Are Schools For Children Or For Gods?

“I’m a Christian… well actually, I was born a Christian… well actually, I was born and told about only one religion… so I picked it” – Glenn Wool

This week saw the launch of a petition by Scott Moore (a member of the Alliance Party but acting in a personal rather than party capacity) to amend the law, making it optional for state-funded schools to host a Christian prayer during assemblies. The campaign has received some local media coverage including BBC Talkback hosting a debate on the subject.

Boyd Sleator & Paul Burns on BBC Talkback – www.bbc.co.UK/programmes/p03330q5

You can hear Scott on BBC Radio Foyle discussing his petition at around 1hr 23mins www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06cjwl5.

The proposal is:

LETTER TO
Minister for Education John O’Dowd
Currently, your Department’s position supports the continuation of mandatory collective worship. We, the undersigned, request you change your Department’s position to support giving schools an option on whether or not to hold acts of collective worship in school assemblies, and to take the necessary action to amend the law to effect this.
What is the current legislation however?
Scott was kind enough to send me the proposal annex he had sent to the education committee (I will insert the entire text at the bottom of this article).

— 21.1. (current)

Subject to the provisions of this article, religious education shall be given in every grant-aided school other than a

nursery school and the school day in every such

school shall also include collective worship whether in one or more than one assembly on the part of the

registered pupils at the school.

—21.1. (proposed)

Subject to the provisions of this article, religious education shall be given in every grant-aided school other than a nursery school.

In the process of reading the current legislation, I find it interesting that throughout the existing law, nothing is stated about Christianity being the religion-du-jour of state schools – it mentions;
undenominational religious education, that is to say, education based upon the Holy Scriptures according to some authoritative version or versions thereof but excluding education as to any tenet distinctive of any particular religious denomination
Which is an interesting way of phrasing it. DENI religious education curriculum makes for a different sort of reading – from Key Stage 1 through 4, Christianity is not just the focus, it’s the sum of it – I do wonder what religious education is like in Northern Ireland for somebody who is of a different religion and moved here mid-education, say – an 8 year old Hindu.
There is a section in the Key Stage 2 curriculum stating that:
Teachers should provide opportunities for pupils to:
– Compose prayers to mark special events.
So a non-Christian child in Key Stage 2 education is expected to compose a prayer – despite the very act of prayer not necessarily being compatible with their own beliefs.
Also within Key Stage 2 is…
Teachers should provide opportunities for pupils to:
– Consider the respect due to creation, which is the gift of God.
– Discover the challenge for humans to become co workers with God for a better world.
This isn’t exactly “open to the concept” of different beliefs…
You actually get to Key Stage 3 before there is a mention in the curriculum of their being another option – of their being the potential for learning about non-Christian religious teachings. Pupils should be given an introduction to 2 world religions other than Christianity “in order to develop knowledge of and sensitivity towards, the religious beliefs, practices and lifestyles of people from other religions in Northern Ireland” So the curriculum itself assumes that the child, as a student in a school in Northern Ireland, is not any religion except Christianity.
Interestingly, that section also outlines that:
For each religion chosen teachers should provide opportunities for pupils to explore:
– About God.
– Sacred writings and symbols.
– The language of the writings.
– The main sacred writings.
– Symbols associated with the religion.
– Worship and prayer.
– Places where prayer takes place.
– The leader’s role in prayer and worship.
– The rituals of prayer.
– The special places of pilgrimage.
To me, this leads to there not being many applicable religions to study. Not all faiths are monotheistic, not all have sacred writings or symbols, many faiths don’t rely on leaders or pictograms – many don’t rely on pilgrimages or praying at all.
And then in Key Stage 4 – we’re done with “other” religions, we’re back onto solely Christianity.
This coupled with the institutionalization of prayer in assembly leads me to view the Christian leanings in the Northern Ireland education system to be one of conversion and retention – that schools are not there to teach about religion, but to educate children in Christianity and Christianity alone.
When budgets are stretched, why are our teachers doing the work of our preachers? In a world where maths, science, technology, language and many other subjects carry such importance in later life, why are we spending tax payers money on teaching children in schools what they could learn in church?
The petition to make prayer in assembly optional for the schools, for my part, isn’t going far enough – I am in no way anti religious, I’m not anti Christian and I’m not anti faith – but there is a time and a place for it, faith is personal – your faith belongs to you and you alone. To have an entire assembly have to bow their heads and pray along with the faith-choice of the school or of the board of governers – that doesn’t seem the most tolerant method of fostering understanding amongst children. And to let a child sit out because of their beliefs (or currently, if their parents consent) seems not to answer the problem – religion in a multi cultural society, in a school, is just another way for a kid to made to feel different. I came to the realization that I was an atheist at the age of 8 or 9, in an East Belfast primary school – and to reference the oldest joke in the province, my classmates assumed I must be “a Taig” because I was no longer classing myself as a Protestant. (Although there are many commenters on this site who also assume the same from time to time…)
I went to secondary school in the south of England and was taught RE and excelled at it, we studied all the worlds religions with little focus being put on Christianity at all – if those within the church feel that the only way they can ensure people are Christian and continue to be so, is to force them from as early an age as possible to follow the doctrine and rituals, perhaps the horse has already bolted. My partner went to secondary school in Northern Ireland – it was technically an integrated school – she was made to feel ostracised by teachers and classmates for opting out of prayer when she was old enough to decide for herself, and time was taken away from her education to participate in carol services during school hours. When she should have been learning long division and conjugated verbs, she was forced to go to a local church and sing about a god she didn’t believe in.
On almost every issue in Northern Ireland, as a society we have our priorities completely wrong – but on this issue, it’s such an easy fix – follow the religion you want to, and allow others to do the same – the state has no business teaching a child which religion it should follow, the state has no business spending tax money on Christian prayer and not that of others. Let’s teach kids what they need to learn for life and let churches teach kids what they want to learn.

