Tagged: Human rights

No prayers here

Durer prayer handsIn response to letters in today’s East Anglian Daily Times (File Attachment: EADT prayer letters.jpg (185 KB) about the nurse facing disciplinary action for praying for a patient, I’ve sent the following reply:

As an old age pensioner I’ve been around far too long to believe you can change the minds of the god deluded. The sheer implausibility of the supernatural can only be accepted by working it out for yourself, as recalled by the young David Attenborough, now in his eighties, who recently said, “I remember looking at my headmaster delivering a sermon, a classicist, extremely clever … and thinking, he can’t really believe all that, can he? How incredible.”

Can we be cautiously optimistic?

Happy New YearThe atheist buses will be on the streets this month, challenging lazy assumptions and encouraging people to be open about their skepticism.

Obama takes over in the White House, thrown in the deep end with the economic crisis and the Israelis to deal with, but hopefully better at the job than Bush (no one could be worse, surely).

The economic downturn might prompt people to live more frugally, which will be good for the planet, and might encourage environmentally-friendly innovations.

Humanist Roy Brown attended the 60th anniversary celebration of the Declaration of Human Rights, “expecting to be appalled in equal measure by the extravagance of the surroundings and the hypocrisy of the speeches, but I left both moved and inspired.” Could attempts by Islamic states to set the clock back be thwarted?

We can influence events in 2009 with positive action. You might be surprised by what we can achieve.

Happy New Year!

Universal Rights

A Humanist contribution to a Celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, at the Unitarian Meeting House, Ipswich, 10th December 2008, organised by the local UN Association.

UN-LOGOArticle 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Sometimes, when talking to young people about ethical or political issues, I’ve invited them to consider them from a different point of view – that of an interested, intelligent being from another part of the universe. Suppose there were alien anthropologists, or the equivalent, since they wouldn’t restrict themselves to studying one species – ours. What if they came and simply observed human behaviour. What if they came from a planet where there were no wars, where they’d restricted their population and the damage it might do, where they’d established some sort of harmonious relationship with their environment, where everyone regarded him or herself as part of one society, based on their planet, rather than having national or ethnic boundaries. I think they’d probably regard us as a primitive species.

First the good news …

US flagObama will be President of the US. Although he’s a Christian (an essential qualification, as things stand – no chance of an atheist President, yet), he’s a liberal Christian. Maybe his attitude might be more like that of former President Jimmy Carter, who said, “I was very meticulous in completely separating my religious faith from any element of politics or governance in the White House. I believed in what Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers, said that we should build a wall between Church and state. I worship a prince of peace, not a prince of pre-emptive war.”

Religion plays a huge role in US politics. If you didn’t watch Channel 4’s ‘True Stories: Jesus Politics’ on 28 October, you have 22 days left to view it online on the Channel 4 website (you’ll need broadband and Windows Media Player). The Republican Right has the strongest links to evangelical Christianity – you’d be forgiven for thinking that, as far as George Bush is concerned, God is an American and votes Republican.

BBC Panorama: You can run… but can you hide? Collecting data on children

I tuned in to tonight’s BBC Panorama programme [27 October] late, just in time to hear reporter Simon Boazman explain how the government plans to collect information on children. He asked his own daughter some of the questions that are included in a questionaire to test something or other. Did she go to church? What religion was she? Did she believe in God? I’ll watch the programme again to check (you can see it online for the next week using the BBC’s i-player), but my mind was boggling.

Hanged for being a Christian in Iran – Telegraph

Rashin Soodmand is an Iranian Christian. Her father was hanged for apostasy – he converted to Christianity when he was thirteen. Now her brother, also a Christian, risks the same fate. Rashin says, “They assume that if you are Iranian, you must be Muslim.”

It’s not surprising that it appears there are no atheists in Iran. Declaring your non-belief would risk death or life imprisonment.

Read more in The Telegraph.


Happy human red 2This is a monthly update of news from International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). You can find the full versions of these news stories on the IHEU web site. To receive the monthly news update, sign up here.

This issue includes reports from IHEU’s delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where real progress has been made, particularly on issues of freedom of expression and separation of religion and state. For other news, please scroll down.

Dead Interesting – It’s my life, not God’s

In today’s Observer, Catherine Bennett wrote about Debbie Purdy, an MS sufferer who’d like to be able to die at a time she chooses but will need help to do so. She doesn’t want her husband to be prosecuted for helping her, which could happen, as the law stands. Mrs Purdy isn’t the first to have fought this battle. Diane Pretty is just one high profile case. She died in May 2002, having lost a legal challenge that would have allowed her husband Brian to help her commit suicide when she deteriorated.