What attracts people to become members of humanist organisations? I have interviewed 80 humanists and atheists in Scotland, England, France, Estonia, Canada and the United States. Not all I interviewed were members of humanist organisations; some were members of atheist and secularist organisations only, not an organisation with ‘humanist’ in the title, and a small number (four) were past members of humanist organisations. Even then, a proportion of those people still responded positively to the term ‘humanist’.
Glasgow Humanist Studies Hub
Research Seminars 2014-15
These research seminars bring together prominent academics in a variety of disciplines and stakeholders from the humanist, secularist, church and religious studies sectors, and from central and local government, public agencies and others. They focus on practical, conceptual, legal or theoretical issues facing the development of modern societies in regard to the changing nature of life stances, religion and secular society. The Seminars are open to all free of charge.
Various legal definitions of belief have emerged recently from parliaments and at least one law court in the UK. Each causes problems, especially for many of those with no religious belief. These definitions have been undertaken in good faith (a surprise use of the term, perhaps). The wish is to extend and better protect the legal rights and openings of those who hold religious and non-religious positions. This is completely commendable as an aim. But, problems may lurk beneath.
David Cameron seems to be taking a bit of a surge towards Christianity. Several years ago, he reported his Christian faith as being a “bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes”. In his recent article in the Anglican-aligned Church Times, he still says: “I am a member of the Church of England, and, I suspect, a rather classic one: not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith.” But he is talking up the role of Christianity in the nation, in its moral position and in the country’s social policy.
In Britain there must be in the order of 30,000 people belonging to humanist and secular ethical organisations. In Scotland, it is in the region of 8,000 people. What do they want from the organisations they join?
In late September 2013, I was in Estonia, widely referred to on the web as the ‘most godless’ nation in the world. This is based on a 2005 Eurobarometer poll Social values, Science and Technology Report (June 2005) which recorded the Baltic state as having the lowest level of belief in the existence of God in all the 32 European nations polled. Only 16 per cent agreed with the statement “I believe there is a God”, with the Czech Republic next at 19 per cent, Sweden on 23 per cent, Denmark on 31 and Netherlands on 34 per cent; the UK stood on 38 per cent, and Germany on 48 per cent; holding up the European average at the other end were Malta on 95 per cent and Cyprus on 90 per cent agreeing with the statement.