Chaplaincy Services in Modern Society

Out in a medium security prison in the west of Dublin city, an inmate is for the third time moved down the list of names for transferring to a new room in the prison. Gary is, by his own account, a model inmate with no history of violence or drug use while incarcerated. On finding his name has once again been arbitrarily bumped down the list for the third time, frustration continues building in him. He hates his current room because his neighbours are constantly playing music from their cells. He just wants somewhere quieter to sleep. Claiming that “the guards don’t do anything for you unless you give them trouble”, Gary is becoming more agitated by the day as he waits to be moved, pacing up and down the corridors, eyeballing the prison guards he knows to be in charge of transfers. He doesn’t say so openly, but his thoughts are dark. Continue reading

Sam Harris: The Global Conversation

Sam Harris is a polarizing figure.

Standing at the forefront of what has been called the “New Atheist” movement, wielding a degree in English, a Masters in Philosophy, a decade of Buddhist meditation, and a PhD in Neuroscience, Harris has made a career out of attacking taboo and promoting a rational, empirical view of the world. His lack of regard for tact around highly sensitive issues such as religion and war has earned him legions of supporters around the world. This has provided him with a livelihood through which he can raise a family.

His lack of tact has also earned him enough death threats to cause him to fill his house with guns, hire bodyguards, and encourage all of his family (including his young daughters) to study martial arts. He regularly interacts with his critics, and has a page on his blog dedicated to correcting misrepresentations of his writing. He claims that many of his critics lie on purpose about his work, and that this only increases fears of violent retribution. He is regularly called a racist and accused of stoking the flames of intolerance towards people of religions from different countries, particularly Islam. Continue reading

Losing Our Religion: Interviews with Spiritual Leaders

[Article reposted from the University Times in TCD]

In Ireland, there is a vast disconnect between the religious beliefs of college-age students and the beliefs of society overall. While census figures from 2011 established that 84.3 per cent of the population identify as Roman Catholic, a significant 20 per cent of college-age students identified as atheists in a poll by the Student Marketing Network, with less than 60 per cent identifying as Catholic. The scandals surrounding the abuse of children and single mothers by the Church throughout the past century have left their mark upon Irish society, and it is hard to see what direction the religious feelings of the Irish will take in the future. Will we forgive the abuses of the Catholic church and return to 1950s levels of belief and adherence? Will we turn to different Christian denominations, turn to other religions completely, or leave religion behind for good? Continue reading