Hardly a week goes by without someone displaying their ignorance in public about what secularism means. This is a simple explanation, for the benefit of anyone, like Baroness Warsi, Eric Pickles MP, the Pope, and Donald Morrison of the Free Church of Scotland (who pities secularists), who doesn’t know what he or she’s talking about. The video was produced by QualiaSoup for the National Secular Society.
If you receive the National Secular Society‘s weekly email, Newsline, you’ll already have read this message:
Why we need you to commit to your principles
A message from Terry Sanderson, NSS President
We know there are millions of people in this country who would prefer religion not to interfere in their life and to stay where it belongs – in places of worship and in the homes of worshippers.
There is a definite feeling of discomfort abroad about the way that churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship are putting out tentacles that reach into all our lives – whether it is into our children’s education (another huge increase in the number of ‘faith schools’ is on the way), our taxes (why do churches get special tax privileges, like reduced VAT, when the rest of us are shown no mercy?), our hospitals (why is the NHS paying the salaries of clergy when hospitals are going into administration?), our legislature (why are Church of England bishops involved in making laws that we all have to live by?), and our media (why is religion given such special consideration by the BBC – especially when religious programmes have so few listeners or viewers?).
Well worth listening to for the history of secularism in the UK. Click here to listen on BBC iPlayer.
I was asked to contribute to a discussion on James Hazell’s Saturday Show on BBC Radio Suffolk. James introduced the slot on Facebook as follows:
The Warr Zone at 11 – Are we losing our religion? Rows over prayers at council meetings, falling church attendences and an MP who says Europe needs to ‘get comfortable’ with christianity. Do you need religion in your life?
The “Warr” in the title is Simon Warr. I’d never heard of him before but apparently he teaches at the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook (he isn’t the headteacher, as some have described him), and he writes a column for the East Anglian Daily Times as well as being on Radio Suffolk. If you listen to the broadcast, from about 2 hours and 10 minutes in, you’ll find that Mr Warr isn’t strong on listening skills and shouts a lot. Click here for his website, and see below for his appearance on The One Show, where he advocated beating children.
You have about a week to hear it on iPlayer – click here to listen. I don’t think that it will have enlightened many of those who are confused about the “militant secularism” claims.
Margaret Nelson will be on the James Hazell Show to talk about all the fuss generated by the Bideford ruling on council prayers, and the claims of “aggressive secularism”.
Times shown aren’t exact. You can listen on i-Player or Listen Again.
Following a Judicial Review initiated by the National Secular Society to challenge the practice of having prayers as part of the formal business of council meetings in Bideford Town Council (Devon), the High Court has ruled:
The saying of prayers as part of the formal meeting of a Council is not lawful under s111 of the Local Government Act 1972, and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue.
This began when Bideford Town Councillor Clive Bone, who’s an atheist, was elected in 2007; he found that he was expected to say prayers at the beginning of meetings. Councillors in other areas have had similar objections, saying that this practice puts off atheists or people of other faiths from standing for election. Click here to hear Mr Bone talking about it.
I have repeatedly tried to persuade Babergh District Council (my local council) to change its practice of beginning full council meetings with prayers, and been told that they see no reason to change. Maybe this will make them think again.
From 2002-2003 British Guyana-born Harold Mangar was chairman of Suffolk County Council. He decided that he wanted to do things differently. During his term of office, Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource provided speakers from various local faith groups, and a humanist (me), to address full council meetings ten minutes before their council business began. The day I did it, several councillors told me that they normally arrived late to avoid prayers, but had made a special effort to come and hear me.
Now that the High Court has ruled, we will be drawing Suffolk local authorities’ attention to the illegality of their practices.
Last week, during a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in Oxford, David Cameron said “the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today,” and that a “return to Christian values” could counter the country’s “moral collapse”. Admitting that he’s a “committed but vaguely practising Church of England Christian” might explain Cameron’s ignorance of what the Bible actually says. For example:
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
As for Christian values:
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
If you haven’t seem these sites, they’re worth exploring:
The Secular Web has pages and pages of food for thought. Thay say:
The Secular Web is owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet. Naturalism is the “hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system” in the sense that “nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it.” As such, “naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities,” such as gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or other spirits, “or at least none that actually exercises its power to affect the natural world.” And without miraculous interventions into nature from a spiritual realm, neither prayer nor magick are more effective than a placebo.
Butterflies and Wheels is edited by Ophelia Benson.
Butterflies and Wheels was established in 2002 and has (not surprisingly) evolved since then. At the beginning it focused mainly on various kinds of pseudoscience and epistemic relativism, aka postmodernism. The latter prompted an increasing focus on moral or cultural relativism and a defense of universalism and human rights. This in turn led to concern with the chief opponent of universalism and human rights, which is religion. This then led to interest in the backlash against overt atheism.
Keep thinking. If nothing else, it’ll help to keep Alzheimer’s at bay.
The NSS Council has devised a new Secular Charter that seeks to be fair to everyone, to be achievable and to be benign. Seems good to me.
The Society promotes the separation of religion and state where law and the administration of justice are based on equality, respect for Human Rights and objective evidence without regard to religious doctrine or belief.
Norfolk Fire Service’s chief fire officer Nigel Williams has arranged a secular Remembrance Day event this year, to avoid the exclusion of some staff members. This quote amused me:
The Ven Jan McFarlane, from the Diocese of Norwich, said: “We often hear that we’re a ‘secular society’ – but attendance at Remembrance Services today and on Sunday, and the numbers who turn to the church at times of significant national events would suggest otherwise.
Could it be, Ven. McFarlane, that people attend Remembrance services and those held for “significant national events” because there’s no alternative? A significant proportion of those who attend such services aren’t believers but go through the motions because they want to share the commemoration of something important. Give people the choice of an inclusive event, and you may see even more people attending.