BHA Darwin Day Lecture online: Jerry Coyne, Evolution and atheism: best friends forever?

Other BHA events are on YouTube. Watch out for future events that will be uploaded.

Iranian blogger: ‘Why I Love Being an Atheist Even Though I Live in Iran’

Here in England, we tend to take religious freedom for granted. But it was not always so. Up to the 18th century, it could be very dangerous to be an atheist, and at the very least there were serious restrictions on non-members of the established church. Even up to the 19th century, you had to be an Anglican to go to university or (apart from Jews or Quakers) to get married.

We may forget that for many people their religion still requires that others should not be allowed to practise their own beliefs freely, and given a chance, they would force that on the rest of us.

In some parts of the world, not believing still can mean death at the hands of the state or of mobs. This is why we can be impressed at the courage of Iranian blogger Kaveh Mousavi (a pseudonym) who would certainly be murdered if he were known. He writes:

So this is what good atheism has done for me: atheism has enabled me to wage a war to liberate those “the few cubic centimeters inside my skull”. It is ultimately a war destined to be lost – I will never not be the child of my time and my place, and I will never be entirely free in my thought. But it is a worthy war to wage nevertheless, for every battle won is a great victory in itself.

Because of atheism I can support democracy, oppose theocracy, support the equal rights for women and LGBT+ people without having to hold sacred a book which embodies the opposite of all these values and I do not have to resolve the mental dissonance of such an intellectual contradiction.

Because of atheism I can easily accept science and not be forced to choose between my dogma and the facts on issues such as evolution or circumcision or masturbation or abortion.

Because of atheism I can laugh at Mohammad and all else that is sacred, and save my outrage for the real injustices in the world, instead of getting angry at harmless satire targeting warlords of the past.

Because of atheism I can indulge in my harmless desires and to consider the naked human body beautiful, not something to be covered in shame.

Because of atheism I can think about the great questions without a God vetoing certain areas and certain concepts. I am not aware of all my unconscious biases and failings of critical thinking, but at least religious ones are not among them.

Atheism is freedom. Atheism does not equal critical thinking, or tolerance, or a truly liberated mind. But atheism is an opportunity, an option, a potential blank slate. To me atheism means that on this Saganian speck of dust we inhabit I find my own destination and I walk my own road and all my accomplishments and all my failures are ultimately my own, no idol is my god and no lord is my shepherd.

And this is something I relish, something that makes all those traumas and abuses worth it.

Read his article in full here.

His blog is here.

Ludlow and Marches Humanists: ‘Happily Godless’ on 18 November

downloadTony Akkermans talks on his recently published book describing his religious upbringing in the Netherlands and his subsequent path to Humanism.

Tony explores such issues as god belief, the afterlife, prayer, population growth, women’s rights, multiculturalism, faith schools, the paranormal and much more.

Tuesday 18 November, 7.30pm, at The Friends Meeting House, St Mary’s Lane, Ludlow SY8 1DZ

 All welcome

For more information email: rocheforts@tiscali.co.uk

Media coverage of BHA’s letter in response to the Prime Minister

The British Humanist Association organised an open letter which was published in the Telegraph on Easter Monday, challenging recent statements by the Prime Minister which referred to Britain as a ‘Christian country’. The letter’s lead signatory was BHA’s President, the physicist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili, and it was co-signed by almost sixty other public figures – including Nobel Laureates, peers, philosophers, campaigners, authors, broadcasters, and academics.

The story was then picked up by hundreds of media outlets both in the UK and around the world. Several of the signatories appeared on TV news programmes, and BHA’s Chief Executive, Andrew Copson, spoke on different local radio stations including Radio Shropshire. A selection of TV and radio clips can be found here.

David Cameron fosters division by calling Britain a ‘Christian country’

Letter from some public figures in the Daily Telegraph on SundayMonday, 210 April:

SIR – We respect the Prime Minister’s right to his religious beliefs and the fact that they necessarily affect his own life as a politician. However, we object to his characterisation of Britain as a “Christian country” and the negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders.

Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an established Church, Britain is not a “Christian country”. Repeated surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities.

At a social level, Britain has been shaped for the better by many pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces. We are a plural society with citizens with a range of perspectives, and we are a largely non-religious society.

