HAI e-Newsletter June 2015


Ireland First to Adopt Marriage Equality by Popular Vote!

A press release was issued by the HAI following the referendum result which read as follows:

The Humanist Association of Ireland is absolutely delighted that Ireland has said YES to same sex marriage.

We have long championed full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Ireland, and are delighted that the Irish people have strongly endorsed the rights of couples to marry without distinction as to their sex. It is particularly inspiring that this change has come about by popular vote, but we are mindful that many other countries continue to persecute and oppress LGBT people. We hope that the resounding endorsement of equality and justice for the LGBT community in Ireland will inspire other countries and will be seen as a milestone towards equality for LGBT people throughout the world.

We also look forward to more changes in Irish society that support equality, compassion and reason.


Summer School 2015 – Humanism, War and Peace

The Summer School will take place, once again this year, in the Carlingford Heritage Centre, Carlingford, Co. Louth.The event will run from Friday, 28th August to Sunday, 30th August 2015.

There is a great line-up of well known speakers, including

Author and Journalist

IHEU Representative at the Council of Europe

Professor of Modern History,
Queen’s University, Belfast

Dutch Humanist Chaplain

The programme is as follows:

8.00pm Informal Gathering: Carlingford Arms

09.15am Registration
10.00 Welcome from the Chair: SIOBHÁN WALLS
10 10 Introduction: War and Peace:
10.30 The Concept of a Just War: DAVID POLLOCK
11.15 Q and A
11.30 Tea and Coffee; sale of books, CDs, DVDs
12.00 Are We Awakening from Ireland’s Violent Past? RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
12.45 Q and A
1.00pm Lunch in the Village
2.30 Workshop: Should Humanists be Pacifists? Introduced by Oisin Carey

Workshop: Can Women Teach Men the Key to Peace? Introduced by Sile Headen

7.30 Dinner: Café Marina

10.00am War: The Lessons of History: KEITH JEFFERY
10.30 Q and A
10.45 Tea and Coffee
11.15 Humanist Chaplains in Conflicts: NORBERT DE KOOTER
12.00 Panel Discussion on Humanism, War and Peace
1.00pm Formal Close
2.00 Walk up Slieve Foye

Application Form and payment details for summer school and Saturday night dinner http://humanism.ie/events/summer-school/application-form-ss-2015/

For accommodation: www.carlingford.ie/index.php/accommodation

Family Day Festival

UN International Day of Families, the inspiration for One Family’s founding of the Family Day Festival, takes place on 15 May annually and this year the HAI had a stand at the festival which was held in Wolfe Tone Square, beside the Jervis Centre in Dublin 1. The weather wasn’t brilliant to start with but it soon brightened up and we had a lovely busy afternoon with lots and lots of families enjoying all the different activities on offer. The HAI had a face painter (the brilliant Millie) and there was a constant demand for her services. We gave out lots of leaflets and chatted to people about Humanism and quite a few people came over specifically to talk to us and to ask about ceremonies or just about the association in general. There was a great atmosphere and all in all it was a lovely day. Many thanks to Síle Headen for organising and to Arthur & Aileen for helping out on the day.

Report by Emma Sides

Family Day

Religion Question on the Census

Another meeting was held with the Central Statistics Office on the religion question in the census. The CSO confirmed that the question will be changed for the 2021 Census. The plan for the 2016 Census is to provide clarification of the question so that the results are more reliable. Currently the question states, ‘What is your religion?’ The clarification statement would be used by the enumerators if uncertainty in understanding this question arose.

We proposed that clarification refer to the practice of religion rather than the religion a person identifies with. This option would lead to the statement. ‘If you practise a religion, mark the appropriate box or write your religion in the space provided. Otherwise mark the box No Religion.’ The CSO rejected this option on the basis that the word ‘practice’ is difficult to define.

We then took the approach that the clarification statement could include concepts such as, ‘Not necessarily the religion you were born in, nor the one you were raised in, nor the one you were taught, but more about how you feel about your answer’. An additional statement could be part of the instructions: ‘Even if you have no religion, still answer the question.’ The purpose here is to reduce the number of no responses.

