Newsletter September 2020
Art during the Renaissance
One feature of our zoom meetings is a weekly look at works of art.
This week Alistair guided us to the work of Anthony Van Dyke, who painted in Belgium, Italy and England, during the time of the Italian Renaissance:
Membership of C & W Humanists
At our 23rd C & W Humanists Zoom gathering yesterday, we discussed re-starting our membership scheme. There was agreement that, to start, we mightask for an annual subscription of £5, what do you think?
… and while you have your thinking head on …
Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer outside Birmingham gets go-ahead
‘It has been a long process, but this landmark will serve as a place of hope for many, and one that will help us remember the Christian heritage of our nation’.
Says West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Defender of the Wall.
There are currently no plans to build a neighbouring wall to credit Reason and Scientific thinking.
Julian Assange is now facing additional charges from the US Government, they are timed so that JA and his team are not able to respond as they would wish, therefore making extradition more probable.
In South Korea The Evangelical Cristian sect, that got the Codiv19 outbreak there, refuses to disclose names and address of the congregation on the grounds that the Authorities can trace them in the future. Their leader announced that he is a prophet for the return of JC. from John Gainer
Navid Afkari is the Iranian wrestler, imprisoned then hanged for opposing the Iranian Government. There is a growing demand that Iran should be banned from international sport following the barbaric hanging of Navid.
Here are two websites where you can find more information:
The Pink Triangle Trust
One Law for All
These details come from George Broadhead
Mubarak Bala sadly, there isn’t any news. We can support the campaign to free Mubarak in ways suggested on the website FeeMubarakBala. Take your photo and label it with your home town (no name) and post it on the website.
Shakthika Sathkumara Jane Sault provided name and addresses to which letters can be sent, urging the release from his Sri Lankan prison of Sathkumara. Those addresses and a copy of the letter sent by C & W Humanists are given below:
Regarding the arrest of Shakthika Sathkumara.
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists would like to add our name to Humanists UK, in calling for the immediate release of Shakthika Sathkumara, who has been arrested and accused of hurting the feelings of Buddhists and advocating hatred in his writings.
We join with Humanists International in thinking that Sathkumara is merely exercising his rights to freedom of expression, you should be proud to have a countryman with his talents ‘a creative spotlight for his nation’.
We are writing from the county of William Shakespeare, and believe that creativity and free thinking should be valued, not persecuted.
This case is a real test of how mature are democracy and justice in Sri Lanka.
We urge you to free Shakthika Sathkumaraka immediately and unconditionally. Applaud and delight in his talents.
Bob Jelley – Chair, Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists.
Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Fax :- +94 112 34 0340
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa
Prime Minister’s Office No: 58,
Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha,
Fax: +94 112 575310 / +94 112 574143
Mr. Dappula de Livera
Fax: +94 112 436421
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
Dr. Deepika Udagama – Chairperson
Fax: +94 112 505591
A favourite piece of Art
This week Jane showed images of favourite buildings including Casa Battlo in Barcelona, here it is:
Music during the time of Virus
Each week, someone refers us to a favoured piece of music. This week it was Tom Walts and ‘Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night’, suggested by Brian GB
Film and TV Highlights by Brian Goredema-Braid
There are some very interesting and enjoyable films and programmes on TV over the next few weeks. BBC1 and ITV1 both have interesting serials on the prime Sunday night slot. This week, BBC1 Will start a new serial ‘Us’. A married couple are looking forward to a holiday of a lifetime, touring Europe with their teenage son before he leaves home for university. However, the trip soon becomes a desperate quest to save the couple’s marriage and struggle to hide the tension between them from their son. Drama based on the novel by David Nicholls. Starring Tom Hollander, Saskia Reeves and Tom Taylor.
The Singapore Grip – on ITV1 is set in 1941 Singapore before the Japanese invasion. A rubber baron and his family, live a full of wealth and privilege. Their power and stability are rocked by new arrivals and the looming threat of a Japanese invasion. Adapted from the novel by JG Farrell, starring Luke Treadaway, David Morrissey, Charles Dance, Jane Horrocks and Colm Meaney.
A two part serial on BBC1 on Monday 21st & Tuesday 22nd September ‘The 7.39’ – A man and a woman have an ill-tempered scrap on a crowded London commuter train when she drops into a seat that he claims is his. It’s an inauspicious meeting but things don’t end there. A happily married man with two teenage kids – but he also feels stuck in a rut. The female manager of a health club has doubts about her upcoming marriage to her fitness trainer. The fight over a seat on the 7.39 train leads Carl and Sally to start talking, there’s a spark between the pair – and suddenly their daily journeys become a whole lot more interesting. David Morrissey and Sheridan Smith star in this two-part romantic drama, with Olivia Colman and Sean Maguire.
On Sunday afternoon on BBC2 is Dr Zhivago – probably one of the greatest films ever made? A married Russian physician falls in love with another woman, as their passionate affair plays out against the raging backdrop of the First World War and the Bolshevik revolution. David Lean’s epic drama based on Boris Pasternak’s novel, starring Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, Tom Courtenay and Klaus Kinski. This is repeated on Thursday night on BBC4. Of similar interest is ‘The Real Dr Zhivago’ on BBC4 on Thursday This documentary sets out to tell the “untold story” of Boris Pasternak (1890–1960), the tormented Russian poet who poured so much of his own experience under Soviet oppression into this, his only novel. Stephen Smith traces the revolutionary beginnings of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, a novel that took the author 20 years to write while knowing it could result in his death.
Of particular interest to me is the growing noir of detective thrillers set in the Australian outback. I believe that this noir will begin to challenge the current popularity of Scandinavian crime stories. The full length film ‘Goldstone’ was shown on BBC4 on 10th September (still available on I-Player). A new serial ‘Mystery Road’ starts on BBC4 on Saturday 19th September. These stories have the mixed race Aborigine detective Jay Swann solving crimes, fighting criminals as well as racism and colonialism.
A Few Short Funnies
When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike.
Then I realised, that god doesn’t work that way.
So I just stole one and asked him to forgive me … and I got it!
So there I am in Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall
Standing there like a moron, with my harpoon!!
Thanks to those who contributed to this month’s newsletter.
The October Newsletter will go out on Thursday 15th October and if you have anything to go in it, please email them to email@example.com by Tuesday 13thOctober.
C & W Humanists hold a zoom gathering at 7.30 p.m. each Tuesday, next week will be our 23rd. A mixture of serious thinking and light hearted moments.
If you would like to join us, we’d love to see you and hear from you. You just need to send a message to the email address above and you will receive an invitation.
