Posts Tagged ‘humanist’

Joe Armstrong represents Humanists at National Famine Commmemoration 2014

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Joe and Ruth Armstrong after the National Famine Commemoration 2014

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Joe and Ruth Armstrong after the National Famine Commemoration 2014

I was honoured to be asked to represent the Humanist Association of Ireland at the National Famine Commemoration at Strokestown House, Roscommon, on Sunday 11 May.
My three-minute reflection was made 1 hour 5 minutes into the ceremony, immediately before Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s speech. You can hear it on this RTE link

for 21 days from 11 May 2014: http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10281979/
Here is my reflection:

Words of Joe Armstrong, Humanist chaplain and celebrant

Famine. Famine. Can I imagine it?
Famine. Either a feast or a famine.
Feasts I know. But famine?
Work drying up, the closest I know. Money tight. Or doing a fast, perhaps.
But famine. Famine!
Hunger. I’ve been peckish for a meal. But everyday persistent aching hunger?
Hunger. Countrywide hunger. A nation on its knees.
Beggared. The shame of hunger. Unasked for. Not chosen.
Crops fail. Shock. Fear. Courage! We are strong.
Crops fail again. And again.
Soup kitchens. Food parcels. No money for rent.
Disaster.
Bodies shrink. Tall emaciated figures on Custom House Quay in Dublin: our ancestors.
Children dead. Relatives dead. Neighbours dead.
The boat to England, America, anywhere away from this godforsaken land of hunger and famine.
Famine.
Can we imagine it?

Tears of Joy at inauguration of President Michael D. Higgins

Friday, November 11th, 2011

I wept several times watching the inauguration of the new premier citizen of Ireland, President Michael D. Higgins. It was so moving. How great that he had a humanist there, Michael D’s initiative. I wept watching him greeting the children, wept as he gave his inaugural address, wept because life isn’t all about money and economics and bank bonds and bailouts. I loved Michael D’s  focus on inclusiveness and creativity and humanity. I loved that he has spoken out in favour of human rights all his life and, as RTE’s John Bowman remarked during the television commentary, the new President was more often outside the US embassy, standing up for human rights, than inside it. I love Michael D’s individuality, his independence of mind. He is a man of integrity and truthfulness. He arranged a wonderfully inclusive ceremony. And I loved that gorgeous rendition of ‘The Deer’s Cry’ by Shaun Davey, sung so beautifully by his wife Rita Connolly.

Post-theism when the crowd still applauds the Emperor

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Since ‘coming out’ as a non-believer, a post-theist, a person who has outgrown religious faith, I have had to stop writing two columns I used to write in Reality, published by the Redemptorist Publications.  I have been writing for the magazine for I think about 14 years. I particularly loved writing the Soul Food Restaurant column. I have found it a real challenge. The very fine editor, Father Gerry Maloney, a great guy, had asked me to write it. I found it a privilege and a challenge. Could I write something that was true to me and which also struck a chord and made sense or was even inspiring to people with religious faith? It seems I succeeded as that column ran for quite a while and I presume it would have continued to do so had I not, having completed my book, realised that I really had gotten off the fence and had come down very much on the side of post-religious-belief or unbelief or post-theism or whatever you want to call it. As I came towards the end of the second complete draft of the book I have been writing, I became uncomfortable writing for Reality or any magazine that seeks to perpetuate or propagate religious faith.

I identify with the boy who recognised that the Emperor had no clothes and yet, unlike the fable, when the boy shouts aloud that the Emperor is naked, so many people persist in seeing him as clothed. I, too, of course, was part of that crowd. Like them, I had often heard boys in the crowd shout that the Emperor was naked. Why, I ask myself, did I then go on believing? While I was a seminarian, my livelihood depended on it. If your mortgage and livelihood is tied up in a product and someone tells you it doesn’t work, it’s fake, there’s a better product, a better, truer, way of living, the person dependant on that product for their livelihood is unlikely to agree. Then there’s the herd instinct, the lemmings effect. Sure, a boy in the crowd is shouting ‘He’s starkers!’ But so many other people go on seeming to believe that we disregard the voice of reason. But why? It could also be the seeming comfort of religion. We don’t want to acknowledge that this is all we have. That we won’t survive our own death. That there is no life for us after our death. That death really is the end. And yet matter does not cease to exist. We will feed a tree or the crawly things of the earth. And our work may live on after us, be it in architecture, music, art, literature or the electronic ether. And if we have loved and been a good enough parent, our loved ones will, for a time, remember us and be, hopefully, the happier for having been loved by us. And then there are those whose moralities are so bound up in their religions that they fear there would be no point in being good and no reward system were their religious faith to be superseded by a humanist viewpoint, an adult viewpoint. They fear they might have no reason to be good. Yet goodness is its own reward. Choosing well ennobles us. Ethical living makes life sweet for us as for others.

I do not believe in god. I see the indoctrination of children into religious faith as intellectual abuse. I was so abused. It damages thinking and it warps one emotionally.