– The Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986

— Article 21
— 21.1. (current)
Subject to the provisions of this article, religious education shall be given in every grant-aided school other than a nursery school and the school day in every such school shall also include collective worship whether in one or more than one assembly on the part of the registered pupils at the school.

—21.1. (proposed)
Subject to the provisions of this article, religious education shall be given in every grant-aided school other than a nursery school.

—21.2. (current)
In a controlled school, other than a controlled integrated school, the religious education required by paragraph 1 shall be undenominational religious education, that is to say, education based upon the Holy Scriptures according to some authoritative version or versions thereof but excluding education as to any tenet distinctive of any particular religious denomination and the collective worship required by paragraph 1 in any such school shall not be distinctive of any particular religious denomination.

—21.2. (proposed)
In a controlled school, other than a controlled integrated school, the religious education required by paragraph 1 shall be undenominational religious education, that is to say, education based upon the Holy Scriptures according to some authoritative version or versions thereof but excluding education as to any tenet distinctive of any particular religious denomination.

—21.3. (current)

Subject to paragraph 3A, in—

(a) a controlled integrated school;

(b) a grant-maintained integrated school; and

(c) a voluntary school,

the religious education and collective worship required by paragraph 1 shall be under the control of the Board of Governors of the school and that religious education shall be subject to such arrangements for inspection and examination as the Board of Governors thinks fit.

—21.3. (proposed)

Subject to paragraph 3A, in—

(a) a controlled integrated school;

(b) a grant-maintained integrated school; and

(c) a voluntary school,

the religious education required by paragraph 1 shall be under the control of the Board of Governors of the school and that religious education shall be subject to such arrangements for inspection and examination as the Board of Governors thinks fit.

—21.4. (current)

Religious education and collective worship required by paragraph (1) shall be so arranged that—

(a) the school shall be open to pupils of all religious denominations for education other than religious education;

(b) no pupil shall be excluded directly or indirectly from the other advantages which the school affords.

—21.4. (proposed)
Religious education required by paragraph (1) shall be so arranged that—

(a) the school shall be open to pupils of all religious denominations for education other than religious education;

(b) no pupil shall be excluded directly or indirectly from the other advantages which the school affords.

—21.5. (current)

If the parent of any pupil requests that the pupil should be wholly or partly excused from attendance at religious education or collective worship or from both, then, until the request is withdrawn, the pupil shall be excused from such attendance in accordance with the request.

—21.5. (proposed)

If the parent of any pupil requests that the pupil should be wholly or partly excused from attendance at religious education, then, until the request is withdrawn, the pupil shall be excused from such attendance in accordance with the request.

—21.6. (current)

No payment from public funds in respect of a pupil shall be varied by reason of his attendance or non-attendance at religious education or collective worship.

—21.6. (proposed)

No payment from public funds in respect of a pupil shall be varied by reason of his attendance or non-attendance at religious education.

–Article 22

—22.1. (current)

Subject to the provisions of this Article, the teachers in every controlled school other than a controlled integrated school or a nursery school, if so requested by the board which controls the school, shall conduct or attend collective worship in the school and give undenominational religious education in the school but a teacher in a controlled school shall not be required to give religious education other than undenominational religious education.

—22.1. (proposed)

Subject to the provisions of this Article, the teachers in every controlled school other than a controlled integrated school or a nursery school, if so
requested by the board which controls the school, shall give undenominational religious education in the school but a teacher in a controlled school shall not be required to give religious education other than undenominational religious education.

—22.2. (current)

A teacher who has, under paragraph (1), been required to conduct or attend collective worship or give undenominational religious education, may make a request to the Board of Governors of the school in which he is serving to be wholly or partly excused from conducting or attending such worship or giving such education or both from conducting and attending such worship and giving such education and at the same time furnish to the Board of Governors for submission to the board which controls the school a statutory declaration that his request to be so excused is made solely on grounds of conscience.

—22.2. (proposed)

A teacher who has, under paragraph (1), been required to give undenominational religious education, may make a request to the Board of Governors of the school in which he is serving to be wholly or partly excused from giving such education and at the same time furnish to the Board of Governors for submission to the board which controls the school a statutory declaration that his request to be so excused is made solely on grounds of conscience.

—22.3. (current)

Where a teacher makes a request under paragraph (2) and furnishes the statutory declaration required by that paragraph, the teacher shall, until the request is withdrawn, be excused in accordance with the request and whilst he is so excused shall not receive less emoluments or be deprived of, or disqualified for, any promotion or other advantage by reason of the fact that he does not conduct or attend collective worship or give undenominational religious education.

—22.3. (proposed)

Where a teacher makes a request under paragraph (2) and furnishes the statutory declaration required by that paragraph, the teacher shall, until the request is withdrawn, be excused in accordance with the request and whilst he is so excused shall not receive less emoluments or be deprived of, or disqualified for, any promotion or other advantage by reason of the fact that he does not give undenominational religious education.

—22.4. (current)

Where a board is wholly or partly unable to arrange that the teachers in a school conduct the collective worship or give the undenominational religious education which it is required to provide in the school in accordance with the provisions of Article 21, the board may, for the
purpose of fulfilling its obligations under that Article, advertise for and appoint a teacher to conduct such collective worship or give such religious education.

—22.4. (proposed)

Where a board is wholly or partly unable to arrange that the teachers in a school give the undenominational religious education which it is required to provide in the school in accordance with the provisions of Article 21, the board may, for the purpose of fulfilling its obligations under that Article, advertise for and appoint a teacher to give such religious education.

-Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006

–Article 25

—25.2. (current)
In paragraph (1) “relevant provision” means—

(a)any of the preceding provisions of this Part;

(b)Articles 148 and 149 (in the case of a board only) of the 1989 Order;

(c)any other statutory provision relating to the curriculum for grant-aided schools;

(d)any statutory provision relating to collective worship in grant-aided schools; or

(e)Article 46A of the 1986 Order.

