Memories of an Old Friend

Saturday last, 12th January 2019, I was sitting on the couch in my new house (my first night there) with my girlfriend, drinking Captain Morgan’s and Coke. We’d just watched a scary movie “A Cabin in the Woods” and were shitting ourselves. The new house backs right on to a forest and is on a pretty extensive, barren Castle estate grounds. We decided to unwind with some music so I stuck on a 90’s playlist on YouTube. The first song on was “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer, followed soon after by “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. Both songs always instantly remind me of my old friend Ali. He was an awesome dancer when he was younger and had most of the moves from both videos down to a tee. I remember he used to go to niteclubs in town and even entered some dance competitions with his brother David who was pretty cool at breakdancing too back in the 80’s.

So I ended up talking about Ali to my girlfriend for ages, telling her all about his eccentricities, dance moves, our football adventures, his weird brother nicknames, his family tragedies, his kids, the last time I seen him, his one visit to Leitrim, etc.. I said to her that I must get in touch with him soon then said jokingly that I really hoped he was still alive and that I worried about him sometimes. I didn’t think he’d been looking after himself great over the years. Imagine my shock then when our mutual friend Colm rang me only 2 days later to tell me Ali had died on December 5th. He was found by his daughter and her mother in his flat in Ranelagh where he’d apparently been dead for about 5 days.

When you get older, I mean quite older usually, you start to hear about some old friends passing away, people about the same age as yourself. There’s nothing like it for reminding you of your own mortality. It was some shock when I heard that one of my first proper, long term friends in life, Alan had died. I remember he was a little younger than me so probably 42 or 43. It’s a bit young to be dying or to be hearing about friends the same age dying?

Alan or “Ali” as we called him, lived on an adjacent road to me in Crumlin Dublin and we met somehow in the late 80’s around age 10 or 11. It was probably through football as that’s all we ever done around were we lived. Myself and Ali used to go “training” for Liverpool in local parks as most of my photos of us below show. We used to buy Liverpool kits, goalie gloves and jerseys and take turns to fire shots at each other from all angles, pretending to be better than we were. Football was eventually replaced by more adult activities such as drinking, hanging around in old, abandoned houses (Ali, Colm and I had a little gang that got up to no good around old houses and we called ourselves The Red Skulls!) and our infamous house “sessions”. Ali moved out of his family home on Stanaway Road, Crumlin to a flat above an upholstery shop on Clonard road just a few km away. Myself, Ali and Colm regularly got together in the flat to drink cheap cans, eat take away and listen to music. Ali loved a good music quiz and we used to stick on some songs and try guess the song name and artist for a point each. Ali usually won but only because he used his own tapes!?

One memorable session in the flat was New Year’s Eve 1999. When everyone else was out partying in fancy pubs and niteclubs like it was 1999, we were in Ali’s grubby little flat with our cans. At one stage after midnight Ali’s older brother (also sadly deceased now) who lived there with him came in stark naked, done a little dance and left as quick. We looked at each other wondering if it really just happened? Ali eventually moved to another flat in Ranelagh where he stayed until his death. I visited him there once before I moved to Leitrim and lost touch a little. He used to tell me that he regularly bumped into Liam O’Maonlai of the Hothouse Flowers too for a chat. He lived around there too. I couldn’t help but notice the huge pile of cigarette butts in the ashtray and the pile of empty beer cans on the sideboard when I was there and it worried me. There was a games console and TV too but he didn’t seem to be doing much with himself. He was telling me he was trying to study for his Leaving or Junior Cert but I don’t think it worked out for him.

Ali was always a little rough around the edges. Not very “intellectually intelligent” as he used to say in his own words but he was a real character and had an interesting way with words. He always seemed a bit dirty/shabby, had poor teeth, little or no education and both his parents died youngish leaving him living with his siblings until he moved into his own place in the 90’s. I remember meeting his mother once and staying with him in her place above a hairdressers caller “Hair Affair” in Athy with our other friend Darren. The 3 of us shared a double bed. The less said about that the better. He didn’t have many breaks in life in general and I never knew him to have a proper job or long term girlfriend although he had two children by different partners and I believe he regularly seen his daughter up until his death which I was chuffed to hear. He spoke regularly to me about his daughter and son and I’m sure he loved them. If you achieve nothing else in life, creating living human beings is pretty damn awesome.

