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December meeting – 10-minute topics

The popular format where everyone comes with suggestions for topics for discussion, then write them on bits of paper, and the pieces of paper go in a hat, is back. Is there something you want to talk about? As usual, guests are welcome and there’ll be refreshments. Note that we’ll be in our new venue at University Campus Suffolk.

Click here for printable maps and directions (pdf).

UN Day Celebration

Every year the local UN Association organises an inter-faith Celebration of the Universal Charter of Human Rights. This year’s theme is the family, based on Article 16:

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

Dinosaurs in Noah’s Ark?

We’ve been visited by a creationist. Feel free to join the debate on whether there were dinosaurs in Noah’s Ark, and if scientists made up the theory of evolution.

See the comments on Jesus and a baby dinosaur.

“Religion should be abolished”?

This week’s National Secular Society e-newsletter quotes Irish writer Jennifer Johnston saying, “Personally I think that religion should be abolished and I think when you look around we’re doing not too bad a job of it in this country at the moment. It’s all just moving and about time, too.” This was in an interview with the Irish Independent. Johnston’s attitude is understandable, when you read about her own and her family’s experience of Catholicism, but abolishing religion isn’t the answer. I remember being shocked when, some time ago, I heard one of the British Humanist Association‘s leading activists say more or less the same thing – and he was serious. It’s an attitude that persists in online atheist forums. Calling for the abolishment or banning of religion isn’t a rational response to the problems that it causes. It was tried by the Soviets and by the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution, but they only succeeded in driving it underground. There have always been extremists, religious and atheist, and they’ve always caused destruction.

The answer is secularism, or an end to religion in civil affairs and no religious instruction in schools. Children might learn about religion but not to be religious. Teach children to think, not to believe. Most organised monotheistic religion is about power. Remove that power, and you remove most of the damage it causes.

A good teacher makes you think, even when you don’t want to.” (Tom, aged 10)

Teach people to think, and maybe they won’t make foolish statements like, “Ban religion!”

Weekend web stuff

Some of the stuff you could have found for yourselves, if you’d wanted to (that’s what Google is for), but I saved you the bother, OK?

Sam Scott Perry was on Channel 4’s 4thought.tv, where he opined that men and dinosaurs were alive at the same time, and that Creationism should be taught in schools. Whoever taught Sam didn’t do a very good job. His science isn’t up to much.

Distrust is the central motivating factor behind why religious people dislike atheists, according to a new study led by University of British Columbia psychologists. They must imagine that all atheists are up to no good. There are untrustworthy atheists and there are religious people I’d trust no further than I could throw them (if it wasn’t for my bad back), but there’s no more reason to mistrust one than the other.

Warning: young children given books containing graphic violence

This is a letter in this week’s National Secular Society e-news:

We have a 4 year old son who has just started attending our local non-denominational community School. Last week, along with the rest of his year-group he was presented with an illustrated children’s Bible.

We were given the option to opt-out of this but did not exercise this because we didn’t want our son to feel excluded and trusted the school that the book would be age-appropriate. It was not and our son ended up in tears over the violent illustrations of the crucifixion.

Many other parents were unhappy and we personally are complaining to the school. We have subsequently found out that he Bible’s distribution and funding was carried out by a Charity – Bibles for Children. According to their website they are active in hundreds of primary schools across the country (there is a list in their annual report). We would like to warn other members with children who may be targeted by these people and who might want to take action against these people either on principle or in order to prevent their kids being exposed to images of graphic violence.

Scouts and Guides’ promise to “love God” may be dropped

We’ve had emails from parents whose children want to join the Guides or Scouts, but have been shocked to find that they’re expected to make a promise to “love God”. Letters and emails to the association have failed, so far, to achieve any sort of compromise. Now, after persistent campaigning by the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, Girl Guides may no longer have to pledge to “love God” as part of their Guide promise. Presumably, this would apply to Scouts too. An increasing number of parents have complained that the current pledge discriminates against children who don’t have a religious faith. If they make the promise, they have to lie. Some have opted for the alternative organization, the Woodcraft Folk (which ignores religion) if there’s a branch in their area.

Today’s Telegraph reports,

… the association is considering reviewing the wording of its affirmation for new members, to remove religious references.

The move comes after parents complained it was unfair to exclude children who had not received a Christian upbringing.

Let’s dance

Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.