If you’re not religious, say so!’ Shropshire Humanists back campaign asking people to tick ‘No religion’ on Census

‘If you’re not religious, say so!’ – that is the simple request of a campaign being launched by Humanists UK and supported by Shropshire Humanists, encouraging people who are not in any meaningful sense religious to tick the ‘No religion’ box on the 2021 Census. Shropshire Humanists are supporting the campaign because the biased and leading nature of the Census question ‘What is your religion?’ has in the past caused many people who don’t believe in or practise a religion to nonetheless tick a religion box by default. In 2011 the consequence was that, compared with more accurate surveys, the number of non-religious people was cut in half.

In the West Midlands, the non-religious make up 49.3% of the population according to the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS), which is the most extensive annual survey of the UK public, compared to only 22% in the Census. Across Britain as a whole, BSAS shows that the non-religious make up 52% of the population, but this is not reflected in the 2011 Census data which records only 25%.This matters because Census results are used by the government and local authorities to make important policy decisions. These include how to allocate funding to state services such as education, health, social care, and pastoral care. The continuing requirement for compulsory Christian worship in state schools is justified based on the Census results, as is the ever-increasing number of state faith schools, and aspects of our constitutional settlement like, for example, the ongoing presence of 26 bishops voting in Parliament.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

Our message is simple: if you don’t believe in or practise any religion and don’t want to be counted as if you do, then you should tick the “No religion” box in this year’s Census. You may be ticking a religious box out of cultural sympathy or family history, but the effect is that you will count as religious in policymakers’ eyes. The best way to make clear that this is wrong is by everyone who is not religious in any meaningful sense ticking the “No religion” box this year.

19 November: Online meeting on Refugees

Thursday 19th November 2020

Refugees by Amanda Jones, Director of Shropshire Supports Refugees. Online Meeting, 7.30 pm start.

Come and learn more:-
What is the difference between refugees and asylum seekers?
What is it like being a refugee?
What countries do refugees come from?
What countries accept refugees?
How many refugees are there in the UK?
Is that more or less than other EU countries?
Why do people become refugees?

To learn more and ask questions, come to our Zoom talk!

15 October: Annual General Meeting and informal meet-up

Our annual general meeting in October each year normally takes place in a lecture room at the University Centre in Shrewsbury.  This year it will be an internet meeting. During the meeting we’ll review the troubled past year and discuss our plans for a hopefully better coming year. Members will have a chance to ask the committee questions and to elect the committee.

The business for the AGM will hopefully be over fairly quickly and then we would like to meet you and find out what we can do differently that might help you attend our meetings, online or otherwise. Most importantly we would like to make you feel included in the Shropshire Humanists community. 

So if you don’t usually get to our meetings in Shrewsbury, join our Zoom meeting on Thursday 15th October at 7.30pm from the comfort of your own home!

Worried by computer technology? If you’re not familiar with Zoom, don’t worry. Just email us at info@shropshire.humanist.org.uk and Simon will arrange a short tutorial at a time convenient to you before the AGM. It’s actually very easy once you know the basic ropes!

Whether or not you’re a member, you can attend the AGM at 7.30 pm. If you prefer, you can join later at 8 pm when the AGM will be over. Looking forward to seeing you then.

17 September: Online meeting on Effective Altruism

Thursday 17th September 2020

Effective Altruism by Dr Simon Jenkins. Online Meeting, 7.30 pm start.

Dr Simon Jenkins of the Philosophy Department at Warwick University will talk about Effective Altruism which is all about changing the way we do good.

Effective altruism asks one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most? Rather than just doing what feels right, we can use evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on. But it’s no use answering the question unless you act on it. Effective altruism is about following through. It’s about being generous with your time and your money to do the most good you can.

Most of us want to make a difference. We see suffering, injustice and death, and are moved to do something about them. But working out what that ‘something’ is, let alone actually doing it, can be a difficult and disheartening challenge.

Effective altruism is a response to this challenge. It is a research field which uses high-quality evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to help others as much as possible. It is also a community of people taking these answers seriously, by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Although humanists live without religion, Shropshire Humanists are inclusive and welcome all, including those with any or no religious faith.

