Interview with Amy McGrath of Humanists Meath

by | November 27, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Amy McGrath is part of Humanists Meath. It is one of the innumerable small, informal, community-oriented, and important humanist groups found throughout the world dependent on the base principles of humanists in addition to the local culture.

Here we talk about Humanists Meath within the context of the Humanist Association of Ireland.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?

Amy McGrath: My family are Roman Catholic and that is the background I come from in Ireland. I went to a religious school in Dublin and First Holy Communion and Confirmation were big events in my life, as they were in everyone’s lives in my community.

Jacobsen: Following from the last question, how have these factors influenced personal life and views?

McGrath: Being religious was the norm. However, when I went to University, I experienced things that challenged my beliefs, not so much in God, but in the mechanism of churches and religions. I realised that the function of these organisations is authoritarian: to control and maintain order, as perceived by its leaders. This particularly affected me in relation to my feminist beliefs. I saw how religions have functioned to deny women’s rights for thousands of years, whereas, in the pre-Christian era in Ireland, for example, society was friendlier to women. 

Jacobsen: How does a rejection of the supernatural change the way one lives one’s life? How does an understanding of the natural influence views on life and meaning in the light of the aforementioned rejection?

McGrath: I believe in our ability to acquire knowledge and I have a sense of wonder about the universe. However, my life has changed because I am much less accepting of dogma. I believe this is a good thing. I refuse to allow dogma to influence how I treat others. 

Jacobsen: What are your tasks and responsibilities at Humanists Meath?

McGrath: Humanist Meath is a small, informal group of people who are questioning and intellectually curious. We enjoy discussing philosophical questions without the strictures of strict belief. I must mention that our group is part of the Humanist Association of Ireland, which is a wonderful group that organises talks and events across the country. 

Jacobsen: What does a community event look like? How does the maintenance of humanist culture with events and online fora continue the modern tradition of belief communities without the supernaturalism in a 21st-century context with the internet?

McGrath: We are still the minority in the community. In terms of events, the HAI organises lots for anyone who is interested in taking part. They just had a summer school in Tullamore. 

Jacobsen: How is the integration with the larger culture for Humanists Meath? 

McGrath: People know we are here and are free to come and chat if they like. I feel that we are defiant in the face of those telling us what we should think about. I believe that fear is a major factor in those who adhere to dogma. Of course, I have all the same fears of death etc… but I refuse to allow those fears to dictate my thinking. 

Jacobsen: What are some joint activities with other faith/non-faith groups in the larger community?

McGrath: We haven’t done any joint activities as of yet.

Jacobsen: Who are some recommended speakers, authors, or organizations?

McGrath: We have most recently been reading Julian Huxley. 

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

McGrath: It feels strange that the way you think can be a subversive act but it is. I think this demonstrates how religions have become social structures on which people rely. There is a fear of exclusion and rejection. I feel that we need to look at social groupings critically, and examine how they affect members and the people around them. Sometimes I think that adhering to dogma is just an excuse to not think. Acceptance is easier than criticism, particularly when you are not one of the people affected by the rules of the group.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Amy.

McGrath: You are welcome. 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

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