—25.2. (proposed)

In paragraph (1) “relevant provision” means—

(a)any of the preceding provisions of this Part;

(b)Articles 148 and 149 (in the case of a board only) of the 1989 Order;

(c)any other statutory provision relating to the curriculum for grant-aided schools;

(d)Article 46A of the 1986 Order.

  • Mister_Joe

    My opinion:
    Given the mix of society, pupils should be taught comparative religion in school but instruction should otherwise not be given. Neither should prayers of one religion be included in Assemblies. The school premises should be available after school hours for any religious instruction that parents request – attendance would be voluntary.

  • Korhomme

    As I understand it, that the requirements for a daily assembly in schools came via the 1944 Education Act, and was an amendment from the Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords.

    Personally, I think that there should be a complete separation of church and state; there should be no requirement for a religious assembly in schools. Any religious education that parents desire should occur outside the school curriculum.

    I appreciate that there are problems with this approach: in particular, the first communion for Catholic kids.

    Even Integrated schools here refer to themselves as having a broadly ‘Christian Ethos’.

  • Ernekid

    Interesting Article Kris. From my memories of Primary School. RE largely seemed to consist of colouring in and listening to stories. At the time I held Jesus around the same level as Batman, Spider-man and the Ninja Turtles. Fun stories about a nice guy. Mass was a weekly ordeal that you had to get through, an hour of pure boredom before you could get back to watching Cartoons. As a kid I probably cared more about the Gods of ancient Egypt than about Jesus etc. as I was fascinated by Ancient History

    It wasn’t until I went to a Catholic Secondary school. I started thinking about religion properly, I would mindlessly chant the prayers in Assembly and Mass without thinking about what I was actually saying. I started to come to the realisation that religion is largely nonsense created by people to cope with inevitability of death. Beyond a cursory glance at other sects of Christianity we didn’t really study any other faith systems. RE was a compulsory subject at GCSE. I was the student who kept asking the teacher awkward questions in class. It was an easy subject though. You just had to write whatever they wanted you to write and you’d pass easily. It was a massive waste of time in retrospect. Religious education helped make me an atheist.

  • AndyB

    There’s a whole other issue there with first communion, and it’s one that I think comes up in integrated schools, but I believe NI (and perhaps Catholic schools elsewhere in the UK and Ireland) is unusual in carrying out instruction for first communion in school, rather than church.

  • AndyB

    i had it easy in school assembly, because I am a Christian. However, the singing was awful (I remember the VP once stopping a hymn as a result) and I can look back and see that only a minority meant a word of it. It was something that had to be done.

    Similarly, RE classes were not popular to say the least. It said something that those in my year who didn’t want to study French GCSE were given a concession of studying RE or History instead.

    However, I think it’s worth saying that there very little evangelistic content. A local minister would come into the junior school assembly on a Wednesday, but otherwise each assembly took the same format – teachers in, main assembly would start with a traditional hymn, followed by a bible reading by a prefect and a prayer by the Head or VP, and finishing with announcements. (Sort of) good for those who believed it, but not exactly an encouragement to belief for those who didn’t want to be there, and, worse, it was perceived as getting in the way of teaching, to the extent that I think some pupils might have preferred to be sitting in class instead.

    The interesting question is how many schools would change their practice if they were no longer obliged to have worship in Assembly. Given that (wisely) the only proposed change is to remove the compulsion, I’d suggest that many schools will maintain a religious assembly, but less frequently – no longer daily.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I would guess that the DUP would block it, and SF might consider it a battle not worth fighting – the fact that it is an Order in Council suggests that it would need primary legislation to amend.

  • AndyB

    Here’s an interesting one. The legislation only prescribes collective worship in controlled and integrated schools – schools in CCMS are not required to have them at all, and they are not subject to the requirements for RE to be non-denominational.

