O'Doherty: Too much religion puts us bottom of the class
In the grand Irish tradition of people becoming enraged by something that is totally irrelevant, the current row over the proposed changes to religious education in primary schools is a classic of its kind.
As reported in the Indo the other day: "Government education advisers have unveiled proposals for a groundbreaking Education about Religion, Beliefs and Ethics (ERBE) subject for all children, in all 3,000 primary schools," which effectively,means that traditional religious education would be replaced by a more generalised curriculum dealing with all the world's major faiths.
As you might imagine, Catholics ain't happy. The Church still has control over 90pc of Irish primary schools and, incredibly, half an hour of each day's class time is allotted to the teaching of fairy tales. To put that in context, we spend 10pc of class time on religion and 4pc on science, which is hardly the sign of a rational society.
Not only will the new changes in the curriculum eat into the time that was traditionally reserved for religion, the new subject could also take up time normally reserved for real subjects such as maths and English.
There is something utterly contemptible about this country at times and this latest piece of nonsense from The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment simply proves that these people shouldn't be allowed next nor near any school.
There is no place for any religion in any school at any time, save for when it comes up in an historical context.
In a depressing insight into the mindset of many religious types, one teacher complained that: "A faith-based school would be required to offer what is essentially a secularist understanding of religious faith."
We're back into the realm of bald men fighting over combs because the real issue isn't the perceived threat to Catholic teaching, but the fact that this stuff is taught at all.
Yes, yes, yes. I know all the arguments about how the Church educated poor Irish kids when nobody else would and all the other guff we have to listen to whenever the faithful think their chosen superstition is under threat.
But you have to wonder about any supposedly mature adult who thinks schools should be providing any sort of religious instruction at all. I have sympathy with the argument that schools shouldn't be forced to completely change their ethos to accommodate the different beliefs of immigrants, which is the motivation behind the new subject.
But rather than introducing a new subject which will, undoubtedly, inform kids that all cultures and religions are lovely and equal - they're not, by the way - why not spend that time on something that is actually important?
Why not teach home economics instead, where kids can learn how to cook a proper meal?
It's not the place of any school, or the State, to have anything to do with indoctrinating children and the words 'faith school' should never appear in the same sentence. Instead, it's the job of a school to educate kids about stuff they will actually need in the real world - maths, English, the sciences and so forth.
As things stand, the average primary school wastes two-and-a-half hours a week on fairy tales which is a criminal waste of time and intellect.
If you want to indoctrinate your children, you should do it in the privacy of your own home. Instead, we have lazy or deranged parents who seem to think that the State should collude in this God delusion.
Redirecting resources from actual subjects to teach kids about the various world myths is an act of criminal stupidity and should be seen as such.
You've won the argument when they call you a racist...
Earlier this week I found myself on radio having a discussion about Travellers.
It was an illuminating affair, conducted in the spirit of courteous debate and civilised disagreement and everyone shook hands afterwards.
Actually, wait, no. That was a dream I had.
Instead, it descended into the usual rancorous farce amidst the tedious bleating about how they are a victimised, persecuted minority and anyone who says otherwise is shouted down as a bigot.
That's par for the course these days in a culture which has now become so thoroughly stupid and shrill that anyone who deviates from the accepted liberal doctrine on any contentious issue is denounced as a racist/homophobe/Islamophobe or whatever the latest buzzword happens to be.
You know you've won the argument when people start calling you a racist because it's easier to throw slurs than it is to produce a coherent train of thought, but what we're experiencing at the moment is the ruthless suppression of dissent.
We now live in a society where it is utterly impossible to have a rational conversation without some pasty-faced Mother Inferior pursing their lips and accusing you of hate speech.
What we're seeing is the intellectual destruction of reasoned arguments in favour of 'feelings' and any culture which places emotion over logic is doomed to self destruction.
Maybe it's time to remind the unelected Thought Police that, actually, their feelings aren't really that important and if they're offended by something then they should simply grow up.
'If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear." That rather chilling phrase, first used by the charming Joseph Goebbels, was employed in Britain this week by a Tory MP who was defending the new legislation which would give authorities the right to inspect everyone's internet history.
It's easy to bleat about terrorism, or paedophiles or whoever the latest bogeyman happens to be, but the way this debate has been framed is ingenious in its mendacious double think.
Richard Graham MP made the remark but you don't have to look to a Tory politician to see how the once precious concept of privacy is now seen as a cranky quirk held only by those with something to hide.
I was discussing this with a colleague the other day and they claimed that "if it stops one terrorist attack then it will be worth it".
There's so many shades of wrong in that sentiment that it's hard to know where to start.
But let's look at it this way - would you be happy with the authorities having the right to open your mail without you knowing?
In an age of paranoia, every citizen is a suspect, and this is another way of using fear and hysteria to chip away at rights which were once taken for granted.