The World Atheist Convention took place in Dublin on June 3-5 last. By all accounts, it was a very successful affair.
Predictably, however, not everybody was happy to see so many atheists gather in ‘Catholic’ Ireland.
Catholic militant, Mary Kenny, writing in the Irish Catholic, makes the ridiculous claim that atheism is nothing more than an offshoot of Communism.
People of this cast of mind have been around for a long time. The only real difference between now and 50 or 80 years ago is that they have changed their category. They used to be called, and to call themselves, communists.
Her article, reproduced below, is a good example of the damaging power of religion to convince humans that the irrational is rational.
Atheisim is just another `Ism’
9 Jun 2011
It is a measure of how much Ireland has changed from its traditional image that Dublin could be the location for an international conference of atheists, as it was last weekend. And that the gathering passed uncontroversially.
I’m all for tolerance of everyone’s viewpoint, providing it is not a threat to public safety, so if the atheists’ pow-wow passed off almost unremarked, so what?
It is claimed that atheism in Ireland is growing, and that some 250,000 people are now Irish atheists, although some in that group call themselves agnostics, some humanists, some secularists. So there is a fuzzing of the definition.
An atheist is someone who says there is no Deity and no supernatural life whatsoever: there is only the material world. An atheist dismisses Shakespeare’s view that ”there are more things in Heaven and Earth than you can dream of” and usually regards human beings as merely cleverer animals than, say, apes.
An agnostic is humbler. The agnostic says he doesn’t know and does not venture to suggest he has the answers to the mysteries of the universe.
A humanist believes in humanity, but a humanist may also believe in God: humanism grew out of Christianity. A secularist is someone who calls for a non-religious state: but a secularist may have a private faith. So there are many strands in this apparently new phenomenon in Ireland.
But is this movement really new? People of this cast of mind have been around for a long time. The only real difference between now and 50 or 80 years ago is that they have changed their category. They used to be called, and to call themselves, communists.
The Communist Party and its many splinters in Trotskyism, Maoism, various international movements for ‘Peace and Progress’ – formerly a cover for Communism – encompassed a range of secularist thinkers. Communism was about many things, but it was, above all, about godlessness.
To be sure, some good people, and some well-intentioned people were Communists. And not all Communist concepts were unworthy:
Communism often promoted education, and even ideals of ”virtue” among the young. However, its fundamental value was rooted in atheism.
Then communism was seen to fail, and it duly fell. And when it fell it left an ideological vacuum in its place. Some former Marxists embraced capitalism, even with gusto.
Others turned to the new religion of environmentalism, in which everything green and associated with nature was to be sacralised (even though Marxism itself was in favour of industrialisation and most definitely against Nature: Marx would have regarded tree-hugging as ‘rural idiocy’). And others still turned to atheism in its various forms, whether it be called secularism, humanism or even ‘new ethics’.
The vacuum left by the world-wide ideology of communism remains the principle mainspring. People look for new ‘isms’ where old ones fail.
But usually the new isms, in their turn, are found wanting, and in the fullness of time faith is reborn in the hearts of men and women, as St Augustine predicted it always would. All you have to do is to live long enough to see the wheel complete its eternal return.