If members have suggestions on phrasing the clarifying statement to the current question, please send them to [email protected]

Report by Niamh Kelly, Terry Flynn and Nic Johnson

Sunday Meeting 7 June: Let’s Do Philosophy in School!

The June meeting continues with philosophical ideas — again from a UCD graduate! — but this time with a clear focus on the role of philosophy in education. This is in tune with HAI’s campaigns around education and the general desire to foster critical thinking, especially in students.

Gary Doyle graduated from UCD in 2012 with a degree in philosophy and the very next day travelled to London to begin training with the Philosophy Foundation with the aim of importing their method of philosophical enquiry in the classroom to Ireland. His passion for education comes from his experiences as a scout and later scout leader in the 35th Donore Avenue scout group in Dublin. Currently he lives in Cork and works in cloud computing.

Gary Doyle’s presentation will include a mini-philosophy session, just as he would do in the classroom. He will then discuss why he believes every schoolchild should be doing philosophy regularly, and why it is particularly relevant in Ireland. He will also touch on the bigger picture of educational ethos.

He will relate his own experiences going to schools running these sessions, and how we might ensure more and more children in the future have access to philosophy as a resource.

Usually Gary tends to shy away from discussing the place of philosophy in an educational environment still under heavy patronage of the Catholic Church, but this may be of particular interest to this meeting.

All are welcome to attend – Sunday meetings are also social occasions, and a great opportunity for members to meet and chat. We would love to welcome some of the many new members that have recently joined.


Alan Tuffery
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: 086 162 6988

Slider June revised

Educate Together to Change Its Charter for Schools from “Multi-Denominational” to “Equality-Based”

Educate Together has taken the decision to describe itself as an “equality-based” rather than as a ‘multi-denominational’ organisation. This is a welcome development, as the term ‘multi-denominational’ implies that everyone has some religious affiliation.

In his blog, Paul Rowe, CEO, Educate Together, explains how this change of policy came about:
Report of First Sunday Meeting: 3 May
Dr Hugo Newman gave this, his first public talk after completing his doctorate. About 70 people were present showing a great level of interest and support.

There are two sections to this talk. The first short section is on the need for humanist humility as we offer an answer to the question as to the origin of the universe and why there is something rather than nothing, and second section is about our explanation for an objective morality.

Humanist humility: The basic question is “Why is there something rather than nothing?” While physicists may explain this in terms of Heisenberg’s principle, that only begs the question as to why are the laws of physics are as they are. The question “why?” may be an etiological matter dealing with causal mechanism. But the question “why” may also be a teleological matter dealing with the reason or purpose for existence. Do we need god to explain the origin of the universe? As Richard Dawkins said, just because science can’t answer a question (yet) does not mean that religion can answer it. Atheistic humility is to acknowledge the enduring mystery of existence.

Some atheists are anti-realist in their moral philosophy, that is, they do not see that there can be an objective morality. This may be a reaction to the theist who grounds moral objectivity in god. Michael Shermer has a good answer to the theist who does not trust that humans can be good without the threat of divine retribution (as was made recently in the US election campaign). Shermer says that if a person is only good because they believe they’re being watched by god and that they would be immoral without the implied threat, then they are clearly a bad person. If however a person will be good without the divine threat, then they are a good person, a good person without god.

Dr Newman suggested that the following logical assumptions can be built into an argument to show that a sceptic may follow an objectively moral precept. Assume the principle of non-contradiction, so that you don’t believe a proposition and its opposite. Assume the principle of Instrumental Reason, that if you desire something then you will do what is needed to make to make it happen. Then to show that a sceptic (who doesn’t accept an objective morality) shouldn’t go hitting people (a commonly accepted moral precept), we imagine a sceptic and a person named Paul whom the sceptic wishes to hit. The sceptic thus endorses the idea that Paul should be hit on the head. This naturally will mean that Paul who can reasonably be assumed not to want to be hit on the head will try to stop the sceptic’s hand from hitting their head. Thus the sceptics is endorsing both the idea of hitting Paul on the head and endorsing the logical consequence of this, that Paul will try to prevent being hit on the head. Therefore we have a contradiction by the sceptic endorsing an action and its opposite. (This would imply that sceptics shouldn’t be let take penalty kicks at a football match.)

