Newsletter

Summer 2019

Below is the Humanist viewpoint published in the Warwickshire press 27th July

 

Scientific rationalism has overtaken religious beliefs

 

Local Humanists have welcomed the latest figures published by the British Social attitudes Survey and called on the Government to make an appropriate response.

 

Of almost 4,000 people  polled by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), just one in three people now identify as Christian whilst the number of people who define themselves as “confident atheists” has risen from 10% in 1998 to 18% in 2008 and a record high of 26% in 2018. Just one per cent of 18-24 year olds said they belonged to the C of E. Seventy-six per cent said religious officials should not try to influence elections, with just nine per cent saying they should. Sixty-three per cent said religion brought more conflict than peace around the world.

 

Nancy Kelly, deputy chief executive at NatCen, said that the steady decline in religion among the British public is “one of the most important trends in post-war history. As our society has become more secular, the role of religious institutions in determining our moral and social norms has weakened. Other world views such as scientific rationalism and liberal individualism, now play a more significant part in British society.” Humanists, who adopt a rational outlook, agree entirely with this analysis.

 

With these trends set to continue, policymakers in every field, from education to constitutional law, need to wake up to such dramatic social changes. Also it should be noted that the decline in belief is not reflected in diminished religious influence. There are Anglican bishops sitting in the House of Lords (the UK is the only democratic country in the world to give seats in its legislature to religious representatives as of right), compulsory religious worship at morning assemblies in state schools, taxpayers money funding faith schools, and prayers as part of the official business of parliament and local councils.

 

George Broadhead

Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists

 

Bob Jelley reports on the Humanists UK Conference

If you went to Humanists UK Conference in Leicester, we are seeking your thoughts on any of the sessions you attended.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Saturday Session 1 taken by Sir John Curtice, the opinion polls expert on ‘Navigating a polarised society: Is Brexit beaking British politics?  An hour of – chart after  graph after chart – with an overall judgement that we are now two tribes, Remainers and Leavers, there being little inter-tribal movement.  ‘Leavers’ includes many of the older voters whilst ‘Remainers’ include a majority of the younger voters, with time, the implication is that the Leave tribe will decline and the remain tribe will grow.

Here’s someone who knows his stuff, our leading and most celebrated Psephologist but … I won’t need to see another chart for some time.

Second session on Saturday ‘Defending the Human Rights Act’ led by Sanchita Hosali. The UK’s Human Rights Act seems to be increasingly under attack.  Yet it is rooted in a United Nations declaration of 1948 and European legislation and it defends rights that many humanists would think essential. The right to life, liberty and security for example.  Our HRA stands up against: torture, slavery and for freedom of conscience, religion, expression.

‘We won’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone!’

A splinter group!?

A group of humanists wanted the issue of climate change to be have more emphasis in conference.  It seemed that the following leaflets were distributed by supporters and immediately collected up by disapproving stewards, so here’s the leaflet, you can judge for yourself.  I thought the leaflet to be reasonable and the views deserving of a wider audience.

Fourth session Saturday ‘Ending segregation and intolerance in schools’ led by Fiona Millar, Andrew Moffat, Aliyah Saleem and Dr Ruth Wareham.  Religion continues to play an outsized and outdated role in education; the number of tax-payer funded faith schools increases.  Andrew Moffat is Deputy Head of Anderton school in B’ham where there has been a loud, pressing demonstration against the school’s teaching that LGBT people exist.  The protests have attracted and been inflamed by  religious conservatives from across the country.

Fifth session Saturday ‘The Art of Not Falling Apart’ was led by Christina Patterson, who John Gainer identifies, as a Sky News Contributor.  A presentation style that was unusual for me.  Christina walked around the stage, talked without autocue or notes and told of the varied and severe challenges in her life.  An example of the human spirit triumphing, against the odds.

6th session Saturday ‘On being human: an evolutionary humanist journey’ led by Dr Adam Rutherford. ‘Darwin cemented our position on evolution’s tree, an animal begotten not created’.

Last session Saturday, the local lad, Andrew Copson, in conversation with Joan Bakewell.

The venue for conference was The Athena, a splendid and opulent, ex-cinema, art deco, in Leicester’s cultural quarter.

It was packed with expectant, reverential humanists to hear Dame Joan speak about her experiences in parliament, where she is co-organiser of the Humanist Group.

I heard, with dismay, that should a group of the Lords stand to speak, preference is given to any Bishop who stands, amidst cries of ‘Bishop! Bishop! Bishop!’

Progressive movement in parliament ( towards the legalisation of Humanist Weddings for example) continues to be blocked, ambushed, saboutaged by the un-elected Bishops.  Surely democracy demands that this situation is corrected.

Bob Jelley

Summer Social

Many thanks to Andrew Ireland for organising a very successful Summer Social. It was good to see some new faces. Also, thanks to Bob for the quiz. It looks like this may become a regular part of our socials!

Humanist viewpoint published on 7th June by Warwickshire newspapers.

NB The title is the editorial.

 

We should support the LGBT groups not pander to the mobs

 

Humanists are staunch defenders of human rights and these include those of minorities like LGBT people. This is why they welcomed the same-sex marriage legislation introduced by the present Conservative Government and opposed by religious institutions, notably the Roman Catholic Church. This is also why Humanists take issue with those religious people, mostly Muslims, who have been protesting vigorously about including homosexuality in Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) lessons in primary schools in Birmingham and elsewhere.

 

There are parallels in this with the Salman Rushdie affair of 1989. Once again Muslims are protesting about something which many of them haven’t even read. Then it was a novel; now it is the No Outsiders programme or the government’s position on RSE. Again mob rule is winning. Then the author was forced into hiding and those who translated his book physically attacked. Now schools are being forced to change what they teach.

Politicians are pandering to those behind the trouble. Witness Birmingham MP Roger Godsiff, publicly doubting whether the lessons there were “age appropriate”, despite Ofsted’s judgement that they are. Witness another Birmingham MP Shabana Mahmood, defending the protesters who forced Parkfield School to suspend its lessons earlier this year.

RSE programmes which protect LGBT rights and women’s rights are under threat. Muslim intolerance and intransigence is playing out publicly adding more fuel to the culture war between Islamists and anti-Muslim bigots. This episode is undermining the idea that we should live in a cohesive society where human rights are universal.

The government must resist this growing attempt to undermine RSE education. The government says it defends teachers’ ability to do their jobs in the face of unreasonable pressure. But the attempt to undermine teaching which acknowledges LGBT people’s existence is a well-coordinated and deeply intimidating campaign which requires a national response. Leaving individual schools to face the wrath of vocal, intolerant, reactionary religious groups is not good enough.

George Broadhead

Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

Diary dates

Next meeting: TBC for August

Green drinks

Local humanist friends and other green thinking and socially aware people e.g Friends of the earth, Greens, etc are invited to drinks every first Wednesday evening of the month, 7.30 onwards, at the Tiltyard, 25 Leyes Ln, Kenilworth CV8 2DE. Next meeting Wednesday 7th August 2019. Look forward to seeing you there.

In case of re-arrangement and for any other queries contact Tracey Drew tracey@wildflower.plus.com or phone 01926 857782