“You can’t be religious and a humanist”: Humanism Explored

It is always a struggle to find R.S related trips and speakers, that would engage a group of teenagers but also be relevant to the spec. When I attended the NATRE 20:20RE conference in Cheshire this October (I highly recommend!!) I went along to a session run by Luke Donnellan who was representing the Humanist Society. As I sat and listened to the array of views, reminiscent of Bertrand Russell, 2017-05-23-LW-v1-Humanists-UK-staticDawkins and Freud, I started to think about the topic of Secularisation in the second year DCT. After speaking with Luke at the end of the session, he pointed me in the direction of the main Humanist website (Humanists UK) and the possibility of arranging a speaker to run a session with my students for FREE. This was sounding better and better…not only would a humanist perspective link to the spec, it would also provide my students with a wider knowledge of different perspectives and challenge their understandings… all for free!

After contacting the head office via the contact details provided on the website, my request was answered within a day with the possibility of a speaker who could travel to Scarborough (we are a bit out on a limb here!) This possibility paid off and within three weeks of attending the 20:20 conference, my students had their questions ready and their notebooks at hand for our Humanist speaker. It really was as easy as that to arrange.

The session was split into two main sections: ‘What is Humanism?’ with Q/A and ‘Does God hate women?’ – a personal interest of our speaker, who knew we were studying gender, feminism and the role of women in the church as well.

Highlights (don’t forget these are the views of our speaker and how he interprets humanism into his life and practices):

  • We can live good lives without supernatural beliefs or beings (no rule book – no list of things you should and shouldn’t be doing).
  • Behaving well to other people is just a common sense way of organising human society (some of the Ten Commandments are just common sense -don’t need a god to tell you them).
  • It is just rational to treat others as you want to be treated (The Golden Rule). Humans have evolved as a social and co-operative species.
  • Humans must take personal responsibility over their own lives and actions and not expect help from the supernatural.
  • We only have one life so we should concentrate on making it a good one.
  • Think carefully and critically about everything you see or hear.
  • Decide for yourself what is best and true based on evidence.
  • Question everything.

Top Quotes:

  • “It is a belief system – not a religion”.
  • Life after death is a “unique selling point for religions”.
  • Religion is a “controlling mechanism”.
  • “No purpose in life, create your own meaning in life by how you live it”.
  • “Shouldn’t inscribe a religion onto a child, leave it until they are old enough to decide for themselves”.

Food for Thought:

  • Even religious people are atheists to some degree. Christians won’t believe in the Hindu God’s and vice verse.
  • Religion should be a matter for individuals and not the state.

One of my students wrote a number of considerations after the session, adding a critical stance on a lot of the areas discussed. One question that struck me was “Why call yourselves humanists?” her train of thought being that “all your beliefs can be found with any friendly atheist, why create a special group for yourselves?”

Thank you to our speaker and to the organisation for your efficient and helpful responses that enabled this to happen. I look forward to future sessions 🙂

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