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.


  1. Personally, I'd be thrilled if any sort of humanist/sceptic/rationalist/secular group existed closer to where I live (Hailsham). I have thought about trying to start a group here but only know one other humanist locally. There seem to be a lot of groups in Brighton and West Sussex but I wasn't aware of any in East Sussex until discovering your blog, a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, I am not available this Wed evening but I will try to get along to some meetings next year.

  2. It's Thursday evening. I hope I'm looking at the right calendar! We do get occasional members from Eastbourne, but public transport, even from Bexhill, is poor in East Sussex. A case could be made for expanding our activities to include Eastbourne where there must be some demand for a humanist group. We could call ourselves the Joint East Sussex Unbelievers Society - but then perhaps not!

  3. Oops, sorry about that. I've no idea why I wrote Wed, as I know I meant Thurs. One of those senior moments, I'm afraid!