Newsletter August 2020
Meet our secretary – Audrey.
I retired from secretarial duties with the NHS many years ago so I am enjoying jotting down the minutes of our weekly Humanist Zoom meeting. We are an extremely friendly gathering of like minds and have a varied agenda such as Music, Quizzes and Nature, bearing in mind that business comes first and we have settled any matters arising. If you wish to join us please get in touch and we will send you the log-in details for Wednesday evening at 7.30pm. I look forward to meeting you.
Free Mubarak Bala
Humanists International receives several calls for help from Humanists around the world. Many are apostates, having left the Muslim religion and others are on Blasphemy charges. When Mubarak left Islam in 2014, his family punished him by sending him to a mental institution but was saved by the actions of Humanists International. Subsequently he exercised his right to free expression by writing something about Islam on Facebook for which he was arrested and imprisoned on April 28th in Kano, North Nigeria (where the Sharia death penalty can be applied).
Enough money was raised to secure a legal defence team for him, however, as of today we don’t know his exact location. Mubarak hasn’t been formally charged and has had no access to his lawyers. On Wednesday 5th August we were privileged to be joined on our weekly Zoom meeting by Leo Igwe, a good friend of Mubarak’s. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any good news for us which leaves us wondering if the governor of Kano has turned his back to allow an extra judicial punishment. Thank you to all those who have written to Mubarak, The Governor of Kano and The President of Nigeria.
Ed Note: Several individual members of C & W Humanists have made personal donations to the Free Mubaruk Bala Fighting fund and as a group we have donated, that’s one way to help.
You can also help by posting a photo of yourself, no name but with the caption Free Mubarak Bala, more details on the website of that name.
Nigerian politicians know that the world is watching. The UN has demanded Mubarak be freed, you can add to the pressure.
Who set up C & W Humanists? Here’s the answer from one of our Founding Fathers George Broadhead.
Some members may like to know how the Group got off the ground.
My partner Roy Saich and I (both members of the British Humanist Association) moved to Kenilworth in 1974 and the following year we succeeded in setting up what was called Warwickshire Humanist Group. Ads which we put in the local newspaper resulted in twelve people (including Brian NicoL) attending an inaugural meeting held at our house in Kenilworth where we still live. The Group had a membership with an annual subscription, a committee and a newsletter. At first , with only a few joining, meetings were held in members’ homes but later at the Society of Friends’ house in Coventry and then at the Waverly Day Centre in Kenilworth. The meetings were held monthly with discussions, topics out of a hat, or (later) guest speakers. As more and more people living in Coventry were joining, it was decided to rename the Group Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
An important decision, taken quite early on and before any BHA network was established, was to provide a Humanist ceremony service for the local community. These were mainly funeral ceremonies but also weddings and namings.
Eventually six members (including Brian) became officiants, the term then used. They agreed to donate a percentage of their fees to the Group’s funds, and as these swelled considerably, payment of speakers’ travelling expenses, if needed, affiliation to the BHA and NSS (the National Secular Society) as well as the sponsorship of a pupil at a Ugandan Humanist School could be afforded.
The photos attached are one of me and Roy at Warwickshire Registry Office after signing our Civil Partnership Registration in 2006. We were delighted that about a dozen C&WH members, including Audrey Raishbrook and Andrew Ireland attended the ceremony. The other is of members at a C&W Humanists Winter Solstice Dinner at the Bistro Pierre, Leamington Spa.
What year George? Ed.
Are more religious schools what we need in an increasingly secular society?
It is hoped that one good thing to come out of our present crisis will be a determination I to stir up our entrenched ways of organising society. Let us, citizens and government, take a step back and resist having as our main objective a return to the pre-virus status quo and instead make progress towards a more cooperative, tolerant and equal society.
There are so many issues to address but one of particular interest to Humanists is the promotion of a truly secular society. It is a particular anomaly that while we have one of the least religious populations we have so much of our way of life influenced by religion.. The churches , while their adherents have dwindled, continue to hold considerable sway. One thinks of the House of Lords with its contingent of bishops there as of right and a powerful presence in gaining religious exemptions from general non-discrimination requirements.
Of considerable importance is the religious hold on education. A high proportion, particularly of primary schools are run by the churches but paid for by the state. Control includes selection so that schools can legally discriminate in favour of their members. Instead of recognizing this anomaly and at least gradually changing the system the Government is actively expanding it and approval has been given for another 19 faith schools, 14 Christian, three Islamic and two Sikh.
Even in schools not run by religions the y still have a say. The law requires a daily act of collective worship for all registered pupils in all maintained schools. Worship isn’t defined in the legislation, but official guidance says “it should be concerned with reverence or veneration paid to a divine being or power” and should be of a “broadly Christian character”.
This may have appeared to make some sense in 1944 when the law was introduced. But such a requirement is clearly contrary to the beliefs and practices of the majority of pupils and parents served by schools in today’s religiously diverse and largely irreligious society.
An attempt in the House of Lords to remedy this anomaly. The Education (Assemblies) Bill 2020, introduced by Lib Dem peer and National Secular Society patron Lorely Burt, sought to amend the current legal requirement for a daily act of collective worship in non-religious state schools . It would be replaced with a requirement to provide inclusive assemblies that develop the ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural education’ of pupils regardless of religion or belief. Surely a reasonable request but It was not supported by the Government and is not likely to succeed.
But if Britain is to become a more peaceful and tolerant place, self-serving religious demands need to make way for a more inclusive and secular model of education. Children of all faiths and none should be educated together including lessons on ethical and moral citizenships. Religious education is the job of parents or the churches not of the state.
Brian Nicol (Dr)
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanist
Humanists Speaker leads VJ Day remembrance in St Mary’s Church, Warwick!
As you probably already know, I am this year’s Chaplain to the Warwick Mayor. I knew this would involve speaking for a couple of minutes at the start of full Town Council meetings but was surprised to be contacted by the Town Clerk asking for my participation in this service. She kindly sent me the standard British Royal Legion service which had a religious introduction and ending and I altered it to make it relevant to the war in the Far East, removing religious references. The mayor liked the rewording and the clerk sent it to the British Legion for their approval. I was delighted that they were fine with it so it all went ahead: Mayor and wife, clerk, 3 town councillors, leader of WDC, a representative from the British Legion, a Lieutenant Colonel from the army and myself, in the Fusiliers’ chapel for a very short service followed by a wreath laying at the War Memorial outside. No publicity so that there would be no large gathering.
On the service sheet, I consciously put ‘Humanist Speaker’ instead of my name so that we might gain some publicity, however small.
Music and Art in our Zoom gatherings
What music or work of art, with a humanist feel inspires you? At each weekly zoom gathering, someone volunteers their choice, here are some thoughts on the process, from John Gainer:
Contact Adrian or Bob, to say how long the piece requested needs to run to achieve the impact you require and they can adjust the timing accordingly.
The Choice of music is open and it is yours.
It can be happy, sad, reflective, evocative of times past and of every genre that you think the group would enjoy.
At the risk of being provocative, religious music has some ‘gems’ to offer and I personally feel that the composers were full of humanity and put their heart and soul into their compositions. Secular or religious good music is good music and a joy.
As for Art,
contact Adrian or Bob beforehand and the choice is yours again. For me, I love the facial expressions of human and animal kind shown in the various art forms, including painting and sculpture.
The main thing is that we convey Art that has a humanist element that can be uplifting and enjoyable. I look forward to seeing or hearing your choices in our future Zoom meetings.
FILM & TV PREVIEW:
As some of you know, since the start of the lockdown I have been sending out by email a weekly TV & amp; Film Preview which I feel has been welcomed by most members. This weekly Preview usually consists of what I consider to be the most interesting and quality TV and films. It is mainly the terrestrial channels as I am aware that not everyone has access to Sky or Netflix etc.
Please contact me if you wish to receive the TV & Film Previews. Either contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or through Bob Jelley and I will gladly add you the list.
Some of the main highlights to look out for next week:
Friday 21st August:
21.00 BBC2: ‘Lady Bird’ – An outstanding coming-of-age drama and Golden Globe-winning comic drama. Artistic California teenager Lady Bird expects much from life. However, the strained relationship with her mother and failing family finances keep clipping her wings. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts.
Sunday 23rd August:
23.40 Film 4: ‘Boyhood’ An absolutely brilliant film. Directed by Richard Linklater and shot at intervals over a 12 year period. Boyhood focuses on the life of an American boy and following his lifeand development over a 12 year period from aged 6 right up to his high school graduation at 18.
22.00 Channel 4: ‘The Book Thief’ A wartime drama based on the book by Markus Zusak. A young girl is horrified by the Nazi book burnings and tries to save volumes from the flames, while she and her adoptive family provide a safe hiding place for a Jewish boy.
Monday 24 th August:
21.00 BBC4: African Renaissance: When Art Meets Power – Afua Hirsch explores three African countries through their art, music and culture, beginning by charting Senegal’s 3,000-year history.
22.00 BBC4: Africa’s Great Civilisations – BBC are repeating this wonderful series from the 1990s. Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr travels the length and breadth of Africa to explore the continent, an epic and revelatory history. The next episode follows at 23.00
Thursday 27th August:
21.00 Film 4: Get Out – An Oscar winning psychological thriller. An African American photographer and his white girlfriend visit her wealthy parents, he suspects there may be more to the locals than meets the eye. Oscar-winning psychological thriller. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley
Whitford and Caleb Landry Jones.
Friday 28 th August:
21.00 Sony Movie Classics: The Taming of the Shrew – Starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at the height of their tumultuous on-off marriages in this outstanding Franco Zeffirelli adaption of William Shakespeare’s comedy.
22.50 BBC1: The Witches of Eastwick – Three single women dabble in magic to conjure up the perfect lover, and unintentionally summon Satan himself, who seduces them one by one. Fantasy comedy based on John Updike’s novel, with Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon.
As I write this I am aware that some cinemas are beginning to open tentatively and with a limited programme of tried and trusted cinema standards. The main cinema chains and independent cinemas are obviously reluctant to announce a full-blown programme (probably fearing a future lockdown?). However, I can recommend a very good new film at the VUE Showcase Cinema at Cross Point, Coventry – ‘An American Pickle’. A simple Eastern European immigrant works in a pickle factory in 19th Century Brooklyn. One day he falls into a vat of brine and stays there, perfectly preserved, for 100 years. He comes back to life and goes to stay with his great-great-grandson,Ben, in contemporary Brooklyn. The reviews say it is very funny and very thought provoking.
Joke for August
A Vicar is very upset because he believes that one of his parishioners has stolen his bicycle. He goes to see the Bishop to seek some advice. After a while, the Bishop says,
“I have a plan. At the church service on Sunday devote your sermon to the Ten Commandments. When you get to the one about ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ – take your time and look carefully at each member of the congregation. Stare hard and look to see if anyone looks a bit sheepish. If so, I would suggest that that is the person who has stolen your bicycle”
The Vicar thanked the Bishop for his advice and went off to prepare his sermon.
The following week, the Bishop saw the Vicar on his bicycle.
The Bishop says – “I see you have got your bicycle back. Did my plan work?”
The Vicar replied – “Well sort of – I did what you advised and started my sermon on the Ten Commandments – but when I got to the one about ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery’ – I suddenly remembered where I had left it!
Ed Note: With time and progress, that vicar might become a celebrant
Thanks to all contributors to this month’s newsletter.
If you would like to contribute to next month’s edition, it goes out on 3rd Thursday of the month. Next month that will be 17th September 2020.
Articles to email@example.com by Tuesday 15th September.
Free Mubarak Bala
Humanists International suggests these ways of supporting Mubarak Bala. Mubarak is leader of Nigerian Humanists and has been arrested for blasphemy.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THE #FREEMUBARAKBALA PROTEST:
1. Take a photo of yourself with the hashtag #FreeMubarakBala and tweet it each week’s targeted influencers… then post it on all other forms of social media. Keep sharing all day long!
2. Sign the statement of support to remind Nigeria that the international community is paying attention. See the list of signees to make sure your friends have signed on and view the strength of our international movement.
3. Donate to Mubarak Bala’s legal fund through Humanists International.
(C&W Humanists have donated £30)
For ‘targeted influencers’ think your M.P. and the Nigerian government.
Meet our new secretary
C & W Humanists has a new secretary, Audrey Raishbrook has agreed to take on the position. With the loss of Phil, Alison and Panos, we needed a boost (or three) and with Adrian taking on the role of treasurer, Audrey as secretary, Andrew as social secretary, John as caterer and Brian GB as an executive member, responsible for quizzes and anything else that comes along, the future looks quite promising.
Not all of you will have seen this letter from one of our founder fathers, Brian Nichol. It challenges us all to do more, to support humanists who are persecuted.
A recent Humanist Opinion article by George Broadhead in the Courier Series drew attention to a report published by Humanist International that dealt with the issue of the persecution of Humanists abroad. In particular Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Sometimes the offence is their defence of Human Rights particularly free speech and sometimes that they refuse to join the majority religion. Discrimination can go from ostracism to death sentences for blasphemy.