Constantly to claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society. Although it is right to recognise the contribution made by many Christians to social action, it is wrong to try to exceptionalise their contribution when it is equalled by British people of different beliefs. This needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates that are by and large absent from the lives of most British people, who do not want religions or religious identities to be actively prioritised by their elected government.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili
Philip Pullman
Tim Minchin
Dr Simon Singh
Ken Follett
Dr Adam Rutherford
Sir John Sulston
Sir David Smith
Professor Jonathan Glover
Professor Anthony Grayling
Nick Ross
Virginia Ironside
Professor Steven Rose
Natalie Haynes
Peter Tatchell
Professor Raymond Tallis
Dr Iolo ap Gwynn
Stephen Volk
Professor Steve Jones
Sir Terry Pratchett
Dr Evan Harris
Dr Richard Bartle
Sian Berry
C J De Mooi
Professor John A Lee
Professor Richard Norman
Zoe Margolis
Joan Smith
Michael Gore
Derek McAuley
Lorraine Barratt
Dr Susan Blackmore
Dr Harry Stopes-Roe
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Adele Anderson
Dr Helena Cronin
Professor Alice Roberts
Professor Chris French
Sir Tom Blundell
Maureen Duffy
Baroness Whitaker
Lord Avebury
Richard Herring
Martin Rowson
Tony Hawks
Peter Cave
Diane Munday
Professor Norman MacLean
Professor Sir Harold Kroto
Sir Richard Dalton
Sir David Blatherwick
Michael Rubenstein
Polly Toynbee
Lord O’Neill
Dan Snow

The Telegraph has published an article on this:

David Cameron is sowing sectarianism and division by insisting that Britain is still a “Christian country” an alliance of writers, scientists, philophers and politicians has claimed.

In a letter to The Telegraph, 55 public figures from a range of political backgrounds accuse him of fostering “alienation” and actively harming society by repeatedly emphasising Christianity.

The group, which includes writers such as Philip Pullman and Sir Terry Pratchett, Nobel Prize winning scientists, prominent broadcasters and even some comedians argue that members of the elected Government have no right to “actively prioritise” religion or any particular faith.

Read more…

Meeting report: Stewart Lever on Finding a New Dream.

2011022Maghull(2)On 17 April, Stewart took us along with him through the journey he made after his wife Anne’s death in 2001, after 32 years together. Performing his own music he kept us captivated, and alternating between tears and laughter.

He described the almost indescribable pain, but showed us how it is possible to be happy again, although the loved one never leaves us totally.

Two years after his loss he became a bereavement counsellor and is currently chair of Warrington Bereavement Support. He explained the recovery process in terms of J. W. Worden’s Tasks of Mourning: accepting the reality of the loss, working through the pain of grief, adjusting to the environment in which the deceased is missing, and emotionally relocating the deceased and moving on with life while not forgetting the loved one.

Along the way we even all sang along to his song ‘Finicky Frogs’!

Those who had been bereaved must have been helped by his honest approach and positive message, and we thank him for this. You can visit Stewart’s site at www.stewartlever.co.uk

15 May meeting: James Wakefield on ethics without a god

AIbEiAIAAABECPq_87rl2uPT5wEiC3ZjYXJkX3Bob3RvKig3NmEyYWMyMDc1MjM5MDZhMjljMjlmODlkMWQ0MDRlZGUyMzlhMzBmMAGAKlqoK5HDwgafmPmrh-abjBpEbwOur May meeting will be on Thursday 15 May at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG. All are welcome. Please see the Meetings and Events page for more details about our programme and attending.

Dr James Wakefield will talk about Ethics from the Inside Out: Moral Philosophy since the Death of God.

“How can there be any moral authority in the absence of a divine legislator? If there are no moral rules “written on the sky,” as it were, is morality just a matter of opinion? Of course, I think — and this is probably in line with the Humanist view — that we can still make morally authoritative claims, but the source of this authority is within humanity, not some external, mysterious legislator.”

James Wakefield recently completed a PhD at Cardiff University. His thesis examined the moral theory of the Sicilian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, and is due to be published in 2015 by Imprint Academic. Dr Wakefield is now an Honorary Research Fellow at that same university, and is working with Prof. Bruce Haddock on another book about moral and political philosophy.

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