Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The rise of non-religious ceremonies.

There’s little doubt the Irish branch of the roman catholic church is withering away under the bored apathetic gaze of the current generation to the hostile glee of the older generation.    Seminaries are barren despite heavy investment in public relations and even the recruitment of a handful of poor fools trying to hide from the world makes headline news in the religious press.  The dearth of men willing to submit to the numbing dogmatic bureaucracy of the centrally ruled Vatican city-state has led estimates to predict the number of Irish priests will drop to “a few hundred” by 2042. 

This has led to a slow but persistent increase in the demand for secular ceremonies:-
Irish funeral directors estimate that 10 percent of the nearly 30,000 funerals conducted annually are nonreligious. Government data show that about 30 percent of the 21,000 weddings annually are outside any church, up from 5 percent two decades ago.

Brian Whiteside, the director of ceremonies for the Humanist Association of Ireland, led more than 100 weddings, funerals or naming ceremonies in 2012.

“We’re busier than we ever thought we would be,” Whiteside said. “I thought I would do this as a sideline, but it’s taken over my life.”

Humanists — who believe in ethical values and a sense of compassion — have been at the forefront of performing nonreligious ceremonies. Whiteside said he and his 10 fellow Humanist-sanctioned celebrants have seen consistent growth, topping off at 78 funerals and 200 weddings in 2012. [link]

 Personally I find roman catholic ceremonies painful especially at emotive events like funerals.  But I do like (a little) tradition and the idea employing a professional with a master’s in "bereavement studies" to conduct a ceremony with popular music just leaves me cold.  Perhaps this is just a remnant of cultural Catholicism that will fade in time.

But there is also a political slant to this story in the form of a dispute between the Irish Association of Humanists (HAI) and Atheist Ireland over the recent Civil Registration Act which allowed non-religious bodies to officiate marriages but only if they fulfill strict conditions.  One of these conditions apparently forced the Humanist Associate of Ireland to sign a pledge stating they are not a political organization.

Some of us as HAI members want the HAI to continue to promote the political cause of the total separation of church and state. However, most but not all of the current HAI board want to change this position, without debate among the members, to a position of the HAI not promoting a political cause.

They want to do this in order to satisfy the requirements of the Civil Registration Act, so that humanist celebrants can also solemnise marriages, despite the fact that the Act discriminates both against nonreligious citizens and between nonreligious citizens, and that the HAI will not be able to legally promote the political cause that would be necessary to change even this Act in the future. [link]
 At the time Atheist Ireland lobbied against the Civil Registration Act on the grounds it discriminated unfairly against non-religious organizations.  This is the response they received from Joan Burton :-
In closing the debate on behalf of the Government, Joan Burton said that a concern that she had about the Atheist Ireland submission was that an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas can perform wedding ceremonies. She said this despite the fact that there is nothing in the Atheist Ireland submission that remotely suggests that we are proposing this. She said that the reason why secular bodies are required to fulfill more criteria than religious bodies was that the authority to solemnise marriage should only be granted only to stable, long-standing and reputable organisations. [link]
Why should the authority to solemnize marriage be granted only to what the government considers long-standing and reputable organisations? If a couple chooses to be married by a Elvis impersonator what business is it of the government?
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