I remember whenever we went anywhere “outdoors” with him such as a restaurant in town etc.. he would get very nervous and self-conscious. He could never order off a menu, either because he couldn’t read great or because of his awkwardness and we usually had to help him. He’d normally just end up blurting out “Chips”! My mother never approved of us being friends but I ignored her. I liked his company and we got on very well. Kids know best and have none of the judgement or snobbishness adults do.

Football brought me and Ali together but a mutual love for music kept us together. He knew a lot about music. All genres and ages. I think he got his taste in music from his older brothers and sisters. Ali got me into some awesome music, none other than The Doors, the band love of my life and I’m chuffed he came to a few of the gigs my Doors cover band played. I remember trying to teach him guitar once after I learned myself but life was too short to try teach Ali anything! I went to see the Doors movie in Tallaght with him and it was The Doors all the way after that. He also got me into Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy and I believe his favourite Lizzy song “Sarah” was played at his funeral. I recorded a version of it below in his honour. Myself, Ali and Phil Lynott all lived within a few minutes of each other in Crumlin! It’s one of my favourite too. Fittingly, his funeral service was in Mount Jerome cemetery where we used to knacker drink! It was a pity to miss the funeral.

Another memorable “outdoor” occasion was when Ali, myself and few guys from the band got together in my house in Crumlin for a BBQ and music session. We had a PA system that we’d just bought for the band setup in the back garden and we done a few of our repertoire. Ali knew all the words to most of the songs. In fact he was famous for being able to quote song lyrics from a ton of songs. One lyric that sticks in my head that he “recited” often were from “Billericay Dickie” by Ian Dury:

Had a love affair with Nina
In the back of my Cortina
A seasoned up hyena could not have been more obscener
She took me to the cleaners
And other misdemeanours
But I got right up between her
Rum and her Ribena

Ian Dury

The whole estate probably got an earful of that gig. We all got stoned immaculate and decided to get the 83 bus into town to go see the LA Doors at Midnight at the Olympia. We were doing fine until the bus stopped at a stop in Rathmines where there were a few Asians waiting. Ali started singing “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors and we all lost the plot. Ali was refused entry and another of our group got thrown out for smoking a joint! Imagine!? At a Doors gig?

Rest in peace Ali. We had some good times together and I’m shocked and sad you’re gone. I’m angry and dissapointed with myself for not getting back in touch with you like I said I would in summer 2017 and for not being in contact much for most of the last 15 years. If your sad death teaches me or anyone else anything it’s that we should stay in touch with people who were or are in our lives. I think the last time we spoke was about 6 years ago and the last time we met in real life was probably the session in Colm’s in Balbriggan when you puked your ring up! I’m glad you visited me that one time in Leitrim when we buried the dead rat in my back garden, made a little cross and said a few prayers for him..

I hope the music is good wherever you are now buddy..

Intermittent Fasting

Food, Intermittent Fasting and Me

Food Rocks!

We need to eat to survive of course but I also like to eat for fun. I always have. From the eating competitions I used to have with friends and on blind dates even (don’t ask) to indulging in take away regularly, I just love eating. I love the variety of food available these days. Indian, Italian and Lebanese are some of my favourite cuisines. I love the ritual of cooking (I recently took a couple of cooking courses) or going out to a nice restaurant. I adore Buffets. All my Christmases come together when I’m at a buffet and I eat until sick almost. Is that bad? Gluttony is a sin of course but I’m a militant atheist luckily. Right now you’re probably imagining me as a bed ridden slob, dangerously overweight and a ticking, heart-diseased, diabetes ridden time bomb but I’m actually only a couple of stone overweight and probably not noticeably fat. Unless you look real close. Those who’ve seen me naked know best. I have height, a good metabolism and pure luck to thank for that possibly. However..

Why Diet?

I’ve recently become middle aged and have an assortment of mild middle aged related conditions such as back pain, joint stiffness, high blood pressure, etc.. Middle age is a time when shit starts to deteriorate and go wrong so you really have to keep an eye on things to keep yourself functional. It’s a time to get more regular general medical checkups, get that free eye test and dental checkup, get active, stop smoking, drinking etc.. Lowering weight is one thing that I think I and a lot of people would benefit from. It makes sense to think that joint and back pain could be reduced if there’s less weight acting upon your frame and there’s known benefits to high blood pressure from weight loss. Thus I entered the depressing world of dieting. But..