In the article, George said that the Group would be taking action on behalf of our fellow Humanists under threat, so we need to discuss how best we can help. The obvious ways are to try and influence the people who can actually make a difference. These would include the governments of the countries concerned. We could write to them individually and also persuade our own government to intervene which is likely to be more effective. We can influence our own government by writing to the Members of Parliament in Coventry and Warwickshire. Preferably by one of their own constituents writing to them or someone else writing on behalf of the Group. Other means of helping can also be explored for example fund raising for legal defence like we are currently doing for Mubarak Bala, or possibly just to help them keep going if they cannot earn a living. Direct letters of encouragement to the people being victimised can also be considered. Our mentor for all this would be Amnesty International whose aim is to counter human rights abuses throughout the world.
Obviously we cannot undertake our own research to discover people that need our help. So we need to establish contact with UK Humanist organisations such as Humanists UK and the NSS and Humanists International (we are affiliated to all three) to ask them to let us know when information comes to light. We could also make contact with AI (UK) and other human right pressure groups to say we would like help their efforts on behalf of people persecuted for holding and expressing views of a non-religious nature.
To do this we need a member of the Group who would be willing to take on the mantle of Liaison Officer and make the necessary contacts that could be expanded over time. They would need to be backed up by Group members willing to write a letter when requested and ideally to be a contact with their own MP, for the Group.
If we could do this even in a small way we would have an impact outside of our own small circle. It easy for us to forget how fortunate we are to live in a country with a long history of free speech and be able to say things that in some other countries would put us in danger.
Any volunteers ?
So how should we respond to Brian’s suggestion?
Would you consider becoming a Liaison Officer, growing contacts, identifying individuals in need, encouraging/prodding one of our number to be an advocate for that victim? You would be supported by the local executive.
Working with SACRE
One of our contacts is Jane S, who is active as a school speaker, when conditions allow. Jane is also promoting humanism, through her membership of the local SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on religious education). One current initiative is compiling resources for Warwickshire R.E. teachers, to encourage and enable them to tell pupils/students about humanism as a non-religious ‘World View’. Those resources are available on-line, they have to be colourful and attractive, to compete with the other materials that schools can access, so hard, patient work is needed and provided, by Jane.
Legalising Humanist Weddings an up-date
Six couples appeared in the High Court last week, asking for their humanist weddings to be given full legal status, not to do so, would be a breach of their Human Rights, they argued. They were supported by Humanists UK.
Here’s how Andrew Copson, reported on the court case:
The hearing has now concluded in our High Court legal challenge over the recognition of humanist marriages in England and Wales. At the end of the hearing, the judge reserved her decision until a future date.
How it went
Our feeling is that it went pretty well. Our QC Caoilfhionn Gallagher was excellent in dealing with the points made by the Government’s barrister, and that was only possible thanks to the strong assistance she received from our junior barrister Steve McQuitty and the significant bundle of evidence prepared by our staff. The judge asked several challenging questions of the Government’s barrister and very few of ours, which is a good sign.
So we are in good stead and now we have to await the judgment. On that, the judge said that she needs some reflection before coming to a decision, and she doesn’t know when she will return one, but, recognising the importance of the matter to the claimants, intends to give the matter her priority. Steve thinks this probably means weeks but we can’t be certain so publicly we are simply saying ‘soon’.
Fingers crossed then.
Local Humanists Celebrant Laura Gimson, was asked by BBC CWR to contribute to the discussion and put the case for a change in the law.
Plymouth Humanists – an invitation
Your members may be interested in the talk described below. Our speaker, Aaron Rabinowitz, is a philosopher at Rutgers University in the States, and co-hosts two philosophy podcasts: Philosophers in Space and Embrace the Void.
It’s all too easy to point the finger of blame at those who have done wrong, who have broken the law or caused harm in other ways. But would – even could – we have done better if we’d lived the lives they have lived and found ourselves in the same circumstances, facing the same decisions? Can we really hold people morally accountable for things outside of their control? This is the problem of Moral Luck.
We’re delighted to have the philosopher Aaron Rabinowitz join us over Zoom from the US to discuss Moral Luck.
Aaron currently serves as the Philosopher in Residence for the Rutgers Honors College, and teaches through the Rutgers philosophy department. In recent years, Prof. Rabinowitz has taught on various topics in ethics, metaethics, and personhood. His research interests include developing a robust secular moral realism that allows for a satisfying sense of moral responsibility and a life of flourishing. Prof. Rabinowitz also cohosts two philosophy podcasts: Philosophers in Space and Embrace the Void. Both shows attempt to make philosophy accessible for everyone, through the lenses of science fiction and existential horror. Prof. Rabinowitz holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Drama from the University of Virginia, and an M.A. in Philosophy from Colorado State University.
To attend this event, please register via Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/moral-luck-tickets-113601561328 The meeting details will be sent out a day or two before the event.
Tim Purches, Secretary Plymouth Humanists
As a merry signing off, Brian GB has offered this:
Channel 4 are doing a documentary about the conflict in the Middle East. So they send a journalist to Jerusalem to assess the situation.
He is standing with his microphone by the Wailing Wall – he speaks to the camera and he is saying
‘Just look at these people praying by the Wall their passion as they beat the wall and wail out their prayers – isn’t this moving – so passionate and so committed’
He then says, ‘I am just going to speak to this man who has finished praying at the Wailing Wall’
‘Excuse me sir, I was so impressed with your passion as you were praying at the Wailing Wall. Please tell me, what were you praying for?’
The man say ‘I was praying for goodwill to all men; I was praying for peace between the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians; And I was praying for world peace’
The reporter says ‘And how does that make you feel?’
‘Like talking to a bloody brick wall!!!
That was the July edition of our:
‘3rd Thursday in the month Newsletter’.
If you have items for the next, August Newsletter, please send them to me by Monday 17th August.
Each Wednesday at 7.30 p.m. there is a C & W Hums Zoom gathering, a way to stay in touch. Next Wednesday will be our 14th meeting. If you want to know more, or if you’d like to join the gathering, please let us know at rmjelley@gmail. Com
Take care. Stay safe!
Free Mubarak Bala
Mubarak Bala is a leading Humanist activist in Nigeria, arrested last April for alleged criticism of religion. In 2014 he was detained in a psychiatric ward on the grounds that he was an atheist!!!
Humanists International believes “if Mubarak were to be charged with ‘blasphemy’ and he is found guilty, he could face the death penalty”.
