Heavily Catholic Nation Sees Shifts in Attitudes Toward Church
For the first time, Ireland will host the World Atheist Convention and expects 350 attendees.
Speakers include the prolific British professor Richard Dawkins and the chairman of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent. “Twenty years ago the atheist campaign would have been around trying to change public opinion, and now it is much more about getting politicians and institutions of the State to recognise that public opinion has changed,” says Nugent.
The Republic of Ireland has 4.5 million people; Northern Ireland adds 1.8 million more. According to an article in the Irish Times the most recent census found 256,000 non-believers, agnostics, and humanists. After Catholics, this group comprises the second largest group in the country.
FR PADDY BYRNE, a curate in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, and one of the few Irish priests who can be found holding forth about matters spiritual on Twitter, says that in the 10 years since he was ordained he has observed an increase in people expressing a “very secular perspective”.
Fr Byrne says he is disillusioned about the leadership of the Catholic Church. “The scandal and abuse created a real consciousness that we need to strip away a lot of the baggage that came with the institutional church. We must remember that at the core of our church is Jesus Christ.”