Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

Please tick the ‘No religion’ box in the Census on 24 April

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Please tick the ‘No religion’ box the Census on 24 April. By doing this, legislators will have to accept, more quickly, that:

  • a child needing a baptismal certificate to get into their local, State-funded school is discrimination on the grounds of religion


‘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.

Blanchardstown Hospital Memorial Event

Monday, November 30th, 2015

I was honoured to be invited to represent the Humanist Association of Ireland at a commemorative event held at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, on 30 November 2015.

A psychotherapist spoke of the process of coping with grief and loss, how we can feel lost and that our very identities have changed when someone close to us has died. She spoke of the value of talking about the deceased, taking time out during the day to sit perhaps with a cuppa and a photo of the loved one. Letting memories surface and remembering even their foibles. Often, she said, people can feel distracted and feel that they’re going mad. That certainly echoed in me: I was so absent-minded after the deaths of my mother and brother earlier this year. My mind was elsewhere, as it needed to be.

There were two separate 90-minute commemoration services held. At each there was a choir from nearby primary schools. The kids were great and they contributed a lot to the ceremonies. In the second of the two sessions a Roman Catholic priest, chaplain Tony O’Riordan, spoke from a religious faith perspective; followed by a guitarist playing the Ave Maria. Then Rev Ken Lynsey, a Methodist minister spoke, structuring his contribution around the four words trauma, tears, talk and time. In short, bereavement is a trauma, it’s good to cry and talk, and grief takes time. A Muslim woman spoke and then the choir sang and then a nurse manager read ‘For Grief’ by John O’Donohue. Then the guitarist played the Beatles’ ‘In My Life’, followed by Church of Ireland chaplain Hilda Plant, who chose an apt quotation from anti-Nazi dissident and Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The choir then sang the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ and then I spoke. I was conscious that much of the contributions had been from a religious faith perspective and I thanked and commended the organisers for inviting voices inter-faith “and none” and I was happy to be a representative of people who do not believe in any deity or an afterlife.

I shared ‘We Are Leaves’ which I had written this time last year for the Humanist Association of Ireland’s annual commemoration to support the bereaved. A month after reciting it last January, my mother had died, and a month after that, my brother died. And a dear friend, Marist priest Denis Green, died more recently still.

People seemed to get some comfort from it and I enjoyed delivering it, and I was very happy to be there representing people who do not feel the need to believe in a deity or an afterlife in order to find their meaning in life, even in the face of death.

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


Guth Gafa documentary fest Kells 2 – 4 Oct 2015

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The Guth Gafa (‘Captive Voice’) documentary film festival is on this weekend in Kells, Co. Meath. Three days, 30 films, 5 screens. Truth is stranger and more compelling than fiction. The documentaries celebrate humanity. They inform, provoke, awaken and change lives. Be there. For all you need to know about the festival, click here.

Lovely Humanist wedding video

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

A lovely couple, Judith and Trevor, whose Humanist wedding I recently conducted at Mount Druid near Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, have given us permission to add this link to their wedding video. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of Fiona Jamieson Photography Belfast.

7 Tips for a Humanist Wedding

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Humanist weddings are very personal. They are relaxed. They are all about the couple and celebrating their loving commitment to each other.

A little appeal then if you are trying to get a celebrant for your wedding: please don’t send out an impersonal, global email to lots of celebrants that starts: ‘Hi there,’ or the equally impersonal ‘Hi,’

When you are on the receiving end of that you reasonably assume that this is a generic email sent to oodles of celebrants at the same time. And so, as a professional human being hard pressed for time, the temptation is to put that email to the end of the pile since the suspicion persists that it wasn’t really sent to you at all, but to everyone. And what’s sent to everyone isn’t really sent to anyone. And therefore as it wasn’t really sent to you, and others may already have replied, you might decide not to reply at all to what wasn’t sent to you in the first place!

So, tip number one: as Humanist weddings are very personal ceremonies which are all about you as a couple, it’s a basic courtesy to use the celebrant’s name instead of the generic and impersonal ‘Hi,’ or ‘Hi there’ in your first approach.

(Please note: some lovely people have first approached me with the ‘Hi’ or ‘Hi there’ and I’m glad I persisted beyond the initial iffy first impression.)

Tip number two: please put the date of your wedding and the venue and address of the venue in the subject line of your email. That way a celebrant can immediately see if he or she is available on that date, and they can see if the venue is too far away or within the area that they travel. For instance, almost all my weddings are in Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Westmeath, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth or Wicklow.

Also please don’t assume that the celebrant knows the location of your venue by its name alone. You may think everyone knows where Such-and-Such a country house or hotel is but the celebrant might not. So at least include its name and county. It’s also helpful to celebrants if you continue to use the date of your wedding in the subject line of subsequent emails to the celebrant. You are getting married on one date but the celebrant is conducting weddings on lots of dates and your wedding date is the key to opening the relevant file and, probably, getting a quicker response. It will save your celebrant – and you – time.

Tip number three: please do not change the name of the Word file of your wedding draft. When I send out your bespoke, customized first draft, the name of the file has the names of the couple, the venue, and the date of the wedding. All too often when it comes back it has been renamed ‘My wedding’. Just add your readings and music and your decisions about rituals etc to the file I send you but please do not rename that file.

Tip number four: please understand that, especially in high wedding season like the summertime and Christmas that your celebrant can be inundated with phone calls and emails. None of us can afford secretaries so, especially if one is conducting several consecutive ceremonies, it gets really difficult to keep on top of emails. So please be patient. Your celebrant will reply eventually but it may take longer than you’d like. (Unless you’ve sent out that global email ‘Hi there,’ to all and sundry and so he might not reply at all…)

Tip number five: read a bit about the celebrant, especially the most basic things like the areas of the country that they cover. If, in their profile, they say they only cover Dublin, you are probably wasting yours and the celebrant’s time asking them to conduct a wedding in Donegal or Kerry. Please understand too that it can be risky for a celebrant to commit to doing a distant wedding. Hours of travelling that might be better spent tackling that backlog of emails and the risk of the car breaking down. I have to ask myself: how much would it cost me if I had to hire or hail a taxi to get there…and back!

Tip number six: let the celebrant be the celebrant. Sometimes a bride or groom finds it hard to let go and let the celebrant do his or her thing. But once the planning has been done, that’s the very best thing that the bride and groom can do. Accept that no ceremony is ever perfect. Realize that it’s often the mistakes that make a ceremony. Let go. Enjoy the ceremony. Be happy to giggle or cry or laugh or clap. Or do all of these things! Be you. Forget what anyone else thinks. It’s your wedding – not theirs. Once the bride and groom enjoys the day, everyone else will too.

Tip number seven: your wedding is just one day in your marriage. Marriage is something you work at every day. Something that is never static. Sure, your wedding day is important. It is a milestone, a turning point. But it remains just one day in your life, a day when you publicly express your committed love to one another. Prepare for your wedding, sure. But better still to prepare for your lives together. A life of growth. A life of truth. A life of intimacy. A life of mutual challenge. A life of mutual and loving self-acceptance.

Once you accept that you wedding doesn’t have to be perfect, you are far more likely to accept that neither you nor your spouse has to be perfect either – and so you’ll enjoy a far happier and wholesome relationship that is far more likely to last!


Lord have mercy

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Lord have mercy,

For the times when I, as an Irish Catholic,

Imposed my morality on other people.

Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy,

For the times when I, in my self-righteousness and smug arrogance,

Campaigned and voted no in referendums that would have made Ireland a fairer and more honest society.

Christ have mercy.

Lord have mercy,

For the times that I obeyed the bishops and voted as they wanted me to vote

Rather than thinking for myself and following my own honest judgement.

Lord have mercy.

Please vote Yes in the marriage equality referendum.

Video of Humanist Wedding conducted by Joe Armstrong

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Here is the direct link to a video of the Humanist wedding that I recently conducted for Ciaran and Lisa in Dundalk, County Louth.

Or copy the following into your browser and click:  http://yourshortfilm.com/gallery/wedding-highlights-video-lisa-ciaran-dundalk-gaol/