Ireland is seeing the emergence of a newer kind of atheist, who is anxious to dispel the myth that they are all one-dimensional, rabidly anti-religious Dawkinsians.
The winds of change could be seen at last weekend’s AGM of Atheist Ireland, where delegates agreed a new focus on promoting “an ethical society”, engaging in charity work and social justice campaigns, and even collaborating with religious groups on issues of common concern.
In Black Dogs author Ian mcEwan depicts the lives of June and Bernard Tremaine. When they meet in England 1946 both are members of the communist party but soon after their marriage June discovers spiritualism and Bernard hardens his scientific atheism. Their incompatible views cause the couple to divorce soon after the birth of their child; Bernard to campaign for social change in England; June to become a reclusive author in the south of France.
One particular line in the book stood out for me. It was by their daughter complaining 'they just keep going around and around, the same arguments for years'.
I was reminded of that line when I read the comments following the Irish Times coverage of Atheist Ireland. The arguing lasted over a week : Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday.
They just keep going around and around and around. Most people reading this will have heard the arguments - If there is no God, why does anything matter? Why be good? Do you really think you are just a random accident? etc etc.
Modern Atheist movements are trying to become political. They are trying to organize, to create platforms, to lobby politicians. But they are hampered because arguments very rarely get beyond the existence of God or the meaning of life; the arguments never reach the political level because they get bogged down in dealing with basic philosophy that never progresses.
So why focus on promoting the non-existence of Gods, especially in a country that has seen organized religious faith plummet? Even the name of their charity website "Good Without Gods" has a puerile negative quality. Perhaps the church could fill it's pews by telling atheists they cannot attend mass?
If Atheist Ireland wishes to expand their organization and become political, they must stop promoting atheism and start promoting political secularism. I don't want to "build a rational society". I want freedom from religion. Atheist.ie has no appeal for me.