Saturday, 26 December 2009

Humanist Life

Time to come out from my seasonal hibernation to see if it is safe for Humanists to venture out without fear of being bombarded by carol-singing proselytisers of the Jesus Nativity cult.

There is a new website apparently launched by the BHA but in some way independent of them. It is called trendily HumanistLife without a break between the words. Unfortunately the first three articles are all dictated by the religious agenda, since they are about Humanists' attitudes to Christ-mas.

The statement in the top right corner reads: "Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We take responsibility and inspiration not from the supernatural and divine, but from what is real and from each other." But why is it necessary to mention "the supernatural and divine" at all, as if they have any real existence? We don't think much of astrology or magic or postmodernism either, so why mention them!

In the left=hand column I noticed that Stephen Law is writing a book on History of Humanism. A work of this nature is needed, as existing works that I have seen are poor. I hope it will be comprehensive and cover such related developments as Freethought, Secularism, Positivism and so on. I've posted a comment to that effect.

This could develop into a good resource for Humanists. It is asking for people to submit content, but I couldn't see any indication about who is editing the content. Presumably BHA staff who may already be overloaded.

Friday, 18 December 2009

In the Local Press

Today's Hastings Observer contains a belated report of our 12 November meeting, with of course the notice of our 10 December meeting removed. It appears in the "News from around the clubs" section on page 18.

Typically it is sandwiched between a large quarter page advert for another "Evening of Clairvoyance" with Stephen Holbrook. (Why is this superstitious nonsense so popular in Hastings? It now seems to be a regular monthly event.) And on the next page a nearly half-page article featuring a large photo of Kevin Carlyon, the local White Witch, who is supposedly placing a curse on the proposed Link Road with Bexhill. (Doesn't this lay him open to being sued by any drivers who have an accident on it? Probably not, since there is usually a get-out clause for religion in the law somewhere.)

There is a more interesting article on page 16 accompanied by the familiar portrait of Thomas Paine. This is about a document found in a shop on the America Ground (the Robertson Street area of Hastings). It is an agreement between Pain (as he then spelt his name) and his former wife Elizabeth, in which he transfers their shared property in Lewes to her before he emigrated to America. For what he got up to when he reached America this page of links to his Selected Writings makes a good read.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Sussex Online TV

The Hastings Observer, last Friday, carried a full page advert for a new Local TV for Sussex,, which is produced by a consortium of local newspapers. I've looked at it a couple of times since then, and the newscast has been the same throughout the week, beginning with Dame Vera Lynn in Eastbourne and including a typical local press Christmas story of the "miracle" of a baby Llama born in Ashdown Forest Llama Park.

There is also of course BBC local radio and regional TV news. This has recently been split into separate Sussex and Surrey sections instead of Southern Counties.

There is also a local venture Hastings Online Times which I encountered on facebook, but this is not yet very active. I sent them a notice about Hastings Humanists, but nothing appeared as far as I could see. If anyone knows about other local media outlets that are worth noting, or on which we might get some publicity, please let us know.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Bishop of Lewes a Creationist?

The Suffragan Bishop of Lewes Wallace Benn appointed in 1997 has written a blurb in support of a book by the InterVarsity Press with the title Should Christians Embrace Evolution? in which he says: "This is a most helpful compilation, which is designed to make one think very seriously about the whole issue of evolution and the Bible. To those who love the Scriptures, and seek to be faithful to them, this will prove enormously helpful."

Of course it's possible that he didn't actually read the book, but just looked at the title page, since his comment is very generalised. However, the internal contents, compiled and edited by Norman C. Nevin, are from well known young-earth creationists, biblical fundamentalists and anti-science polemicists.

Professor Andy McIntosh for example is closely associated with the organisation calling itself "Truth in Science", which has just circulated a book to many school and college libraries with the title Explore Evolution. There is further critical and background commentary available from the BCSE.

Friday, 11 December 2009

December Meeting Report

Our End of Year Quiz attracted, besides the quizmaster, five members, including one newcomer. We only got through 35 out of the possible 50 questions in the time available. First prize went to Lesley and second to Rose. A third was not awarded in view of the low attendance.

One of the rounds was on quotes from Lewis Carroll, in which I included the question: "In the story told by the Dormouse at the Mad Tea Party, where did Elsie, Lacie and Tillie live?" The answer being in a Treacle Well. Since Lewis Carroll is known to have visited Hastings I wondered if he got the idea from the Dripping Well after which the Pub where we met is named.

There was time for some discussion, which our new supporter, Steve, began with some ideas about the coming "singularity" that some computer buffs predict; or are we heading for annihilation, or just financial meltdown? There was also some musing on purpose in life. Our January meeting, which will probably be at the same venue, will allow more time for discussion of such questions. But more of that nearer the time.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Minaret Building is a Human Right?

Thursday 10th December is International Human Rights Day. Tim Miller of the Hastings Interfaith Forum has sent me an email with a link to this article from the German organisation FOREF. The writer, Peter Zoehrer, argues that the Swiss referendum which placed a ban on the building of any more Minarets is a violation of article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Nothing I can see there about any right to religious erections! However, as I understand Islam one of its precepts is that once in that religion you do not have the right to change your belief, on pain of death. This is known as apostasy. This is surely a greater violation of article 18. Also there is the fact that some Muslim countries do not permit the building of Christian churches at all, so the Swiss ban is piffling in contrast.

Here is a related article from The Freethinker. The video by Dr Zakir Naik explains why, Christianity just doesn't add up!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Andrew Copson is new BHA CEO

Congratulations and a big welcome to Andrew Copson who has been appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the British Humanist Association in succession to Hanne Stinson. He takes up the position in January. I'm sure he has the goodwill of all members in view of the excellent job he has done in the role of Education and Public Affairs coordinator, since joining the BHA Staff in 2005. He is a very articulate speaker and also cheerful with it, and I'm sure also a competent organiser, although to an old fogey like me he still looks far too young! Let's hope the strain of keeping all us headstrong cats in order will not age him prematurely, and that this appointment will mark a new stage in the public awareness of Humanism.