Atheist spokesman Richard Dawkins, while in Ireland to attend the World Atheist Convention, said the Irish Constitution should be reformed to remove the influence of the church.
Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, told The Irish Times on Sunday that the country should change its Constitution to “remove all influence of the Roman Catholic Church and all other churches … incorporating tolerance for all religions.” He didn’t hold back his sharp tongue when he called the Roman Catholic Church “an evil institution” and described it as “by far the worst where the churches are concerned.”
Ireland’s population, according to the CIA World Factbook, is 87.4 percent Roman Catholic.
The British biologist suggested that Irish presidents and judges should not have to take an oath to God when they are sworn into office. And he expressed joy that secularism is growing and the number of priests is decreasing in Ireland, one of the most religious countries in Europe.
About 350 people attended the inaugural, three-day World Atheist Convention in Dublin. Conventioneers unanimously adopted the Dublin Declaration on Secularism and the Place of Religion in Public Life, which says among other things that “the sovereignty of the State is derived from the people and not from any God or gods.”
Out of the convention also came the Atheists Alliance International, an umbrella group for unbelievers worldwide.
One of the key foci of the atheist conference is the issue of separation of church and state. Attendees of the event, hosted by Atheist Ireland, asserted that children be taught “free from religious interference.” And they maintain that there should be no special financial benefit for religious schools or faith-based activities.
Dawkins' comments about the role of the church in Ireland come at the heel of the announcement that he and other British academic elites will open a new College of the Humanities in central London next fall. The college’s first master is AC Grayling, a prominent British humanist and atheist who wrote The Good Book: The Humanist Bible, published in March 2011.