What's so bad about religion?

and what are the issues in the UK?

What progress has been made?

(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 Christianity.

  • 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 political problems.

  • 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 clerics.

  • 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 beneficence.

  • 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 HIV/AIDS.

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.



What are the issues in the UK?


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 and society.

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 affirm

European Union

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 the EU.

Britain also has its share of the increasing problems caused by competing religions around the world.

Civic ceremony

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 e.g. Remembrance 

Welfare provision

'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 services.


Health Issues

Starvation and HIV/AIDS because of anti-contraception & condom use.

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 'alternative' therapies.

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 in 'Satan'

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 deserve! 

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.

Gender Issues

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 electoral pressure.


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.

Print Media

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 Department.

  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 pressure group) 

  • 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.