C & W Humanists Newsletter November 2020
‘November’ by Thomas Hood
No sun — no moon!
No morn — no noon —
No dawn — no dusk — no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member —
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! —
Atherstone – Bob J and Janet W, Bedworth – Bob C, Coventry – Audrey
Kenilworth – Brian, Leamington – Blake, Nuneaton – Ken, Rugby – Alistair
Shipston – Pauline, Stratford – Jacquie, Warwick – Jane
I took the wreath to lay yesterday evening.
The wreath is the one just left of centre in the picture above.
All the best
Pauline Lucas laid a wreath at Shipston, she writes
Remembrance in Shipston-On-Stour this year was a much quieter ceremony subject to the constraints of the Pandemic. Nevertheless it was emotional, lovely, and extremely sobering. Our presence was much appreciated.
Jane Sault, Mayor’s Chaplain, wreath laying in Warwick.
Podcasts from Humanists UK
Group Treasurer Adrian high lights these brilliant Podcasts from Humanists UK
What I Believe is out now, available on all major podcast platforms! And we’ve got another star-studded line-up this season…
We’re delighted to be joined by prominent guests, such as Dan Snow, Natalie Haynes, José Gonzalez, Joan Bakewell, Leo Igwe, Hannah Peel, Christina Patterson, David Aaronovitch, Stephanie Merritt, and Adèle Anderson.
What I Believe is a unique podcast that explores the lives and the values of humanists in the public eye, giving listeners an insight into the worldviews of their favourite humanists. Season one, which launched this summer, was downloaded by tens of thousands of people in over 100 countries, from Israel to Uganda!
The reviews have been outstanding with the podcast being described as ‘rivetingly enlightening’, with a ‘sparkle of pure gold’. Listeners have praised the format of the episodes which make it ‘an easy, digestible way of delving into humanist ideas’, offering ‘multiple perspectives on… the world we inhabit.’
The first episode of season two is with Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist activist Leo Igwe. Leo speaks candidly about what he believes, touching upon humanist activism in Africa, the harms caused by religion to vulnerable people in Nigeria, and our potential as humanists to change the world.
Listen now and don’t forget to subscribe today. We hope you enjoy!
Jane Sault, ably assisted by newcomer Brian Goredema-Braid, gave an illustrated talk to year 6 at Lapworth Primary School on Thursday 5th November. Hopefully it was something for them to Remember, Remember!
Brian and Jane will be ‘performing’ again on 25th November at All Saints School, Warwick where Jane gave a talk last year. Brian will do one of the classes and Jane the other. When Brian gets a third school under his belt, he will be a fully accredited speaker.
Editor’s note – Brian GB was asked to describe his experience on the Humanists UK course, training to be a school speaker:
School Speaker – Online!!
I had been trying to get enrolled on the Humanist School Speaker programme for quite some time. For different reasons, the Training Day dates clashed with my own busy schedule (and WBA home games!!) Thankfully I so pleased to be accepted for the one-day course in Leicester on 16th May. However, as you already guessed, the coronavirus lockdown put paid to that! But, as you might guess, Humanist School Speakers are a very resolute and determined crew – and an online course was booked for September through Zoom. I am pleased to say that I successfully completed the course.
However, I now need to complete 3 sessions of school presentations before I can formally call myself a Humanist School Speaker. With lockdown still in force, I thought that it would some time before I actually delivered a presentation to a school. Step forward experienced School Speaker Jane Sault. Thankfully Jane asked me to accompany her to deliver an online session to a school in Lapworth. I admit that I was very much a Robin to her Batman (Batwoman!!) The online session was very well received by the children and their teacher. So good was this combination, that the dynamic duo have been booked to deliver two online sessions for a school in Coventry. Jane will lead the first session with me in tow – but for the second session I will be leading and Jane will be Robin!
I must say however, that I am looking to doing a ‘live’ presentation to a group of school children
Ed Note: It all sounds brilliant, thanks Jane and Brian.
A wonderful example of how we can spread the word about humanism, by getting stuck in. If we want to stop over-bearing, faith domination of civil society, putting up an alternative is necessary.
Humanists UK offers different training courses that enable us to prepare for and fill a number of roles.
As Lord Kitchener wouldn’t have said HUMANISM NEEDS YOU!
Suggestions for the newsletter are welcome, the cartoon below comes from Glyn and Heather Evans.
Especially good to hear from Glyn and Heather, we miss you!
However, now you’ve shown willing, a regular slot is reserved for you, in the Newsletter. How can you get out of that? (I’m talking to Donald).
If you pop into C & W Hum weekly zoom gathering, you will have seen some of the Art suggested by Alistair. Over the last weeks he has introduced a number of artists, some with a Humanist or Renaissance feel and some that he just likes.
This week Alistair showed us some of the work of Jennifer Balkans, contemporary artist from the USA.
Here’s one of Jennifer’s pieces. I think I’m right in saying that Alistair “likes the way she lays the paint on thick”.
Wow! He’s right. She does.
Chancellor: ‘This is a secular country’
In an interview with the BBC, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has described the UK as a secular country and explained how Christmas is a festival celebrated by everyone, of all religions or beliefs. Humanists UK has welcomed his comments, as standing in contrast to comments from previous political leaders, when advocating for divisive policies.
On Christmas, Mr Sunak said:
‘Of course this is a secular country. But Christmas is also a national time when regardless of whether you’re going to midnight Mass or to church, it’s a time when most people have time off work, we have holidays, state holidays, it is a time when everyone hangs out.
‘I mean, I’m Hindu, but I’m also equally going to be tucking in to my Christmas meal – the kids are excited about that.’
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:
‘The Chancellor’s comments are a very welcome breath of fresh air. He is right that the UK is a country that is shaped by pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces, and today has a highly diverse population. This is also reflected in how national public holidays like Christmas are celebrated with surveys showing that most people who celebrate the public holiday of Christmas are not doing so for religious reasons and are not Christians.
‘Uniquely amongst the four nations, England does still have an established Church, and there are various areas of public policy which privilege Christianity over other religions and beliefs, for example, the presence of bishops in the House of Lords, the large number of state-funded Christian schools, and the requirement to hold Christian collective worship in other state schools. But these are not reflective of the population of the UK today. These matters must be examined, to ensure our state institutions keep pace with the changed demographics.
Editor’s note: It’s strange that in this supposedly secular country of ours,families and children are forced to use faith schools. Humanists UK posts this tale from Cambridgeshire:
The Government has said it will push ahead with plans to open a Christian free school in Soham, Cambridgeshire, ignoring strong opposition from the Council and local schools. St Bede’s Inter-Church School, a mixed Church of England and Catholic school, was approved under Wave 12 of the Government’s free school programme in April 2017.
A secular country? In your dreams Chancellor
Last minute notice of Birmingham Humanists Zoom Meeting this evening:
This is to remind you of the meeting tonight, 19th November at 7.30pm, when Professor Vicki Squire from the University of Warwick will give a talk on ‘Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat’.
Here’s the link for joining the meeting:
Meeting ID: 835 8648 0450
I hope you can join us – if you intend to do so, it would be really helpful if you could reply to this email to let us know.
With best wishes
Carolyn Sugden, Secretary, Birmingham Humanist
Some Notable Films and TV Programmes to Look Out for This Weekend
Friday 20th November:
21.00 – BBC2: Royal History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley – This week Lucy Worsley looks at the background and the myths surrounding the October 1917 Russian Revolution. Lots of interesting dilemmas to explore here
22.30 – BBC4: Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool – Documentary profile of the jazz bandleader, horn player and innovator whose restless determination to break boundaries and live life on his own terms made him a star, but also made him difficult to live with. In music and in life. Brilliant from probably the greatest ever trumpet player. Absolute bliss
Saturday 21st November:
15.15 – Talking Pictures: King Creole – Most people’s views of Elvis Presley films are usually negative. However, before he joined the US Army, Elvis did make some good quality films with a good storyline and quality supporting artistes. King Creole is such a film and one his very, very best. Proving himself as an actor with some great songs too ‘King Creole’ and ‘You Looking for Trouble?’
16.50 – BBC2: Brief Encounter – A classic romantic drama. An icon of its time. A suburban housewife meets a married doctor by chance in a railway station waiting room. But as their feelings for each other transform from friendship into passion, both come to realise the affair is doomed to fail. Brilliant performances from Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Excellent in every way. Repeated on Thursday on BBC4
21.00 – BBC4: The Valhalla Murders – The start of a new Scandinavian detective thriller. Ambitious detective Katrin `Kata’ Gunnarsdottir investigates the murder of an ex-drug dealer found in the old harbour area of Reykjavik, and finds that she does not have as much control of her professional life as she had planned. Icelandic crime drama, starring Nina Dogg Filippusdottir. Episode 2 is at 21.45
21.30 – BBC2: Fela Kuti: Father of Afrobeat – This will probably only appeal to the connoisseurs of African music. But this documentary of the Nigerian musician is absolutely spellbinding. The story of the influential African musician, who is remembered not only as the creator of the Afrobeat genre but also as an outspoken political revolutionary who criticised military regimes in his native Nigeria.
Sunday 22nd November:
15.10 – BBC2: The Apartment – A classic Billy Wilder Oscar winning comedy drama starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. A lowly insurance clerk tries to curry favour with his seedy manager by lending him his flat for his extramarital flings. But the clerk soon grows wise to the nastiness of corporate ethics and infidelity when his heartless boss seduces the elevator girl, whom he has always loved from afar. An outstanding film in every way – just right for a cold and wet Sunday afternoon.
21.00 – BBC1: Small Axe: Lovers Rock – If the breath-taking first episode is anything to go by, this series directed by Steve McQueen looks like it is going to be exceptionally outstanding. This week the drama focusses on the romantic reggae genre and the black young people who found freedom and love in its sound in London house parties, when they were unwelcome in white nightclubs.
22.10 – BBC2: Free State of Jones – A truly outstanding fact-based drama. In the American Civil War a Confederate soldier grows disillusioned by the rebel cause and deserts. Returning to his Mississippi home, he unites a force of struggling farmers and escaped slaves into a militia, fighting to turn their small county into an independent state, free from the rule of both sides. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Tuesday 24th November:
21.15 – BBC2: Industry –Drama set in the world’s most pre-eminent financial institution. This new serial got off to a very brisk pace in its first episode. It will be interesting to see if the youthful cast can main the same energy and pace. Well worth watching
Also worth noting that there are some interesting programmes on the subject of Anne Boleyn. Channel 5 has 3 separate episodes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: Arrest, Trial and Execution – presented by Tracy Borman. BBC4 however has just the one programme at 22.00 on Tuesday presented by a combination of Hilary Mantel, Philippa Gregory and David Starkey.
I still have a joke from Brian GB, which has been archived for several weeks and it was going in to this Newsletter UNTIL … I heard this on the Ronnie Scott documentary.
Man loses his dog.
Puts advert in local paper
33rd Zoom gathering next Wednesday 25th November, 7.30 start, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an invitation
Thanks and stay safe.
Newsletter October 2020
Greetings to all Humanist minded readers … and to those who are not.
Here’ a good spot from Andrew Ireland:
BBC Radio 4’s Sunday show featured an interview with Leo Igwe on the imprisonment of humanist Mubarak Bala in Nigeria (from 01:30), and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s report on the Church of England (from 13:30).
It’s possible to listen to this programme using BBC iplayer
Last night in our zoom gathering, it was reported that the long overdue court hearing for Mubarak might be held today Thursday 15th October. It’s long overdue, 170 days since Mubarak was arbitrarily detained, with-out charge, in fact.
There have been different rumours, the most concerning being that Mubarak had been killed. It’s now believed that he has seen his lawyer and is due to appear in a courtroom, beyond the influence of his fiercest accusers.
We are hoping for a court appearance and a speedy release.
Now some words from one of our founding fathers, Brian Nichol, always a champion of persecuted humanists.
During the 50 years that I have lived in Kenilworth I have been a keen supporter of the local press, which for most of the time has been the Kenilworth Weekly News. The paper has been an invaluable aid in publicising the various campaigns and organisations with which I have been involved. The first editor I recall was Doug Goulby, long since retired, he was invaluable in publicising the activities of the Kenilworth Footpath Preservation Group started at a public meeting in 1974 and which I chaired and organised for the following 40 years. The paper published reports of our activities and the first hand drawn maps and descriptions of our first round walks the precursor of the various the book editions that followed .We could also rely on publicity for our various campaigns like the National Footpath Weeks.
When I became involved with Amnesty International the paper was invaluable in publicising both our fund raising efforts and local campaigning via street stalls which we held to get petition and letter writing support for prisoners of conscience. It was on behalf of Amnesty that I became aware of the importance of public open spaces. Talisman Square that most people would think of as the centre of Kenilworth is privately owned and we could only set up our stall with permission which was given or refused depending on the current owners or their agents. The Abbey End shops and flats, by contrast were owned by the WDC and anyone can use the space in front for publicity or other purposes provided that they are not breaking the law. When I learned from a report in the KWN that the Council, strapped for funds, was thinking of selling the whole area including the forecourt to a private developer we became seriously alarmed at the prospective loss of our last open space. The first step in the fight back was for me to write a Soap Box article in the KWN forewarning the public and things took off from there and the WDC eventually decided not to sell
The paper has also been invaluable to our group. We early decided that if we, and Humanism generally were to succeed locally we needed to get out to the public at large, not just talk to ourselves. Our target being the large number of people who were not religious but had no alternative philosophy. We had several ways of doing this. We offered talks on Humanism which were taken up by groups looking for speakers. We had occasional ‘open meetings’ I remember giving a talk ‘Arguments for the Existence of God’ to which we invited the local vicars. Only one turned up! We were early in the field with Humanist ceremonies which meant a captive audience and we used the local paper by writing letters, sending reports of our meetings and eventually securing a spot alongside the religious offerings which have been going for some years now.
The purpose of all this reminiscing is to emphasise the importance of the local independent press in a democracy. If we were to lose it even in these days of easy communication the town would be the poorer. Unfortunately all the local press has fallen on hard times with a declining circulation and escalating costs. Locally the Courier series, coverings a lot of Warwickshire has fighting back by cutting down on staff and sadly with amalgamations in our case with the KWN being published with the Leamington and Warwick editions and upping the advertising. However he Kenilworth News is still there together with an expanded opinion section. In view of the importance of the local press in general and the benefit our group gets from it in particular I would urge all our membership to subscribe. There are various incentives including discounted price and limited free delivery. It would also be good if more people would write letters, taking up issues of interest to Humanism and help spread the word. Not much to ask to keep the paper going which has been so helpful to good causes over the years and is still needed to day.
This year Remembrance Sunday falls on 8th November but preparations by local councils and the British Legion have been hard hit by virus-related regulations. It must be a worrying time for the Legion because this time of year is an important time for poppy selling, a big source of income for them
For the past few years, a number of Coventry and Warwickshire humanists have laid wreaths at ceremonies, in the city and around the county and despite the difficulties, this year we will be laying more wreaths than ever. This year, volunteers will add Kenilworth and Stratford on Avon to the list of places that we have attended in the past.
If each wreath can’t be laid as part of the usual Remembrance Day Ceremony still, it can be laid at some other time of the day.
Here are the people who plan to be involved.
Atherstone – Bob and Janet
Bedworth – Bob
Coventry – Audrey
Kenilworth – Brian
Leamington – Blake
Nuneaton – Ken
Rugby – Moira
Shipston – Pauline
Stratford – Jacquie
Warwick – Jane
Maslow – Humanist Psychologist?
The following request came to Jane Sault, Humanist and member of the local SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education):
Schools have asked for a humanist perspective on neighbourliness Feel free to do what you think is appropriate.
Maslow was psychologist …and a humanist During the 1950s, Maslow became one of the founders and driving forces behind the school of thought known as humanistic psychology. His theories—including the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, and peak experiences—became fundamental subjects in the humanist movement.
his work has played a major in school organisation and curriculum from feeding children /phse curriculum on being safe -uniform as means showing belonging
it would be interesting to see the impact outside of school.
If you came across Maslow’s ideas through your job perhaps, or a university course, please share your experience with us.
From ‘Dignity in Dying’ Sadie Kempner
It will not surprise you to hear me say that the fight for assisted dying is more than a matter of choice – it’s a matter of justice.
With the New Zealand referendum on the End of Life Choice Act coming up at the end of the month, we must demonstrate to MPs that legalising assisted dying has become a hallmark of a progressive, compassionate society.
The next meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life is on the 3rd November and it’s important that your MP knows about it. We’ll be joined by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who has supported the Vote Yes campaign ahead of the referendum, as well as David Seymour, the MP who spear-headed the passing of the proposed bill in the NZ Parliament.
We will also hear from Westminster’s former Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke and Emeritus Medical Director for Public Health England, Professor Paul Cosford, who has recently had an article published in the British Medical Journal on the subject since his diagnosis of incurable lung cancer in 2017.
By having this discussion with policymakers in New Zealand and the UK, along with dying people who need this choice, we can show our MPs that assisted dying is not just the right thing to do – it is the right thing to do now.
Our last parliamentary meeting saw a record-breaking level of attendance by MPs. You know, like I do, just how powerful the argument for change is. The more MPs we can invite, the faster change can be realised.
You can help create the tipping point we need in Parliament. Please show your MP this is an issue you care about – an issue on which they need to act now.
Thanks for all that you do for the campaign and thanks in advance for reaching out to your MP again.
All the best,
TV AND FILM PREVIEW 15th OCTOBER
Just to clarify, I know many people do not subscribe to Sky TV or Netflix which is why I keep the TV and Film Preview limited to terrestrial TV. Occasionally I may mention a particularly good series on Sky TV.
Thursday 15th October:
14.20 – Film 4: Tiger Bay – A ground-breaking thriller in its own way dealing with important social issues. Also the screen debut of 12 year old Hayley Mills. A Polish sailor flees Cardiff’s docklands after murdering his girlfriend, initially unaware that a 12-year-old tomboy has witnessed the crime. He comes back to abduct the girl in a bid to keep her quiet – but the pair form a friendship and she tries to help him escape the police. Also starring her father John, with Horst Buchholz.
20.00 – BBC4: Rio Bravo – Another chance to see this magnificent Western on Sunday. Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin and Angie Dickinson
21.00 – BBC2: The Trump Show – If you must watch it? A new series. Four years after Donald Trump unexpectedly became US President, this documentary series tells the inside story of this most extraordinary presidency, with contributions from key players and his fraught relationship with the press and his downgrading of White House briefings
21.00 – Channel 4: Taskmaster – Previous series of this absurdist game show on Dave made this a show with a cult following on Twitter. It has been so good, the new series has now transferred to Channel 4. The Taskmaster is comedian Greg Davies who sets impossible daft and absurd tasks for fellow comedians Katherine Parkinson, Johnny Vegas, Richard Herring and others
22.00 – BBC2: Frankie Boyle’s New World Order – The last episode of this very funny series. How will we cope with worldwide events without Frankie’s caustic satire?
22.00 – Sony Movies: Nocturnal Animals – An art gallery owner is tormented by the violent thriller penned by ex-husband. Gripping and exciting, this psychological thriller has us on tenterhooks right up to the end. Based on the novel by Austin Wright, starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon.
23.15 – Film 4: Red 2 – A comedy action thriller. A former CIA agent reunites his squad of retired operatives for a vital mission. Confronting plenty of lethal assassins, terrorists and corrupt government officials. Starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich.
01.30 – Film 4: My Name is Joe – A delightful comedy drama where a recovering alcoholic becomes romantically involved with a health service worker as he struggles to resist the temptation of the bottle. Their relationship begins to falter when his willpower fails and falls off the wagon. Directed by Ken Loach and starring Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall, David McKay and Anne Marie Kennedy.
Friday 16th October:
18.25 – Film 4: The Book Thief – This excellent film was previously shown in August. If you missed it, try and catch it this time. A girl separated from her family is raised by foster parents in Nazi Germany, who instil in her a love of reading. She is horrified by the book burnings and tries to save volumes from the flames, while her adoptive family provide a safe hiding place for a Jewish boy.
20.00 – BBC4: Summer Holiday – A good sing-along for all of you Cliff Richard fans. Four mechanics embark on a fun-filled trip across Europe on board a double-decker London bus. Musical comedy, starring Cliff Richard, Lauri Peters, Melvyn Hayes, Una Stubbs, Ron Moody and the Shadows.
20.05 – BBC1: Would I Lie to You? – Team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack are joined by Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo, actor Tom Davis, actor and musician Shaun Ryder and comedian Henning Wehn, aiming to deceive their opponents with plausible lies. Hosted by Rob Brydon.
21.00 – BBC1: Have I Got News for You – Actor Stephen Mangan hosts the satirical quiz, inviting contemporary artist Grayson Perry and comedian, actress and writer Janey Godley to join regular team leaders Ian Hislop and Paul Merton as they poke fun at the week’s events.
21.50 – BBC4: Sir Cliff at the BBC – It is ‘Cliff Night’ on BBC4! The former teenage pop-idol reaches his 80th birthday. A look back through its archives at some of his most memorable performances and biggest hits. I can already hear the girls screaming!!
22.00 – BBC2: Later – With Jools Holland – For those of us who like a little more quality in our music? This week Jools chats with Paloma Faith and her fifth album Infinite Things, and a selection of clips from her earlier work. Plus, performances from musician Fraser T Smith, famed for his work with Adele, Stormzy and Dave, and a performance by Malian songwriter and guitarist Afel Bocoum.
22.45 – BBC1: The Graham Norton Show – Well, Graham Norton is still doing his best to outdo Bob Jelley? This week’s guests include former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, Dawn French and former cricketer Freddie Flintoff. Also Samuel L Jackson with his wife La Tanya Richardson Jackson will be discussing the new BBC2 series ‘Enslaved’
22.50 – BBC4: Rock n Roll Britannia – A return of this outstanding documentary series outlining the history of rock n roll in the UK. A must-see for all aficionados of British rock in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
23.00 – Channel 5: Fifty Shades of Grey – In case you missed it on Sunday, another opportunity to catch sight of this supposedly erotic film. Don’t worry, no-one can see you watching it
23.00 – BBC1: Awkwafina is Nora from Queens – I watched this 2 weeks ago and I was quite impressed with Awkwafina’s natural comedy. Her grandmother is a dream for any aging actress to play. A very funny comedy about a girl navigating young adulthood in outer-borough New York City. Awkwafina stars. The next episode is at 23.50
01.10 am – Film 4: The Handmaiden – An excellent and engaging film from South Korea. I recommended it a few months ago, so don’t miss it this time! A Korean con man devises an elaborate plan to seduce and cheat a Japanese woman out of her inheritance with the aid of a Korean street girl. It is well worth recording
Saturday 17th October:
13.00 – BBC2: Romeo and Juliet – You probably all know the story and plot of the well-known William Shakespeare tragedy. Each generation produces its own film version. This 2012 Carlo Carlei adaptation stars Douglas Booth, Hailee Steinfeld as the star crossed lovers. I am not quite sure if it matches up to the 1968 version by Franco Zeffirelli?
14.35 – Film 4: The Longest Day – A truly great film and composite overview of the D-Day Landing. Fact-based World War ll drama chronicling the planning and execution of the Allied landings in Normandy from the differing perspectives of the British, German, French and American forces. An exceptionally all-star cast starring Richard Burton, Richard Todd, Kenneth More, Sean Connery, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Curt Jurgens, Roddy McDowall and Rod Steiger.
18.10 – Film 4: Independence Day – Never has there been such an epic destruction of Earth as in this sci-fi adventure. A fleet of huge flying saucers launches a devastating attack on Earth. The US president, an ace pilot and a computer genius come up with a plan to save the human race. Another all-star cast including Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia and Harry Connick Jr. I think that you already know what you are going to get!
19.50 – BBC1: Strictly Come Dancing – Da, da, da, da di, di, di – YES – the brand new series is really back. New celebrities, some new professional dancers and the same trusty judges and hostesses. Go on, treat yourself and sit back and enjoy the sequins, the costumes and the glamour.
21.00 – BBC4: Inspector Montalbano – Episode 2 of the latest investigation by the enigmatic Sicilian detective.
21.15 – BBC2: The Shining – This film was on BBC1 a couple of months ago. If you have not seen it before, take this opportunity to see it this time. Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror, based on the Stephen King novel, with Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers.
21.15 – Channel 4: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – A spy thriller sequel, starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson and Simon Pegg. You definitely know what you are going to get!
22.40 – BBC4: The Bridge – Episodes 3 & 4 of the thrilling Scandinavian crime series. We also learn more about Saga’s new partner Henrik, the restless insomniac who leaves his delightful, attentive wife and children at home to trawl singles bars for pick-ups. Episode 4 is at 23.40
23.50 – Channel 4: Roman J Israel Esq – An excellent crime drama. A misfit lawyer is caught in the grip of a personal crisis. Denzil Washington plays a driven, idealistic defence attorney who gets mixed up in a series of events that lead to a crisis and the necessity for extreme action. Starring Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo. Well worth watching
00.10 – BBC2: In the Heat of the Night – One of the truly great movies of all time – winner of 5 Oscars. Released months before the assassination of Martin Luther King. A wealthy industrialist is murdered in Mississippi and the bigoted local sheriff is quick to accuse a black newcomer to town – only to learn his suspect is a highly respected homicide detective from Philadelphia. Absolutely brilliant performances from Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger who use the script brilliantly to bounce to off each other. This is one film that you do not want to miss. “They call me Mr Tibbs!!”
00.35 – BBC1: Dream House – Despite the negative vibes from cast and director, termed as a ‘Yuppie Horror Story’ is very entertaining. A man moves to a small town with his wife and two daughters, but receives the startling news that a woman and her children were murdered in his new home five years previously. Expect many terrifying hauntings. Starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz.
00.35 – Film 4: Ned Kelly – This film about Australia’s most famous outlaw is based on Robert Drewe’s book ‘Our Sunshine’. A man is forced to go on the run with his brothers after being framed for a robbery, and then decides to compound his reputation as a crook by carrying out a string of audacious bank raids. Starring Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Naomi Watts.
Sunday 18th October:
14.35 – BBC2: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon – A first class John Ford Western with some of John Wayne’s best screen moments – and believe me there were not many!! So watch them while you can. A cavalry officer on the brink of retirement takes drastic steps to prevent an impending war with the Arapaho people. He decides the best solution is to ride into the Arapaho camp and negotiate a truce. Also starring Joanne Dru, John Agar and Ben Johnson.
15.50 – Sony Movies: The Theory of Everything – Certainly a ‘must-see’ for all Humanists? Biopic of Stephen Hawking, exploring the renowned astrophysicist’s romance with future wife Jane during their time at university in the 1960s and his initial diagnosis with motor neurone disease. Undaunted by deteriorating health, he continued his ground-breaking research into the origins of the universe. Starring an Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne, with Felicity Jones and David Thewlis. Repeated on Saturday 24th October
19.00 – Channel 4: The Greatest Showman – Take everything in this fictionalised biopic of circus inventor PT Barnum with a pinch of salt and you’ll love the glitz, glamour and glow of an all-singing, all-dancing original movie musical in the grand old Hollywood tradition. After losing his job as a bank clerk, PT Barnum creates and develops his circus in New York in the mid-1800s with the help of an adopted family of entertainers shunned by society. A stunningly brilliant performance from Hugh Jackman. Also starring Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson and Zendaya.