We can contribute to the legal defence of Mubarak at:
George Broadhead writes
Tolerance of different people’s views, beliefs and practices that don’t intrude on the freedom of others is an essential part of a civilised society. In this country this has been largely achieved over many years with laws outlawing discrimination of various sorts as well as a change in cultural outlook. Other counties are not so progressive as revealed in a report Humanists At Risk: Action Report 2020, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and published by Humanists International.
Local humanists have been very concerned by the report which shows that atheists and humanists are facing discrimination and persecution in quite a few countries because of their beliefs and values.
Non-religious people in Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka are often ostracised, and some women are forced into marriages. Evidence is growing that humanist and atheist activists are being targeted on the basis of their rejection of a majority religion or their promotion of human rights, democratic values and critical thinking.
A range of tactics is used against humanists, atheists and other non-religious people, including the criminalisation of blasphemy and apostasy, impunity for attacks, social isolation and discrimination. One Malaysian respondent said: “Humanists and non-religious people are regularly attacked by zealous Muslims.” Another said people who expressed a lack of religious belief were “shunned and frowned upon”. An issue of great concern was “the practice of forced conversions in Pakistan. Girls and women from minority belief groups are often forced to marry into Muslim families.”
This report shines a light on the targeted violence, continued harassment and social discrimination faced by humanists in many countries and opens the door to conversations on how best to protect humanists worldwide. What is clear is that all laws and policies which criminalise blasphemy should be repealed.
Our local group will be putting pressure on the Government to use what opportunities it has to persuade other governments to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which they have all subscribed
Faith Schools – the campaign continues
In June 2014, President Obama visited Eniskillen in Northern Ireland and seemed to voice bewilderment and opposition at faith schools there:
“If towns remain divided – if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden – that too encourages division and discourages cooperation.”
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists held a Public Mt in March 2019, to consider the campaign against Faith Schools. Dr Ruth Wareham, Humanists UK Campaigns Manager, spoke and asked this question: ‘Are Faith Schools dividing society?’
The Government is encouraging a growth in the number of Faith Schools. We need to continue to ask about the place of priests, vicars and the church in our schools.
The National Secular Society’s Alastair Lichten, is organising a speaking tour setting out the case against Faith schools and perhaps we will greet him at a meeting early in 2021. To introduce himself, Alastair hopes to pop in to our Zoom gathering on Wednesday 1st July. You can get a link to this and all our Zoom Meetings by sending an email, expressing interest, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two C & W Humanist Stalwarts are leaving
Alison and Phil Rowland have been long standing, humanist activists, holding down many jobs within our C & W Humanists group and now, they are moving up north.
Many of you have been involved in the group and known Phil and Alison, longer than I have. Their contribution to humanism continues to be valuable, after all it’s based on decades of experience and keen and (where necessary) combative minds. We will be sad to say farewell to the Rowlands but I have been assured by Phil that they will keep an eye on our work and continue to be critical friends, which is welcomed.
Phil and Alison have provided great support to me and I’d like to thank them for always being there, prepared to offer advice and an opinion whenever they’ve been sought.
At a Zoom Executive Mt last week, we asked Adrian Davis and Brian Goredema-Braid to act as temporary Executive members and they agreed to. Some of you will know of the work that Adrian is doing, hosting our Zoom Mts and the work that Brian is doing, putting together quizzes for those mts.
We had to find a replacement for Phil as Treasurer for the group and I am pleased to tell you that Adrian Davis has agreed to do the job, at least temporarily, until our next AGM.
Unfortunately, the group’s secretary – Panos, is unable to continue in the role. It has been great to have Panos with us and he helped with some Web Page work but, as a young teacher, he is finding the demands of the job, time consuming and needing all his time. Thanks Panos and the best of luck to you and Harriet.
We now have to find a new group secretary. If you might be interested, you could talk to Andrew or I and we’ll tell you (honestly) what the role might involve.
Three main strands, that I can think of, are:
1 preparing for actual (as opposed to virtual) C & W Humanists meetings
2 sending out a group email (which the Chairman writes)
3 assisting with Zoom gatherings.
We also have to find someone willing to manage our website and Twitter account.
Alison and Mo, have been two active female members of our group. Audrey, Jane, Heather and others also contribute significantly BUT – speaking personally now – it would be a massive boost, should one of our female contacts/members, volunteer to be secretary. We are, at present, a largely male Exec, and we long for gender balance. Can you help?
We hope that the easing of lockdown will enable us to hold an AGM in September, that’s the month set down in our constitution.
Best wishes and stay safe.
Here is the latest Humanist viewpoint to be published in the Warwickshire press:
Local Humanists have joined their Welsh counterparts in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. This happened on 31 March 1920 and has led to the devolved administration running along more secular lines. In Wales today more than 58% of adults have no religious belief and there has been a rise in those belonging to non-Christian religions, showing the need for everyone to be treated equally in public life.
In meetings of the National Assembly for Wales, unlike in the UK Parliament, there are no Anglican prayers as part of Assembly business. Policies in recent years have seen Wales become a world leader in inclusive education. The Welsh Government is currently legislating to ensure that schools must teach Humanism equally alongside the major world religions, reflecting its obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998, and it has renamed ‘Religious Education’ ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’. After a long campaign by Welsh Humanists it is currently adding compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) to the curriculum, giving children the information they need to grow up happy, healthy, and safe.
Since devolution, Wales has proved to be the most pluralistic nation in the UK, forging strongly secular approaches to governance, education, and in areas such as healthcare policy with its visionary organ donation law which is saving more lives. But there are still policies that must be urgently overhauled to ensure that people live in a fully inclusive society where all are treated equally.
In both England and Wales state-funded Schools still hold a daily act of Christian worship and religious bodies still receive public money to run schools in line with their religious ethos, when there should be inclusive education. Hospitals and prisons should have equal provision of pastoral care for non-religious people and those with other beliefs. Moreover, there is still an unequal marriage law which does not give legal recognition to Humanist marriages though these were legalised in Scotland in 2018 and have now overtaken those conducted by the Roman Catholic Church.
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
I hope you are well, not too storm-blown and prospering.
Andrew I., John G. and I met in an executive meeting yesterday and we were delighted that Brian G-B could join us. Perhaps you would like to hear about one or two of the subjects we considered:
- Our February group meeting was enriched by a lead-off from Brian G-B, on the subject ‘Are humanists elitist?’ It was an interesting, flowing debate. Brian’s questioning left us wondering how our group might become more diverse.
