Irish revolution

East London Humanists reflect on the significance of the recent referendum in Ireland in this opinion piece for the Barking & Dagenham Post July 2018.

The Irish abortion referendum result is hugely significant for several reasons. Of course it’s important for Irish women. But it’s also important for what it says about the weakened authority of the Irish religious establishment.

It should come as no surprise that the Catholic Church has lost credibility when it comes to preaching moral virtue. Exposure of endemic child abuse, forced adoption and attempts at cover-up have taken their toll.

Some will say a vote for permitting abortion is a rejection of moral values. But the majority who voted for change are not immoral. They just have a different set of values. Theirs are values which respect the rights of women. These include the right to say what happens to their own bodies and not to be compelled to give birth whatever the circumstances. Their morality recognises the awful consequences which are invariably seen in those countries where access to safe abortion is denied.

The referendum is another example of the clash between religious orthodoxy rooted in ancient scriptures and current ways of thinking. Thankfully few believe anymore in fundamentalist teachings like stoning to death for adultery and blasphemy. There is still some way to go when it comes to treating homosexuality as sinful. What is clear is that the religious can abandon such outdated ideas without having to abandon their faith.

The referendum is an important landmark on the road towards a modern world where moral values are based on reason and compassion, not on obsolete religious dogma.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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