20.00 – BBC2: Michael Palin: Travels of a Lifetime – I am really enjoying these nostalgic trips of Michael Palin. So many happy memories from great travel shows. The former Python recalls the making of his third travel series Full Circle, a journey around the Pacific Rim which took him to Russia, China, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand and North and South America.
21.00 – BBC1: Roadkill – It is 9.00 pm on Sunday, so it must be a new BBC serial. A cabinet minister played by Hugh Laurie is summoned to Downing Street to see Helen McCory as PM who promotes him to an office of state. He is soon bought back down to earth when an inmate in a women’s prison is claiming to have a secret about his past that could affect his future.
21.00 – BBC2: Enslaved with Samuel L Jackson – A look at the famous Underground Railroad and freedom boats that helped runaway slaves to escape to the safety of Canada. This episode examines the famous freedom fighter Harriet Tubman and black soldiers who served in the Union Army.
21.00 – ITV1: The Singapore Grip – It is the last episode of this engaging serial and the Japanese are coming. A dangerous time for those who missed the boat last week.
21.00 – Channel 5: Queen: The Band that Rocked the World – The classic rock band’s career highlights, from Freddie Bulsara’s early days in Zanzibar, to his life-changing days as Freddie Mercury with the band Smile and eventually Queen. Featuring clips from their first TV appearances, Live Aid, and the recent Oscar-winning biopic.
23.05 – Channel 5: Queen: A Night at the Odeon – A performance from the rock band led by Freddie Mercury, recorded on Christmas Eve at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975, featuring one of the first live renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody.
22.00 – BBC2: Detroit – Real-life racially motivated violence during the Detroit riots of 1967 is dramatised in a film exploring the riots’ continuing relevance in the era of “Black Lives Matter” A group of rogue police officers responds to a complaint by launching a raid on a group of African-Americans. Fact-based drama starring John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and Algee Smith.
23.00 – Channel 4: The Twelve: A new series set in a court jury-room. 12 people must decide the guilt or innocence of a respected school principal who’s charged with two counts of murder. When the group meet in the jurors’ deliberation room, it is apparent that certain members have already made up their mind over her guilt.
A Mormon once told me that they don’t drink coffee.
I said, “A cup of coffee every day gives you wonderful benefits.”
He said, “Like what?”
I said, “Well, it keeps you from being a Mormon …”
If anyone hears a joke about humanists, please email it to me.
Now, from our Secretary Audrey.
A connection that might appeal to the readers about your Secretary:
At a Humanist meeting held at Waverley Road in January 2009
George Broadhead, Chairman at the time, was looking for a speaker on Human Rights and Brian Nichol suggested someone from the United Nations Association and as a result Rod Fielding, vice chairman of United Nations UKwas approached and agreed. I attended the meeting in January 2009 when Rod came to speak to us and took the opportunity to ask if he would talk on the same subject to another organization called Greyfriars Arts and Recreation Society. He agreed and the date was arranged for March 2009. After the talk, which I introduced, I thanked him and he later asked me for a date! I am delighted to say we have been together as a couple ever since. How could I resist a man with brains and charm?
Thanks to those who contributed to this month’s newsletter.
The November Newsletter will go out on Thursday 19th November and if you have an item to go in it, please email it to email@example.com by Tuesday 17th November.
C & W Humanists hold a zoom gathering at 7.30 p.m. each Wednesday, next week will be our 28th meeting. A mixture of serious thinking and light hearted moments and hey! look what our meetings did for Audrey?!*
If you would like to join one of our gatherings, 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.