Christ on a Bike, it’s Blasphemy Day!

Sure it’s easy to joke about religion — like, really easy — and while International Blasphemy Day isn’t a designated berate religions or offend people of faith, but rather a day to stand up for freedom of expression. The fact that in some parts of the world it is still illegal to criticise religious beliefs is ludicrous. In the US criticising religion may become a criminal offense, however, as the US Constitution demands separation of Church and state this would surely be unconstitutional — however Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania have laws against blasphemy.

In the UK, Blasphemy laws were abolished in 2008.

On the other hand, in 2009 Ireland moved to introduce blasphemy laws stating that “publishing or uttering blasphemous matter” may be punishable of up to €25,000.

In Northern Ireland blasphemy and blasphemous libel are still punishable by law. An amendment to the law was planned in 2009, but this was withdrawn.

“… this is not about any hostility to religion. On the contrary, the problem is that one person’s religion is another person’s blasphemy. The vice in the common law on blasphemy, which has never been used in Northern Ireland, is that it immediately leads to demands by, for example, Muslims that it be extended to their religion-something which has, extraordinarily, been done in the Republic. Thirdly, it is there to protect Christianity, which is regarded as divisive by non-Christians.” — Lord Lester of Herne Hill 5th Nov 2009

So the question now is, in this country, will we be arrested for stating that God is a big doo doo head? Why can we not be rude about a god, a belief system, or indeed simply criticise faith without the fear that we could potentially be arrested for doing so?

I’m not going to post any silly cartoons which may be considered extreme by some fools — we are a serious people — however, I will continue to question why it is that full freedom of expression is not granted to the people of this Island? Both north and south of the political border. We fully and completely condemn such a law which discourages free speech.

“Every great truth begins as a blasphemy.”
– George Bernard Shaw

“Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense”
– Robert Green Ingersoll

Can we also see that those who do believe in God will stand up for the rights of those who do not?

Go now, to love and serve blaspheme to your heart’s content.

Giant’s Causeway/Creationism Sparks Creativity: Limericks

The debacle between the National Trust’s Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre over the inclusion of a creationist exhibit has sparked some creativity in the form of limericks from those fighting to have it removed. Here’s a few of the best so far:

Of the Giants Causeway formation,
an audio exhibit does say,
though their minds are deluded,
some nutjobs concluded
that the debate continues today…

======

The debate of formation is over,
at our Giant’s Causeway,
although they are deluded,
the creationist has concluded,
to ignore evidence to contray…

======

Creationist understanding of science,
is really quite rudimentary.
Despite our groans,
They believe the Flintstones
is a documentary.

======

The National Trust have proven quite crazy,
Their understanding is very hazy,
Instead of just having fact,
They used a theory that’s cracked,
Will they sort it? NO, they’re too lazy.

======

The Caleb creationist Wallace
Does things that can’t fail to appal us.
The Causeway, he says,
Was made in six days,
Which we know is a load of old bollocks.

All Things Skeptical — Sunday Summary

Science

QEDcon: Question, Explore, Discover — Tickets on sale today


Tickets for to QEDcon: Question, Explore, Discover conference in Manchester 13-14 April 2013 — We’ll be there, and we’re very excited!

The line-up so far includes: Stevyn Colgan, Richard Dawkins, Rachael Dunlop, Ben Goldacre, Natalie Haynes, Mark Lynas, Brooke Magnanti, Rose Shapiro, Brian Thompson (JREF) with more to be announced.

Some of us went to the conference in 2011: Conor penned a rather beautiful post titled ‘A letter to QED‘ detailing the events which took place and generally how amazing it was. And amazing, it was.

QED is is a two-day science and skepticism convention taking place at the Mercure Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester on the 13th-14th April 2013. The conference features a diverse set of speakers on a range of topics of general Skepticism and popular science: enriching minds and motivating people.

The event is organised by North West Skeptical Events Ltd on behalf of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society. The nominated charity this year is Good Thinking Society, a fantastic organisation set up to “to encourage curiosity and promote rational thinking”.

We’ll be tweeting and blogging from the event as much as possible. We’ll also be harassing (no not sexually!) as many of the speakers as we can. Also, books will be signed!

Tickets costs £99/£59 it’s set to be great event. Let us know if you’re interested in joining us.
QED Facebook, Twitter, Web.

Skeptics in the Pub September Social Event — McHugh’s Bar 26th Sept

After a break from events and gatherings in the physical realm we’re back this month and we have a lovely new city centre venue!

McHugh’s Bar,
2nd Floor Room,
Queens Square, 7.30pm.

