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Monthly meeting – The River Stour Past and Present

A short illustrated talk by our member Andrew Sheldon on the history of the River Stour from its source to the sea. Places of interest along the way from times gone by and the present day, including important brickwork’s, battle grounds and structures.

Monthly meeting – Read any good books lately?

You’re invited to bring recommended reading to the meeting. Fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry, science or art, funny or serious – whatever you’ve enjoyed, come and be prepared to tell us about it. Note that if you decide to buy any of the books, there’s an Amazon link on our website – we get commission if you use it.

Prof A C Grayling’s rewritten the Bible

A C GraylingProfessor Anthony Grayling, soon to be the President of the British Humanist Association, has rewritten the Bible, without all the nasty bits (there are a lot of them). Matthew Adams from New Humanist has interviewed him about his “lifetime’s work”. Grayling says,

The way I made it was to plunder from the great traditions texts on which I had performed redaction, weaving them together, editing them, interpolating other texts and sometimes my own, just as the Bible makers worked on their texts. It was tremendous fun.

If you decide to buy it, why not use our Amazon link? That way, we get some commission.

Postscript: The Daily Mash says the new book’s “an impossible fairy story”.

Can you be good without God? Discussion on BBC Radio Suffolk

What a silly question – of course you can. Whether or not you’re religious has nothing to do with it. Some religious people are bad, some are good. Likewise with atheists. However, there are still many who imagine that if you don’t believe in a god (usually a Christian or Muslim one), you’re a bad person, and everyone who does believe is morally superior.

James Hazell has invited Margaret Nelson and a cleric (not sure who) to debate the question on his radio programme on Wednesday (times may vary). If you’re not local you can listen online. Meanwhile, you might like to check our other website that tells you all about it.

Suffolk astronomer at the Edinburgh Science Festival

Cosmic Threats posterNever mind the poster boy of physics, Prof. Brian Cox, Suffolk’s got its own super-astronomer, our member Tom Boles, who has an observatory at Coddenham. Tom (who is a Scot, by the way) will be one of the speakers at the Edinburgh Science Festival, together with The Astronomers Royal, Lord Rees and Professor John Brown, Sheffield University’s Professor Hughes, and others. The event is free. We’d like to organise an outing to Edinburgh, but we’ve already had a private presentation from Tom, and it is a long way. However, if you’re in Edinburgh in April, why not go and hear him?

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?