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7 billion people, and counting

FullBy the end of today, the world’s population is expected to reach 7 billion. It has almost doubled since the late ’60s and is expected to reach 10 billion within the century. This is potentially catastrophic for several reasons; the effect on the environment of human activity; the demand for dwindling resources, including food and water, and the impossibility of ensuring a decent quality of life for everyone.

How can we prevent the population from continuing to increase, and reverse the trend? There are already more people than the Earth can support sustainably. What can we do?

The organisation Population Matters has four campaigns, on family planning, gender and social justice, UK reproductive health, and educating people to have smaller families. Their patron Sir David Attenborough’s view is that there is no major problem facing our planet that would not be easier to solve if there were fewer people and no problem that does not become harder — and ultimately impossible to solve — with ever more. Click here to see or hear his speech to the Royal Society of Arts last year.

Religious literacy, and why it matters

There are many atheists and self-styled humanists who are so anti-religious that they don’t want to know anything about it. When they talk about Islam, say, it becomes evident that they know very little about Muslims, and have probably never knowingly spoken to one. As far as they’re concerned, Islam is a threat, and that’s all there is to it.

When it comes to our quality of life, what matters is how people behave, not what they believe. This applies to atheists and humanists too, some of whom could do with lessons in manners. There are times when this sort of attitude leads atheists to do very silly things, like Richard Dawkins’ response to the Haitian earthquake. To demonstrate that humanists are caring people, he set up a separate fund from all the well-established disaster relief funds. A lot of atheists won’t donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) because some of the organisations involved have a religious ethos and they imagine that the money might be used for proselytising, instead of food, shelter and welfare. Dawkins’ fund, which was promoted by the BHA, was channelled through PayPal, an American money transfer system, which meant that British donors couldn’t take advantage of the Gift Aid scheme, so their donations were worth less than they would have been through DEC. This was inexcusable, considering that there are British disaster relief charities without a religious ethos, and that donors could have gone direct to any of them. Humanists are supposed to be rational people, but this wasn’t very rational.

URGENT ACTION – send a message to the Commonwealth leaders today

Commonwealth leaders are meeting in Perth, Australia. You may have read about this in news stories about a change to the constitution that will allow the daughters of any future UK monarch to have an equal right to the throne. This was agreed unanimously. However, there is another issue that’s just as important, of not more so. 

Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, has made a courageous speech calling on each of the Commonwealth nations to finally end discrimination and criminalization of LGBT people. Meanwhile, some within the Commonwealth are working hard to silence Sharma and others. Please sign this petition (and forward it to your friends) so that we can achoeve at least 30,000 signatures within 48 hours.

Almost 80 countries around the world make it a crime to be gay, lesbian, bi or transgender. In 10 of those nations, you can be sentenced to death or life behind bars. The majority of these nations share a connection – they are members of the Commonwealth.

 

West Building, University Campus Suffolk

Enter the UCS car park at Long Street from the junction opposite the Waterfront Building off Fore Street, Fore Hamlet, Back Hamlet and Duke Street. The West Building is at the top right corner of the car park (see campus map). To enter, press the button marked ‘SIFRE’ (you might need a torch to see the buttons after dark). The Inter-Faith Centre (marked SIFRE) is on the 1st floor. Either use the stairs then go straight ahead to the far end of the corridor, then turn left, or turn left at the entrance and go along the corridor for the lift.

If you haven’t already done so, make a will

Will Aid logoHave you made a will? It’s amazing how few people do, yet not having a will can cause your family all sorts of problems. If you haven’t, make a will in November through Will Aid and you’ll be helping other people at the same time.

A local solicitor writes your will, then instead of paying their fee you are invited to make a donation to Will Aid. The suggested minimum donation is £85 for a basic single will or £125 for a pair of basic mirror wills. You’ll be supporting nine charities.

Click here to find out more.

Click here to read about what can happen if you don’t have a will (blog post by a humanist celebrant).

Monthly meeting – The Age of Stupid

The Age of Stupid is an independently made film starring the late Pete Postlethwaite as a man who’s left alone to ruminate on how humanity has destroyed itself.

Please note that we will be in our new venue, the Inter-Faith Centre at University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich (see map).

Not really the beginning and not quite the end

According to James Ussher, the 17th century Anglican Bishop of Armagh, the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC, so it’s 6015 years old today.

And according to Harold Camping, the American Pastor who’s revised his predictions several times (because none of them were right), the world should have ended on Friday.

Both of them got their sums wrong, the sillies.

Circumcision – child abuse in the name of religion

Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource forums are usually very polite affairs, without any confrontation, but there was one occasion a couple of years ago when a couple of people, including me, got rather angry. A Muslim man raised the subject of male circumcision. The question was out of order, since we were there to discuss Hazel Blears’ document Face to Face and Side by Side with representatives of local government. The man wanted to know why Muslims can’t have circumcisions on the NHS. Doctors won’t do the operation on the NHS unless it’s for medical reasons, rather than religious ones. The man argued that Muslims who can’t afford private surgery sometimes have the procedure done by unqualified individuals who botch it, leaving the NHS to clean up the mess. He didn’t get any support. You could argue that they should be prosecuted for harming a child. The Qur’an doesn’t mention circumcision

Many people don’t realise that Muslims circumcise; the procedure is usually associated with Judaism, which is the subject of a post on P Z Myers’ blog – Ritualised child abuse: circumcision. I can’t bring myself to watch the video – I think you’ll need a strong stomach for that. Why would anyone subject their child to this?