Enjoy Food, Just Eat Less Often

I wasn’t about to give up my life long love of food. Rather, I’d continue to eat well and eat pretty much whatever I like within reason. I do try to avoid eating food with little or no value of course but the odd take away or desert is fine. Instead what I’d do was just eat less often and be patient until the next feeding time. I’d heard of “Intermittent Fasting” before but never really looked at it properly. The word “fasting” put me off. And in truth, I only got a renewed interest in it kinda by accident recently when I forced myself to not eat for a day, just to see if I could. I like to test my resolve in these ways occasionally. I tried and failed a few times first until I got angry with myself then finally carried it through properly one day. It was a long day..

My Intermittent Fasting Experience

So the first day I fasted went like this. I skipped breakfast. I’ve done that before or had very late breakfasts, so no big deal there. I don’t normally bother with lunch either (I guess I’d probably been fasting intermittently already considering my no lunch and late breakfast habits) but by lunch time I was becoming a bit twitchy. I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner time the previous day at about 6pm. By mid afternoon I was becoming ravenous and very, very nearly gave in. Then something strange happened around 4/5pm, just before normal dinner time. I can only describe it as like “hitting a wall” then finding a second wind. Hunger seemed to disappear a bit and become more manageable. I felt as if some weird internal, metabolic, survival process had kicked in. I joked that my body and stomach had started to consume itself for vital sustenance. Having researched intermittent fasting a bit since, I realise that wasn’t a million miles from the truth. The body looks within itself and processes existing stores of fat, carbohydrates etc when starved of food. For the rest of the evening and even next day I didn’t feel terribly hungry. I ended up having breakfast around 11:30am. No bigger a breakfast than usual.

The Results

I carried on my intermittent fasting for the rest of that week. Having two no food days in total and that’s what I’m trying to stick to now. I think two is plenty. Especially when you consider that by two days I mean no eating from say dinner at 6pm one day until brekkie at about 11am 2 days later. That’s a total fasting time of 41 continuous hours and do that twice a week! So what benefits did I notice and how long before these benefits showed exactly? Well I was quite surprised to find that I lost the best part of 3kg after the first fast, ie- within days. At first I thought my scales were broken. But seemingly not. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and havn’t lost anywhere near the initial amount since. I think this is normal for any kind of serious diet, you lose a lot at first then it balances out. I’m still losing weight, just a lot slower. Here’s my weight spreadsheet below. You can see the start of the fasting process and big weight drop the first week in October:

It Gets Better

Once you get past that initial hunger wall, it gets a lot easier and you get used to the regular process of fasting then. Apart from the obvious benefit of losing weight, one other thing I’ve noticed is that, when I do finally eat, I don’t over eat or seem to eat as much as I normally would. It’s as if the stomach shrinks in some way. Also, I don’t seem to be in quite as much pain as usual. This could just be in my mind though. Speaking of the mind, there’s obvious psychological benefits too. I’m happier that I’m in control of my eating habits and losing weight. My blood pressure seems to be down too. See below (last reading today on the right):

Blood Pressure Readings

If anyone is interested in trying Intermittent Fasting, I found this website useful:

Next up…Facebook addiction!


The Self Employed Penny Drop Moment

Since I left college in 1995 I’ve worked in either full time, part time or contract work for other people or companies for a combined total period of less than 2 years. That’s about 5 or 6 different positions and companies. In the same time period I’ve been officially self employed in about 3 different positions, a Musician, a PC Technician and now a Web Designer since about 2003. Now, I’ve always seen those stats as a source of pride, I’m doing my own thing in life, figuring things out as I go, my own boss, time is my own, etc… and I would have also thought that others might be impressed by the initiative I’ve shown, the quick learning, the multidisciplinary skills one needs as a self employed web designer; design skills, people skills, project management skills, sales, etc, etc.. Aren’t the words “Good Initiative” on every damn job description there’s ever been!?

So recently I’ve considered trying to find a job, part time and remote ideally so my business isn’t affected too much and so I have a regular income for when self employment doesn’t cut it, like right now with the great weather we’re having! I’ve been sending CVs off, doing everything right (I think), customising the CV for the position, cutting out anything not relevant, adding enthusiastic cover letters, etc.. I’ve had career/CV guidance, I’ve got Degrees and other qualifications the last year or 2 and I feel my CV is fairly strong. But….nothing. I feel lucky to even get a reply.

Last night I attended #TechLifeBalance in Sligo, a kind of meet new Employer’s in the region type of event. The 4 CVs I brought were still in my back pocket when I left..

