Religious tolerance and bigotry

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 01:02

Sir, – Laurence Cox (Rite & Reason, January 14th) says Ireland “. . . very recently was a society marked by deep religious intolerance”. Surely the truth is that religion was tolerated until very recently, but now must endure the bigotry of the secular narrow-mindedness that is all too prevalent.

Religion is not merely a sociological phenomenon which can lend itself to curious study, and reducing any religion to that narrow focus is to disrespect the truth claims of religion. I believe we have every right to be proud of the fact that our Constitution, written in the context of the darkening clouds of totalitarianism which were to engulf Europe in the horror of the second World War and all that it involved recognised religious freedom and the right of a free conscience.

Ireland must have appeared as a beacon of hope to those in Europe caught in destruction of a civilisation which owed its strength to its Christian roots.

The expressed intolerance by various government ministers to the religion of the vast majority is in sharp contrast to the more liberal drafters of the 1937 Constitution. Mr Cox may be surprised that at the Catholic secondary school that I attended in the 1950s there was a large minority, about 10 per cent, in final year who were Buddhists from Asia studying for Matriculation.

Time and space was made available to them for their religious practices and we were encouraged to respect their loyalty to their religion. That was an example (which was common) of religious tolerance. – Yours, etc,

COLM de BARRA,

Ballintlea North,

Sixmilebridge,

Co Clare.