This is the ZOOM link to attend.

Ethical Consumption Talk Review

A recording of the recent ZOOM talk to Shropshire Humanists by Alex Crumbie about Ethical Consumption can be seen here:

A review by Shropshire Humanists member, Nick Marshall

Nick Marshall

The talk given on Thursday August 20th to a Shropshire Humanists Zoom meeting by Alex Crumbie of Ethical Consumer magazine was one of the most impressive that I have attended.

Alex anticipated and answered my principal misgiving about Ethical Consumerism right at the beginning of his talk. Consumerism, consumer culture, consumer capitalism… surely these things are inherently bad for us and for our planet? Yes, that’s true – but consumption of some things is unavoidable if we are to survive and to lead rewarding lives. Many of us want to make better choices about what we consume, ones with which we can feel comfortable. And we want our spending to influence what is offered to us, steering businesses in the directions we would prefer that they take. To achieve these objectives we need to be well informed. Enabling us by providing that information is what the Ethical Consumer organisation is about.  

Alex’s expertise and the completeness of his research were very obvious from his talk. He covered many kinds of goods and services – food, power, clothes (including fashion), investment… and looked at them from a variety of viewpoints – environment, animal welfare, workers’ rights, transparency. He seemed to have thought of everything. By the end, I didn’t really have a question left to ask.

That such a thought-provoking and informative presentation was made via Zoom, with only limited interaction with listeners and with no opportunity to “read the audience”, made Alex’s presentation all the more impressive. Every point was well made; never did I feel that we were being lectured. Rather, we were offered ways of arriving at ethically sound choices, many of which I think were new to at least some of us.

One question did occur to me when it was just too late to ask: given that I was in sympathy with everything Alex said, as I think were most of his Humanist audience… was he preaching to the converted? If so, how is the wider world of consumers to be influenced? I am pretty confident that Alex and his colleagues are working on this.

Judith and I have taken out a subscription to Ethical Consumer. Knowledge is Power!

Why I became a Humanist

Here we have collected a number of short pieces by some of our committee members giving their story of why they became a humanist.  We hope you will enjoy hearing about our backgrounds, and if you feel inspired by them, please feel free to leave a reply at the bottom of this article giving your story/thoughts! (Please try to keep it below a couple hundred words if possible). We would like to encourage more discussion on our website, so would really appreciate your input.

Dr Simon Nightingale:
I was a devout Christian until 17 years old and then, after losing my faith, I became an “angry atheist” – a bit of a pain in the neck! After attending a wonderful humanist funeral 15 years ago, I decided to find out about humanism and realised that I had always been a humanist!  So I joined Humanists UK (called the BHA back then) largely to support their campaigns to promote secularism, for example in schools and parliament. I felt much happier as a humanist than an atheist – I now had positive beliefs and values.
Then I heard about Shropshire Humanists (back then called the Shropshire Humanist Group) and I really enjoyed their talks and especially meeting like-minded people. Over the last 10 years humanism has played a increasingly important part of my life, training to be a funeral and wedding celebrant, a humanist school visitor, a non-religious Pastoral Carer (a sort of humanist chaplain) and a member of the Shropshire Humanists committee, promoting our ideas, supporting humanist campaigns and developing dialogue with religious or interfaith groups.
I wish that humanism had been around when I was 17!