All IT companies or with IT roles on offer including: LiveTiles, Overstock, E3, SL Controls & Pramerica. A few days before the event I’d sent a CV off to LiveTiles for an IT Admin role through a  friend who recently started working for them and got a pretty quick, copy & paste no thanks. I was impressed with the speed actually! Last night a representative from the same company said something that made the penny drop for me….finally! Although, in the back of my head, I’d suspected as much for a while. She said that she’d been going through a lot of CVs lately for roles they had in their new office and the one issue she seen across a lot of them was that while they all showed great skills and qualifications, very few had the actual “industry experience” they needed. By industry experience I’m presuming she meant, considerable experience working for a large, corporate, multinational company and all that that entails. I don’t really have that with my 1.5 years work experience for other companies in the last 23 years! The night left me fairly deflated if I’m honest. The location was a trendy digital hub in Sligo, the attendees were all beautiful, young, talented people, the food was hip and free, buzz words and phrases abounded. It was all over my head a little. I think I’ve missed the boat..

So my conclusion..I guess I’ve thrown my oars out of the self employment boat. I’m in it for the long haul, so I better make it work!?

Discussion appreciated below.


From Suicidal to Happiness Engineer (Almost) in 3 Months.

Almost is the operative word. The blog title is metaphoric unfortunately due to a job application which was derailed (more about that later..) but herein lies a story of overcoming (work in progress) personal difficulties and loss of self after a massive change of life and finding some new contentment and direction. My 2017 year in review follows.


So, the beginning of 2017 found me with a wife, three gorgeous kids, a lovely home in Leitrim we owned outright, a nice car we owned outright, no loans or debts and a small but successful design business of my own that paid all bills. I had pretty much everything that most people work for and aim towards in life. At age 41. But in conversation with the imaginary person in my head who regularly asked me “How are you doing Leon?” I always hesitated before saying “I’m fine”. Why the hesitation?

Well, something just wasn’t quite right and hadn’t been quite right for a long time and I couldn’t really put my finger on it. We’d had the same problems a lot of people have in life; money shortage, health issues, the difficulties in raising three young kids, etc.. but it felt like something more than those. There was an uneasy feeling whenever I came home or was around my wife and kids for more than a few hours. I noticed my temper getting shorter, my patience with the kids growing thin very easily and my physical health suffering as I felt more and more stressed with each passing week and month. I had an office outside the house and I longed to be there whenever I wasn’t. Coming home was not something I looked forward to. That’s such a scary feeling. You know something is seriously wrong when you can’t face coming home to your wife and kids, particularly when you know they’d done nothing to make you feel that way and had only the deepest of love for you.

I’d been seriously depressed before a few times, many years previously as well as having a family history of depression and suicide and it felt a little like that again but with lots of anger added for good measure. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I happy with everything I had? Why wasn’t I delighted to come home to my wife and kids every day after a hard day in the office? Why did I long for Monday morning on a Friday evening? Unfortunately I was to find out the answers to these questions the hard way and in the process, destroy some of the people that cared most about me, alienate all of my friends, family and in-laws and ultimately let myself down in a way I never thought I would or even could. A normally honest, tidy and intelligent person, full of integrity would turn into a liar, a cheat and a selfish arsehole and make the biggest mess of his life, changing it irrevocably, all in the space of a month or two and all because of a lack of courage, maturity and decisiveness.


The summer started as any other. Peas were planted, the garden wrestled with on a regular basis and a First Communion party at the house with friends and family present. Two long months of school holidays were contemplated and dreaded. Plans made to go camping, possibly to France. The kids first trip abroad maybe. Behind this seemingly normal family life lay a few oddities, my unhappiness, my wife’s unhappiness, the fact that I’d never really got on with my in-laws, didn’t really have any friends or the fact that my wife and I hadn’t shared a bed for over a year and a half. An odd thing for a married couple but something that was just accepted as normal for some reason? Then it happened. For the first time in a long time another woman gave me some attention. It’s a dilemma faced by many men (and women) I’m sure and like thousands before me I didn’t have the mental strength, honesty and cop on to stop it, instead, flattered by the attention and even needing and wanting it perhaps, I made the worst mistake of my life and had an affair. I enjoyed the thrill while it lasted and even managed to convince myself that it would help my marriage when it was over and give it a new impetus in some way. But that’s not how things turned out of course..

My wife found out about the affair and from the moment she screamed at me that she knew (during a marriage counselling session), I felt my life was over. When I seen how much I’d hurt my wife, a kind, caring person who’d done nothing but love me for 15 years, I just wanted to die. For the next couple of months I lived out of my office, B&B’s and friend’s spare beds, contemplating where my life would go next. One day planning how I’d kill myself, to the point of actually looking for rope, guitar leads, medication or a big enough truck, the next, thinking about my three kids and how they would react to me dying and wondering if I could find some way to live happily and normally again. After a while my wife was gracious enough to tell me she forgave me and even understood why I’d done it and for a while we both entertained the daft notion that we could put it behind us, start again and be stronger together for the experience. We even tried it for a while when I moved back into the family home for a couple of weeks but something had died.


