BenBaz Aziz, the Egyptian atheist who is now free after a year in prison in Kuwait on blasphemy charges, writes articles about secularism, atheism, human rights and related issues for Atheist Ireland.

In this fourth article, he examines three dimensions of the relationship between scientific thinking and civil society: the historical dimension, the theoretical dimension and the practical dimension.

You can read more about BenBaz here, and you can read more by BenBaz on his Facebook Page and in Arabic on his blog.

Using rational scientific thinking to build civil society

We don’t have the concept of ‘civil society’ in our Arabic culture, but we should attempt to build the foundation for a civil Arabic society to elevate the status of the individual and his dignity, despite the traditions and rituals. Maybe building such a society may take hundreds of years, but not to try will require a lifetime.

It is possible to talk about the three dimensions of the relationship between scientific thinking and civil society: historical dimension, theoretical dimension and practical dimension. We will discuss each one separately to validate the core issue at hand, which is: “scientific thinking is a necessary condition for the establishment of a civil society.”

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The Irish Times today apologised for publishing a cartoon by Martyn Turner, and has removed the cartoon from its website. Whatever the reason for removing the cartoon, it is not the consistent application of the stated reasons for doing so. The Irish Times should withdraw the apology and republish the cartoon, or else it should also apologise for and remove from its website any other Martyn Turner cartoons that violate the standards that it used to make this decision.

This is the cartoon. It is about the publication of a Bill to strengthen the legal requirement to report to the police any knowledge of sexual abuse of children, and the position of the Catholic Church that its priests will not report any crimes they hear about in Confession. The cartoon has three priests reading the Bill, and singing “I would do anything for children, but I won’t do that.” The part that has caused the problem is the comment in the bottom right corner. It reads “But there is little else you can do for them, other than stay away from them.”

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I have had a lot of reaction to my disturbing debate on RTE’s Liveline with host Joe Duffy and a Catholic priest, Father Gearoid O Doncha, who insists that he would not report the rape of a child to the Gardai if he heard about it at confession. Here is audio and a transcript of the discussion.

Joe: let me bring in Mick Nugent. Mick, good afternoon. You’ve heard this argument, Mick, I know you’re involved in Atheist Ireland, about the confessional. That this new bill that was introduced yesterday, children first, says quite categorically that Gardai, social workers, psychologists, teachers, clerics working with children, if they become aware of abuse in any circumstance, they must, mandatory is the word, they must report to the Gardai. Now, you’ve heard the argument that the seal of the confessional is paramount. What do you think?

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Senator Jim Walsh of Fianna Fail made the following sweepingly inaccurate comment about Atheist Ireland and atheists generally today in the Seanad.

“We’ve got a lot of representations from different groups, and particularly Atheist Ireland, and I want to say that, I said in the past here, I think that atheists, like people of belief, are people of faith. It takes faith for anybody to believe there is a God, and equally it takes faith to believe there is no God. And in many ways I feel reassured by Atheist Ireland because, if there wasn’t a God, well then there wouldn’t be anything particularly to atheate from, and I’d just like to say that.”

Ironically, Senator Walsh made this comment this during a debate on a Bill that aims to reduce religious discrimination. And the representations that Atheist Ireland had made were about the need for the State to remain neutral between religious and nonreligious philosophical beliefs.

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Leaked document to UK shows European Commission’s view of some aspects of Equality Directive

April 16, 2014

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission could not get access to the Reasoned Opinion sent by the European Commission to Ireland about our failure to comply with the Employment Equality Directive 2000/78, because it is a confidential document. However, the European Commission also sent Reasoned Opinions to other Member States at around the same [...]

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Approach of religious discrimination Bill is undesirable, says Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

April 14, 2014

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has said that the approach of the current Seanad Bill allowing religious discrimination is undesirable, and may continue to leave the State exposed to a breach of its obligations under the European Employment Equality Directive 2000/78. In a new Recommendation Paper, authored by Marguerite Bolger SC and Claire [...]

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Senators raise Atheist Ireland concerns and proposals about religious job discrimination law

April 9, 2014

The concerns and proposals raised by Atheist Ireland in our briefing document to Senators were raised in the Seanad today, during a Committee Stage debate on Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act. This is the Section that allows religious institutions, including schools and hospitals, an exemption to discriminate against employees to protect the religious [...]

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Remembering Anne

April 8, 2014

Today is three years since Anne died. This is the tribute that I wrote to her then.

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Please ask Irish Senators today to oppose religious job discrimination in Seanad tomorrow, Wednesday 9 April

April 7, 2014

This Wednesday 9 April, Irish Senators will discuss a Bill that aims to amend Section 37 of the Irish Employment Equality Act. This is the Section that allows religious institutions, including schools and hospitals, an exemption to discriminate against employees to protect the religious ethos of their institution. This is a link to the Bill. [...]

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The complicated relationship between science and religion – BenBaz Aziz writes for Atheist Ireland

April 6, 2014

BenBaz Aziz, the Egyptian atheist who is now free after a year in prison in Kuwait on blasphemy charges, writes articles about secularism, atheism, human rights and related issues for Atheist Ireland. In this third article, he gives a quick overview of the historic relationship between science and religion, from Ancient Greece through Medieval times [...]

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