Sue Falder:
Like many others of my generation and background, I was brought up within a C of E Christian framework – that is to say it was an accepted part of life to have a reading from the bible every morning in school assembly followed by a hymn, and going to church was a respectable occupation.
My mother, much concerned with what was done, rather than what she herself would like to do, made sure we jumped through the baptism and confirmation hoops, and, since she was musical, attended church regularly to sing in the choir.
I, too, became part of the church choir, became utterly, tediously, familiar with the liturgy and marvelled at the singing and dramatic presentation of the vicar during services. I toyed with ideas of vocation and spirituality, but it dawned on me fairly early on that in fact there was an emptiness in the ritual unless you yourself were prepared to pretend otherwise; and God/religion apparently had no place in the ordinary everyday traffic of life.
Experience taught me that judging people according to pre-conceived notions of what one should or shouldn’t be or do was inappropriate, and I came to the realisation that `right’ and `wrong’ are complex and relative terms.
By the time I was eighteen I privately considered myself an atheist, and I haven’t changed that view since. I have no belief in a supernatural power, in any metaphysical experience which cannot or will not be explained scientifically, or in any version of life after death.
Knowledge of humanism came upon me gradually. I didn’t really recognise it as a philosophy of life or know about its history, but when we wanted a non-religious funeral ceremony for a member of the family I knew that humanist funerals were available. Subsequently I joined the BHA (now Humanists UK) and began to find out more about what humanism means and has meant.
The more I find out, the more at home I feel within the bounds of the word `humanist’, which embraces all with a secular outlook who want to help enrich and support their communities.

Carol Seager:
I didn’t actually become a humanist, I have always been a humanist, I just didn’t know it. It wasn’t until I attended a talk by Simon Nightingale on ‘An introduction to
Humanism’ at the United Reform Church in Church Stretton, late November 2016, that it all fell into place.
My mother was a ‘Church goer’ and as a child I was dragged along to church for good measure. Religion was never talked about in our house, it was just part of the Sunday ritual, along with Songs of Praise. Something to be endured. Although I could recite the service by heart, it didn’t mean anything to me, I felt at odds with it all, I didn’t believe, I didn’t belong.
As I grew up my church attendance dwindled to nothing. I felt relief at not going to church mixed with terrible guilt. I didn’t tell anyone I didn’t believe in God. I was ashamed and confused. I felt that I was a good, caring person and that ought to be enough. I put religion to the back of my mind and just got on with my life.
Fast forward to November 2016. As I sat and listened to Simon I realised he was putting into words everything l felt and believed inside. The relief and joy I felt at realising so many others shared the same thoughts and values as myself was incredibly uplifting. I was about to embark on a new chapter in my life and knew that my future lay in connecting with like minded people. With humanism.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was soon going to need my new found humanist friends more than I could possibly have imagined.

 

Margaret Cann:

  • Painful memories of my parents’ Christian funerals which seemed to describe people I didn’t recognise, with very little mention of their lives, their loves and their achievements.
  • A professional life spent challenging stereotypes and fighting for equal opportunities within many different environments.
  • Hearing Humanism mentioned occasionally and making a mental note to find out more.
  • Hearing Simon speak and feeling I was finally amongst friends – people who believed in honesty, kindness, equality, fairness to all, and who were prepared to stand up and challenge unfairness and cruelty in the world. People who believed that this is the only life we live and wish to live every moment fully, to the best of their ability, in the here and now.
  • Finally, sitting down and reading about Humanism and being amazed that I hadn’t found it earlier.

 

Hollie Whild:
I do remember religion being a part of my life growing up – my grandparents were very active members of their church, and at primary school we sang hymns and attended assemblies held by the local vicar. However, I don’t remember ever truly believing there was a ‘greater being’ watching over me or influencing the world around me.
As I grew up, my various connections with organised religion gradually diminished. Throughout school, I found myself more and more interested in the sciences – leaning towards a more naturalistic worldview. I was quite happy without religion, and that was that.
However, whilst at university I saw a poster for a talk being given Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (now Humanists UK). I can’t remember exactly what it was that made me want to attend, but something clicked whilst I was listening to Andrew’s talk.
I went on to research more about Humanism and found that it completely aligned with my philosophy on life, and it was interesting to see so many “celebrities” that I respected also associating themselves with Humanism such as Stephen Fry, Robin Ince, Professor Jim Al-Khalili and Tim Minchin. However, I did not class myself as an “active” humanist.
This changed when I returned home from university, and my Mum spotted an advert in the paper for a talk being given by the Shropshire Humanist Group. I attended and immediately felt that this was a group that I could become a part of. I attended the Introduction to Humanism course run by the group, and it was wonderful to have meaningful discussions about big topics such as morality and the meaning of life with people who seemed “on my wavelength”. I signed up to become a member and haven’t looked back!

