Leading atheist Professor Richard Dawkins has said that the Catholic Church is “an evil institution . . . by far the worst where the churches are concerned”.
In an interview with the Irish Times, Professor Dawkins said that he hoped the churches would “wither away”, and he “rejoiced” at the growth of secularism in Ireland and when he read the papers “about the pathetically diminished number of priests”.
Professor Dawkins was one of the leading opponents of Pope Benedict's highly successful visit to Britain last year.
Professor Dawkins told the Irish Times that the Irish Constitution should be changed to “remove all influence of the Roman Catholic Church and all other churches”.
Referring to the oath that must be taken by Irish presidents and judges, he said they might as well take an oath “to Zeus or Thor” as to God.
He was one of the keynote speakers at the World Atheist Convention, held in Dublin over the weekend.
The conference was also addressed by Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, American science blogger PZ Myers, Danish neurobiologist Lone Frank and Iranian activist Maryam Namazie, of the British Council of Ex-Muslims.
PZ Myers desecrated a consecrated Host using a rusty nail in 2008. He also desecrated the Koran.
The conference launched the Dublin Declaration on Secularism and the Place of Religion in Public Life.
The Declaration says, among other things that state education should be secular and that children should be taught about both religious and non-religious beliefs in what it calls “an objective manner, with no faith formation in school hours”.
It also says that children should be taught “critical thinking” and what it describes as “the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge”.
It says “freedom of conscience, religion and belief are private and unlimited” and that all blasphemy laws should be repealed. “There should be no right ‘not to be offended’ in law.”
Under the heading ‘Secular Democracy’ it says: “The only reference in the Constitution to religion should be an affirmation that the State is secular.”
Public policy “should be formed by applying reason, not religious faith, to evidence” and “the State should be strictly neutral in matters of religion, and its absence, favouring none and discriminating against none”.
It calls for the removal of special tax-free status for religions or religious activities, and the removal of grants “to promote religion or run faith schools”.