Archive for the ‘Humanism’ Category

More Humanist musings

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Time passes so quickly! As ever, the challenge is to live in the present. To  savour this moment. To be thankful for all we have and all we are. Being human, all too often we only appreciate things when we’ve lost them.  So enjoy this day. Count your blessings. All you have going for you. Stand back a bit and reflect. Breathe. That heart won’t tick forever. It’s later than you think, and all that. Health, our greatest wealth. The people in our lives. Be thankful too for yourself. I always liked the line from one of the psalms: ‘For the wonder of myself.’ Most of us need to consider that. For each life, ours included, is full of wonder. Sure, we’ve all made mistakes. But we’ve got a lot right too. Made more good decisions than poor ones. We’re survived. We’re reading this. We live. Hope lives. Life exudes all around us. Expel air. Breathe it in. You won’t always be able to do that. Heart ticking. Yours. Mine. For now. So, enjoy this moment.

A Humanist Ash Wednesday?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Ash Wednesday, 01 March 2017
The Last Word has phoned me and there’s a pre-recorded interview scheduled for 3.45pm today on the theme of Ash Wednesday.
I gave it a bit of thought and rang back agreeing to do the interview.
I feel privileged to have been asked.
I guess it’s exploring a question I’ve been musing on a bit myself. Yes we don’t need the penitence and the guilt.
But it is a day, an opportunity, a moment to ponder our inevitable mortality, the inevitability of our own death.
And it is perhaps an invitation to live this day well.
You never see a hearse with a trailer, so amassing possessions isn’t what life’s about.
Fame is a deceitful and unfulfilling thing.
Winners’ trophies may end up pawned or thrown into skips.
Excessive work can lead to an early grave and an empty home.
Remember man thou art but dust
And unto dust thou shalt return.’
Perhaps it’s forgetfulness of our inevitable mortality that leads us down so many cul de sacs in life.
As a Humanist, I am convinced that this is my one and only life. I do not believe nor do I feel the need to believe in an afterlife.
So Ash Wednesday reminds me, lest I forget it, that I will die.
And I could die before tomorrow’s sunrise, or even before today’s sun has set. Or even before the interview with Matt – partly why I chose to upload this now! The interview might not happen or it might not be broadcast. But now is real. Now I live.
Lessons for me? Don’t worry about tomorrow – I mightn’t even be alive.
Live this moment to the full.
Choose time out to ponder and reflect and to be self-aware.
Be grateful for those who have loved me, and those I love.
Enjoy this moment – it really may be my last one.
Choose moderation rather than excess – there’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.
Embrace ‘enough’ as a value and be wary of that seductive word ‘more’
Cultivate the gratitude attitude.
Know thyself. (Socrates)
And do what you are best at for the benefit of others. (Aristotle)

The interview with Matt Cooper was broadcast on Today FM on Ash Wednesday 1 March 2017. Prof Salvador Ryan, Professor of Ecclesiastical History,  St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and Joe Armstrong discussed the significance of Ash Wednesday, for Christians and Humanists. It was a fun, lighthearted and harmonious discussion.

Humanist musings

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

I’m loving being a Humanist celebrant. There’s something wonderful about it for me, doing something I love, something that has meaning, something I’m good at, something that each day, for each ceremony, for each couple or family or individual, is different.

It helps me to live in the here and now. Celebrating this particular couple’s marriage, or this unique family’s new baby, or this distinctive person’s life.

It’s working and living in the real. It’s inclusive of everyone. Being with people crying with joy – what a privilege that is! Crafting ceremonies appropriate to each couple or family or person. And then from planning to execution, celebrating the moment, conducting the words and the readings and the music and the rituals. Yes, living in the now.

Humanists ask questions. That is where we start. We never shy, or should never shy, from asking our questions. We endeavour to think for ourselves, trying never to let others think for us. We choose. We decide. We act. We create. We are responsible. That’s what we try to do anyway. Fail, of course; and probably often. But we keep trying, keep asking.

The couple whose wedding I conducted today chose wonderful readings. Stimulating. Different. Thoughtful. Reflective. Moving. Dramatic. There were lots of moist eyes in the room. The hairs were standing on the back of my neck during one of the readings, the poem ‘It Is Here’ by Harold Pinter, which ends:

What did we hear?

It was the breath we took when we first met.

Listen. It is here.

Mark ‘No Religion’ on Census 2016 to help end discrimination

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

See this video if you need persuading on the potential benefits of marking ‘No Religion’ in the Census 2016 this Sunday night.

Humanist Naming Ceremonies

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Naming ceremonies are becoming more popular for people who choose not to have their children baptized. Such parents tend to be commendable adults of integrity, conscious as they are that it is more important to teach their children to be authentic and true to themselves than to jump a queue for a school place merely because their child is baptized. And until the Irish people  and an Irish Government changes the discrimination that exists against unbaptized children, these parents should be applauded for their courage, integrity and leadership.