Some atheists will seek a basis for morality in its evolutionary explanation, namely that it is beneficial for the continuance of the tribe who have all got similar genes to each other.

Questions were raised by those present: Has morality only had meaning since human beings developed conscious thought? Is morality that which adds to human flourishing? Is it the maximization of happiness? There has been some research suggesting that the neurobiological differences between sociopaths and normal people.

More questions were raised by Dr Newman’s talk, leading to much interesting debate and possibly the rebirth of the philosophy group in HAI.

Huemer, M., 2005. Ethical Intuitionism. London, Palmgrave Macmillan

Report by Peter Deeney

HAI Stand at the GPO

TGPO Standhe next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 20 June from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!



Literature Review

Ethical Record, The Proceedings of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, Vol. 120 No. 5, May 2015

Articles include: ‘Should People have a Right to Know their own Genome?’ by Prof Barbara Prainsack, Dept of Social Science, Health & Medicine, King’s College, London; ‘William Lane Craig’s Eight Reasons for God – Refuted’, by Norman Bacrac, editor of Ethical Record; and ‘All Change: Religion & Belief in Britain,’ by Jeremy Rodell.

In answering her question as to whether there should be a right to know one’s own genome, Prof Prainsack argues for a broad definition of the term ‘genome’, one which includes ‘representations of any or all parts of a person’s genome, as being most fruitful’. She clarifies that her paper focuses on ‘access to genetic and genomic information, rather than storing and sharing it’.

For genetic or genomic analysis, whether within a clinic setting or outside, she concludes that people should have a right to know their own genomes. However, test takers should consider unintended consequences that this could have for them and others, such as family members who did not want test results shared with them.

Norman Bacrac’s article, while doubtless well argued, didn’t on this occasion excite my interest given that we share the same premise. Accordingly reading a refutation, however comprehensive, of Eight Reasons for God is about as appetising as a considered refutation of Eight Reasons for Believing in Leprechauns. But fair dues to the much respected editor for his thorough debunking of Craig’s argument for a deity.

Rodell’s lecture on changing religious belief in Britain makes the point that Humanists should bear in mind that religion is as much about belonging and behaviour as it is about belief – ‘the three B’s’. The UK Census, like the Irish one, frames its question in such a way as to presuppose a religious affiliation: ‘What is your religion?’ Rodell argues that the annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey puts the question more accurately: ‘Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’

The UK’s 2011 Census suggests that 25 per cent have no religion but the BSA 2013 puts that figure at 50 per cent, a figure which Rodell argues is supported by other sources, such as a YouGov survey of 4,000 adults in 2013.

He cites a recent Pew Research study that Islam is expected to increase from 23 per cent of the global population in 2010 to 30 per cent in 2015. The expectation is that Islam in the UK will grow from five per cent in 2010 to 11 per cent in 2050.

Rodell presents an analysis of three large YouGov surveys of British Catholics showing that only 9 per cent of UK Catholics feel guilty using contraception; only 19 per cent support a ban on abortion; over 50 per cent of under 50s UK Catholics say ‘same-sex marriage is right’ and 58 per cent say the law should be changed to support assisted dying in tightly-controlled circumstances.

Review by Joe Armstrong

Becoming a Celebrant

There is a huge amount of interest from members and would-be members who would like to train as Humanist celebrants.

Those interested in becoming a celebrant should be aware that they must be members of two years’ standing before they can apply to become a celebrant, and they must also provide three references from HAI members who have been members for more than two years.

The qualities needed for the role of celebrant include an ability to relate well to people, an empathetic nature and good judgement, together with excellent presentation and organisational skills. Only those applicants who have demonstrated to the Selection Panel that they have the required mix of attributes and skills will be recommended for the Mentoring/Training stage.

With the current growth in demand for Humanist ceremonies there is a need for more celebrants and all expressions of interest from eligible members will be welcomed and seriously considered. We would stress, however, that there may come a time when demand levels off and the need for additional celebrants may lessen or cease. Nobody should assume that, following two years’ membership, they will automatically be considered for the role.

