Posts Tagged ‘blasphemy’

All great truths begin as blasphemies

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Blasphemy Day
Come along to the Humanist Association of Ireland’s World Blasphemy Day Saturday 30 September 2017 event in Foley’s Bar on Merrion Row, where the HAI will be screening a lighthearted ‘blasphemous’ movie for your entertainment. Gather from 5pm onwards. The film will be shown after 6pm and finger food will be provided!
Due to the size of the function room, numbers for the film screening are limited. If you would like to come along to see the film, please RSVP to Selina at blasphemyaware AT

‘Punk prayer’ & Putin’s repression of free speech

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The continued imprisonment of the feminist Russian girl punk band Pussy Riot is an outrageous repression of free speech by Moscow’s Putin regime. The punk trio – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (23), Yekaterina Samutsevich (19) and Maria Alyokhina (24) – have been detained since March 2012 following a noisy but peaceful protest in an Orthodox church last February 2012 at which three masked people  sang a ‘punk prayer’ calling for the overthrow of Putin and mocking the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Last Friday their detention was extended for a further six months. If convicted, they could face up  to seven years’ imprisonment. The London Times rightly last Saturday, 21 July, 2012, ran an editorial on this unconscionable attack on free speech, seeing it as a test case for freedom of speech under Putin’s regime. No less chilling than their imprisonment for musical political protest is the report that a Russian Orthodox Patriarch has accused the singers of ‘blasphemy’, that hairy old chestnut of those who believe in ridiculous things wanting their daft beliefs protected rather than being exposed for what they are: abject nonsense.

Amnesty International have called for the immediate and unconditional release of the trio. Amnesty have pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that freedom of expression applies not only to inoffensive ideas, “but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”,  even if the action was calculated to shock and was known to be likely to cause offence. Amnesty adds that ‘the activists left the cathedral when requested to do so and caused no damage. The entire incident lasted only a few minutes and caused only minimal disruption to those using the cathedral.’

Putin: release these women now. Tear down the new walls you are erecting of  fear, imprisonment and silencing freedom of expression. History shows where that leads. Be brave and release those who criticize you. As for the Patriarch: your life is based on a lie: Jesus did not rise from the dead. Grow up and leave aside your silly religious beliefs.

Mouth on Fire’s Samuel Beckett at the Focus

Friday, April 20th, 2012

First, let me declare an interest. When I was Chair of Irish PEN, Cathal Quinn, Artistic Director of Mouth on Fire, dedicated the opening night of last autumn’s show Tyranny in Beckett to PEN’s annual International Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Second, I’m working on developing a play on blasphemy with Mouth on Fire, consistent with Mouth on Fire’s track record of staging human rights plays, such as Beckett’s Catastrophe.

Before Vanishing, Mouth on Fire’s latest celebration at the Focus Theatre, is a performance of four Beckett plays in English, Ohio Impromptu, Footfalls, That Time and Come & Go. The fourth play is also performed in Irish, in the  world premiere of Gabriel Rosenstock’s translation Teacht is Imeacht.

Nick Devlin and Colm O’Brien gave a haunting, resolute and striking (literally) performance of Ohio Impromptu. I wondered how Colm’s knuckles could bear the intermittent forceful, astutely-timed knocking on the table, marking beats in the narrative, beautifully articulated by Nick’s gut-level portrayal of one of the most personal characters in the Beckett canon. The staging and lighting were superb, the two characters seated at a dimly-lit table on an otherwise blacked-out stage, a three-dimensional live Vermeer, without the colour. Black and white, gaunt and heart-rending, it relentlessly laid bare human loneliness.

Melissa Nolan, co-founder of Mouth on Fire, gave an extraordinary performance of the 40-year-old daughter caring for her mother, played in her gorgeous speaking tones by Abbey Theatre and RTE actor Geraldine Plunkett, who is at no point seen during Footfalls, her resonant discourse issuing from a far and blacked-out corner of the stark, dark stage. Costume designer Elizabeth Tierney chose a highly effective dress for Melissa’s character May, with the sound of the hem dragging along the stage floor accentuating the desolation of an adult child who has never lived her own life. Melissa played the part with truth, rawness and sensibility. She wept, carrying the audience with her in a stark and poignant realization of May’s transient life not lived. Melissa is master of the pause, as she asks, without bitterness or complaint, if she can respond to the next of the many needs of her aging mother – pause –  ‘again’.

The staging of That Time worked dramatically. Everything is black and unseen. Then, startling the audience, a light appears on the face of a old man with madly wild hair so high up off the stage and close to the ceiling that one wonders how this disembodied face got up there or stays up there. Played superbly by Marcus Lamb, wearing a spectacular gravity-defying wig by Val Sherlock, the face tells the whole story, evincing pain, recollection, internal rancour and debate. Marcus masterfully held our attention, a study in mime, unspeaking except for the occasional well-timed existential groan, to the accompaniment of a fast-paced taped  flow of consciousness monologue. And then, at the end, after all the words and inner anguish are spent, comes that delightful and unexpected beaming smile!

Jennifer Laverty, Melissa Nolan and Geraldine Plunkett deftly played the trio in Come & Go and its Irish version, performed immediately afterwards, Teacht is Imeacht. The energy of the play is lighter, its comedy more evident, there is colour in the heavily-painted lipstick and attire, yet at its heart are unspoken-about, secret, whispered  female illnesses and, of course, mortality. The Irish version was easy to follow, and as well-played and articulated as the English. Both versions were delightful. Costumes by Yvette Gilbert were aptly chosen, reinforcing the play’s patterns of action, repeated inter-reaction and mirrored dialogue.

Especial commendation to Becky Gardiner for her lighting and stage design throughout, but especially for That Time which pushed the possibilities of theatre to its limit. Directed by Cathal Quinn and produced by Melissa Nolan, Before Vanishing finishes at the Focus Theatre on Saturday 21 April.

Bookings: Tickets: €12, €10 and €8.

Outgrowing religion

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I used to be a seminarian but now I have outgrown religion and, although I’m pushing 50 years of age, I’m still trying to unlearn the nonsense I picked up having been raised in a Catholic family, gone to a Catholic school, been born into what was in all but name a theocratic State, and having spent nine years of my life in a seminary.

I’m interested in education and especially in the need to teach children to think for themselves. This is impossible within any school which seeks to ‘inculcate’ (i.e., indoctrinate) faith. By definition, they are not teaching children to think for themselves. They are presenting the party-line and hoping it will stick.

Having been abused myself as a child by a Christian Brother in school, I find Cardinal Brady’s remaining in his post unconscionable, given that he failed to act like an adult and report abuse to the civil authorities and that he hides behind it not being his call. Of course it was his call. He is, and was at the time, an adult. But then again, an adult who believes that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the conception of Jesus, which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly an adult belief to maintain. However whacko the ‘before’ bit, how exactly can a baby be born without breaking his mother’s hymen? And yet that is what, as a Cardinal of his Church, he is obliged to believe. It being a dogma of his Church, one gathers he believes it too.

I am appalled at the emotional abuse of children in Catholic schools, or any faith school for that matter. Rather than teaching children that today is all we have, they peddle lies to children. They inculcate fear and obedience in nonsensical beliefs. They insist on the ‘right’ of indoctrinating children because they know that most adults of sound mind would never for a second believe the gibberish they teach.

I’m angry as hell about the Church, to be honest. Their dogmas are loopy. Why are they afforded such ‘respect’? Historically, they controlled what people could think and say. They usurped rationality. They burned people who didn’t fit in. They laid down, and still lay down, heavy burdens on those they claim to serve. As a recent poster I saw said: ‘Jesus, protect us from your followers.’

If I die without this said my life has been in vain, so let me say it. I do not believe in ‘god’. Today is all we have. Live this day to the full. I abhor that the civil authorities permit people of religious faith to indoctrinate young minds. In time to come, and I hope sooner rather than later, it will be considered a crime to fool children into the lie of any religious doctrine. When I think of the years I wasted, nine years in a seminary, trying to believe the incredible. And the nonsense that somehow those who didn’t believe were morally inferior. Absolute hogwash! I remember meeting a girl at university whom I used to know in a prayer group. She, good for her, had moved on. She no longer believed and it was manifestly obvious that she was in ever fibre of her being a person of conscience and moral courage. Her presence and goodness alone challenged me. Pity my lesson took so many more years before the penny dropped.

And when I think about the ghastly attempts to live celibacy during nine years in the seminary and how unnatural it was. And when I think about the so-called virtue of obedience when the real virtue is in obeying yourself. And when I think about the lie of religious poverty when, in fact, few millionaires enjoyed the financial security of being a priest or member of a religious order and the real poverty was the risk of leaving the congregation and having to find my way in the world. When I think of all that and then see little children today being indoctrinated into a heap of lies as I once was, yes, I get mad as hell.

Children: do not listen to your so-called ‘betters’ if they are trying to fool you to believe in a religious myth. They are not better than you. Most of them don’t really believe the bilge they try to ‘inculcate’/indoctrinate into you. And if they really do believe what they peddle, then protect yourself. Find someone of sound mind to support you. Someone who will tell you not to worry about going to Hell: it doesn’t exist. And not to waste your time praying before a box thinking that the creator of the universe is in it. Don’t let them fool you. Do not let them mangle your thinking with their potty views.

Religious people are quick to shout ‘blasphemy’ because they want to control you. They do not want to expose just how unutterably ridiculous their beliefs are, and how bankrupt their thinking is. They seek to control what people say because they don’t want it exposed in black and white for all the world to see. They are, par excellence, like the naked emperor who for so long has basked in the adulation of a controlled crowd and how dare anyone, young or old, yell that they are naked: unutterably nude, without a stitch of truth.