Next meeting: 19 October, AGM and discussion on Charity. A great two years!

Painting by Carol Seager

Painting by Carol Seager

In October, the Shropshire Humanist Group holds its Annual General Meeting. We do not have a speaker after the AGM, but we shall have a discussion to which all members and guests can contribute. This year the planned topic is on charity and related issues, following our September talk on “The ups and downs of ‘doing good’”, about a local children’s charity operating in a part of Uganda. Possible matters to discuss include the effects of charity (which Gill Castle talked about at our meeting), distributive justice, unfair inequality and the basic economics of charity.

All are welcome (voluntary donations are requested), and we shall be glad to have new people and ideas involved in our activities. Thursday 19 October at 7.30 pm, University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ.

SHG has made enormous progress in the last 2 years. Following the move to the University Centre as our regular venue, we have much increased our attendance at meetings and have been able to be involved in new events. We have had more chances to introduce Humanism to the local public and enable people to say, ‘I’m a humanist but I didn’t know that I was’.

We have held public meetings to explain humanism in both Shrewsbury and Telford, followed by courses on humanism in both places. We have also been represented at a number of cultural diversity events in Shropshire. We must not forget the wonderful and creative garden by our member Carol Seager at the Shrewsbury Flower Show, which placed Humanism in front of many thousands of people and won two top awards as well!

Our increased membership has enabled us to support worthy causes, including the fund of the International Humanist and Ethical Union to help people persecuted for their non-belief, and our member Noel Conway’s court case concerning the law on assisted dying.

We shall continue to arrange social events as well as our speaker and discussion meetings. Social events enable humanists and non-religious people to get together, chat and make friends. The latest British Social Attitudes survey shows that 53% of the UK population say they belong to no religion, and that rises to 71% of 18-24 year olds.

So, if you are a humanist or you think that humanism represents your beliefs, or you are just interested in what we are doing, please come along!

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20 October meeting: AGM and discussion on multi-culturalism

As usual in October, Shropshire Humanist Group will be having its AGM. It is at the University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ at 19.30. (Please note: the calendar may be displaying this as 18.30 – this is a technical error.)
We have been delighted to see so many new faces in the audiences this year, and we hope that as many as possible of you will come to the AGM. We welcome new ideas and hopefully some new members on the committee to increase our activities.
And also as usual we shall follow the AGM (time permitting) with a discussion.
This year the proposed topic is Multi-culturalism: to what extent is it possible or desirable in a cohesive society? Are there limits? Here are some thoughts:

SHG has contributed at multicultural events this year and these events tend to present multiculturalism as the continuation of the ancestral folk music and dances and traditional clothing of particular groups. However, at the other end, some ‘communities’ continue to practise forced marriage, female genital mutilation, coercion of women and attacks on those who leave the shared religion. These practices would be regarded as abhorrent by humanists, and are at least in theory mostly illegal. There have been reports of the authorities colluding in these, for example, police returning abused wives to their husbands.
The question is, where should we draw the line? Should ‘communities’ be allowed to practise and regulate customs that deviate from what is considered normally acceptable in British society, and to what extent should they be allowed to practise compulsion on their members? Should the government support those who leave their religion or try to escape coercion?

Again, we would welcome an offer to open and lead the discussion from someone not on the current committee.
Please contact the Secretary or use the contact form on this site.

15 October: AGM and discussion on the ethics of eating meat

Our AGM takes place on 15 October. We welcome both members and others who may be interested in joining.

Many people say that they are humanists but didn’t know it until they discovered humanism. Please come and help us make everyone aware of what humanism is and what the British Humanist Association does.

We would like some new people to come and help us on the committee and continue our work next year.

The AGM will be followed by a discussion on the ethics of eating meat. There is not only the humane argument about breeding and eating animals, but also the question of the resources required to provide meat. What’s your view? Please come along and contribute.

Thursday 15 October at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG. Donations are requested to cover the cost of room hire, refreshments etc.

20 May: Ludlow and Marches Humanists AGM

ludlowOur neighbours the Ludlow and Marches Humanists will be having their Annual General Meeting on May 20th – as well as the usual committee necessities, they have a very interesting video from the BHA on Humanist ceremonies – birth, marriage & death. It will last about 20 minutes. Plus cakes and, maybe not ale, but a range of non-alcoholic refreshments.

