Author: cwhums

What does Trump’s victory mean for humanists?

President Trump
A guest blog written by Julian Webb, Membership Administration Officer for the Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Students.

Humanists come in all political shapes and sizes. From conservatives to liberals, and socialists to libertarians, we’re a diverse bunch. For this reason, most humanist organisations remain strictly non-partisan, engaging with particular political issues relevant to humanism, rather than backing specific parties or candidates. Despite this, Donald Trump’s victory poses significant challenges to humanists worldwide.

Humanism seeks to understand the world through reason and the application of the scientific method: our knowledge should be grounded in, and tested against, evidence. Trump’s impatience with such values has been laid bare in his assertion that ‘the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.’ Statements like these, along with claims that vaccines cause autism and that using hairspray indoors rather than outdoors eliminates its harmful impact on the ozone layer, led to Trump being labelled the ‘anti-science candidate’.

The next President will enact legislation that defies the scientific consensus. He has already made clear his intention to scrap the Paris Agreement, row back on regulations such as the Clean Power Plan, and get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency. This will damage the environment and, coupled with his plans to downsize the Department of Education, it could harm scientific literacy. Trump needs scientific policy led by science, not ideology or dogma.

Trump’s social and domestic policies also clash with humanist values. Building walls and banning people on the basis of their religion runs contrary to humanist principles of tolerance, equality, and promoting human flourishing. His tough stance on terrorism and border control risks isolating America from the rest of the world. Humanism relies on building coalitions, international co-operation, and uncompromising secularism. The President-elect must commit himself to defending civil liberties and human rights both abroad and at home.

Within the United States itself, his election risks legitimising his misogynistic attitude towards women. Despite his opponents’ best efforts, even accusations of sexual assault did not derail Trump’s campaign. If Trump’s attitudes become normalised as a result of his success, gender equality in the US could be severely affected. Similarly, the LGBT community risks facing rising intolerance; Mike Pence (Trump’s Vice-President) wants the Republicans to undo protections for LGBT people put in place by Barack Obama. Equality is a traditional battleground for humanists, and senior politicians expressing prejudices of this kind sets a dangerous precedent.

While Trump’s policies will almost certainly make his presidency difficult for humanists, it may not be as bad as we fear. Trump’s ability to find the path of least resistance could come in handy if the practicalities of building a wall or keeping Muslims out of the US prove too difficult to bring about. Historically, he has been more moderate than other Republicans on issues such as LGBT rights; if his post-election message of unity is to be believed, he may shy away from divisive policies where he can.

Ultimately, humanists will have to fight hard to ensure that science is not diminished, that minorities are not discriminated against, and that reason and compassion are at the forefront of political discourse. We will not be alone; the majority of voters opted for Hillary Clinton or for third party candidates, and Trump voters were more united by Trump’s anti-globalisation and anti-politics rhetoric than they were by a desire to frustrate humanist causes or divide society.

Campaigning does not end when the president has been elected, but rather, it now begins. Humanists are used to fighting against the odds — we’ve done it before, and we can do it again!

Julian Webb

@JulianWebb93

facebook.com/julian.webb3

 

Remembrance Sunday

PoppyThanks to the efforts of Bob Jelley and other volunteers, C & W Humanists have been organising a Humanist contribution to Remembrance Sunday by laying wreaths at local ceremonies for the last 4 years.

This year Bob has purchased five wreaths from the British Legion, and we are hoping to cover all the local ceremonies.  Bob has organised representatives for Warwick and Coventry, and will cover either Bedworth or Nuneaton himself.  If anyone would like to volunteer for Leamington, Rugby, Bedworth or Nuneaton, Bob has kindly offered to deliver the wreath to the volunteer  in advance.  He will also ring  the relevant council to get details of assembly points and timings and then give that info to the volunteer.

Bob has also reminded us that the weather may be cold and the ceremonies can be religious and dour!

Please email cwhumanists@gmail.com if you are interested.