  • kalista63

    It’s funny how we, in NI, think removing faith from schools is groovy and the answer to all our problems when Brits are shiting themselves and going to extraordinary lengths to get their kids in to faith schools.

    Now, I’ve never heard a good explanation for why faith schools work better but looking at the fek’n state of English schools, I’d be cautious about making a move that has no proven benefit. Opting out of RE and other religious activity already exists, which is probably handy for the Muslims that attend my local CBS.

    I ca’t remember being taught any of that OT crap in primary school (Charlton Heston was the only one who taught me about it: #You’ll have to prize my tablets of stone from my cold dead hands’) and secondary school was al St Matthew’s Gospel. What it taught me was about this cool guy who taught me about socialism, being non sectarian, not judging the disabled, putting oneself above others but for a carpenter, surprisingly little to help me with my woodwork O’level.

    So powerful was the message that Thatcher and her faithful set about attacking it, most famously the interpretation of the ability of a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle. The ‘christians. that cause the problems, if you noticed, are completely entrenched in the OT because there is little to nothing to support their insanity. Those who quote every passage of the OT are those who Jesus/Issa attacked, the pious, the Zealots. When He he came, he removed the franchise from them, from the Jews and he gave his message, the way, to everyone who followed what he taught.

    New atheism is eating itself, becoming what it initially set out to attack, the extreme of faiths, Dawkins, its pope, has become a cross between David Icke in his worst days and the Westboro Baptists. France removed faith from its society and has become a bastion of hate, not the promised tolerance. In fact, it has now become an israeli lapdog, akin to the GOP. In Sweden, the zenith of tolerance and secularism, racism is out of control.

  • murdockp

    Northern ireland is straight out of an Orwelliam dystopian novel. religion, multiculturalism, liberty and sex are the taboos of unionism.

    one only has to read the defination of sexual services in the human trafficking act to feel a little scared to the direction we are going.

    religion and education will never be divorced. the whole reason for our sectarian society would cease to exist and neither side wants that.

    the facts are there is not a Christian bone in our politicians.

  • murdockp

    I like this, education regarding the different beliefs rather that teaching a belief. way to go!

  • Ernekid

    Faith schools in England are the equivalent of Grammar Schools over here. Nice Middle class places for nice Middle class kids that are free from the ‘disruptive influences’ that are found in comps. Its the same in the states. I’ve an American friend who went to a Catholic school despite him not giving a fiddlers about Religion because his parents didn’t want to risk him getting stabbed in an Public High School.

    As for Dawkins. He’s a fine science writer but hes a pretty poor religious philosopher and hes proven to be a cranky aul git who’s lost the run of himself I can’t stand these labels like ‘New Atheism’. My personal stance is believe in whatever the hell you want as long as it doesn’t impact the happiness of others and don’t bother me about it. I don’t care about you sky fairy stories.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Which is precisely what I got in secondary education in England

  • Sprite

    “I do wonder
    what religious education is like in Northern Ireland for somebody who
    is of a different religion and moved here mid-education, say – an 8 year
    old Hindu.

    There is a section in the Key Stage 2 curriculum stating that:

    Teachers should provide opportunities for pupils to:

    – Compose prayers to mark special events.

    So a
    non-Christian child in Key Stage 2 education is expected to compose a
    prayer – despite the very act of prayer not necessarily being compatible
    with their own beliefs.”

    I understand prayer is a fundamental of Hinduism. Equally, is it not important for children born into non-Christian families to learn the basis of Christian belief? European society, law and culture is rooted in Christian principles and ethos. As our society becomes more mixed is it not important that people moving here understand how Europe’s Christianity influences attitudes, law and behaviour.

  • Ernekid

    I’d say that Roman and Greek classical culture have influenced the development of European law and society just as much as the teaching of the Nazarene. Why not teach Primary School kids the Classics?

