Last weekend saw Dublin’s Alexander Hotel host the World Atheist Conference (or Convention, nobody seemed to be quite sure). Over 300 atheists – and a few theists - from all over the world gathered to hear some of the world’s best-known atheists speak on subjects such as secular education, blasphemy laws, communicating atheism and the rise of Islamism, as well as to meet and discuss these and other topics with like-minded people. As a “militant” atheist (i.e one who goes to “Atheists in the pub” on a regular basis) living in Dublin, I bought my ticket early.
The weekend began – as all weekends should – on Thursday. “Atheists in the Church” was a pre-conference gathering held in a nicely ironic setting, a bar that used to be a church. As a fairly active member of Atheist Ireland I was invited to have dinner first with a few other AI members and some of the speakers. I had a great chat with Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and also met some of the other speakers including Rebecca Watson, Tom Melchiorre and Bobbie Kirkhart.
There was a good mix at the bar: regular AI members, people who’d travelled from far and wide and locals who couldn’t make the conference but wanted to be part of things anyway. I reluctantly but sensibly bowed out early enough to catch a bus home, as I expected the rest of the weekend to be hard on the wallet, not to mention the liver. Read more…
With General Election 2011 almost upon us, here’s a quick look at the options we will have on polling day.
Fianna Fáil (Irish for “Soldiers of Density”) has been the largest party in Dáil Éireann since 1932 but has recently taken huge steps towards abandoning this tradition. As the senior party in government, it has been blamed for the recent economic collapse. This is no doubt due to the party’s long-standing practice of appointing finance ministers with no background in economics. One of them, Bertie Ahern, famously had such a bad grasp of figures that he not only had no bank account, but kept finding substantial sums of money and couldn’t remember where they came from. His memory became so bad that he could no longer serve as finance minister and was eventually appointed Taoiseach, a post he held for almost 11 years before the economy collapsed and he remembered he had somewhere else to be. Ironically, his successor Brian Cowen is just a bad memory.
The newly appointed leader Micheál Martin has promised that under his leadership things will be very different from the government of which he was a senior member and unequivocal supporter for 13 years.
People have different standards for what’s morally acceptable. I get that. And many people find it difficult to accept that the moral standards and societal norms they grew up with have changed. I get that too. That’s why I sympathise somewhat with Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the Cornwall B&B owners who this week were forced to pay compensation to a gay couple whose holidays they ruined by discriminating against them and refusing to honour their reservation.
The Bulls are no doubt sincere in their beliefs as they were willing to risk legal sanction rather than violate them. But while they’re entitled to their private views, a judge has quite sensibly ruled that they’re not entitled to run a business that interferes with the rights of others to be treated equally. The Bulls will now be free to decide whether they wish to run a business from their home or to refuse to allow gay couples to stay there. They are free to do either but not both. Read more…