One night during this period my wife and I had a massive argument with physical violence which resulted in me trying to hang myself. The next day my wife drove me straight to our family doctor and from there I was referred to a psychiatric hospital in Sligo where I stayed for a week. On leaving hospital I was provided with anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication which I’m still on at the time of writing. I basically came out of hospital to a brand new but uncertain life. I managed to find an affordable apartment in Mohill, Leitim which for those who don’t know can seem like a pretty desolate, isolated place and it didn’t help that my first night was spent in darkness with no electricity. I was quite worried about being isolated with no car and being on my own too much but slowly and surely, mostly with the help of my partner, some counselling from both professionals and friends, a local bus service and lots of thinking I managed to get into some kind of routine. One pleasant surprise I had after a few weeks was realising that I didn’t feel too bad being on my own. I’d been on my own plenty of times in the past, sometimes for long periods and with no outlet I’d gone fairly mad a few times. But this time I had work to get back into, a partner that came over nearly every day and ferried me around anywhere I needed to go and on top of those I was very pleasantly surprised to find that there were a few little classes and things I could get involved in in Mohill. I signed up for a Social Singing group, private Singing Lessons, regular local Mental Health talks as well as a local Grow Mental Health group and lastly a Cookery course of all things! I also read a lot and lost a lot of weight eating less and eating healthier.

I’m not really sure where I got the motivation to get involved in any of these, maybe my medication has helped and I’m a little nervous about stopping it as I know I must soon, but with all of that I was kept busy and my mind wasn’t racked with guilt, sadness and depression over what I’d done, how much I’d lost and how much my life had changed. I now had space to think, be myself, indulge in hobbies, do many different things and get my shit together basically. One massive thing that still needed ironing out though was my three children. My ex-wife brought me to court to try limit my access to them as she was fearful of my mental condition. Something which annoyed me a lot at the time but I’ve now realised was probably sensible on her part although I would never have done anything to endanger my kids, no matter how low I was. We reached a compromise with the court and I’m glad to say I see my kids a lot now which is great and I have a great relationship with them. Probably a lot better than before actually. It’s hard to have a decent relationship with anyone when you’re fundamentally unhappy. I also have a much better relationship with my ex-wife despite what I put her through and that’s very important to me. We have to get on, if for no other reason than we are morally obliged to both raise our children the best we can and set good examples to them. But regardless of the kids, I think we need to get on for ourselves too. She’s also met someone else and is happy which is great for both of us. And our kids.


So along came winter and things were going well. I felt happier than I’d felt in years. I had a spring in my step. I got to thinking about my worse financial situation though and a possible career change to help fix it. I had a constant stream of jobs coming into my inbox every day and I sent CVs off to some of them never to hear anything back. Then one day I spotted a post on Facebook re an opening for a “Happiness Engineer” with a company I knew well, Automattic, the guys behind the awesome software I’ve used to build websites for most of the past ten years, WordPress. Now a position entitled “Happiness Engineer” is the kind of thing that would normally make someone a tad cynical like me puke but something about it caught my imagination. The irony and beauty of me possibly getting a job title like that after having the year I’d had or family history I had was something I just couldn’t pass up. It would have been a fairy tale ending to a difficult year to get the job. But a certain Automattic HR person hadn’t read my script.

I already knew that Automattic were regarded as a very progressive company to work for and there were many great benefits to working with them and when I read the job spec I got very excited about working for someone else for probably the first time in over 15 years. I sent in my initial application and was delighted to be invited to enter the interview process. I managed to get all the way through to the paid trial contract stage and even sent off the signed contract before some shit hit the fan! Automattic make a big song and dance about allowing employees the flexibility to work around their personal, social and family lives and all of their online literature seems to be very employee-centric. So you can imagine my surprise when out of the blue, with no prior mention they sent me a “Conflict of Interest” legal document and told me I’d have to completely fold my 15 year old freelance business if I was to take a position with them. I panicked a little and questioned their HR person as to why I’d have to do such a drastic thing and she explained it to me. I said I understood (which I did. I’m taking clients off their premium WordPress service technically! Not sure how I didn’t spot that initially..but more importantly, how they didn’t spot it either and allowed me through the various interview stages) and said I’d continue to do the trial and see if I liked it enough and see if the salary was enough to give up my business completely. A little later that same day I was then told they’d changed their mind about advancing me to the trial stage and would be cancelling my application with immediate effect. “Good luck with your future endeavours” etc… To my eternal shame, I replied to that email and basically begged for a second chance and that I had thought it over and came up with a plan to fold my business in favour of working for Automattic but the HR person was having none of it and stuck to her guns, completely ignoring my argument and basically writing me off for finding it hard to swallow the bitter pill of having to kill my baby, my business I’d built up from scratch over 15 years. My efforts in the interview process, my qualifications, my experience with WordPress and my obvious great desire to land the job were all ignored because I queried having to wind up my business. Hows that for employee-centric!?

