Category: Diary

Bye bye Claire

Claire RaynerClaire Rayner has died. A few Suffolk Humanists (including me) went to hear her speak at an Essex Humanists meeting in Chelmsford a few years ago, when her humour and warmth made a strong impression. I have good reason to identify with some of the things that Claire said, especially when she got cross about lazy journalists who wrote about people with cancer “losing their fight” – stuff and nonsense!

Anyhow, there are tributes aplenty on the web. Here are just three of them:

From the British Humanist Association

From the National Secular Society

From Baroness Helena Kennedy

And here’s Claire in her own words:

Her Humanist Hero, Miss Peach

How she coped with cancer


The cats can relax. Now that the Pope’s gone home, I’ve stopped shouting at the TV. Who does he think he is, coming over here and telling us we’re “aggressive secularists”, and why does he imagine that the thousands of people who live here quite happily without religion have no morals? As for all that rubbish about atheists and the Nazis – he obviously reads the wrong history books.

I’ve complained to the BBC about the coverage – too much of it, too biased, too silly. I’m hoping that lots of other people did too, or they may not take much notice. They may not take much notice anyway. If that were the case, I might boycott BBC News, if it weren’t for the lovely Gavin Esler.

I wasn’t at the grammatically incorrect ‘Protest the Pope’ demonstration, but lots of people I know were, so there’s loads of stuff about it on the Internet.

If you didn’t find any of it, here’s some that’s worth reading…

Car stickers show the way

Car sticker

Suffolk Humanists and Secularists members are receiving car stickers this month. They’re printed with an easy-to-remember URL. Anyone who investigates will find it leads them to several sources of information about Humanism (click on the image to see where it takes you). An increasing number of people are either fed up with religion altogether, they’re indifferent towards it, or they’re rather confused. Maybe some of them will be pleased to know that there are many others who feel as they do, and that it’s not difficult to live a good life without religion.

Stickers are free to members or to anyone making a donation. Either click here to pay online, or here to download a membership form for you to post.

Some things for the weekend, including ‘No to Faith Schools!’

Richard DawkinsDid you watch More4 TV last week, when Richard Dawkins launched his attack on faith schools? Were you horrified by some of the things that were going on, such as those girls in a Muslim school, who thought the Qur’an’s version of our origins was true, and didn’t believe in evolution? Tom Sutcliffe wrote an excellent review for the Independent (and yes, I’m biased). If you’re a BHA member, you should have had an email from Richard Dawkins today, appealing for funds for the BHA’s campaign. If you didn’t, here’s what he wrote:

I am writing to you today to ask for your help in fighting the expansion of state-funded faith schools. This is not a campaign against religious education (teaching about religion) but against faith schools, which teach a particular religion as the one true faith (indoctrination in religion).
There are nearly 7,000 state-funded faith schools in England. These schools have many special privileges – they can select pupils on the basis of parents’ religious observance, discriminate on religious grounds in the employment of teachers, and teach their own RE syllabus, free of Ofsted supervision and free of any National Curriculum.

Ipswich Skeptics in the Pub – Open Talk Night postponed

Their first open talk night, when three speakers will give a talk on a subject of science, skepticism or general interest.

ISP say,

The format that we’re going to try and keep to is a speaking event every other month, alternating between a guest speaker, and an open talk night, where anyone can take the floor and talk about something that interests them. Non speaking nights will be a casual get together over a beer.

Note: This meeting has been postponed from the 21st.

Is wearing the niqab any more acceptable than wearing a paper bag over my head?

BurqaPhillip Hollobone MP has said that he expects niqab wearing constituents to remove them before he’ll talk to them. Liberty has warned him of potential legal action under the Equality Act 2006, because this would constitute religious discrimination.

Maybe Mr Hollobone is right. It would be reasonable to ask someone wearing a crash helmet with tinted face shield to remove it, or a paper bag, so why should a niqab be different? In this instance, I think Liberty is wrong. You might argue that this isn’t about religion, but about culture. I’ve emailed Liberty (not that they’ll take any notice of me, having forgotten that I was once on their National Executive committee). This is what I commented on the Guardian website:

I saw two very young women being interviewed on TV about their burqas and niqabs the other day. They were clearly unaware, as are most who are raised in the UK and adopt this form of dress, that this is as much a cultural issue as a religious one. Many Muslim women’s families originate in countries where the burqa and niqab aren’t worn by a majority, and their interpretation of the Qur’an is quite different; they don’t wear Islamic dress. I recently spoke to a young man from Egypt who said he was shocked at the difference between the liberal attitudes back home and the rigidity of the attitudes in a British mosque. He said he’d never go there again as he felt he had nothing in common with the mainly Pakistani people who worshipped there.