They are looking for volunteers for their committee. Of the four currently active committee members, two are still in full time work, and one is virtually a full time carer. Any help is welcome, but we would particularly appreciate help in the areas of publicity, membership, generation of the newsletter, and assistance with the web page – even consideration of a Facebook presence, but if you really want to be the next chair or secretary, that would be equally welcome.

They’re also looking for ideas for the summer social this year – note that Jim Al Khalili (BHA President) will be at the Hay Festival on 31 May – could they make that an outing or organise another walk and pub lunch?

If you’re in their area, you’ll be very welcome. Let them know if you need assistance with transport on the evening. Contact rocheforts [at] tiscali.co.uk.

Coming up: AGM and ‘the limits to free speech’

 The 2013 AGM will be held on Thursday 17 October at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG .  After the business part of the meeting Helen Taylor will be leading a discussion on the limitations of free speech.  As always visitors will be welcome, although only members will be able to join in any voting at the AGM.
We now have a record number of members and there is considerable support for the programme.  As part of the AGM we need to elect a new committee.  Nominations, including self nominations, are invited.

News for October

Chris Smith writes: After the business of the AGM, SHG member Geoff Berriman presented “Torture for Humanists”.

Although Geoff agreed that torture is invariably wrong when it is used because of someone’s beliefs, or to change a person’s belief, he challenged our facile acceptance of the assertion that torture is always wrong.

He proposed that if torture is used to get information from a criminal – and then eases the suffering of a victim (and the victim’s friends and family) – it is justified.  The human rights of the victim are more important than those of the criminal.  Geoff gave provisos such as confidence in the guilt of the (so far un-convicted) villain and the example known as The Frankfurt Kidnapping was described to support this view.  In that case the threat of professionals being brought in to administer extreme pain led the person who had collected the ransom money to reveal where the kidnapped boy was held.  Sadly the boy was already dead, asphyxiated by tape over his mouth and nose.  It is not known whether the death had been intended or was incidental to an intention to keep him quiet.  The family had the small consolation of being able to have a funeral for the boy.  Unlike some of the families of the victims of “Moors Murderer” Ian Brady.

After consideration (and speaking only for myself) I recall that hard cases make bad law, think that arguing back from an outcome which may have been quite different weakens an argument, and that torture is always wrong.

Thanks to Geoff for making us think around this very difficult topic.

Our next meeting is 15 November, 0730 at the Lantern.  Steve Hurd will tell us about developments of the Uganda Humanists Schools Trust.  The committee proposes that we will make a collection for the Trust during the meeting.  I can personally confirm that it is a very appropriate and relevant charity.

That will also be the last date for booking (and menu choices) for the festive meal at lunchtime on Sunday 16 December, Riverside Inn, Cound.

SACRE representative’s report

Chris reported that the relatively new Telford and Wrekin SACRE met in September, previously it was a joint SACRE with Shropshire.  They want Humanism included in the next agreed syllabus; as soon as possible they want some “core Humanist beliefs” for a one page document summarising main religions/belief systems.  SMSC was mentioned as being important, Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural education; this seems to be the fashion rather than straight RE.

In addition the SACRE is developing a Beacon award to schools attaining certain standards for RE. They have included the Humanist logo, along with the usual religious one, on the award. Successful schools would hold the award for two years initially and would include the award on letterheads so it would have wide distribution.  In addition at June’s meeting Linda Senior, of Ludlow and Marches Humanists, attended the SACRE meeting on Chris’s behalf.  They both went to the September meeting and that seems to have been acceptable.  A more active SACRE will need more people to go into schools etc.  This is amazing progress after years of stagnation and frustration!  Both Chris and Linda will go to the BHA SACRE reps meeting in November.

November meeting news

Chris Smith writes:

At the recent AGM Derek Woodvine remained as chairhuman, Helen Taylor is the new treasurer and I became secretary.  Jean Richardson and Sue Falder continue as committee members.

In 2012 we hope to have seven meetings, plus at least one social event.  Meetings will continue to be on the third Thursday, with flexibility for speakers if required, 7:30 pm at The Lantern.

We hope to arrange something social in July and perhaps a meal in December.  January, February and August will not be on the programme.

Derek presented the options for future relationship of the group with the BHA.  We unanimously resolved to go for the Partner option, that is the stronger link, rather than Affiliation.

 For December a meal has been booked at  The Coach and Horses, Swan Hill, Shrewsbury, 7:30 for 8 pm, Thursday 15th December.  Derek will need numbers by the end of this month.  Meanwhile if you have any suggestions for next year’s programme I will be very pleased to receive them.
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