I don’t much like the kind of over-and-back blog posts on the internet, mainly on the grounds that when it comes to writing, it’s always a case of too many topics, too little time. But when I read Michael Nugent’s response to my post about the vandalism of the cross on Carrauntoohil, I decided to make an exception. I had already wanted to do a follow-up on this post since the emergence of this video, which claims to show the culprits behind the knocking down of the cross. Any suggestion that this was an act of wanton vandalism, as opposed to an anti-religious act, was put to rest by the anti-Catholic comments included with the video.
Michael doesn’t refer to this video in his blog post. Atheist Ireland, of which he is the chairperson, did issue a statement which can be found here. (I’m not sure if this statement was issued before or after the video found its way online but to the best of my knowledge, it was issued in response). The video is disappointing in the extreme, and not just if you’re an atheist who must now confront the reality that despite Michael’s previous assertions that the most unpleasant thing aggressive atheists do is write books. It speaks of a far more sinister element in Irish society, one that has such a deep hatred of religion and Catholicism that they see no problem in resorting to acts of violence to promote their aims.
Happily most atheists and secularists don’t subscribe to that view, or to the idea that intolerance of religious belief is preferable to the belief itself. Hopefully the perpetrators of this act will be found, and the cross has already been re-instated.
Back to Michael’s response. He chose to take issue with the fact that (in his eyes) both I and Ian O’Doherty of the Irish Independent had chosen to take him to task because he was offended by the cross on Carrauntoohil. In Michael’s words, “You have the right to be offended by me, but not to discriminate against me”, the idea being that a community such as the one that erected the cross shouldn’t be imposing their religious symbol on atheists or secularists and now that we live in more enlightened times than the 1950s (when the cross was originally erected), a more inclusive symbol should replace the felled cross.
Motivation? What motivation?
I can’t speak for Ian O’Doherty but deciphering the motivation of Michael Nugent wasn’t the point of my post. The only reason I even referred to the fact that he hadn’t been offended by the cross was because he did – saying that he didn’t even know it existed until he heard about its vandalism. I listened to the interview because I hadn’t heard Michael speaking very often before and I genuinely wanted to hear what he was going to say.
And I was surprised, because none of Michael’s arguments struck me as very sound. That’s why I wrote the post – because, as I say in the very first line, it provides an insight into the ideas of Atheist Ireland. And to my mind, it doesn’t leave a good impression. I’m not going to go back over the points made – the post is here if you want to read it – but suffice it to say that Michael sounds utterly blindsighted to anything that throws the idea of a secular Ireland off-track.
Regardless of what Michael thinks, this has a negative effect on his cause, and on society in general. We all need to be discerning, regarding the cause or the context. Michael chooses a tiny aspect of each article to magnify and justify his own comments on this incident. Why doesn’t he address the other comments made in my post, the ones about how Lenin and Stalin weren’t great advertisements for atheism or secularism? Why not comment on the video that’s emerged? How does he feel about the anti-Catholic comments expressed in that? Pretty disgusted, I’d imagine, but wouldn’t it be “inclusive” to say so?
I also used the post to wonder about how people who share Michael’s aspirations felt about it. Not so hot, I felt. And it turns out I was right, at least to judge from some of the exchanges he had on Twitter afterwards.
As for the quotes from the United Nations, well these concern ongoing matters of discussion regarding the kind of society we want to have in Ireland. I’m still not sure what any of them have to do with the present case, involving the vandalism of a cross on private property. To be honest, I would have had far more respect for Michael at the end of this interview if he’d just come on and said something like “I don’t care much about the cross on Carrauntoohil. I didn’t even know it was there until someone from the station called me for a comment. But I’d like to use the airtime to talk about my hopes for Atheist Ireland.” There you go, job done. We all know where we stand.
Incidentally, Michael addresses me in this post as “Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign”. As someone who values the merits of getting everything right, he should really be aware that I wrote this post on my personal blog, and in my personal capacity. I have been known to write about abortion on the blog, but I’ve also written about water charges for example, and how much I like the film JAWS.
It’s all about priorities.
But seeing as Michael decided to bring up the Pro Life Campaign, he may or may not be aware that it’s a non-denominational organisation with many atheist and secular members who have zero faith in the United Nations Committee. It has nothing to do with belief or a lack thereof and everything to do with the fact that the UN spends a lot of time dissecting blasphemy laws, yet they’ve never once passed comment or condemnation on the ongoing practice in hospitals all over the world where babies are born alive in so-called botched abortions and then left to die. Go figure.
Michael seems pretty sure that Ian O’Doherty and I have little in common; maybe that’s true. Sometimes I agree with Ian’s columns, sometimes I don’t. I saw how he tweeted to Michael yesterday that he felt Michael should have “sat this one out”. It’s probably not too late to take that advice.