(This first part is based closely on a
short article written in Humanity (Humanist News) in July 1998)
To put it in a nutshell - religion is
divisive, self-promoting at the expense of people's needs, and a
hindrance to social progress.
The church uses community
facilities for it's own advantage. It exploits to the full its
historical privileges with regard to subsidies, meeting places and
paid activists in every area, to dominate community activities,
social clubs, fairs, and fetes, ceremonies, national and local,
public and private. This is divisive and exclusive. The Anglican
church in particular claims ownership of many such events, even
when they have no religious connotation or predate
At a national level it seeks to
impose its views and practices on everyone, through the law of the
land: abortion, contraception, divorce, marriage and the
family, religion in schools etc. The church promotes its
demands at the expense of all else by threatening and blackmailing
politicians who disagree with their doctrinal beliefs.
In numerous conflict situations
religious activity if not the cause, is instrumental in preventing
the protagonists from resolving their problems. The inflexibility
of religions prevents negotiated political settlements of
It promotes fatalism and thereby an
acceptance of the status quo, it is and has been in the
past, a useful tool for social control
Religion provides a basis or excuse
for sexism, racism and anti-gay attitudes. Its adherents use the
bible to reinforce narrow-minded attitudes and bigotry. And the
relics of intellectual elitism stem from the control of education
by the church.
It promotes and exploits
feeling feelings of guilt and shame in individuals. Many attitudes
of prudery towards the human body and mental illness have
their roots in the distorted thinking of religions and their
It demeans and seeks to subvert
other cultures, sending missionaries to convert them, often using
medical or educational skills as bait. Now they often hide behind
the title 'aid worker' thus putting secular aid workers at risk.
It promotes care and provision by
'charity' over provision 'as of right' in a way that is
condescending and keeps those in need dependent on their
It claims 'morality' as its own,
preventing at every turn attempts to develop and incisive secular
morality relevant to our present day needs. Tying morality to the
myths of religion is dangerous.
Religious Education is dishonest.
In only painting religions as 'good' it takes advantage of young
minds and prevents an honest assessment of superstition and
religion. By not allowing the many bad effects of religion (past
and present) it contravenes all the right of children to unbiased
teaching, fair and impartial in its presentation of knowledge. In
no other subject is belief or opinion taught as fact.
In advocating blind faith it
stifles 'the critical faculty'. Based on myths and legends, it
keeps its followers with a combination of social and family
dependence, promises of an afterlife and promotes dependence and
exclusivity using conditioning and reinforcement techniques (as
used in hypnosis), which is why attendance and ritual are so
important in keeping adherents. Religion is not a benign force for
good in our society. It is divisive and responsible for
reinforcing many punitive attitudes, hindering our progress to a
more rational, freer and happier future.
Since that time some of the problems
have worsened with the problems of racism in Northern English
towns and hostility, exploited by the BNP, to Muslim
immigrants and the threat of the rise of Islam.
There have also been exposed serious
problems of paedophile priests in the Catholic church, the cruelty of
church run institutions for unmarried mothers and children in care.
That church's pressure to prevent UN health and population programmes
based on their opposition to contraception and especially condom use,
which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths from starvation and
In addition we have an increasingly
violent international situation, and the rise of terrorism. This
is driven by increasingly urgent demands for control of energy
supplies, gas and oil, but also between the evangelical right
and Zionist lobby in America and the fanatical Muslim countries of the
Middle East and Africa.
Biased Religious 'Education' in state schools ....AoW (Act of
Worship) ...Faith schools, selection, school run, Muslim girls, Hijab
etc.....Rights of children, ghettoisation , teachers, parents
All the issues on www.c.s.e.freeuk.com
Evolution vs Creationism
This is an issue that has raised its ugly head both in the UK and
the US where Christians and others are attempting to substitute their
religious myths of creation for the scientific view of evolution. With
the current laws allowing ideologues to set up their own schools by
raising only 10% of the cost, (the rest paid by us all) wealthy
evangelicals can set up schools in order to promote their
superstitious beliefs, by indoctrinating children who are sent there,
often with little choice.
Our Royal family are the apex of our political structure,
supposedly by 'divine right'.
Our national anthem exhorts 'god' to save the queen, and why
not, they are mutually supportive institutions!
CofE is The Established Church, Bishops in our legislature, House
of Lords, as of right.
Oath taking in courts can disadvantage those who chose to
Demands by the Vatican and other churches for them to be give
'special consultation status' which they would no doubt use to
influence social policy in EC countries. Secularism is essential,
if Europe is to avoid further problems with competition between
Christians, Jews and from the increasing numbers of Muslims in Europe.
This will be of particular importance if and when Turkey comes into
Britain also has its share of the increasing problems caused by
competing religions around the world.
Prayers before Parliamentary sittings. Council Meetings, and
Local authority 'chaplains' and the rest of the paraphernalia of state
religion, bring their competing beliefs into local
democracy, infringing the right of 'Freedom from Religion' for those
of us who do not want it to impose itself upon us.