- It would be good to welcome more people on to the executive. We meet approximately every 6 weeks and encourage those with ideas about how we can spread humanist views. Many of those interested locally, have roles on other causes, charities etc, we are busy people. However, if you could spare some time … come along to our next meeting, to test out the ground.
- Many of us are happy to get humanist news and articles through Facebook or our Website pages but one or two prefer information sent by post. Are you happy that you are receiving regular information bulletins? If not, please tell us and say what is your preferred means of communication. Do we need to telephone some members, to remind them and get them along to meetings?
- George and Roy used to produce frequent newsletters, should we try to re-create this service? The posting you are reading now, could become a re-start of a more regular and frequent newsletter, especially if someone has an urgent desire to be Newsletter Editor.
- Laura Grimson, a Leamington based Humanist UK Celebrant, has been named Best Celebrant of the year at the UK Wedding Awards. If you are reading this Laura –Congratulations. Here is an open invitation to you, come to our next meeting and meet local humanists, some of them may want to get married!
- School speakers, including Jane S, have been active in the area, talking to pupils in primary and secondary schools about Humanism as a world view alternative to religion. Brian G-B is soon to train to be a school speaker, perhaps if he tells us about his experience it will encourage readers to apply for the training.
Saw this on Humanists UK website today –
80% of parents think state schools should have a mix of pupils from different backgrounds, new report finds
February 27th, 2020
80% of parents think state schools should admit pupils from a variety of different backgrounds and a further 76% believe that they should reflect the make-up of the local community, according to new research by the Sutton Trust. The poll, published today, also found strong support for reducing segregation and improving social mix among seniors.
Now that could be out of Humanists UK’s Campaign against Faith Schools!
Here is the latest Humanist viewpoint to be published in the Warwickshire press.
Lets re-evaluate our treatment of animals
It is tempting to see the Corona virus as a warning message from the planet’s wild life to Humans. The messenger is a virus that can cross species doing great harm to the new hosts.
Humans, and in particular the Chinese, have long exploited wildlife with very little thought either to the morality or the consequences of their actions.When I lived in Hong Kong it was common in street markets to see wild animals penned up waiting slaughter. I particularly remember seeing a young deer cowering fearfully in the corner of a cage and probably sensing what was to come.
It is perhaps a silver lining of the Corona outbreak that in future there will greater efforts to curtail the poaching of wild life which in some cases like the pangolin ( an ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine) is pushing species to the brink of extinction. It was encouraging to read that “The coronavirus epidemic is swiftly pushing China to re-evaluate its relationship with wildlife,” Steve Blake, chief representative of Wild Aid in Beijing, told the Guardian.“There is a high level of risk from this scale of breeding operations both to human health and to the impacts on populations of these animals in the wild.”
Humanism as part of its philosophy advocates a rational and factual approach to solving human problems. It also promotes actions and policies that are likely to enhance human welfare in the long and short run. In our view everyday kindliness is an important virtue that we would like to be taught in all schools preferably not a part of religious teaching, but as a natural instinctive reaction to life’s problems. Kindliness cannot be applied exclusively to any one group, race or country but include everyone. It should also include our treatment of wildlife not only as a moral principle but also as we are seeing every day to our cost, for the benefit of the human race which is far from immune to whatever is happening to our planet and its wildlife.
Brian Nicol (Dr)
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists
Richard Moore, Deputy Chief Constable, Warwickshire Police will talk to us about issues facing the Police, including the rise of knife crime and how they survive reductions in funding.
See you there.
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.
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.
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 will 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.
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist
Measles, the vaccine, the scare …
The news that cases of Measles are increasing nationally and globally has led to me thinking about what I know, or think I know, about the issue.
Some years ago, I attended a splendid meeting organised by Coventry Skeptics in the Pub. The speaker was Brian Deer, The Sunday Times journalist who had investigated the work of Dr Andrew Wakefield.
Dr Wakefield proposed a link between the MMR vaccine and cases of autism and bowel cancer. Many people were very concerned by this link and many parents refused to have their young children immunised.
The alleged link, led to a dramatic drop in MMR vaccination rates and a rise in cases of measles. Had Dr Wakefield made an honest, reasonable mis-assessment, that would have been one thing, however The General Medical Council investigated Dr Wakefield’s work and conclude that the doctor was “dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain” of children. The GMC ruled that he carried out clinically unnecessary and invasive tests on children without ethical approval or appropriate qualifications. It has to be noted that Andrew Wakefield, did rather well financially from the situation.
Today we have social media sites criticised for posting footage that may encourage/ reinforce self-harm or recruitment to terrorist groups. Do we need to ban coverage of scientific/medical conclusions, that could lead to harmful social reactions, until those conclusions are verified by the medical establishment?
This religious takeover has got to be stopped
Humanist Viewpoint published in Warwickshire newspapers on Friday 12 April 2019
The turmoil in the House of Commons over Brexit has many obvious unfortunate consequences such as the neglect of normal government business and a lack of concern about the effects of austerity on our increasingly unequal society.
As a Humanist I am also concerned at the way that organised religion in our legislature is slowly but surely increasing its power and influence away from the spotlight. Humanism UK our national organisation has been tracking this development since 2010 and is worried about the consequences including the increasing support for, and expansion of faith schools. We have frequently talked in this column about the virtues of a secular state where there is complete freedom of religion and other beliefs but none are favoured or supported by the state. Subsidising churches to to propagate their creeds as part of main stream education cannot be accepted. Religious education is the job of parents and the churches not schools.
There are other worrying developments. The government’s Minister for Faith is taking seriously proposals to give 85 religious leaders reserved seats in the House of Lords in addition to the 26 Anglican bishops who are already there. The only other country in the world to have religious leaders as of right in parliament is the Islamic Republic of Iran, a totalitarian theocracy. Does no-one reflect on the irony of this situation when the population of the UK must be one of the least religious in the world?
We also have a House of Commons with strong religious leanings that effectively drowns out the humanist voice on important ethical issues like Assisted Dying (overwhelmingly supported by the public at Large) and putting up barriers to legal humanist marriage ceremonies in England and Wales although they are legal in Scotland and Northern Ireland
This increasing religious take over has got to be stopped and perhaps after Brexit we can give it more attention.
Dr Brain Nicol
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists
Derek Franklyn has stepped down from his role as Facebook Pages manager for Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists. We owe Derek our thanks for the work and time that he has given, thanks Derek. His efforts are especially appreciated, since Derek has faced health challenges for the past months.
In recent times, whilst our group struggled to continue, Derek sustained our Facebook presence. This has kept members up to date with news, meeting arrangements etc and it has been a point of contact for new members, indeed our new Secretary Panos, first contacted Derek and was lured in!