20 September meeting: Humanism in Action

P1030393-shrewsbury square - smThis meeting will showcase the work of humanists in three important areas:-

Maxine Beech, a Humanist Celebrant, will talk about baby namings, weddings and funerals.
Sue Falder, a Pastoral Support Volunteer, will talk about humanist “chaplaincy” work in healthcare, prisons and universities.
Simon Nightingale, a Volunteer School Speaker, will talk about going into RE classes to explain the basis of humanism.

There will be a general discussion of the importance of these activities and available training.

Thursday 20 September, 7.30 pm, at University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. All welcome, but voluntary donations requested.

You are very welcome to arrive at 7 pm for coffee/tea and to chat to other members and visitors.

Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life (Online Course – second chance to enrol)

Humanists UK are running the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which was a huge success earlier this year, for a second time. If you missed the first course, we highly recommend that you enrol onto this course – it is free and many of our members have commented on how informative and enjoyable they found the course. Please see the below information and link for more details.

Learn about humanism – a non-religious, ethical worldview shared by millions across the world.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/introducing-humanism

Humanism is a non-religious, ethical world view shared by millions of people around the world. Humanists believe that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity.

However, there is widespread misunderstanding about what it means to be a humanist or to live a life without a religion. On this course you will learn more about humanist beliefs and values, and discover how humanists attempt to answer life’s big questions.

  • The humanist understanding of human beings: our nature, capacities, and responsibilities
  • How humanists answer questions about the world (science, reason, scepticism) and the consequences for a humanist understanding of reality
  • A humanist approach to making life meaningful and the value of individual freedom
  • The origins and evolution of morality and a humanist perspective on how to be good
  • The humanist vision for society (secularism, freedoms, and human rights) and the motivations behind their goals
  • Different definitions of humanism, its history, and its diversity

Oswestry Culture Fest – Saturday 19th August

This Saturday 19th August, we have a presence at the Oswestry CultureFest to reflect:-

  • our welcome of human diversity
  •  our support for human rights
  • our stand against discrimination
  • and to emphasise that, although we live without religion, we support cultural and religious freedom, as well as freedom to live without religion.

We hope to see lots of our humanist members there and, if anyone would like to help man our stall, please email our chair – Dr. Simon Nightingale.

For more information on the event, please see the attached – OswestryCultureFestFlyer.

Many thanks as always for your continued support!

The Final Countdown – 1 Week To Go!

One week to go until construction starts on the Humanist Garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

The birds and the bees.

Wildlife in a garden is as important as the plants. A garden without insects, snails, small mammals and birds would be a very sterile environment. Granted, there are many of these mini beasts I would rather not have in the garden such as, slugs, snails, caterpillars and aphids. But for every pest there is a predator, and so it makes sense to attract these helpful creatures into the garden. One way is to provide a habitat that will help them thrive. As the garden is quite small, piles of rotting logs and weedy patches of nettles and stones was not really an option, so I have opted for insect houses, nesting boxes and bird feeders.

Week1-1

This is an insect house for solitary bees and insects such as lacewings.

Week1-2

This one is specifically for butterflies. So as the butterflies are in no doubt, I have painted the Native American symbol for butterflies on the front! It may seem counterproductive to encourage butterflies when caterpillars can do so much damage. However, butterflies are on the decline,  so with the exception of the voracious cabbage white I am more than happy to provide shelter and food for them.

week1-3

The woven structure in the centre is a nesting box for birds – quite reminiscent of a weaver birds nest.

Well, construction starts in a weeks time. Everything is all set and ready to go. The plants are growing well and the hard landscaping is coming together. I have a man with a van booked for Monday to transport stuff to site.
Does anyone have an old kettle I can borrow – the type that could be used on an open fire?
Also, if anyone wants to come along on Tuesday to rake sand, I can promise they will be rewarded with tea and cake!

Enjoy the week ahead. If you are going to be at the show, come and say hello. 🌻