Friday, 31 December 2010

First Meeting and Programme for 2011

A full programme of topics for the new year has now been put together, as shown in the right-hand column, and you can download a printable PDF version from the Hastings Humanists page of my website (which also has a copy of our Constitution).

The first meeting of the New Year will be 6:30-8:30 pm on Thursday 13 January at the Arts Forum. The subject will be all the numerous different organisations that exist to promote the interests of Humanists, Freethinkers, Rationalists, Secularists, Atheists, Brights, Ethicists, Sceptics and others of similar views. How did all these groups arise? Do they all serve a useful purpose? Are they rivals or do they amount to a coordinated movement? These are some of the questions we can discuss.

As an experiment I intend to illustrate the talk by means of images shown on a television screen instead of by using a projector.

You don't have to be a humanist or a member to attend the meeting. The entry fee is £2.50 for non-members, £1.50 for members of Hastings Humanists. If you are willing to subscribe to our aims, to become a member for the year costs only £5, which besides the reduced entry fee, gives you election rights at the AGM.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Provisional Programme for 2011

The questionnaire on possible Sunday meetings has met with an indecisive response, and the alternative venues considered have not proved entirely suitable, so I have concluded that we should remain at the Arts Forum, and continue to meet on the second Thursday in the month from 6:30 to 8:30 pm as at present. I also think we should make that the venue for all our meetings throughout the year, so that we can publicise this in advance.

I have put together a provisional programme for the whole of 2011, as shown in the right-hand column. This is liable to change before the start of the New Year, but I hope we can then stick to it, again for publicity purposes. Offers of alternative subjects, speakers or presenters will be welcome.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Sunday Meetings at a New Venue?

A questionnaire has been sent out to those supporters who have attended at least two meetings over the past year (23 in all) to ask if a switch to Sunday meetings would be acceptable or present problems, and if acceptable whether an afternoon or evening meeting would be preferred. The proposed new venue is the Reading Room at 12 Claremont, next to the Public Library (though a firm booking has not yet been made).

I'm also mulling over plans for a wider "Ideas Forum" which would promote meetings of a "Science Cafe" or "Skeptics in the Pub" or "Literary and Philosophical Society" type which could be held at the same venue. This would be of a completely open nature, not attempting to promote "Humanism" as a formulaic world-view but simply providing a forum for rational debate.

It may be noticed that the line about being "Affiliated to the BHA" has been removed from our blog heading. This is because it may not strictly be correct. We do not yet pay a fee to the BHA, although a number of our supporters are direct members, and we are listed on their website as a local Group.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Religious Limericks

The HumanistLife site reports that the BBC in the person of Edward Stourton on the Radio 4 Sunday programme has strangely asked for listeners to send in Limericks on Religious themes. I've contributed three, which are included in the comments on the HumanistLife article, though I doubt if they are actually what he is looking for.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Local Publicity

A notice about our next meeting on 9th December has appeared in the "Hastings Observer" though whether many will have bought the paper yesterday may be doubtful in view of the snowy conditions; though today it has thawed fortunately. The headings is "Humanist group to discuss meaning of religion" (top of page24).

The editor has also included a note to say that we are "on the look out for a new permanent venue, suitable for both discussion meetings and lectures" and has given my email address for people to make any offers. It occurred to me that this might be a better way of finding a place, if there is one, than walking all round the streets, especially in this cold weather. We shall see if there is any reply.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Humanist Groups and the BHA

The British Humanist Association is starting a consultation with its local groups concerning whether the relations it has with them should be more formalised. Andrew Copson says in his introduction to a document called "Working Better Together" that the BHA Board of Trustees has produced "updated aims for the BHA that cannot be pursued without a local element". However, having read the strategy and aims, I can't really see anything that changes the situation much.

The main motivation for considering changes appears to lie in "Additional Factors". These are: (a) The coalition government's "localising" policies, that may require more local campaigning, e.g. against faith schools (fortunately not so far a problem in the Hastings area). (b) Growth in BHA membership, resulting for example from the Atheist Bus campaign, and lack of involvement of these members in local groups. (c) Competition from "other players in the field" such as Skeptics in the Pub and Brights Meet-ups, and perhaps the formation of some NSS local groups (though mention of the NSS is studiously avoided in the document).

In my experience the Skeptics and Brights or the NSS are not competition; their active players are also often members of Humanist groups. They just have a different emphasis on particular aspects of Humanism. Personally I would not want to become merely a sort of "Branch Manager" for the BHA, even if it was a salaried position. In fact I would like to be allowed to organise Sceptics in the Pub or Science Cafe style meetings as part of our Humanist activities; thus promoting critical thinking and scientific knowledge, both of which are positive aspects of Humanism, rather than being confined to countering religious bigotry.

A way that the BHA might promote Humanism locally could be by sponsoring local meeting places. One way this might be done would be by a national agreement between the BHA and the Quakers or the Unitarians for example, or even perhaps with Colleges or Libraries, to make rooms available at reasonable prices, with facilities for seating, screen projection and refreshments. The existence of such meeting rooms could well stimulate the opening of new local groups.