Humanists send Shropshire schools free copies of “What is Humanism?” book by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young

bookcoverFrom 21 February, schools in Shropshire will be receiving free copies of What is Humanism?, a new book about Humanism from Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young, after a national crowdfunding campaign by the British Humanist Association.

Humanists are non-religious people who look to science and reason to understand the natural world and who make moral decisions based on empathy and concern for other human beings, rather than instructions found in holy texts.

The new book is the first book of its kind aimed at children, and was published to support teachers who want to explore non-religious ethics and humanist worldviews in Religious Education lessons. It features contributions from popular faces like comedian Shappi Khorsandi, physicist Jim Al-Khalili, actor Stephen Fry, and novelists Philip Pullman and Natalie Haynes, who are all humanists.

This is the first time the BHA has distributed a book to primary schools, and for many schools, it will be the first book about non-religious worldviews in their libraries.

Simon Nightingale is an accredited humanist school speaker with the British Humanist Association (BHA) who has in the past given talks about Humanism at a number of Shropshire schools including Meole Brace School in Shrewsbury, Burton Borough School in Newport and Telford Priory School. He says:

“Recent surveys have shown that over half the UK population live without religion and among young people it’s almost 70%. Of those that live without religion, almost all hold basic humanist beliefs, even if they are don’t call themselves humanists.

It’s so important that those who live without faith understand where those with faith are coming from. And of course that those with faith understand the basis of humanism. I am particularly keen to address some of the myths about humanists, for example that we are anti-religious; not at all, we are non-religious which is very different and indeed we support the rights of those with faith to live as they wish and we collaborate with other religions and interfaith groups to promote values we share with most moderate religions. Or that living without religion means we have no morals; on the contrary we have strong ethical beliefs based on our innate moral instincts, refined by evidence, reason and understanding each other. Or that humanists are devoid of any spiritual sense and that our lives are without meaning – that too is far from true.

Learning about Humanism helps children, whether they’re religious or not religious, to have a good think about where they get their values from and how they go about making ethical choices. A lot of teachers find Humanism to be a really useful perspective to explore in the classroom because it helps pupils to get to grips with big ethical questions and the wide variety of different religious and non-religious worldviews.”

Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young commented:

“Millions of people in this country and all over the world work out their philosophy of life, and how to live, without referring to religion. Schools quite rightly spend a good deal of time and effort exploring the ideas and philosophies of the world’s great religions, but the ideas of humanism, secularism, and atheism are largely ignored. The mismatch between what is believed and what is taught is surely wrong. Our book aims at opening up a discussion about what humanism is, and how people live their lives as humanists. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to ask questions, in order to help them think for themselves and thus to counter prejudice.”

Simon Nightingale and other humanists were trained as a school speaker by BHA, which also provides teachers with free education resources through its website, Understanding Humanism. Teachers can also use the site to request a free visit from a humanist school speaker.

Everyday humanism: How should we live?

One reason people leave religions behind is to escape the rules they impose on daily life. But does humanism have its own codes?

How should a humanist live? Wary of religious dogma, humanists are often reluctant to talk about how one “ought” to live. Secularism, a reaction to the political dominance of this dogma, is focused on what the state shouldn’t do, on what people should be free to decide for themselves. This is surely good. Yet while it should be no business of the state, the question remains: how should a humanist live?

This is the challenge set to 12 humanist writers whose essays fill Everyday Humanism, a book that aims to go beyond the discussions of Meaning, the State and the Good (what the editors call “macro-ethics”) to more regular, down-to-earth and, well, everyday issues faced by humanists. The book’s contributors hail from a variety of backgrounds, from professors to chaplains to campaigners, and between them they try to paint a picture of how the everyday humanist should live.

Read the article here.

Book review: Edward Falzon’s ‘Being Gay is Disgusting, or God Likes the Smell of Burning Fat’

Helen Taylor writes:

I have just finished reading this book with great glee.

Recently I spent a fair amount of time ploughing my way through the first five books of the Bible. This was not an enjoyable task, particularly in light of the many times it was necessary to stop and pick up my jaw from the ground.

Edward Falzon has now paraphrased these five books for us in modern idiom, and it is almost impossible to put down.

He has replaced archaic language with more modern forms. For instance, ‘abomination’ becomes ‘disgusting’ (hence the title) and a ‘beautiful woman’ becomes a ‘hottie’. Despite this, the stories and the gist remain the same, merely being exposed as farcical and hilarious, as well as gory and immensely cruel.

I especially loved Falzon’s plans which he has drawn to illustrate biblical instructions for various constructions, and the perfection of the footnotes on nearly every page.

The real joy lies in the fact that (apart from the footnotes) this book is not offering opinion or argument. It is just telling the Bible like it is. This book could be presented to any believer (many of whom have not read any other version in its entirety) and no objection at all could be made to the content. Cross-references are given to more traditional versions of the Bible in case anyone cannot believe what they are reading. The tone, however, with Falzon’s clever asides will I am sure raise temperatures and tempers significantly.

Having laughed my way through this book, Falzon’s afterword comes like a bucket of cold water, when he reminds us that these five books shape the faith and lives of so many people today.

How wonderful if all followers of Christianity and Judaism were to read Falzon’s book, or even a more conventional translation, and to discover exactly what it is they believe.

 

%d bloggers like this: