano with Arthur and Paul, and we’re bringing it back next year to celebrate Roy Keane’s return to the FAI fold.

The revival will run in the Olympia in Dublin from 28 March to 12 April 2015, with tickets going on sale this Monday from Ticketmaster outlets nationwide and online.

See details on the MCD website.

We were delighted with the reaction first time around, as our generation’s civil war set to music with togas caught the imagination of the nation.

To get back into the mood of I, Keano, here is a nostalgia-trip checklist of the ten silliest things the FAI did in the decades leading up to the Saipan saga.

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IHEU Report 2014The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2014 highlights the discrimination and persecution faced by atheists around the world. Two countries — Iraq in Western Asia and Afghanistan in Southern Asia — are rated highest for Grave Violations of atheists’ rights. Three more countries meet four of the five Grave Violations criteria, but without enough information to be fully rated, and so they might be on a par with Iraq and Afghanistan. These countries are Iran in Southern Asia, Jordan in Western Asia and North Korea in Eastern Asia.

Another eight countries also meet four of the five criteria for Grave Violation rating. They are Morocco and Sudan in Northern Africa; Mauritania in Western Africa; Saudi Arabia, Yemen and United Arab Emirates in Western Asia; Maldives in Southern Asia; and Brunei in South-Eastern Asia.

Seven countries meet three of the five criteria for Grave Violation rating. They are Somalia in Eastern Africa; Kuwait and Qutar in Western Asia; Pakistan in Southern Asia; and Indonesia and Malaysia in South-Eastern Asia;

Eight countries meet two of the five criteria for Grave Violation rating. They are Egypt in Northern Africa; Gambia and Nigeria in Western Africa; Comoros and Eritrea in Eastern Africa; Bahrain and Syria in Western Asia; and China in Eastern Asia.

And four countries meet one of the five criteria for Grave Violation rating. They are Libya in Northern Africa; Ethiopia in Eastern Africa; Swaziland in Southern Africa; and Bangladesh in Southern Asia.

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Belgium, Netherlands, Estonia – good news stories in the IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2014

December 11, 2014

The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2014 highlights the discrimination and persecution faced by atheists around the world. But there is also good news. Three countries — Belgium and Netherlands in Western Europe, and Estonia in Northern Europe — are rated Free and Equal societies for atheists. Six more countries meet some of the Free and Equal […]

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Would you vote for an atheist? My discussion on BBC Radio Ulster on launch of IHEU Report

December 11, 2014

On the launch of the IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2014, I discussed whether people would vote for an atheist with Peter Lynas of the Northern Ireland Evangelical Alliance, and Johnny McCarthy of NI21, on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback with host William Crawley.

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Ireland systemically discriminates against atheists, says IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2014

December 10, 2014

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has released its Freedom of Thought Report 2014, which is an annual global report on discrimination against humanists, atheists, and the non-religious, and their human rights and legal status. Atheist Ireland contributed information about religious discrimination in Ireland to the process of developing the Report. Overall, the Report concludes […]

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The pattern continues – like PZ Myers’ smear about rapists, Theo fails to apologise for his smear about fascism

December 9, 2014

Like PZ Myers, who has repeatedly failed to substantiate or apologise for his false allegation that I defend and provide a haven for rapists, our pseudonymous commenter Theophontes has failed to substantiate or apologise for his false allegation that my “seedy past” involved being associated fascism. This is part of an ongoing pattern whereby PZ […]

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You have the right to offend atheists, but not to discriminate against us

December 4, 2014

Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign and Ian O’Doherty of the Irish Independent have little in common. However, they both make the mistake of thinking, when Atheist Ireland seeks equal rights for all citizens, that the reason we are doing so is because we are offended. Cora says of my comments about the Carrauntoohill cross: […]

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Come to the Atheist Ireland Christmas Party in Dublin on Saturday 13 December!

December 3, 2014

The Atheist Ireland Christmas Party starts at 7 pm on Saturday 13 December in Dublin. Here’s the Facebook Page. Don’t be put off by the name. Christmas is as much about Christ as Thursday is about Thor. It is the age old tradition of celebrating the turning of the seasons, which was only adopted by Christianity […]

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