A group of members will follow on from Derek. Panos, Phil and Alison will embed material from Humanists UK and The National Secular Society. We want to continue to use the splendid articles that Brian and George contribute to local newspapers; the Chairman (me) has promised to offer responses to news stories.
Our Facebook pages will be enriched if other members contribute. Articles and responses to news stories etc will be welcomed.
Next meeting: Science and Religion
Waverley Centre’s Back Room is booked for our meeting on 9th May, 7 for a 7.30 p.m. start. Glyn Evans has kindly agreed to lead us in a discussion on Science and Religion. All welcome
Our June social will take place on Thursday 27th June 7 for 7.30 at Kenilworth Cricket Club, Warwick Road, Kenilworth CV8 1FE. The cost will be £13.50 per person including a cold finger buffet. Contact us to book or for further details.
Are Faith Schools dividing society?
After a long break we have arranged an event in March and hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend. We look forward to seeing you.
In Coventry we have: Church of England Schools, Catholic Schools, and more recently, Sikh and Muslim schools. Who actually wants religious schools?
The latest British Social Attitudes Survey (Sept 2018) found that in England and Wales, 52% of people said they were non-religious. Just 14% said they were Anglican, yet the Church of England runs 25% of state schools!
In June 2014, President Obama visited Eniskillen in Northern Ireland and seemed to voice bewilderment and opposition at faith schools there:
“If towns remain divided – if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden – that too encourages division and discourages cooperation.”
We need to have a renewed conversation about the place of: the priests, the vicars and the church in our schools.
To encourage that discussion, Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists invites you to a meeting, at 7 p.m. on Thursday March 7th 2019, at Sidney Stringer School.
Dr Ruth Wareham, Humanists UK Campaigns Manager, will speak to this question: ‘Are Faith Schools dividing society?’
Members may be interested in a new book ‘Larkin About in Coventry’ by local author Chris Arnot.
Larkin grew up in Coventry (in a house later demolished to make space for the ring road) and was the son of the Coventry city treasurer, Sydney Larkin. From the age of eight he attended King Henry VIII School until he went to Oxford University.
Larkin was often sceptical of religion, for instance in his 1977 poem Aubade where he describes it as ‘That vast moth-eaten musical brocade created to pretend we never die’.
Plans for a formal launch of the book (published by Takahe Publishing and available on Amazon) including a talk by the author are being advertised on the Coventry 2021 City of Culture website (www.coventry2021.co.uk) for 28 November 2019 at King Henry VIII School, Warwick Road, Coventry.
New Year Meal
Our New Year meal and celebration in honour of Dr Brian Nicol’s work as Convenor of C&WH at The Almanack was well attended. Bob Jelley led the tribute to Brian. Many thanks to our Social Secretary Andrew Ireland for arranging this event.
The assisted dying debate: Why can’t we have a change?
The following Humanist viewpoint was published in the Courier series of newspapers in Warwickshire.
The editor has invited readers to write in with their views so please consider writing something, however short.
The email address to send a letter to is email@example.com Please make it clear that it is a letter for publication and give your full postal address
Assisted dying is in the news again. A retired accountant suffering from motor neurone disease, who ended his own life, has just written an open letter to MPs imploring them to change the assisted dying law after it “robbed him of control over his death”.
Geoff Whaley, 80, died peacefully in his wife’s arms shortly at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. After been diagnosed with MND two years ago, he decided he wanted to end his own life rather than endure the weeks or months of immense suffering that he knew were otherwise in store. The experience made him determined to use his position to call for a change in the law and to highlight the agony it had forced his family to endure.
Mr Whaley’s letter to MPs began: “By the time you read this, I will be dead.” He went on: “The law in this country robbed me of control over my death. It forced me to seek solace in Switzerland. Then it sought to punish those attempting to help me get there”
Geoffrey Whaley’s story Is a heart-breaking reminder of the cruelty the UK’s assisted dying law inflicts on the terminally ill. Banning assisted dying does not make it go away. Every eight days someone from the UK travels to Switzerland to have the choice denied them at home, but this is only an option for those who can afford it, are well enough to travel, and have loved ones willing to risk prison time. Most dying people are not so fortunate. Around 300 terminally ill people end their lives every year in England, often frightened, alone or in pain. Many more will endure immense suffering even with the best end-of-life care.
Parliament had the chance to change this in 2015, when an assisted dying bill was put before the Commons. It would have allowed terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final months of life. the option to request an assisted death, providing two independent doctors and a High Court judge could confirm that they met the strict criteria and were making a clear, settled decision of their own choosing. But despite overwhelming public support (the British Social Attitudes Survey, taken in 2017, shows that 78 per cent of the UK supports a change in the law), MPs including our own Jeremy Wright, rejected the proposal.
Millions of people in other countries (Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Canada, Finland and seven US states) have access to assisted dying laws that provide choice and compassion to dying people and protection to others Why can’t we?
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists
‘Freedom of movement and social mobility undermine family life which is the most successful form of social security the world has ever known.’
Canon Dr Giles Fraser writes a Thursday column for UnHerd. He is Priest-in-charge at the south London church of St Mary’s, Newington, a panelist on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze and also regularly delivers the Today programme’s Thought for the Day.
His recent article on how family life is affected by geography quoted above ruffled a few feathers. The full text can be found here.
Repeal the blasphemy laws
The following Humanist viewpoint was published on the 16th November 2018 in the Courier series of newspapers in Warwickshire.
Humanists have warmly welcomed Irish voters’ decision to repeal the medieval blasphemy laws in their country’s constitution and have called for international pressure to encourage other countries to follow suit.
Voters in the Republic of Ireland have voted for the repeal by a large majority in a referendum. This offence could incur a hefty fine and was cited as the justification behind a police investigation into the Humanist actor Stephen Fry in 2017.
Irish voters have taken a welcome stand for free speech and removed any doubt that this constitutional provision could at some point be used to justify cracking down on people for what they say about religion. Politicians in the UK should take note of this and the most obvious next step should be the repeal of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s blasphemy laws.
Meanwhile the UK government must use the momentum this decision generates to increase the pressure on countries around the world to repeal their blasphemy laws and protect those who face restrictions on their speech about religious issues.
Last year a report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found laws restricting free expression on religious issues in 71 countries. Many Islamic countries had severe punishments, including the death penalty, for those transgressing the laws. A recent appalling case is that of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who has been acquitted of blasphemy. She spent eight years on death row after she was accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad. The acquittal sparked widespread violent protest and the government seems to have caved in and forbidden her from seeking safety by leaving the country.