  • gendjinn

    kalista63,

    Dawkins does not represent me – either as an atheist or as an evolutionary biologist. He is intellectually bankrupt and morally contemptible. He is a zoologist who is too much of a coward to accept an invitation to speak at any genetics department because his take on evolution is crap.

    My entire opinion of religion is summed up thusly – “Anyone who believes in god will believe anything.” Christianity, Judaism, Islam are just as ridiculous as the Moonies, Scientology or the Heaven’s Gate cult.

  • gendjinn

    Because the risk of turning out critical thinkers would be far too dangerous to the 1%

  • Fascinating article – still taking it in, but I’m reminded of my stock answer to my kids (“you can make your own mind up on that one”) and would prefer the ‘world religions – take your pick or none at all’ approach if we have to have it outside the classroom at all.

    I went to All Souls church in Belfast and was deeply impressed with their approach, however. I’d be happy to have them run any RE dept at a school my kids attend.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Ernekid, I was lucky enough to encounter an atmosphere where the Classics were commonplace at home, and started on Plato at 12 (in translation, you get more from him later, however, if you read Classical Greek), so I could not agree more.

    But I’d ask inherited a lot from my families involvement with the Irish Cultural revival through knowing Frank Bigger:

    http://www.ardrighbooks.com/fjb.html

    We have our own “Classical civilisation” to draw on also (despite what T.S Eliot said about the Celtic fringe).

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I know Dawkins’ flakey cousin……..a Baconian……

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baconian_theory_of_Shakespeare_authorship

  • ruhah

    Our state system’s approach to ethos & RE is a compromise that reflects the history of its formation. To dismantle the faith element would perhaps motivate protestant churches to once again set up their own schools.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    Instead of RE kids should be taught philosophy at school. It deals with a lot of the same sorts of issues (ethics, metaphysics etc) but teaches people how to think for themselves instead of parroting back dogma. I can’t help but think Northern Irish society would be a lot less tribal and bigoted if we were all exposed to a bit of critical thinking from a very early age.

  • gendjinn

    C’mon that’s just plan silly. Everyone knows it was the Dr Zeus corporation that wrote them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Getting really of thread, but did you know that Sir Francis Drake is claimed as a British Israelite? I mention this because of our earlier exchange about SF, remembering some dull cloudy days walking the long beach at Drake’s Point! Little did I know…………I should have stuck to borrowing a friends house at Muir beach!

  • gendjinn

    I didn’t know that at all. There’s nout quare as folk alright. I often wonder what truthful, yet bizarre, facts about people and events have been lost.

    Drake’s bay is where I proposed to my wife, she obviously made the wrong decision but at least she got a dinner at the Pelican Inn out of it 😉

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have my doubts that Drake actually would have thought of himself as one, but they claim him.

    Lovely, wild place, Drakes bay, with those Limestone rock faces. Glad it was the Pelican Inn and not the Drakes Beach Cafe, (raw fries more than once!) I had friends at Stinson beach too, but actual family were on a ranch with the house on a cliff top at Big Sur, much further south. The Antrim coast (near which I live) reminds me of a sort of miniature Big Sur! The Carmel poet Robinson Jeffers spent six months in the Antrim glens in 1929, but makes no such comparisons.

  • Scott Moore

    Hi Mister_Joe,

    I am the creator of the petition, and I absolutely agree. I have been taking a baby-steps approach; I am tackling one issue at a time with the petitions and advocacy until the education system has been secularised.

    My intended future proposal for your ‘comparative religion’ idea is something I call Philosophy & Ethical Studies, which would teach about important questions, where do humans/life/Earth/the Universe come from, what is the meaning of life, etc., but from the point of view of both secular and religious philosophers as well as a wide range of religions, with no skewing towards any particular religion.

    What I don’t agree with is the opening of school premises after school hours for religious instruction. There are an infinite number of possible religious views which can exist, so it is impossible to provide instruction for each and every single one, which will inevitably lead to a situation where a tiny group of religions, or a single religion or even a single denomination is getting instruction privileges others are not getting; thus, that idea would contravene secular principles.