Demand for naming ceremonies is increasing as parents realize that they can formally welcome their child into their families, circles of friends and the wider human community without having to initiate their baby into ill-founded beliefs about deities and gods.

You can read some feedback from a recent baby naming ceremony that I conducted here.

And I’ve started a new Pinterest board on Humanist Naming Ceremonies here.

What would a Humanist Ireland look like?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

It would begin with children. Every child in Ireland would have equal access to his or her local national primary and second-level State-funded schools. None would be discriminated against because he or she was not baptized.

How shameful it is that in 21st-century Ireland that that still remains the case!

And, staying with children, in a Humanist Ireland, young children would not be taught to believe in deities simply because their parents or grandparents believed in them. The integrity of children’s minds would be respected. Children would not be taught as ‘fact’ something for which there is not one whit of evidence.

Warping children’s minds is intellectual child abuse. There was a time when lots of people got away with child sexual abuse because the wider community didn’t appreciate how shameful a thing it was to sexually abuse children. Or they didn’t realize how pervasive it was. Or it was just hidden and not talked about, so unlikely and outlandish did it sound.

Likewise, it’s not that long ago since corporal punishment was allowed in schools: physical abuse of children was socially acceptable. Now, thank goodness, neither child sexual nor physical abuse is tolerated.

So how long will it take before people realise that to abuse children’s minds is equally despicable?  Why do we still think it’s OK to teach children that man-made deities exist, watch them, judge them and will punish or reward them?

I speak as someone who believed in a religion for years, who staked my life on that false belief and spent nine years studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood. I, more perhaps than many, realize the tortuous and difficult path from belief to unbelief. It is like casting off an addiction. It is to rethink everything.

Imagine if a society believed it acceptable to give alcohol and drugs to children as young as three and five and seven and nine and twelve? And yet, I submit, that is what we do in having children ‘imbibe the faith’. A nice word for indoctrination.

Religions indoctrinate children because if most sensible, rational and reasonable adults were to  first encounter the crazy doctrines of religion as an adult they would laugh and dismiss them without giving them another second’s thought.

So what would a Humanist Ireland look like? Equal access by all children to their local State-funded primary and second-level schools, with baptismal privilege abandoned as not only discriminatory but abusive of children’s innocent minds.

10 Questions to Ask Election Candidates

Sunday, January 31st, 2016


‘Email to ISIS’ by Michael Murphy is magnificent

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Michael Murphy, psychoanalyst and author of A Chaplet of Roses – Twenty-four Poems,  had a fascinating discussion on the RTE Radio 1 ‘Today’ Show with Sean O’Rourke on Monday 16 November. Hosted that day by Keelin Shanley, the 8-minute clip explores the Terror attacks in Paris and asks what drives people to carry out such attacks?

Five minutes into the clip, the peerless and regrettably former RTE newscaster reads from his ‘Email to ISIS’ in his new book. It is brave and sure, providing a brilliant synthesis, overview and critique of the insanity of dangerous religious ideas.

You can listen to the full eight-minute interview by clicking here which would be time very well spent but if you’re pressed for time, you can scroll forward to his extract from ‘Email to ISIS’ which begins five minutes into the clip.

I think it should be part of any religious studies syllabus in any school which truly wishes to educate rather than to indoctrinate pupils. Seminaries of all religions should regard is as compulsory reading too.

How better the world would be had its wisdom been known to the Crusaders, the Inquisition, Hitler, Stalin and of course the newest manifestation of intolerance and tyranny: ISIS.

The complete poem can be found in Michael Murphy’s new collection A Chaplet of Roses which is available in all good bookshops.

Sign petition to stop Saudi beheading and crucifixion

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Stop Saudi beheading and crucifixion. Add your voice by clicking here: Or by copying this link to your browser: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/stop_saudi_beheadings_loc/?cVLoJjb


Ireland’s Metamorphosis: the Marriage Equality Referendum

Monday, June 1st, 2015

I’m very happy with the outcome of the marriage equality referendum!

I watched a wonderful documentary last night on BBC2 Television on Metamorphosis: The Science of Change. Metamorphosis: the Science of Change Filmmaker David Malone explores the science behind metamorphosis – the astonishing transformation of one creature into a totally different being. The programme asks how metamorphosis happens and why?

And I reflected on my own metamorphosis from religious belief to the intellectual freedom and the lifestyle liberation that comes from breaking out of the cage of religious belief. And it occurs to me that Ireland too is undergoing a similar metamorphosis.

Life as a frog is far more interesting than that of the limited tadpole. A butterfly’s life is far more exhilerating than that of a caterpiller. Transformation from religious dogmas and non-sensical beliefs lead to a life more interesting than the tadpole or caterpiller could ever have imagined!


Also interesting, this Science Museum online exhibition on metamorphosis : http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/metamorphing/

This is great too: Metamorphosis: Animal Shape-Shifters by Prof Stuart Reynolds, University of Bath.