Author: Margaret

Ipswich Science in the Pub

Ipswich Skeptics in the Pub is now Ipswich Science in the Pub. Organiser John Benton says, “There’s no real difference, but it’s a title that’s easier to explain to people.” The next meeting is described as a “get-together”.

The Pod Delusion, 11th March 2011

The Pod Delusion is a weekly news magazine podcast about interesting things. From politics, to science to culture and philosophy, it’s commentary from a secular, rationalist, skeptical, somewhat lefty-liberal, sort of perspective. A bit like From Our Own Correspondent but with more jokes. This edition includes: Ex-Daily Star Rich Peppiatt Interview (1:54) by Sean Ellis; Shadow Business Secretary John Denham Interview (8:59) by James O’Malley; The New Defamation Bill (16:03) by James Thomas (ft Naomi MacAuliffe, Simon Singh and Julian Huppert MP); The BHA Census Campaign Poster Row (22:59) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Bob Churchill); Green Party Science Policy (28:35) by James O’Malley (ft Jim Jepps); Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture 2011 (36:21) by Jon Treadway (ft Prof Brian Cox and Robin Ince).

There’s stuff in this podcast about the row over the BHA’s slogan for the Census Campaign – “If you’re not religious, for God’s sake, say so”. We chose not to use it as we anticipated that it might cause problems that would distract people from the message and was likely to be misunderstood. Our leaflets have been simpler and clearer (see the post on this site).

The right to affirm, in court and elsewhere

At our meeting last night we were talking about Charles Bradlaugh, founder of the National Secular Society, and how he was prevented from taking up his seat in Parliament because he wouldn’t swear an oath on the Bible.

In 1880, after three unsuccessful earlier attempts, Bradlaugh was elected to Parliament for Northampton. When he asked to affirm instead of taking an oath before taking his seat, a parliamentary select committee declared that the right freethinkers had to affirm in law courts didn’t extend to Parliament. He then asked to take the oath, but another select committee found his known atheism prevented this but he should be allowed to affirm under pain of statute (penalties for voting without taking the prescribed oath). The battle over his being sworn in began the day he took his seat and voted, and resulted in convoluted legal arguments continuing for six years. Eventually, in 1886 after the 1885 general election he was allowed by the Speaker to take the oath at the beginning of the session, before objections could be made. While all this had been going on, his seat was vacated but he was re-elected at three by-elections (1881, 1883 and 1884).

During the discussion, it emerged that several members had been asked to swear an oath on the Bible – in court, when signing an affidavit, and when joining the police – and had said they preferred to affirm. The officers involved had made comments like, “No one’s ever done that before!”. We wondered why so few people exercise their right to affirm, and it seemed likely it’s because they don’t know that they can. When asked to swear an oath, does anyone ever offer an alternative?

The census – make yourself count

No religion

Most people will have received their census forms in today’s post. You might think that there’s a supernatural side to life, or that there is a god of some kind, but if organised religion isn’t for you, how you answer the religion question is important.

Please help to ensure that the census gives an accurate and honest picture of the religious/non-religious balance of the UK. Don’t ignore the question and leave it blank, or you won’t count.

The 2001 census results were used to justify more faith schools and religious broadcasting, unelected religious leaders being involved in political decisions, 26 bishops in the House of Lords, public services being contracted out to religious organisations, and continuing special privileges for the church. Many people don’t want these things. If that includes you, tick “No religion” – but not before 27 March, Census Day.

Don’t write “humanist”, or “atheist” or anything else at the bottom of the list – they’re not religions. All you need to do is tick the “No religion” box.

Ipswich high school becomes an academy, but not a church school

Holywells High School in Ipswich has become an academy. At one stage, it looked as though the Church of England might take over the school, which has had problems for years and was placed in “special measures” by government Ofsted inspectors from 2001-2004, but the Swedish organisation Kunskapsskolan made the successful bid. The school will now be called the Ipswich Academy.

Blame

We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.