Further information on becoming a celebrant can be found on the website here http://humanism.ie/ceremonies-2/becoming-a-celebrant/

News Bytes

From the National Secular Society newsletter
Tories may abolish cap on schools admissions on faith grounds
Councillor called an “absolute disgrace” for asking that prayers not take place in council meetings
Mothers banned from driving their children to orthodox Jewish schools in London

From the Journal.ie
Christine Allen writes about how how it feels to be gay after the Referendum
Mark Kennedy writes about Night Cafe’s service to the homeless

From The Irish Times
Eoin Daly writes about the alarming “marketisation” of higher education in Ireland
Chaplaincy News
Progress with the HSE
We continue our work with the HSE Chaplaincy Council which is charged with expanding chaplaincy services at HSE- funded institutions to include patients, staff and families of the non-religious. To this end we are planning to propose that the religion question on the admission form be removed and replaced by the question, ‘Do you wish to be visited by a chaplain?’ If the answer is yes, a list of chaplains would be shown to the prospective patient from which a choice can be made. A Humanist chaplain would be included in that list.

Chaplaincy Workshop

The Chaplaincy is also planning a chaplaincy workshop later in the year. Topics to be worked include training programmes for chaplains, qualifications for chaplains, expanding the chaplaincy services to colleges, Defence Forces and other state-supported departments/institutions as well as establishing support services for our members. We also envision a support programme for people transitioning from religion to non-religion.

Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services
New Groups and Local Humanist Groups
New Groups

Calling all Waterford members!

The first meeting of the Waterford group will take place on 26 June in the Tower Hotel, Waterford at 7.30 p.m. HAI Director Philip Byers will give a talk to the group. Contact Teresa Graham on [email protected] for further details.


The first meeting of the Westport and local areas group was held on 22 April in the Wyatt Hotel. Brian Whiteside gave a talk entitled “What Is Humanism”? which was well attended. Monthly meetings will be held in the Cobbler’s Bar of the Wyatt Hotel at the Octagon in Westport at 12 o’clock on the second Sunday of every month. The group has a facebook page. Contact Séamus O’Connell on 087 245 35 36 or email [email protected] for further details.

Local Groups

North-West Humanists meet on the third Sunday of the month in Paddy’s Bar, Main Street, Carrick-on-Shannon at 2.30 p.m. Contact Isolde Carmody on [email protected] or 086 8820445.

Members from Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare meet on the second Friday of the month at 8.00 p.m. in the Aspect Hotel, Kilkenny Contact Fachtna Roe on [email protected] for further details.

Details of Cork Humanists’ meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.

North Coast Humanists meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6. 30 pm in the foyer of Lodge Hotel, Coleraine. New faces are welcome. For more information, contact: [email protected] or 07818036404.

The Mid-West Humanists group includes people from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary who meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 20:00 in Limerick – the Absolute Hotel, Sir Harry’s Mall, Limerick. Meeting notice at www.midwesthumanists.com. For more information contact Peter O’Hara on 086 8155102 or email [email protected]

Serving Humanists in Galway and surrounding areas, Humanists West meet in Galway city on the last Sunday of each month. Please note the change of venue: we are now meeting in the Anno Santo Hotel, Threadneedle Road, Salthill, Galway. The meetings start at 12 noon. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

Contributions from Members

If you have constructive comments or feedback on this e-Newsletter, Board meetings, the organisation in general, and/or are able to contribute to the goals of the HAI in any way, please let us know.

And if you have news items or links you would like to share with other HAI members, please send them for possible inclusion in the e-Newsletter by the 27th of the month.

We would very much welcome your contributions!

The email address is [email protected]

Living Wills

Advanced Healthcare Directive

Advance directives are written legal documents by which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive in the event they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. This usually means if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to makes these desires known. They are designed to allow competent patients the opportunity to guide future health care decisions. Advance directives include living wills and medical powers of attorney, sometimes called durable powers of attorney. It takes the decision away from family members, thus reducing their stress at a vulnerable time.

More information and downloads are available from http://www.worldrtd.net/organization/living-wills-trust-lwt or contact Daphne Wynne, 01 2802879, for further information.

Humanist Association of Ireland • 34B Royal Terrace West • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland
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