17 million British Humanists?

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  1. Margaret Nelson says:

    I've been asked why I added a question mark to the title of this post. The people who wrote the BHA report apparently felt that adding a question mark would suggest that they didn't have confidence in the results, which were obtained in a scientific manner by Ipsos MORI ("the UK's most reputable pollsters"). "These results are as accurate as a poll can be and highly useful in counteracting the claims to representation of our religious counterparts."

    Ipsos MORI says, "Where clients need a very high degree of accuracy or the assurance that all possible steps have been taken to remove any biases or distortions, only the purest forms of random probability sampling with face-to-face interviewing may be suitable, as is the case with many of the major government surveys that Ipsos MORI conducts. Less rigorous methodologies would simply not be fit for purpose." The BHA survey was a face to face survey, a method that's known to be more reliable than an Internet survey.

    The reason for the question mark, to reassure anyone who thinks it might signify that I doubt the accuracy of the poll results, is that while it’s reasonable to extrapolate that there could be 17 million Humanists in the UK, it’s unreasonable to state this as a fact. As rationalists, we can hardly criticise religious organisations for making exaggerated claims when we’re not prepared to be strictly accurate about any claims we might make. However, I believe that the BHA poll results provide very compelling evidence that public opinion is less sympathetic towards religious organisations and that there is far less support for faith schools than the Government would have us believe.

    There are two ways that this evidence might be used to serve our causes:

    • To challenge the proliferation of faith schools and "academies" funded by people with religious motives;
    • To challenge the favouritism shown to religious organisations that claim special privileges, especially when those privileges are at public expense.

    So far, the opposition parties do not appear to have credible policies on these issues. It's up to use to use the ammunition the BHA's provided to put pressure on our politicians, to counter considerable pressure from religious organisations.

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