Category Archives: Humanist

Humanism included in online RE resources

The Guardian has a revieew of ICT resouces to support religious education classes.

It refers to REonline, “perhaps the best UK’s subject-centred site…run by the Christian foundation, Culham Institute”

“We’ve analysed the national framework and identified the key concepts,” says Tony Parfitt, who runs the site. “The framework now mentions 10 major faiths rather six, including Bahai, Humanism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. We have 10 people from the faith traditions writing about them, and we give links to websites and supplementary reading. That’ll all be free with REonline.”

The inclusion of Humanism is welcomed especially in light of  calls from Ofsted for religious education to include non-religious beliefs. Although in reality it is pretty uneven and not particularly favourable, with humanism lumped in with ethical egoismfor example (but not say rights or utilitarianism) in one section. At least it’s a start though and hopefully more, better resources will grow in time. (I am involved in developing some myself so watch this space!)


Humanists raise money for poor effected by Californian fires

Hemant Mehta,the Friendly Atheist reports the Center for Inquiry—Los Angeles is launching an effort through the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (SHARE) to raise charitable funds to assist low income and displaced families who have been affected by the recent fires sweeping Southern California.

SHARE is a charity, maintained by the Council for Secular Humanism for over two decades to channel aid to victims of natural disasters, forwards funds received to organisations providing direct relief to the victims.

Service for victims of road traffic accidents

An interesting little story from Northampton. A remembrance service dedicated to people killed in road traffic collisions is being held on Sunday, November 18 as part of a worldwide memorial day organised by road accident victims’ charity RoadPeace.

What’s interesting is that this public memorial service will be a humanist one when traditionally you would expect it to be a Christian event. Someone out there is obviously alive to the fact that only humanist services can offer the inclusivity needed in a society of diverse religions and beliefs.

World Food Day

John Boyd OrrToday is World Food Day which commemorates the anniversary of the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on 16 October 1945.

The first Director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (and the World Health Organisation) was John Boyd Orr (1880-1971) later Lord Boyd Orr. He was an adviser to the British Humanist Association, and put his humanist ideals into practice. As a scientist and a humanist, believed that we should use our knowledge to ensure that everyone in the world had enough to eat. The titles of his books, Food and the People , Health and Income , and Famine and Feast, showed the main concerns of his life. His efforts to eradicate hunger in the world won him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, and he was made a Companion of Honour by The Queen.

Black History month – Confucious

ConfuciousConfucius, the Chinese philosopher who lived 500 BCE, was a great moral teacher who tried to replace old religious observances with moral values as the basis for social and political order. When he was asked if he could sum up “the true way” in a single word, he replied, “‘Reciprocity’ is such a word.” Confucius was not technically a humanist, but like humanists today he did not see “the true way” as following religious codes, but as based on reason and humanity, stressing the importance of benevolence, respect for others, and looking pragmatically at individual situations rather than blindly following traditional rules. Confucianism had many interpreters and followers – it was the state religion of China until the upheavals of the twentieth century.

Taken from British Humanist Association website

Black History month – Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame NkrumahKwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972), one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the 20th century, served as the founder, and first President of Ghana.

Nkrumah graduated from the Achimota School in Accra in 1930,  later studying at the Roman Catholic Seminary and teaching at the Catholic school in Axim. In 1935 he left Ghana for the United States, receiving a BA from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1939, where he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology. He also earned a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942 and a Master of Arts in philosophy the following year.

During his time in the United States, Nkrumah visited and preached in black Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York City. He read books about politics and divinity. He encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey. He also tutored other students in philosophy. He also met the Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James in 1943, and later described how it was from James, then a Trotskyist, that he learnt ‘how an underground movement worked’.

He arrived in London in May 1945 intending to study at the LSE. However, after meeting with George Padmore he helped to organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England.

He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People’s party (CPP).

After his ‘positive action’ campaign created disturbances in 1950, Nkrumah was jailed, but when the CPP swept the 1951 elections, he was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence as Ghana in 1957. A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. As head of government, he was less successful however, and as time passed he was accused of forming a dictatorship. In 1964 he formed a one-party state, with himself as president for life, and was accused of actively promoting a cult of his own personality. Overthrown by the military in 1966, with the help of western backing, he spent his last years in exile, dying in Bucharest, Romania, on April 27, 1972. His legacy and dream of a “United States of African” still remains a goal among many.

Nkrumah was the motivating force behind the movement for independence of Ghana, then British West Africa, and its first president when it became independent in 1957. His numerous writings address Africa’s political destiny.

Nkrumah’s later humanism is apparant in these quotes:. “The African personality is itself defined by a cluster of humanist principles which underlie the traditional African society.” (Consciencism, 79)

“Fear created the gods, and fear preserves them, fear in bygone ages of wars, pestilence, earthquakes and nature gone berserk, fear of acts of God. Fear today of the equally blind forces of backwardness and rapacious capital . (14)

Read more about a Communitarian Ethos, Equality and Human Rights in Africa on the International Humanist and Ethical Union Website

Black History Month

Black History Month has been celebrated across the UK every October for over 30 yearsand serves as a time to highlight and celebrate the achievements of Black communities. Although I am not Black I will be using this opportunity to highlight Black and other humanists with a non-European heritage.

Secular humanism today is very much rooted in Christian European culture and the most famous humanists today and in history – Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Grayling, Russell, Bradlaugh and Holyoake – are White, male and – with the exception of Harris- fairly old.

But humanist experiences are more diverse than this as we shall explore this month. Let us begin with the picture of religion and belief in the UK. The 2001 Census revealed that 15 per cent of the British population reported having no religion (although subsequent diffenetly worded surveys have revealed the proportion to be much higher). Just over half of all Chinese people (53 per cent), and just under one quarter of people from Mixed ethnic backgrounds (23 per cent), stated they had no religion. Asian, Black African and White Irish people were least likely to have no religious affiliation. Around 1 in 200 Pakistanis and Bangladeshis reported having no religion.

But as we shall see, in the UK and abroad there are plenty of notable Black, Indian, Chinese and other non-European people who are part of the story of humanism..

Religious Composition of Ethnic Groups in the UK April 2001