Civic occasions and national celebrations or local events are
marked with religious services thus excluding the non-religious
'Faith Based Welfare' is proposed, and charity Law favouring
religion are sanctioned by law.
Political solutions not charity is the only real way to address
poverty and disadvantage,
Convalescent homes and respite care facilities are regularly
provided by the religions, not the local or regional health or social
Defend SECULAR, ACCOUNTABLE PUBLIC SERVICES
Starvation and HIV/AIDS because of anti-contraception & condom
The maintenance of pro-choice policy on abortion:
availability of all forms of contraception: use of public money to pay
religious chaplains: anti-science, pro-superstitious
attitudes that lead to reliance on/and some inappropriate use of some
Attitudes of guilt, and shame attached to the body, physical
and mental illness as a punishment for sin, the result of 'sins
of the fathers' or evil spirits are at the base of fear and rejection
of people suffering these disabilities, even the Anglican church still
endorses exorcism! and the Catholic Church is still promoting belief
Prisons - attempts are made in many areas, to
organise recruiting programmes thinly disguised as prison welfare,
these are based on giving prisoners who take part privileges over
those who do not. An imposition that even convicted criminals do not
Human sexuality and the law
Equal rights of consent, acceptance of homosexuality and the
right to recognition of their lifestyles for both men and women.
Religious promotion of homophobia.
Sexism and the attitudes as to the place of women in society, and
stereotyping of women as 'temptress or whore, madonna or handmaiden',
still hamper the efforts of women in their fight for equality and this
is even worse for secularist women, who have to contend with sexism
from the secular and some parts of the secularist areas of society.
Pulpit pressure and Mosque manipulation
The religions are not above blackmailing politicians if they
dare to oppose religious policies on a number of issues, regardless of
the parties overall political position and policies. They threaten to
tell their 'flock' who to vote for or not to vote for.
MPs with large numbers of Muslims or other religions, will not
speak out against issues that offend their doctrines for fear of
The BBC is required by its charter to deal impartially with all
groups and organisation under the law, so how does it get away with
promoting religion and censoring the views of atheists, humanists and
secularists? It carries extensive religious programming especially on
Radio 4 including daily services, prayers and much religious material
integrated into other programmes, and especially news and current
affairs. It funds an entire Religious Affairs Department (renamed
religion and ethics to make it appear less one sided, but an
examination of its remit and activities would be hard put to it to
pick out much atheist or secular humanist programmes, let alone any
programming dedicated to our ideology and concerns.
There is still significant suppression of atheist/secularist
opinion in most sections of the press, and there is currently no
publishing house in the UK committed to humanist/secularist opinion
Looking at the political and social scene in the
British Isles and the escalating conflict between the West between
Christianity and Islam, and the Middle East , and it is easy
to think that we are not making any progress.
Due to these highly publicised issues, there is more and
more discussion about religion and while most of the discussion is being
centred around the world political situation, it is reflecting too on
the atheist and secularist arguments that are possible for the first
time, with the advent of the Internet.
However, there has been some progress not on the major
constitutional issue of Bishops in the House of Lords, nor has the BBC
responded even slightly, other than by a nominal and completely
ineffective addition of the word 'ethics' to the Religious Affairs
But attitudes are changing significantly in a
few less high profile areas.
Although on education, the core issues RE and
worship in state schools, and faith schools things have not only not
improve but are worse. The BHA has pressed its way into some
discussion forums and has people on local curriculum councils, in
which they are heavily outweighed by increased numbers of different
faith representatives. This could be useful, but only if our case is
made assertively by people who are fully convinced of the arguments.
So far, due to the prompt and strong response from
European secularists including the British NSS, the EU
has so far resisted RC (Vatican and newly joined RC countries)
to exert pressure for 'special status'. Perhaps because Europe is
more aware of the terrible history of 'Our Christian Heritage'.
On ceremonies, it is now widely accepted that
weddings, baby namings and especially funerals do not automatically
imply a religious ceremony or service. The BHA pioneered this
service that successfully broke the monopoly of the church in this
area as it did in the past, on adoption services. (Regrettably
it may have had a bit of a downside as the BHA recruited many
people who think that having experienced a good humanist
ceremony, is all there is to humanism - unaware of the
ideology and purpose of a secular humanist organisation as a
Attitudes to homosexuality are also changing
for the better, despite the consistent pressure for discrimination
e.g. the retention of 'clause 28' that seeks to prevent
teachers validating gay lifestyles for lesbians and gay men where
this is part of the curriculum and presumably pastoral care!
Humanist Women were brought together from all parts
of the world at a very successful conference in London
organised by IHEU . As a network, which was it's declared intention,
it failed IMO because it was not followed up by IHEU or even linked
on their web-site. Ostensibly because they only have absolutely
minimal and totally inadequate organisation to address the problems
of superstition and sectarianism on an international level.
Such progress as has been made, has been promoted by the
day to day work of our tiny organisations. Their lobbying
activities have probably had as effect as is possible without much
greater recognition of the need to publicise, not only the organisations
themselves, but the atheist rationale for secular humanism, the
understanding of secularism and secular humanism, and especially
in actively countering the constant promotion of religious claims.