I came across this passage today from my interview with one of my humanist, atheist and agnostic oral-history respondents, Julia Stuart from Dundee:
“What I wonder about now is how children, really me, how can you believe this indoctrination god thing, and yet at the same time, one of uncles was a great Marvel Comics fan, and I loved all that. The Superman, the heroes, loved it all. But how do we decide that the god thing is ‘real’, but we know that Superman ain’t? So I wondered how you decided that as a child – why you kept on believing in the dogma but you knew that Superman was play?”
I found this very striking – on two levels.
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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.
Nothing exercises the ire of British humanists and atheists more than religionists’ monopoly of the “Thought for the Day” slot on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme. Less than 4 minutes’ long, I have found on visiting Humanist groups around the UK that this irritates British secularists in the same way as Americans get hot under the collar about God on the dollar bill. So, complaints ensued when, on Boxing Day (26th December), a guest editor on the programme was prevented from allowing an atheist to broadcast in that slot (though a Unitarian was recruited instead, and the atheist spoke an hour earlier). But developing a Humanist strategy to deal with this longstanding ban requires some understanding of how the BBC bureaucracy has worked since it was founded in the 1920s.
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.
Khushi Ram was born in an isolated village in the Punjab in India in 1921. He emigrated to Canada in 1986. Callum Brown interviewed him in his home in Vancouver in October 2009.
My name is Khushi Ram, and I was born in India, Punjab. Social stratification is all over the world, but the peculiarity about the social stratification in India is that it is hereditary, it goes from birth to birth. My family belongs to the lowest strata of society in India. So much so that some people called us outcastes, not within the caste system. We were very poor, my father was a landless agricultural labourer with even no house of his own. The landlord will give him certain land and he will build a hut and we will live there. Somehow I shone in my class and some teachers almost fell in love with me, they tried to support me, up and up. I was working with my father on the farmer’s land but somebody, that seven kilometres school headmaster sent one of his teachers to me, because I was well known in my area by that time as a brilliant student. I broke all their previous record at the entrance into university, we call it high school final. I got very good marks.