Previous Events

  • East London Humanist members with stall at Redbridge Green Fair July 2012
  • East London Humanists at Redbridge Green Fair 2014
  • East London Humanists on March for a Secular Europe 2013
  • Speakers at March for a Secular Europe 2013
  • March for a Secular Europe 2012
  • Alom Shaha author Young Atheists Handbook speaking to East London Humanists June '13
  • Alom Shaha with Chair of East London Humanists at group meeting June '13
  • The beginning of the 'bacteria trail' on The Ancestors Trail, Lee Valley August 2014
  • The bacteria trail meets the human trail - The Ancestors Trail, August 2014
  • Walking towards the dawn of life on earth - 'The Ancestors Trail' August 2014
  • Arriving at the dawn of life - 'The Ancestors Trail' August 2014
  • 'The Ancestors Trail.' Lee Valley/Epping Forest August 2014
  • Climate Change demonstration 21.9.14
  • Climate Change Demonstrators Central London 21.9.14
  • Humanists support Climate Change Demonstration 21.9.14
  • Climate Change rally outside Parliament 21.9.14
  • E London Humanists support day of action for Raif Badawi. Whitehall 17.6.15 (Peter Tatchell & Caroline Lucas)
  • Day of Action for Raif Badawi. 17.6.15
  • East London Humanists visit Museum of Immigraton & Diversity. Spitalfields Summer 2016
  • Leytonstone Car Free Day 13.9.15
  • Wanstead Festival 18.9.16
  • Wanstead Festival 18.9.16

 

Below is a summary of some of the meetings/events the East London Humanist Groups has hosted/participate in.  Further details can also be viewed on our Meetup site.

SOCIAL EVENTS.

Our group has an important social element.  From time to time we have purely social evenings. These sometimes take place at the George Pub in Wanstead (pictured). They are an opportunity for new and old members to meet and chat in a convivial atmosphere.  It is a great chance to socialise and to talk to like-minded people, to find out more about our group and what we do,  to discuss what we might do in the future,  and perhaps to carry on the lively debate from previous meetings.Fancyapint.com pub picture

We invariably begin and end our meetings with a chance to socialise, and invariably go to the nearest bar following each meeting.

The George is opposite Wanstead Underground Station (Central Line).  Nearby bus stops include 308;145;W12;W13;W14;66;101. There is also easy parking.

Revisiting the abortion argument.
Mon 25 Sept 2017.   Wanstead Library

Discussion led by June Mitchell, a group committee member.

It is fifty years since the Abortion Act 1967 transformed the landscape on a woman’s right to choose. Generations have grown up who may not have a full understanding of how things were before this reform and all the arguments which persuaded Parliament to vote for change.

The election of Trump has breathed new life into the conservative religious right who seek to reverse the advances. There is also concern about the rise of those with similar views in this country.

The meeting revisited the issues through a Humanist perspective and considered how we should respond.

WANSTEAD FESTIVAL
SUNDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2017. 11.00 – 18.00
CHRISTCHURCH GREEN, WANSTEAD

A successful day and something to interest everyone at this fun annual community event.

 AGM; Discussion of current topics.
Monday 24 July 2017. Wanstead Library

AGM followed by discussion on some current hot topics from a Humanist perspective, including:

  • The Tory pact with the DUP, a fundamentalist ultra-conservative religious party. Mrs May paid £1Billion to keep them on board. What price may she be prepared to pay in terms of policies?
  • The Government proposal announced September 2016 to remove the present cap requiring faith schools to limit the intake of their faith to just 50%. This opens up the prospect of, for example, all Catholic, all Jewish and all Muslim schools.   Plans to remove the cap are well advanced and can be implemented without any parliamentary debate or vote.
  • The tragic case of Charlie Gard and how the religious right have jumped on the bandwagon to promote their own anti-science ‘pro-life’ message.

AGM

The Chair presented a review of the preceding year. There had been a wide range of activities in addition to the monthly meetings. Activities included various social events, giving talks to schools, colleges, teachers and youth groups, participating in ‘faith’ forums and armistice day commemorations and other events.