Feels like we’re moving up in the world, a lovely central location and a private room on the 2nd floor which I didn’t even know existed. You could say I was sceptical until I saw it. So grab a beverage and we’ll chat about what’s going on in the world of freethough, and not-so-freethough. From creationism and how it appears to be taking a greater hold on society than ever, let alone their influence within NI politics, integrated education in Northern Ireland, and who in Stormont is in favour of this,

We will also discuss where Belfast Skeptics is heading in this version titled BelfastSkeptics 2.0: Social justice and being a positive source of good. Good without God. Sounds like the title of a talk, though not one I plan to give as such, but something I have thoughts on, and will expand on in a post.

As the anti-theism and rational thinking “movement” gains momentum worldwide, Northern Ireland is still far behind, much like it is on everything else. I learned recently that Northern Ireland is 12 years behind England in terms of arts audiences and participation. Giving it a value changes one’s perspective on the situation. In terms of religious, attitudes it is known that we have a lot of work to do.

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub is a place for those who want change to take place in Northern Ireland; whether it relates to how the politicians deal with banning blood from gay people, how long we have to wait before marriage is equal and opened up to same-sex couples, why are our shops still only open for 5hrs on a Sunday resulting in a ghost-town effect and hindering economic growth and valued tourism, or a whole plethora of aspects of live in Northern Ireland in which it is clear no logic was used whatsoever, certainly not the sort that would ensure that beliefs and ideals of some will be enforced on the masses.

Register your attendance on Facebook.

Poster:
belfast skeptics in the pub september poster

All things Skeptical — Sunday Summary

This may or may not be a regular thing, we’ll see how it goes.

A round-up of news and stuff from the past week:

Religion

Science

Media

Northern Ireland

Video

Tweets

Caleb Foundation No-Show at NI Humanist Event

Yesterday evening I went to the Humanists Association of Northern Ireland’s regular monthly meeting expecting to hear from their arranged speaker David mcConaghie, Press Officer of the Caleb Foundation: the group behind the inclusion of the creationist display at the Giant’s Causeway. I was joined by Colin and Peter of the Facebook campaign to remove the display, all psyched and rehearsed in our lines of debate.

Sadly, Iain Deboys, organisation Chair, informed us that McConaghie and the foundation’s chairman, Wallace Thompson, would not be attending. What followed was frustration and annoyance, whilst not being altogether surprised that they are so unwilling to talk to anyone who may oppose their views it is an utterly ridiculous and cowardly thing to back out of an event which was planned weeks ago, showing that they are unable to defend themselves in a public sphere.

We were informed that all correspondence between the Humanist Ass. and Caleb was carried out very carefully and Ian remarked that at times they even appeared jovial during telephone calls; at one point Thompson said, “Some people think we’re nuts, maybe they’re right.” A certain level of humour employed perhaps in an attempt to endear us to them. They were ensured that questions would not be pre-approved, yet all efforts would be made to see that the event is peaceful and carried out in a formal manner.

However, Iain then went and asked if a group member, John Pearson, who is also a member of Atheist Ireland, had requested to video record the event the response from Caleb was that they would have to check with “the Men”. While “the Men” weren’t that keen in the first place, thinking perhaps they’d be ambushed, and rather than simply say “no” to all recording, it was decided by “the Men” that they would not attend. McDonaghie and Thompson said yesterday that “their hands were tied.” That they personally were happy enough but “the Men weren’t”.

It was disappointing to see that such a public body is so unwilling to speak publicly about the actions which they take. Actions which affect so many people in different ways. If they are unable to defend themselves or have rational, evidence-based reasons for carrying out the actions that they have, then perhaps they should not hold the positions that they do and continue to preach the nonsense that they do.

Perhaps next time we’ll ask the women.

Caleb Press Officer to Speak at NI Humanists Event — 13th September

Tomorrow, Thursday 13th September, David McConaghie, Press Officer of the Caleb Foundation is to speak at the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland event on the ‘Origins of the Giant’s Causeway’. This will certainly be an interesting evening and attendance is likely to be high.

David McConaghie said in a piece in the Newsletter in July:

The inclusion in the new centre of an acknowledgement of an alternative explanation of its origins, and of the continuing debate about it, is an encouraging step. We’ve had collective hysteria from those who would conceal evidence, suppress facts, withhold data, obstruct enquiry and stifle debate – but that was expected.

Where once the only view on display was of an old earth, there is now reference to another perspective. The availability of more information will promote healthy, informed debate – surely that is a good thing.

While it is good to see the Caleb Foundation encourage public and open debate about what they do and what they want, it is unfortunate that it has come to this despite requests and promises from the National Trust regarding the inclusion of the “alternative” view at the Giant’s Causeway exhibition, an official response has yet to be received following their supposed review. While McConaghie says “surely [the debate] is a good thing”, our answer is: No. It is not a good thing. There is no debate.

