The New Atheism of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens has been warmly received in Ireland. Yet still the Croagh Patrick pilgrimage draws tens of thousands of people up a mountain on one day every year. So something of our old thinking is still with us. In Empty Pulpits, author Malachi O'Doherty argues that our Irish experience has news for the fundamentalists, who think nothing ever changes, but also for the hard atheists, who don't understand religious culture from the inside. Ireland is on the cusp between faith and atheism, free now to think freshly about both.
I was born in Muff, County Donegal Ireland, to a barman and a nurse who had met just after the war.
I grew up in Belfast, on a housing estate to the west of the city, in the shadow of Black Mountain and as a child played in fields and on building sites.
School taught me to read and write but had few attractions for me. A pity that, since I might have thrived under a decent education and saved myself the trouble of going the long away round to a sense of being educated.
Still, a life that was more ordered and purposeful might have deprived me of the chance to learn more about myself through the challenges of travel and the need to work in different areas.
I have been a teacher to Libyan soldiers, a ghost writer for an Indian guru and a freelance journalist in Belfast for the BBC and several newspapers.
My books reflect that diversity in my life. Much of my writing career coincided with the Northern Irish Troubles and I have written two books about that period, The Trouble With Guns - a critique of the IRA - and The Telling Year, a memoir of working as a journalist in the most violent year, 1972.
Two of my books address religion. I Was A Teenage Catholic recalls a Catholic upbringing and compares it to the years I spent in an Indian ashram. Empty Pulpits is a more analytical book about the decline of religion in Ireland.
More recently I have written about my father in Under His Roof. This was an effort to get to know and understand a difficult man. One thing I inherited from him was a love of cycling and that is the theme of my book, On My Own Two Wheels.
I have written some short fiction and my first novel is a self publishing venture on Kindle. Iscariot is a retelling of the life of Christ, in which he is two different people who are confused with each other, one a zealot revolutionary , the other quiet mystic.