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The Renewal of Humanism: Ireland


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/08/28

The Irish Examiner described how the numbers of Irish citizens moving more towards the equality of the LGBTQ+ community with the general population.

Individual Irish citizens have been marking the important passages of life — births, deaths, marriages, and so on — with fewer and fewer religious rituals. Others have been moving to advance the interests of the humanist population in Ireland.

The Humanist Association of Ireland is one such organization. The secularization of Ireland is an, apparently, rapid shift from the prior decades.

10% of the Irish (2016) population identify with no religion, which was a 75%, approximately, increase in only 5 years — compared to the 2011 numbers.

Then there has been abortion and same-sex marriage referenda in the national, and international for that matter, news of Ireland. This represents the shift and rub for the Irish. The conflict between the traditional moral norms of the Christian churches and the secular values of modernity.

Irish people, as with many others, seem to favor freedom over tradition. Humanist marriages were legalized in 2012 and this promotes the visibility and wider acceptance of a humanist outlook on the world.

As noted at the outset, the Irish people, with a decrease in important life stages marked by religious ritual, have been moving towards the universalistic message of ritual found in the non-religious, or if you prefer, the neo-religious or post-supernaturalist-religious world.

This presages or may foretell the decline and diminishment of religious commitment for the 2020s in, otherwise, highly religious Ireland. This could portend a diversification of the belief and social acceptance landscape within the nation known for Protestant and Catholic bigotries and riots.

One Dr. Teresa Graham was contacted as a humanist celebrant from Tramore, who is also a counselling psychologist. Interestingly, she, in 2017 alone, conducted 75 weddings as the celebrant of the couple.

“There are those who come from different religious backgrounds, where it would be difficult to decide on a religious ceremony to suit both families,” Graham stated, “The demographic varies. Lots of couples are in their early thirties, although I’ve done a ceremony for hippies in their sixties: All the music was the Beatles and it was in a garden on a beautiful summer’s day, with flowery dresses and guitars. That was lovely.”

Akin to the more well-known rituals of the religious, we find the development of semi-standard phenomena within the humanist celebrant repertoire (I would assume given the reportage).

Graham works with music and some rehearsed passages alongside, what she calls, unity candles — where “each family lights a candle representing the families, and when the couple have taken their vows, they move the flames to a single candle.”

Graham found the humanist community the Humanist Association of Ireland after the inauguration of President Michael D. Higgins. Professor Anthony Grayling is the Vice-President of UK Humanists. Both have an interest in the human rights laid out by the United Nations and agreed upon by the international community. Grahm, as with Grayling, prefers this outlook on life with human rights, compassion, reason, and science aligned for the greater good of all.

Grayling explained, “Humanism is a discussion about ethics, about how we should live and how we should behave… The key point about humanism is that it isn’t a set of do’s and don’ts and thou-shalt-nots, it is an invitation to treat other people with as much sympathy and generosity as we can muster, on the basis of our best understanding of human nature, which is a diverse and complex thing.”

Grayling views the atrocities by religious people throughout history amounts to the “religious mindset” in which faith and the promise of an afterlife in a heaven of some form excuses bad behaviour in this life.

He views this as an antithetical approach to the rational compassion ethics based on naturalism and science seen in humanism. The Humanist Association of Ireland has been working tirelessly to improve the state of secularization of the nation for 25 years.

Grayling remarked, “[The Catholic Church was] incredibly powerful. There were very large families and it was incredibly poor, and the grip of the church was incredibly tight… But in recent decades the change in atmosphere and the opening up of freedom that individuals have and the scepticism about the church has been remarkable to notice.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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