What’s To Learn?

There’s nothing like learning from your mistakes, so they say. The bigger the mistake, the more you learn. If you’re not killed in the process.  It’s important I think to recognise your mistakes, acknowledge them, apologise for them if necessary/relevant but not let them define you or continue to affect you negatively. Everyone makes mistakes at some stage. Everyone needs to make them and, more importantly, learn from them. I’m not a bad person despite having done bad things, especially this year. I’ve done a lot of good things in my life too. Far more good than bad things actually. I’m also capable of loving other people outside myself as my kids and partner will testify to.

I know many people who know me (and some who don’t I’m sure) will read this and judge me as I’ve been judged since this summer but your judgement can do me no harm because I’ve already judged myself. Mercilessly so. Also, I have the wisdom of experience and self-awareness now. The kind you only get from making spectacular mistakes and from scraping the bottom of the barrel.

To my Ex-wife. You are a beautiful, kind, caring and funny person and a great mother who deserves to be loved, looked after and have every happiness in the universe. You were the best friend I’d ever had and you didn’t deserve to be treated the way I treated you, regardless of the fact that I didn’t love you anymore. I have no excuses. I wish I was man enough to have ended our relationship naturally rather than so very unnaturally. I am so very sorry for what I’ve put you through and hope you can forgive me some day. I also hope you realise in time that our 15 years together created three wonderful little people and made us both a lot wiser, happier and better people..


PS – If you are feeling low or suicidal, there’s plenty of help available. Try these:

Pieta House

Is it time we stopped respecting religious beliefs?

This blog post has been inspired by the murders yesterday in Paris by Muslim fundamentalists at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in the name of religion and also by the response of Salman Rushdie who said this:

“Respect for religion has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

I don’t know much about the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Seemingly a lot of their most religiously controversial stuff is a bit vulgar, smutty and just silly rather than smart satire that makes us think but no matter what they say or print, coming in and murdering some of them, including a fellow Muslim policeman is just fundamentalism gone off the scale.

Salman’s quote above sums up how I’ve been feeling about religion in general for a few years now. Having been an atheist most of my life, skipping baptism, communion, confirmation etc, no easy feat in Ireland in the late 70’s/early 80’s, I’ve never really had time for any religion. To me it’s been plain to see for a long, long time that it has no place in a modern, secular and scientifically enlightened civilisation. But still it lingers like a disease infecting, sickening and killing people. Religion is still all around us, from events like yesterdays in Paris, to imposing churches around every corner, to pressure from grandparents to christen our kids, to baptismal certificate requirements when starting school and religion being such a big part of the education system.

In this age of political correctness we are all told to respect other people’s beliefs and leave them to them. We all have immense fear of insulting one religion or another. It’s become a taboo almost just to dare to question any aspect of any religion publicly. Should we continue to respect people’s beliefs or even the people who hold those beliefs no matter how ridiculous they are or what people do in the name of those religions such as murdering, abuse and torture? Is it time we stopped living in fear of religion and stopped respecting it?

The only thing that gives me hope is that most younger generations seem to be giving religion less if any place in their lives and when the current older generations are gone maybe we will be free from religion once and for all. I’m talking about Catholicism in Ireland mostly of course. Religions such as Muslim, Islam etc may not die away as quick unfortunately. Perhaps what we need to do is stop attaching such significance and importance to religion by constantly talking about it, practicing it and making it part of our lives in some way.

Maybe Charlie Hebdo should have found something else more relevant to write/joke about than “a mediaeval form of unreason”, not because of the fear of retaliation but more to help bury religion to a distant memory?

I’m even fearful writing this damn post..

Fuck you religion…fuck you.

Charlie Hebdo
Illustration by Dave Brown for The Independent