The year had also seen a steady growth in support and influence measured by attendance at meetings, website hits, membership on Meetup, and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

A financial report was presented which showed that the group continues to break even. The outgoings, which are principally for hall hire and the cost of social media, were matched by donations. There was no other source of income.

It was noted that there is no room for complacency and that the challenges faced by Humanists, with our ethical, non-religious, rational and compassionate outlook, remain truly daunting. Eight members were elected unopposed to the Group’s committee.

‘SUNDAY ASSEMBLIES’
Talk and discussion about new secular communities
Mon 26 June 2017.

Sam Weatherald spoke about the history and purpose of secular Sunday Assemblies and about the East London Assembly which he helps organise. The first such assembly was held just four years ago in Islington. There are now 70 Assemblies in eight different countries. They welcome everyone, regardless of religious belief or non-belief.

The phenomenon has attracted much media coverage and raises broad questions about our need for community and what sort of community we are seeking.

Sam described the particular success and format of the East London Assembly, which typically attracts over 100 people to each event. It also has a number of smaller interest groups. Sam’s position as organiser is funded by the local HARCA (Housing and Regeneration Community Association). This prompts the question of how other such secular community groups might thrive given a decent level of public funding.

The downside of the arrangement is that it is felt necessary to steer clear of ‘controversial’ subjects and debate. The group is firmly secular, and does attract people from different faith communities as well as those with no religious belief. It is apparently considered inappropriate to publicise Humanist events on the basis that the same opportunity would have to be given to the different faith groups to advertise their events. Sam did not disagree when it was suggested the group is akin in some ways to the scouts or girl guides but for adults.

Sam explained that there has been a divergence between different Sunday Assemblies. The East London Assembly is one of just two which receive community funding. Other assemblies are far more non-faith/Humanist in character.

WALK AND TALK. RADICAL BLOOMSBURY
MONDAY 12 JUNE.

A guided walk in Bloomsbury, renowned for its concentration of radical, thinkers, authors & artists. People touched upon included Bertrand Russell, Elizabeth Jesser Reid, Margaret Harkness, Emily Wilding Davison (suffragette), Fenner Brockway and John Howard (Howard League for Penal Reform). Many were responsible for establishing institutions, hospitals, meeting & recreational places in the area.

The walk finished at the classic Lamb Pub in Lambs Conduit Street for refreshment.

SHARIA LAW
WANSTEAD LIBRARY*
MONDAY 22 MAY 2017. 

Talk and discussion led by Sadikur Rahman, a lawyer based in East London and a council member of the National Secular Society. You can read some of his thoughts in a recent blog.

 

GEORGE HOLYOAKE BI-CENTENARY TALK WANSTEAD LIBRARY.  Mon 24 April 2017.

George Jacob Holyoake 1817- 1906George Holyoake, born 13 April 1817, coined the terms ‘secularism’ and ‘jingoism’ and was an early pioneer of the secular and freethinking movement. Stefan Dickers, archivist at the Bishopsgate Institute, gave an entertaining talk on the life and times of this remarkable and important figure in the history of freethinking. The Archive holds many of his important papers and artefacts. The Institute is itself a fantastic resource, a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street, and well worth a visit.

EATING MEAT
WANSTEAD LIBRARY
Mon 27 March 2017.

Talk and discussion led by Phil Walder. Phil has been a vegetarian for thirty years and is a long time supporter of animal rights groups.  Phil gave a powerful illustrated talk which persuasively argued the vegetarian case on many grounds, including health, morality, sustainability, cruelty and environmental impact.  The message was thought provoking rather than preachy. Phil concedes the difficulty of leading a life which has no impact on animal welfare. However, a cogent case was made that  even those who find it difficult to completely give up eating meat and fish should at least try to cut down for their own sake, for the sake of the planet and to reduce suffering.