Ireland has now passed three major secularising measures through referenda in the last three and a half years. In 2015 voters approved legal same-sex marriage equality and in May this year they chose to overturn the eighth amendment, which effectively banned abortion in almost all circumstances. Last month the health minister introduced parliamentary legislation which would allow abortion services to operate.
The trend clearly indicates that the Catholic Church’s influence is declining.
Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists
A Child of our Time
To paraphrase Sir Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of our Time, which he began in 1939, the world can often seem to be turning on its dark side. However, occasionally a ray of sunlight breaks through. Here is a poem by a 14-year-old Syrian boy Mohammed Assad, a former refugee now living in Britain who spent a year in a refugee camp. What a final line!
This year, last year
Last year, I heard the bombs.
This year, I listen to music.
Last year I couldn’t buy football to play with.
This year I’m bored of playing football.
Last year I slept with my family in one room.
This year I got my own room.
Last year I couldn’t go outside the house.
This year, I can go out whenever I want.
Last year I walked on brown grass.
This year I’m walking on green grass.
Last year they laughed at me because I had nothing.
This year I have something to give.
Invite a potential Humanist to your house
HOST is a small UK-wide charity, set up in 1987 to promote international friendship and cultural exchange. They arrange for adult international students to spend a short time in a British home, enjoying a warm welcome and experiencing company, conversation, different foods and traditions in the hope of providing an insightful exchange of ideas and invaluable understanding.
The organisation contacted us as they are constantly looking to welcome friendly people on board who would like to act as volunteer hosts to these students, and who are interested in sharing their culture and customs for a day, weekend, or a few days. Christmas is their busiest time but volunteers are sought all year round,
If you are interested further details can be found at www.HostUK.org
New president of Humanists UK
Humanists UK have announced that their new President, Professor Alice Roberts, will headline their conference on science, politics, comedy, and philosophy in celebration of World Humanist Day at the annual Humanists UK Convention on 21 -23 June.
The Convention will be held in Leicester and will also feature Hamza bin Walayat, a humanist asylum seeker whose claim was rejected because he couldn’t name Aristotle and Plato, neither of whom were even humanists; Felicity Hannah, a freelance journalist who has written online about faith schools; and Adam Rutherford, geneticist and author of The Book of Humans.
Further information and details of how to book can be found on the Convention webpage.
At our SGM on 1st November, Bob Jelley accepted the post of Chair of the group, taking over from Dr Brian Nicol who has held the reigns since the group ceased holding regular speaker meetings in 2016. As there were no volunteers to take on other committee roles, we agreed to remain as an online presence but with occasional social events organised for us by Andrew Ireland.
In December, members of the Committee met Panos Tsallos who had contacted Derek, our Facebook Page and Newsletter editor and expressed a willingness to take on the role of secretary. Panos is new to the area, lives is Daventry, teaches History at a school in Rothwell and comes from Greece. The Committee were delighted to accept Panos’ offer and so we now have a secretary. There will be an opportunity to meet Panos at the meal, planned by Andrew, for 17th January 2018 at the Almanac in Kenilworth (see Diary Dates for more details). This is the occasion when we will thank Brian Nicol for his work as Chair of Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists, so do come along if you can.
With an augmented Committee, Bob intends to revive our face-to-face events in 2019 and organising these events will be the key task for Panos. More news about that will follow. We are talking to Humanists UK about what events are being successful with other groups. Bob hopes that we can continue to serve members who enjoy Kenilworth gatherings, whilst introducing Humanism to folk in Coventry and the towns of Warwickshire. So what themes might such events involve? We will keep you in touch with our emerging ideas.
Renewed affiliation to Humanists UK
C&WH’s application for a Partnership Agreement with Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association [BHA]) has been accepted. In practical terms this delivers insurance for group activities; access to resources, including promotional material and speakers, and a link with Humanists UK web-pages.
2019 will be a struggle to get things back on track
Below is the latest Humanist “Viewpoint” to be published in the Courier Series of newspapers in Warwickshire. The heading is the one given to it by the editor and it appeared next to a “Westminster Briefing” from Jeremy Wright, MP for Kenilworth and Southam and a cabinet minister.
What do Humanists have to anticipate in 2019? Our aim, as ever, is to advance the cause of a fairer society and human rights particularly when, they are threatened by religion. With over half of the UK population saying that they have no religious beliefs (see the latest British Social Attitudes surveys), it is unjust and undemocratic that religion is increasing its influence on public policy.To the dismay of most people, including many senior clerics, mixing religion with politics is becoming acceptable in a way that it hasn’t been for many decades.This is perhaps not surprising when many of the levers of power are held by religious believers some of extreme views. The Prime Minister herself is a devout Anglican and not a good person to restrain people like Jacob Rees-Mogg who has said “ I take my whip from the Catholic Church”. And, as we know only too well, the Government is dependant on the DUP for power – a creationist, homophobic, sectarian political party.
We now have a Minister of Faith whose job is to advance the agenda of faith groups in society. Whereas the majority of the citizenry question the presence of a bloc of bishops as of right in the House of Lords, the Faith minister supports their presence and proposes a similar sized bloc of other faiths to match them, thus pushing us towards a theocracy rather than a democratic secular society. Secularism defends freedom of religion but would not give faith groups any legal privileges, not just seats in the Lords, but special exemption from human rights legislation where it conflicts with their beliefs. Nor would they be given civic funds to propagate their belief through religious schools. Rather than cutting back on faith schools the government’s policy is to set up many more.
Most people have taken it for granted, naively as it turns out, that there would be an inevitable progressive advance towards a fairer open society. That ‘progress’ has suddenly gone into reverse.
2019 will be a year of struggle to get things back on track.
Brian Nicol (Dr)
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists
New Year Meal
There is still time to sign up to join in our New Year meal and celebration in honour of Dr Brian Nicol’s work as Convenor of C&WH. The dinner will take place at The Almanack, 89 Abbey Lane, Kenilworth CV8 1QJ on Thursday 17th January at7.30pm with a two course set menu for £21.50 in a dedicated room.
Menus are available in advance so you can make your choice of meal beforehand and book for contacting our Social Secretary Andrew Ireland on 024 7644 1009
Further details for the venue can be found here
Skeptics in the pub
On 16 January former Humanists UK president Ariane Sherine (the person behind the Humanist bus campaign ‘There’s probably no God…’) will give a talk entitled ‘Talk yourself better’ at the Twisted Barrel Ale Brewery and Tap house, Fargo Village, Coventry at 7.30 pm.