A secular State protects both atheists and religious people. It has practical advantages for society, and there is a pathway to it.
Secularism is a force for good in three ways.
Firstly, secularism protects everybody’s freedom of conscience and religion and belief by staying neutral between them. Religious States promote religion. Atheist States promote atheism. Secular States promote neither.
Secondly, secularism allows religious people to focus on preparing for whatever next world they believe in, based on applying faith to their beliefs about divine revelations, and it allows the State to focus on governing this world, applying reason to the best available evidence.
Thirdly, secularism can combine with human rights standards as a foundation stone on which we can build a liberal democracy. This can, in turn, combat other threats from such ideologies as fascism and totalitarianism and communism and the unregulated free market.
Secularism has practical advantages.
The happiest countries are secular liberal democracies, including Scandinavian countries and Northern European states.
In general, secular countries have lower rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion.
Studies published by social scientist Phil Zuckerman and others have shown that secularists are typically less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less closed-minded, less authoritarian, more politically tolerant, and more supportive of minority rights.
There is a pathway to secular rational values.
The World Values Survey, conducted by social scientists, suggests that as individuals move from survival values to self-expression values, societies move from traditional religious values to secular rational values.
These changes are triggered by investments in health, education, communication technologies, and democracy, which give people more control of their lives and makes them less dependent on religion.
International trends are clear. The developed world is relentlessly becoming more secular, with some fundamentalists fighting a rearguard action against it.
Ireland and the world will follow that trend. The sooner we attain a secular State, the better it will be for religious and atheist citizens alike.