MY APOSTASY STORY
WANSTEAD LIBRARY
MONDAY 27 FEBRUARY

Lola Tinubu, co-founder of the London Black Atheist group, spoke about what she gained and what she gave up when she ‘came out’ as an atheist. Born in Nigeria, she she described the pervasive and deeply conservative religious culture that she was brought up in and the difficult journey and problems encountered freeing herself from religion. She also spoke about the tightening grip of fundamental christianity over large sections of the population and the impact it has had on development in Africa.

AUSTERITY AND EVERYDAY MORALITY. WANSTEAD LIBRARY
MONDAY 23 JANUARY 2017.

Bleak midwinter was as good a time as any to consider a moral question which confronts  us all on a more or less daily basis – our personal response to the ever-growing number of people begging on the street. Do we give money or sustenance? To everyone? How much? Does it bother us if money is spent on drink or drugs – if so, why? Do we give just to ease our conscience when we pass by? Or do we just ignore them.

The meeting was introduced by local group member Adam Pike, volunteer co-ordinator at Eat or Heat, a food bank in Walthamstow. The bank has around 700 volunteers and serves hundreds of ‘clients’, all of whom qualify for help by being referred, for example by the job centre or their GP. Adam described how he had come to appreciate the importance of adhering to policy when providing help, rather than just giving it to all comers. Although it is hard to say no to a random caller, he learned early on that the bank would quickly be depleted if he did give in to the urge to help everyone.

During the discussion there appeared to be general consensus that simply giving money to anyone who asked for it was not particularly helpful and could be counterproductive. It was pointed out that those who received money were vulnerable to being robbed and that exploitation by other members of their community was not uncommon. The safest course was to provide food or drink.

The meeting raised awareness of the growing number of vulnerable people who depend on food banks, even in apparently affluent areas, and how we could all help.

There was some discussion around the part religious groups have traditionally played in these sorts of charitable works and the reasons for this. There appeared to be consensus that this is a good thing, provided the situation is not abused to try to seek converts. It noted that organisations such as the one Adam volunteers for receive assistance from all sections of the community, including the non-religious such as Adam, Christian groups and the Muslim community.

There was a question as to why the aim was to collect food rather than money which could be used to possibly buy a better range of food. It was explained that donors were keen to know that they had made a direct difference rather than vive money might be us.

In conclusion it was agreed to have a food collection at the end of future meetings. There was also an announcement regarding an initiative for the homeless with a meeting in Redbridge on 31 January.

END OF YEAR DINNER
TAYYABS. 89 FIELDGATE STREET, E1 1JU
MONDAY 12 DECEMBER 2016.

A great time was had by all at this award winning East London restaurant which is approx. 5 mins walk from Whitechapel Station. Something of an institution, one of its attractions is that it is BYO! (ie bring your own drink).

TRUMP. A HUMANIST RESPONSE
WANSTEAD LIBRARY.
MONDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2016

Trump’s election campaign embraced  the conservative religious agenda.  Many of the issues he championed are already key areas for campaigning by the British Humanist Association. The meeting explored the impact of a Trump presidency and how we respond as Humanists.

Anti-Trump bumper sticker

Anti-Trump bumper sticker

Group members kicked off the meeting by talking briefly on their areas of interest:

  • Sally – A woman’s right to choose and how Trump’s victory represents a reversal for women
  • Steve – Homophobia and the attack on gay marriage and transgender equality
  • Paul –  Discrimination and a departure from secular principles. Muslims and Mexicans today, atheists and who else tomorrow?
  • Sam – Pseudoscience and the setback for action on climate change.

There was as usual a lively debate and discussion. The consensus was that the election of Trump is likely to herald a huge set back in relation to women’s rights, gay rights, secularism and other issues. Many rights which have taken years to achieve could easily be reversed overnight. There is particular concern regarding the deeply conservative religious nature of Trump’s appointments and that the move towards a more theocratic society which has been seen recently in countries such as Turkey and Bangladesh, which also have ostensibly secular constitutions, could be repeated in the US.