This talk, and the Q&A (unless they forbid questioning their ideas) will likely be “interesting” and no doubt full of the same nonsense about God, taking certain parts of the Old Testament literally and failing to understand scientific research in an area which is no longer considered up for debate within the scientific community.

We will be in attendance on the evening.

What: David McConaghie, Caleb Foundation Press Officer — ‘Origins of the Giant’s Causeway’
Where: Malone Lodge, 60 Eglantine Avenue, Belfast
When: 8pm

A Secular Agenda for Northern Irish Politics

Matt Johnston has some brilliant ideas which should be taken on board by those in Northern Ireland who wish to better the our future; political parties, voters, and potentially new political parties. Matt has created a list of terms — “a political ‘purity test’” — which can be applied to a local manifesto. The bottom line is that this is about a secular agenda with aims to improve the life of people and economy in Northern Ireland.

They are all excellent and valid points which need to be reverberated throughout our government and should be fought for as a society.

  • Do they support raising the bar for education in schools (especially with regards to computing education)?
  • What is their stance on equal marriage?
    Why do you want to stop people from getting married except under your definitions?
  • Do they support total transparency on finances?
  • What is their policy on parades and illegal organisations? If you support flying flags of illegal organisations (involved in murder) then you’re part of the problem. If you support parades going through anywhere but city centres, then you’re part of the problem. Keep parades the hell away from where people live.
  • What’s your policy on integration in schools? If it’s any less than 100%, then you’re just propagating the issues we’ve been suffering with for my entire lifetime. Religious instruction in state-funded schools is not appropriate. Religion is a personal experience. Keep it in your family and your congregation.
  • Do they support the teaching of Creationism in schools? This is a hot topic considering that government is trying to increase interest in STEM subjects and including a mythology alongside science is counterproductive. Creationism is a great story for goatherds two millennia ago. Let’s keep it for Sundays and get it out of our schools.
  • Are they prepared to apply the law to all without regard for historical or cultural sensitivity? This means no by-ball for their mates in the lodge (Orange or Hibernian). This means no unofficial vigilantes. This means more than simple “condemnation” of the violence.
  • Do they support the ridiculous opening hours restrictions placed on shops on Sundays? And not to mention the restrictions on pubs and nightclubs. We’re not a “party region”, we’re barely a tourist friendly region. Give tourists something to do on a Sunday morning other than listen to dreary bells.

These are all extremely valid and important, and, for the most part, they contribute massively to the reason Northern Ireland continues to remain years behind everywhere else on a number of issues. This list makes sense. And these issues need to be dealt with.

Read Matt’s post here.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2012

Today is the 10th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day: the purpose of which is to promote awareness, commitment and action in preventing suicide. This year’s theme is “Suicide Prevention across the Globe: Strengthening Protective Factors and Instilling Hope”.

Suicide is a very personal issue, and many of us know someone who has thought about it, or indeed gone through with it. According to recent statistics, Health Minister Edwin Poots said in June 2012 it is “almost six times the rate of death due to road traffic accidents”. With a record 313 suicides registered last year.

The rise in these figures has been linked to a number of factors, including unemployment and the current economic climate.

Suicide rates are twice as high in deprived areas of Northern Ireland – for young men, it’s often said to be down to the over-use of alcohol and drugs.

According to Psychology Today the six reasons for attempted suicide are:

  1. Depression
  2. Psychosis
  3. Impulsive
  4. Crying out for help
  5. A philosophical desire to die
  6. They’ve made a mistake

A recet study by Queens University Belfast found that the highest rate of suicide in Northern Ireland is among men aged 35-44, also known as “Troubles Children”. Speaking about the study Professor Tomlinson, from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work said:

“The increase in suicide rates can be attributed to a complex range of social and psychological factors.
These include the growth in social isolation, poor mental health arising from the experience of conflict, and the greater political stability of the past decade.
The transition to peace means that cultures of externalised aggression are no longer socially approved or politically acceptable.”

In June 2012 Edwin Poots launched the ‘Protect Life Strategy and Action Plan‘.

Worldwide statistics:

  • Data from The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that 1 million people die every year of suicide worldwide
  • There is one death by suicide every 40 seconds
  • There are more people lost to suicide than to homicide and war combined
  • Suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death worldwide among 15-19 year olds
  • More than 100,000 adolescents die by suicide each year worldwide
  • Highest rates of suicide are among those age 75 and older
  • Up to 90% of people who take their own life have a psychiatric disorder

How to support World Suicide Prevention Day 2012: