Last weekend I attended the World Atheist convention hosted in Dublin by Atheist Ireland. My wife bought me a ticket as a birthday present. Normally I get books but on this occasion it was an opportunity to listen to Richard Dawkins rather than read him so the present did not fall into the unwanted gift category.
It was a beautiful warm Friday evening as I made my way from North Dublin into the city centre. I was with a Romanian friend although our destinations were not the same. We did, however, discuss the event and while he was a religious believer he had no interest in enforcing his religion’s moral code whatever it is, on anyone else.
Earlier in the day I had a laugh with another workmate. He was trying to accomplish a task in the west of the city but had been abandoned by a companion who had to rush off to a prayer meeting. He said between me heading off to be with the heathens and his other mate bolting to be with the faith heads, he was fast concluding he was living in a ga ga world.
What I quickly learned before the end of the evening, after consuming a brace of well earned pints, was that I did not know a single person there. I have been at political conferences throughout Europe and have always met someone I know. But not amongst this lot. It was Sunday before I hooked up with Maryam Namazie whom I had at least spoken to on the phone a number of times. Moreover, I had interviewed her for profiles I was composing for The Blanket and the Indian magazine, Galleries. I had also been interviewed by her for her television show. On Sunday morning a guy came up after he heard me speak in favour of a motion from the floor. Whatever else I may have lost over the years my Northern accent remained determined not to give ground. He introduced himself as Bobby and said he was from the North and was glad to hear another Northern accent. Atheism it seems doesn’t exactly lend itself to a social life style.
Maryam Namazie (British Council of Ex-Muslims), Mark Embleton (Atheism UK), Nick Lee (Atheist Alliance of America/Freethinkers Association of Central Texas) - Photo: World Atheist Convention
On Sunday I had taken my ten year old daughter along. She asked to go after seeing reports of the event on television. She insists she is an atheist on the basis that she does not believe in gods. It certainly meets the criteria. She went on to vent about people not realising that if god existed he must be guilty of not saving people he could have; at best god was lazy if he couldn’t be bothered getting off his rump to assist people in need. Not much wrong with the logic. Sunday’s session was billed to last no more than half a day and I reckoned she could get through that. A Harry Potter book was in her bag for back up. Better than the magic of the bible. She got the chance to speak with Richard Dawkins who graciously told her that he was currently writing a book for children her age. And before she was photographed with Maryam Namazie, she got the chance to witness Maryam destroy with panache and passion the case for Sharia Law made from the floor by an Islamic historian. On the way out she took part in a filmed vox pop to wittily explain why she attended.
Although it was an event for adults I did the right thing in bringing her along. It is important to encourage children to think critically and cultivate the attributes of reason rather than have their minds polluted by the rubbish of holy books. In those heaven’s warriors are urged by their gods to slaughter children rather than enlighten them.
Maryam Namazie's speech at the convention: The Islamic Inquisition