    I’m also opposed to the whole idea of parents having the power to have their children taught or instructed a specific religion, particularly when it is in a non-critical, non-biased manner. I believe it infringes their freedom of religion, and I argue this is the case because freedom of religion must include the freedom to critically decide what your religious views are, taking account of all available evidence. This is a view I hold very strongly, because the first thing I did after telling my parents I was an atheist at the age of 12 was asking to be withdrawn from Sunday school, which they refused to do for 3 years. Our local minister himself had to come to our house to persuade them otherwise.

  • Scott Moore

    Hi Biftergreenthumb,

    I addressed this in an above comment! You may be interested to hear my view.

  • Janos Bingham

    “My intended future proposal for your ‘comparative religion’ idea is something I call Philosophy & Ethical Studies, which would teach about important questions, where do humans/life/Earth/the Universe come from, what is the meaning of life……….”.

    If you are able to “teach” about the ‘meaning of life’ I feel you should share it with the world now and not wait for the future and your “Philosophy & Ethical Studies” course.

    People need to know!

    (Oh, if the only answer you have come up with is ’42’ forget about it, lots of people have got there already)

  • Sir Rantsalot

    If Christian knowledge is removed from. Kids. Then in the wider world there is less chance that they will learn about the chance they have of eternal life through faith in jesus christ. For children’s best chance in life it is best we let them decide their faith. Not the decision of their parents.

  • barnshee

    er “the cold dead hands” would be holding guns Chuck was a big NRA supporter so not tablets

  • terence patrick hewett

    I think it right to point out that Michael Wharton did not write in a vacuum, there were other contemporary writers such as: Joel Mervis who penned “The Passing Show” in the Johannesburg Sunday Times for 50 years. There was the immortal Brian O’Nolan who penned the “Crushkeen Lawn” in the Irish Times (aka Brian Ó Nuallain aka Flann O’Brien aka Myles na gCopaleen aka Myles na Gopaleen aka Brother Barnabas aka George Knowall). And of course the immortal Mr Justice Cocklecarrot himself J B Morton of “Beachcomber” fame in the Daily Express.

  • Scott Moore

    Obviously there’s no one meaning of life, but the concept of life and its purpose and the different cultural, philosophical and religious views can be discussed. That’s what I mean 🙂

  • Midnightisaplace

    I fully supoprt this initiative. My husband and I are non believers. I was brought up a Northern Ireland catholic, he was brought up in England with no religion. When we moved back to Northern Ireland we were faced with the question of what to do about our sons education. Ideally we would have wanted them to be educated in a non religious environment. This isn’t possible in Northern Ireland. Even the integrated schools are proactively Christian. In the end we weren’t able to place them in an integrated school and as, given my experience growing up, I wanted to avoid catholic schooling they are attending the local state primary. When they come home talking about god or singing hymns, I just say that is what many people believe but that I personally don’t and they can choose themselves when they grow up. I wish I didn’t have to have these conversations though.

  • gendjinn

    That whole coast in Marin is just beautiful. There’s a local geology meetup that does a lot of hikes around the bay – the one out by the lighthouse is fantastic. I’ll have to check out Antrim next time I’m back, the Troubles pretty much kept us out of the north and I was in the US when they ended.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Gendjinn, just back from Kinsale (that’s the time delay). Yes, try Antrim, an entire character of is won, with its open rich contribution to the great Irish Cultural Revival in the north, pre-1914, and I’m not just talking Feis na nGleann! But (as you may have guessed) I’m with Aodh de Blácam on “The Black North”

  • Tamsin Mc Cormick

    He was the president of the NRA !!

  • gendjinn

    Kinsale is great, the myriad different facets of the west coast are my favourite places in Ireland.

    Looking forward to heading up to Down & Antrim in the new year – going to see the ancestral lands the family lost during the inglorious revolution.