If you want an insight into the thinking of Atheist Ireland, you could do worse than listen to this Newstalk debate between its chairperson, Michael Nugent, and Timothy Moriarty, chairman of Beauford Community Council. Following the recent vandalism of the cross atop Carrauntoohill, most people seem to think that it should be re-instated. Not Michael Nugent, who thinks that this is the perfect opportunity to put a more “inclusive” symbol in its place:-
I can’t imagine most atheists listening in were too thrilled with the position taken by the most well-known spokesperson for atheism in the country. After all, he admits that the existence of the cross, never mind its location, wasn’t even on his radar as one of the things to be offended by – not until it was cut down in the middle of the night by angle-grinding vandals, that is. But now that’s happened, well I suppose a cynic might suggest it’s a good chance to get on the radio and rail about how the cross was just a sign of bad old Catholic Ireland with its Magdalene Laundries and child abuse (two things Catholics are incensed over, in case Michael’s wondering).
Not a word of sympathy from Michael for any of the locals who might be upset that such a thing could happen. No acknowledgement from him either that all of the people who sent correspondence and emails to the local Council supporting the reinstatement of the cross have any right to their opinion.
And you know, for a man who loves the idea of inclusion, Michael specialises in a peculiar form of double-speak. According to him, aggressive Muslims fly planes into buildings and aggressive Catholics bomb abortion clinics, while the most aggressive thing atheists do is write books. He blames the tyranny and unbelievable cruelty of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot on their fascism rather than their atheism – this despite the fact that they were communists, not fascists, and a central tenet of communism is the annihilation of organised religion. (Come to think of it, they were all more interested in burning books than writing them but best not let this particular atheist fantasy unravel).
Michael had another excuse ready anyway – there’s all kinds of atheists apparently, good and bad – just like there’s good and bad religious people. Hooray! Isn’t it strange though, how, whenever you point out the shortcomings of well known atheists, you’re suddenly told that there’s all kinds of atheists, when up to that point, Catholics have been painted with the same judgmental, Magdalene-promoting, abortion-clinic-exploding brush. Funny, that.
I do wonder if Michael ever steps outside the narrow confines of this country at all. I suppose chasing down tales of vandalised crosses must take up a lot of time but it is strange that the only other recent case he could think of where a religious icon was vandalised was in Ballinspittle. Michael was quick to point out that the culprits were members of another Christian group. He also said that they were praying on their bibles while in court.
What he didn’t say was that this happened in 1985. Maybe he doesn’t know the date. Maybe he also doesn’t know that there are plenty of other cases of vandalism and aggression by atheists. A quick google search for example, will turn up the Femen Group. Founded in Ukraine in the far-more-recent 2008, they’re now based in Paris and part of their raison d’etre is to protest against religion. To date, they’ve attacked the Orthodox Christian Leader in Russia, desecrated Cathedrals and crucifixes, and seem incapable of making a political comment without taking their clothes off. Shows a lack of confidence in their argument if you ask me, but there you go.
They’ve also been known to chop down a cross or two themselves (weapon of choice: chainsaw), and seeing as they like to test the forebearance of law enforcement agencies throughout most European countries, I’m surprised they haven’t popped up on Michael’s radar before now. I suppose they don’t fit the bill of what he considers a non-aggressive atheist, even on days when their actions are solely directed at religious institutions and religion in general. Now that I come to think of it, the only words they’re known for are the ones scrawled across their bare breasts while they’re shocking families who are taking their children to see St. Peter’s Square in Rome. So no “writing books” then. Oh well, maybe Michael will enlighten us on what sub-genre of “aggressive atheist” they fall into in his next media blitz. Here’s hoping.
Perhaps this is one crusade that Michael should have avoided. The way to respond to vandalism is to neutralise it by replacing what was lost. Anything else very quickly looks like a campaign built on its coat-tails, or worse, an obvious own goal.