Grania Spingies, of Atheist Ireland, has contributed a short post about a European country that most of us see as religiously retrograde. It turns out that it’s far more secular than we thought.
Ireland may also be a lot more liberal and secular than some would have you believe
by Grania Spingies
Last week the Ipsos MORI polls conducted by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason revealed that the majority of self-defined Christians living in the UK tend to have more far more liberal and secular views than those promoted by Christian campaign groups. The reaction from those groups has been predictably both outraged and outrageous, but the message is fairly clear: the highly conservative values espoused by such lobbies do not reflect those of the Christian majority on whose behalf they claim to speak.
A recent government-sponsored poll shows very similar attitudes in Ireland. The poll is based on the Irish Referendum in 2011 (in Ireland the Constitution can be amended only by popular referendum), and was conducted by the Irish government for political reasons: to find out why people voted as they did. Unlike the Dawkins Foundation poll, then, this one was not conducted by a pro-secularist organization, and thus cannot be criticized on that count.
The poll shows that despite being a “Catholic” country (the 2006 Census put the proportion of Catholics above 86%) and in spite of Irish religious lobby groups insisting that the conservative status quo remains, it seems that a comfortable majority of Irish people do not take their cues about morality from the Church at all. In fact, an article in Thursday’s Irish Examiner by June McEnroe shows that the Irish overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, and also do not support Ireland’s ill-conceived new Blasphemy Law.
The poll found:
* 73% believe same-sex marriages should be allowed in the Constitution.
* 53% believe the offence of blasphemy should be removed from the Constitution.
* 51% believe references to women’s life within the home should be removed from the Constitution.
(The Constitution has a rather paternalistic view of women which, while it does not preclude women from working, tacitly endorses the idea that women are to be seen primarily as mothers. Here’s one section:
1° […] the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.
2° The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.)
These results are heartening but perhaps not surprising. In spite of a recent history dominated by the Roman Catholic Church that has resulted in almost all Irish schools being faith schools and led to many fights for the legal right of individuals to do such things as use contraception (1985), get a divorce (1994), or obtain an abortion (still illegal in Ireland, with its elimination being vigorously campaigned against by the Church), it seems that Ireland, much like the rest of Western Europe, prefers a secular and enlightened society too.
One thing seems clear: religious think-tanks and lobby groups do not represent anything like the numbers of people who tick the same religion box in surveys, and shouldn’t be allowed to insinuate that they do.