 

Schools should be inclusive and open to all

If the UK is to be a truly democratic society then the Government must be open to changing its views on particular issues when it is clear that its current policies are against the wishes of the majority of its citizens .

We are increasingly a non-religious society as is shown by poll after poll, and the favoured approach is a secular one in which the Government upholds the right to worship but gives no special favours to religious bodies in general and the Church of England in particular. Unfortunately we are a long way from that position and Churches enjoy a range of privileges from automatic inclusion in the legislature and the, not unconnected, exemption of Churches from laws that apply to everyone else.

However it is education in which a lack of secularism impinges most on the lives of British citizens. Schools with a religious character, or ‘faith schools’ as they are commonly known, account for around a third of our publicly funded schools. This seriously limits choice for parents who do not share the faith of the local school and do not want a religious education for their children.

The National Secular Society has been campaigning for many years against faith schools which are a major divisive element in our society at a time when more than ever polices should be directed towards cohesiveness .

Totally ignoring this need and in the face of public opinion, it is extraordinary that our Prime Minister, a devout Christian, has chosen to put her own opinions ahead of those of the public at large by announcing the establishment of another hundred faith schools and changing the entry criteria to allow these state funded schools to take in only pupils of their favoured faith. This is a retrograde step of the first order.

By all means let us have variety in school provision but whatever their source or specialisation they should be inclusive and open to all.

Dr Brian Nicol
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists.

Star Trek’s humanism

Star Trek is in the news with a major convention being held in Birmingham.

I wonder how many people, including its fans, are aware that its American founder, Gene Roddenberry, was a Humanist.

Roddenberry was raised a Southern Baptist. However, as an adult he rejected religion. He began questioning religion around the age of fourteen, and came to the conclusion that it was “nonsense”. He said of Christianity, “How can I take seriously a god-image that requires that I prostrate myself every seven days and praise it? That sounds to me like a very insecure personality.” He dismissed all organized religions, saying that for the most part, they acted like a “substitute brain… and a very malfunctioning one”. He was also critical of how the public looked at certain religions, noting that when the King David Hotel bombing took place in Jerusalem in 1946, the American public accepted it as the action of freedom fighters, whereas a car bombing by a Muslim in Beirut was condemned as a terrorist act. While he agreed that both parties were wrong in their use of violence, he said that the actions of both were undertaken because of their strong religious beliefs. He made it known to the writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion, superstition, and mystical thinking were not to be included. He compared Star Trek to his own philosophy by saying: “understand that Star Trek is more than just my political philosophy, my racial philosophy, my overview on life and the human condition.” He was awarded the 1991 Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association.

George Broadhead

We don’t need no (faith) education…

Humanists are very concerned that the principle of integrated education is under attack like never before in this country with the Government recently announcing plans to remove any limitations on the extent to which new faith schools can discriminate against children by religion.

Until now, a 50% cap on religiously selective admissions had been in place for all new faith schools but now the Government is pushing for absolute selection by religion as a result of lobbying from the Catholic Church and the Office of the Chief Rabbi.
Despite the Government’s claim that this is about ‘choice’, there is clear evidence that faith schools worsen social segregation in their local areas and reduce the ability of parents to find a good local school. In some parts of the country, they make it next to impossible for non-religious parents to send their child to any schools in their local area, forcing them to travel long distances at great expense during work hours.
Humanists believe that children from different backgrounds mixing, playing, and learning together is a good thing and that discriminating against children by their parent’s religion is wrong.

Professor Ted Cantle CBE, a leading expert in community cohesion and intercultural education, commented: “As someone whose work is concerned entirely with the promotion of community cohesion and integration, the Government’s proposals to drop the current requirement for new religious schools to keep at least half of their places open to local children, regardless of religion or belief, is incredibly worrying. Indeed, to give you an indication of the significance of this 50 per cent cap, and the damage that will be caused by dropping it, it represents the only measure of any substance, really in the history of the modern education system, that has directly sought to address the segregation that has been and continues to be caused by religious selection in schools.”

George Broadhead

Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists