Religious instincts and secularists


Sir, – Fr Brendan Hoban (“Religious instinct will outlive evangelical secularists”, Rite and Reason, May 30th) highlights a fact rarely acknowledged, namely that a growing religious intolerance has been manifest in – and is often fostered by – the media in recent times.

Fr Hoban writes, correctly, that people of faith have had to get used to this, “from the casual insults by commentators . . . to the anti-Catholic groupthink so obvious in some publications, to the venom of individuals”.

For too long it has become acceptable for the media to give voice, almost exclusively, to those who wish to deride, dismiss contemptuously and insult those who do not share their closed-minded view of religion. Is it not time for some balance in the discussion?

Is it not time, too, to give due recognition to the beneficial contribution to people’s lives and to society in general that many dedicated religious have made, quietly and generously, throughout the years, and the many priests, nuns and other religious who now endure the widespread vitriolic condemnation which they personally do not deserve?

And is it not time for a more nuanced and open-minded discussion of the whole subject of religious belief which, as Fr Hoban writes, is “ingrained in our nature”? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I find Fr Brendan Hoban’s comments gratuitously offensive. Saying that the opinions of Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins are “populist rants” that “insult intelligence” is offensive to my sincerely held belief in free inquiry, freedom of speech and freedom of expression and an insult to non-believers across the country.

I call on the Government to amend the blasphemy provision in our Constitution to require a prohibition on anyone’s beliefs being offended at all and to retain the legislative provision which provides for a maximum fine of €25,000. Make it a million.

Everything from theodicy to climate change denial to trickle-down economics should be completely immune from public scrutiny and challenge, along with atheism, climate change and socialism.

A universal constitutional right not to be offended is what we need. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.