It might be a useful exercise to engage with the Abbeydorney atheist who contributed on one of the local radio stations in the days immediately after the destruction of the cross on Carrauntoohil.
One difficulty his argument will encounter is that the cross transcends religious distinctions, and he will be told so by other great faith systems of the world. There is no necessary opposition between the public expression of religious belief and freedom in the public square, or between religion and science, or faith and reason: just witness the very public display of religious belief in, say, England, or, you might argue, the United States.
Some of those who hold that there is a necessary opposition seem themselves promoters of a faith system. Who can forget the successful thwarting of an Italian appointment to a high position in Europe a few years ago? Many of us remain convinced that the man was blocked not so much for his Catholic principles, but for the threat to derail the bureaucratic agenda that those principles entailed.
The European project to homogenise us as ‘citizens’ of Europe and thereby diminish the individual cultures and communities within Europe (the totalitarian notion that ‘one hat fits all’) was denounced very trenchantly by Pope Francis before the European Parliament last week. Look beyond Europe. The insidious United Nations policy to sterilise women in Africa without their consent is highlighted in the last issue of your own newspaper on page 22. Why have Irish atheists, why have Irish feminists, been so silent on that issue?
So here we have religious voices taking up the cudgels to denounce the ambush of freedoms by major world organisations. It is a new duty they have to shoulder, though they have been interpreting human liberty for thousands of years, far longer than the European Union or the UN who draw inspiration from the principles of the American, French and Russian Revolutions.
It may be a mistake to assume that faith people are making a blanket defence against change. Take changes in the control of education for example. More than thirty years ago I voiced my opposition to an exaggerated display of religious presence in a state secondary school where I was then a teacher. Times have moved on and faith people now see themselves as outsiders looking in at institutions clearly promoting anti-communitarian and anti-freedom agendas.
The response to the destruction on Carrauntoohil signals to me a community embracing dissent and radical action in order to defend community and freedom. This is to be welcomed, and we need more of it.
Gerald O’Carroll, 8 The Green, Huntsfield, Dooradoyle, Limerick. 086 3519635