Atheism Added to Irish School Curriculums

A new lesson plan will teach 16,000 Irish schoolchildren about atheism, agnosticism and humanism

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Author Richard Dawkins speaks during the National Atheist Organization's event in Washington, D.C. According to the Guardian, Dawkin's children's book, The Magic of Reality, is one of the key texts in Ireland's new atheism curriculum

In a country where over 84% of residents identify as Catholic, primary-school students for the first time will learn the basic tenets of atheism.

The Guardian reports that all students who attend multidenominational schools — currently about 16,000 pupils — will receive instruction on the secular belief systems starting next September. The new curriculum, which also includes humanism and agnosticism, is being designed by Educate Together — a nongovernmental organization in charge of 68 multidenominational schools — and Atheist Ireland, a five-year-old group dedicated to “promoting atheism, reason, and an ethical, secular state.”

On its website, Atheist Ireland explains that it has not yet been decided which age group will be the first to receive the lessons on atheism, but in the long term the organization hopes to offer a version for children ages 4 to 13. In all, the group plans to produce 10 lessons, each between 30 and 40 minutes long, and hopes to make the entire curriculum available on its website and via smartphone apps.

The lessons will be based on the Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools developed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

While the groundbreaking program is a win for secular-education advocates, it will only affect 7% of Irish schoolchildren. That’s because the other 93% of students go to schools run by the Catholic church. Despite being religious in nature and controlled by the local bishop, these Catholic schools still receive public money and are funded by taxpayers.

For Atheist Ireland’s co-founder, Michael Nugent, it’s this religious monopoly on education that makes his new lesson plan so important. “It is necessary because the Irish education system has for too long been totally biased in favor of religious indoctrination,” Nugent told the Guardian. “And if parents whose kids are in schools under church control want to opt their kids out of learning religion (as is their right these days) then they can use our course as an alternative for their children to study.”

In the U.S., where public education is legally required to remain religion-free, classes on atheism are all but unheard of. However, on the college level, an increasing number of institutions have started to offer classes on the secular movement. The University of California, Irvine; San Diego State University; the University of Chicago; and even Regis College, a Jesuit theology school at the University of Toronto, now offer classes on atheism and the ideology of nonbelievers. Pitzer College, part of California’s Claremont College system, recently began offering an entire major in secular studies.

One reason behind this increasing interest in secular study in the U.S. might be the increasingly large number of Americans who no longer identify as religious. According to a 2012 Pew Research report, one-fifth of U.S. adults have no affiliation with any religion, and 6% of the public — about 13 million people — self-identify as atheist or agnostic.

Even in Ireland, a longtime stronghold of Catholicism, the times may be changing. This January, the Community Foundation for Ireland released a survey asking Irish citizens about their top priorities. Of the 119 options presented, religion and spirituality came in last.

MORE: Unveiling America’s First Public Monument to Atheism

13 comments
CatholicCrap
CatholicCrap

Wonderful news that children in Ireland will no longer have Catholic superstition shoved down their throats in school. Richard Dawkins' book looks like a great addition to the curriculum.

Generaluser2
Generaluser2

What do they mean by "tenets?"


There are no tenets to atheism. There are no doctrines, no rules, no nothing. It's nothing more than the lack of belief in a deity.

ciscowes
ciscowes

The atheism belief is one of the most destructive, mind numbing, and illogical inventions of man throughout history.  I'd be interested to see what would the curriculum would be for such a class.  Of course it would be logical to allow other belief systems as well.  Perhaps they are more open in their country to allow studies of beliefs.  For example, anything Christianity related would not be allowed in the public school system here in the US. 

nofail
nofail

I dont think it is about atheism, it is about reason freed by knowledge, like distinguish the irish belief of the golden pot at the rainbows end, the beliefs in noahs rainbow, the rainbow of the tibet flag, the rainbow of the gay flag, Newtons rainbow. Freed by knowledge is the mission of a republics school.

arvay
arvay

As a person raised Catholic, I can attest to the fact that catholicism is indeed a very good foundation for atheism. 

MarioRodgers
MarioRodgers

What's illogical is to claim something exists but hides in invisibility that no instruments or other methods of deduction can penetrate, that no material or physical method can affect, but it still somehow claims the ability to affect the material or physical world, while its nature of it being is so convoluted and cloudy that no two people can agree on what it is or what it does.

misterprecedent
misterprecedent

@ciscowes There is no such thing as "the atheism belief".  By default, ALL people are born atheists.  Nobody believes in gods unless he is taught to do so.

 Christianity IS covered in Comparative World Religion courses in public schools in the USA, along with Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Wicca, etc.  PREACHING and PROMOTING are what is not allowed.  Get the facts straight.

ae.newspinoy
ae.newspinoy

@arvay i was a catholic seminarian for 8 years, now Im an atheist and proud of it.

ciscowes
ciscowes

@MarioRodgers God exists outside of time/space/matter and isn't measured by our simple scientific methods.  However, just as a painter can be evidenced by a painting, even if you have never met the painter before, or never heard of the painter, his paintings are excellent evidence of a painter.  Creation is the same thing.  Creation is evidence of a Creator.  Such isn't illogical.  Quite the contrary.

ciscowes
ciscowes

@misterprecedent @ciscowes People aren't born atheists.  Remember, an atheist belief is that God doesn't exist, period.  Everyone is born with a measure of faith, as scripture says.  "nobody believes in gods" is a strawman argument.  Check the ACLJ website for countless examples of where Christianity is blocked while other religions are "studied".

ciscowes
ciscowes

@ae.newspinoy @ciscowes The atheism belief is that God doesn't exist.  An atheist can only believe God doesn't exist, and have such a belief based on faith.