Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Blasphemy law a return to middle ages – Dawkins

Posted in News by Skepdude on July 13, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT IRISH TIMES

THE NEW blasphemy law will send Ireland back to the middle ages, and is wretched, backward and uncivilised, Prof Richard Dawkins has said.

The scientist and critic of religion has lent his support to a campaign to repeal the law, introduced by Atheist Ireland, a group set up last December, arising from an online discussion forum. The law, which makes the publication or utterance of blasphemous matter a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine, passed through the Oireachtas last week.

In a message read out at Atheist Ireland’s first agm on Saturday, Prof Dawkins said: “One of the world’s most beautiful and best-loved countries, Ireland has recently become one of the most respected as well: dynamic, go-ahead, modern, civilised – a green and pleasant silicon valley. This preposterous blasphemy law puts all that respect at risk.” He said it would be too kind to call the law a ridiculous anachronism.

“It is a wretched, backward, uncivilised regression to the middle ages. Who was the bright spark who thought to besmirch the revered name of Ireland by proposing anything so stupid?”

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT IRISH TIMES

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Irish Blasphemy Law Passes

Posted in Friendly Atheist by Skepdude on July 10, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT THE FRIENDLY ATHEIST

Well, shit.

Ireland passed the blasphemy law.

What does this mean for Irish citizens? It means you can be convicted for trashing someone’s beliefs if you cause “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.” (Again, what is a “substantial number”? Who knows.)

Paliban Daily offers up some frightening consequences, given that “blasphemy” isn’t very well-defined:

  • Atheists can be prosecuted for saying that God is imaginary. That causes outrage.
  • Pagans can be prosecuted for saying they left Christianity because God is violent and bloodthirsty, promotes genocide, and permits slavery.
  • Christians can be prosecuted for saying that Allah is a moon god, or for drawing a picture of Mohammed, or for saying that Islam is a violent religion which breeds terrorists.
  • Jews can be prosecuted for saying Jesus isn’t the Messiah.

Those aren’t all accurate… for example, Jews can say Jesus isn’t the Messiah because their religious beliefs are protected under the law. But I suspect if they went around saying as much, holding posters that said he wasn’t the Messiah in a dickish sort of way, and made a “substantial number” of Christians angry, then we’d have problems.

We’re also told that academic and theological debate isn’t subject to the rules. But again, it’s tough to say what constitutes those kinds of debates. Can bloggers tear apart religious arguments and those who make them if they’re not professors? Can Irish people call certain Catholic priests rapists and attribute it to their faith and just say it’s part of theological debate? Can we call out certain adherents of a fundamentalist version of Islam as terrorists if that is warranted? Either everything in these categories is blasphemy or nothing is.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT THE FRIENDLY ATHEIST

Passionate testimony from a victim of the Irish Christian rape scandal

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 27, 2009

Tip of the Skepticap to the Friendly Atheist

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The savage reality of our darkest days

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 21, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “THE IRISH TIMES”

THE REPORT of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is the map of an Irish hell. It defines the contours of a dark hinterland of the State, a parallel country whose existence we have long known but never fully acknowledged. It is a land of pain and shame, of savage cruelty and callous indifference.

The instinct to turn away from it, repelled by its profoundly unsettling ugliness, is almost irresistible. We owe it, though, to those who have suffered there to acknowledge from now on that it is an inescapable part of Irish reality. We have to deal with the now-established fact that, alongside the warmth and intimacy, the kindness and generosity of Irish life, there was, for most of the history of the State, a deliberately maintained structure of vile and vicious abuse.

Mr Justice Ryan’s report does not suggest that this abuse was as bad as most of us suspected. It shows that it was worse. It may indeed have been even worse than the report actually finds – there are indications that “the level of sexual abuse in boys’ institutions was much higher than was revealed by the records or could be discovered by this investigation”.

With a calm but relentless accumulation of facts, the report blows away all the denials and obfuscations, all the moral equivocations and evasions that we have heard from some of the religious orders and their apologists. The sheer scale and longevity of the torment inflicted on defenceless children – over 800 known abusers in over 200 institutions during a period of 35 years – should alone make it clear that it was not accidental or opportunistic but systematic.

Violence and neglect were not the result of underfunding – the large institutions, where the worst abuse was inflicted, were “well-resourced”. The failure of the religious orders to stop these crimes did not result from ignorance. The recidivist nature of child sexual abusers was understood by the Brothers, who nonetheless continued deliberately to place known offenders in charge of children, both in industrial schools and in ordinary primary schools. At best, this represented what the report calls “a callous disregard for the safety of children”. At worst, it was an active protection of, and thus collusion with, the perpetrators of appalling crimes.

Nor did the abuse continue because of secrecy. Again, the very scale of the violence made it impossible to keep it sealed off from either officialdom or society at large. Contemporary complaints were made to the Garda, to the Department of Education, to health boards, to priests and to members of the public. The department, “deferential and submissive” to the religious congregations, did not shout stop. Neither did anyone else. Indeed, perhaps the most shocking finding of the commission is that industrial school inmates were often sexually exploited by those outside the closed world of the congregations, by “volunteer workers, visitors, work placement employees, foster parents” and by those who took them out for holidays or to work.

The key to understanding these attitudes is surely to realise that abuse was not a failure of the system. It was the system. Terror was both the point of these institutions and their standard operating procedure. Their function in Irish society was to impose social control, particularly on the poor, by acting as a threat. Without the horror of an institution like Letterfrack, it could not fulfil that function. Within the institutions, terror was systematic and deliberate. It was a methodology handed down through “successive generations of Brothers, priests and nuns”.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “THE IRISH TIMES”