Why I am openly atheist and secular

by Michael Nugent on August 26, 2014

This is my contribution to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Out Channel on Youtube. It was recorded in May when I was speaking at a Freedom From Religion Foundation conference in North Carolina.

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This is an analysis by Atheist Ireland of how Irish law effectively prohibits non-denominational secular schools based on human rights, despite the Irish Government telling the UN Human Rights Committee last month that there are no obstacles to establishing such schools in Ireland.

The Government did outline two requirements to the UN, that the Government seemingly doesn’t consider to be obstacles. These are that there must be sufficient parental demand in an area for such a school, and that the requirements of being a Patron body must be met.

In reality, there are four obstacles to establishing non-denominational secular schools based on human rights in Ireland.

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In 2007 the OSCE published the Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching About Religion and Beliefs in Public Schools. The principles were prepared by an advisory council of experts on freedom of religion and belief.

These Principles focus solely on the educational approach that seeks to provide teaching about different religions and beliefs, as distinct from instruction in a specific religion or belief.

This is a link to the full document, which you should read for full context.

Here are some selected extracts that reflect some of the key principles, from the perspective of Atheist Ireland and other advocates for State-funded secular non-denominational education based on human rights law.

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I nearly didn’t publish this, after reading several smears against me personally online, because I had defended Richard Dawkins against the increasingly normalised pattern of misrepresenting him and smearing a defamatory caricature of who he is.

A close friend (a woman who, like me, has spent decades actively campaigning for women’s rights and for victims of many human rights abuses) advised me that it is outrageous that I should be put in a position of seeming to have to defend my beliefs about pedophilia and rape.

As one example, the usually charitable Geoff Lillis, while referring to me, commented: “Women, and those who support women, do not warm to those who defend people who trivialise rape and fail to address the trivialisation of rape expressed by the person they defend.”

This casual unjustified smear, with its multiple false assumptions, is like the legend that Lyndon B Johnson spread a rumour that an election rival fucked pigs. When challenged that he knew it wasn’t true, LBJ supposedly replied, “Of course it’s not true, but I want to make him deny it.”

So I nearly didn’t publish this, because I didn’t want to give credibility to such smear tactics. But I have told others, who disagreed with me more reasonably, that I would respond, and so I will. I will also further discuss the normalising of casual defamatory smears online.

What makes this so sad is that there are no bad people in this scenario. We are all broadly trying to build a more ethical, secular society, with our different nuances and priorities and emphases. We can disagree robustly about our beliefs without straying into personal smears.

TW: This post discusses pedophilia, rape and defamation of character.
TL;DR: Pedophilia and rape are bad. You and Richard Dawkins are good.

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Pictures of Atheist Ireland briefing the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva

August 4, 2014

Here are some pictures of Atheist Ireland and Alison Mawhinny, along with other Irish NGOs, briefing the UN Human Rights Committee at the formal and informal sessions in Geneva. Alison is an independent academic who worked with Atheist Ireland on Freedom of Religion issues. The pictures are from the Centre for Civil and Political Rights […]

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Reductio Ad Absurdum (a Twitter exchange)

August 4, 2014

I’ve just had this Twitter conversation with @Adam4004 about Reductio Ad Absurdum: Michael: Children have a human right to a neutral studying environment, even in denominational schools http://bit.ly/1pynTek Evert Bopp: That’s not a human right. What’s next, a “human right” to clean socks? Michael: There is no human right to clean socks, but there is […]

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Educate Together is undermining the duty of the Irish State to provide non-denominational schools

August 3, 2014

Educate Together has made two statements recently that undermine the duty of the Irish Government to provide secular education though new non-denominational schools, as required by the UN Human Rights Committee. Educate Together is doing this by blurring the distinction between multi-denominational schools (which Educate Together schools are) and non-denominational schools (which the UN Human […]

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The new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission should be mandated to monitor ICCPR rights

August 1, 2014

This is Yuval Shany of the UN Human Rights Committee, during the Committee’s questioning of Ireland in Geneva in July. He is challenging the Irish State’s reasons for not mandating the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to monitor human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Starting with the new […]

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The Catholic belief system in Ireland and human rights abuses from child abuse to symphysiotomy

August 1, 2014

This is a powerful extract from the closing address of Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee, after the Committee’s questioning of Ireland in Geneva in July. Then there remain the many social issues that have been raised by colleagues. The Magdalene laundries, the Mother and Baby homes, the child abuse, the symphysiotomy. […]

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Irish Government accepts abortion rights cannot be denied by majority votes – video and transcript

August 1, 2014

This is the hugely significant exchange in Geneva in July, where the Irish Government formally accepted that the will of the Irish people as expressed in a referendum or parliamentary vote cannot be used to deny human rights, including on abortion. The UN Human Rights Committee asked Ireland why it was in breach of the […]

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