HOW CAN HUMANISTS BE GOOD WITHOUT GOD?
WANSTEAD LIBRARY.
MONDAY 31 OCTOBER 2016

If you don’t believe in god, how do you know what’s right and wrong? Every humanist has been asked this question, and this interactive talk was designed to give confidence answering it.

Alice Fuller and Adam Pike, two East London Young Humanists, led  a thought-provoking exploration of the humanist approach to deciding what are right and wrong actions, and good and bad ways of living. They made  things real by considering some ethical hot potatoes, and examining our own reasons for believing the things we do.me1

Alice is a campaigner and previous trustee of the British Humanist Association. She is currently the co-ordinator of the Young Humanists section of the British Humanist Association. AF photo smAlice thinks that life can, and does, have meaning without god and religion, and that Humanism is more relevant than ever before. Adam is a member of the Young Humanist group and recently joined the East London Humanists committee.

There was plenty of time for questions and for everyone to take part in the discussion.

WANSTEAD FESTIVAL
SUNDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2016
CHRISTCHURCH GREEN, WANSTEAD

East London Humanists ran a very successful stall at this friendly local community festival. It was the first time we have done so and it attracted considerable interest throughout the day.screen-shot-2016-09-04-at-23-59-24

Interactive features of the stall include our ‘Are You a Humanist’ quiz and ‘Guess the Humanist.’ As so often happens, many people engaged with the stall who had only vague concept beforehand of Humanism and left realising that it represent the beliefs they have long held without realising there is an name for it.

BURKAS, BURKINIS AND BANS
WANSTEAD LIBRARY
MONDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 2016

Two local members led a discussion on questions raised by the burkini ban in Europe and the YouGove poll published 1.9.16. According to this two thirds of respondents favour banning the burka and over half support a ban on the burkini. One spoke from a human rights perspective, the other from a feminist perspective.

The meeting provoked a lively debate. The first speaker started with illustrations of the main types of female Islamic dress,  ie the Burka (full face and body), the Niqab (full cover but with slit for eyes) and the Hijab (basically a headscarf). There were also illustrations of the Burkini, a play on words with ‘bikini’, which in fact has little resemblance to a burka. There were also illustrations of other so called modest dress, including the Sheitl (a wig worn by orthodox women Jews), and nuns habits.

Most of the audience shared the same emotional response to the Burka and Niqab as items of clothing which cause upset and discomfort particular to those brought up in ‘western’ culture. Many viewed them as repressive to women. However, the first speaker emphasised that simply because something causes offence isnt a reason to ban it. (To be continued….)

HUMANISTS AND ‘INTERFAITH’ DIALOGUE
WANSTEAD LIBRARY MONDAY 22 AUGUST 2016

Jeremy Rodell, BHA dialogue officer, speaks and lead a discussion on dialogue between Humanists and faith groups. Why do it? Should we do it? What do we hope to achieve? How should we engage?

The issue is one of particular importance against a background of growing tensions, hate crime and hostility against ‘the other’, particularly in the light of the recent Brexit vote.

Jeremy began by describing the current landscape in terms of religion and belief. There has been a huge shift in recent decades. There is now a very wide variety of different versions of Christianity, for example with the growth in ‘charismatic’ believers,  new comers from Eastern Europe and the decline in the Church of England. There is a huge diversity of Muslims from many different parts of the world. There are also the smaller faith groups, such as Jews, Hindus, Buddhists etc. There has also been a steady increase of the non-religious to around 50% or so. Perhaps half of the non-religious could be described as Humanists, with many non-religious having a variety of other beliefs.

The meeting went on to discuss how to tackle the challenge of maintaining social cohesion in such a plural society and the importance of doing so.

TALK BY HUMANIST PEER
WANSTEAD LIBRARY MONDAY 25 JULY 2016

Baroness Thornton, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist group, was the guest speaker at the July meeting of the East London Humanist group. She is a prominent advocate on Humanist issues in the House of Lords and shared her thoughts and experience on some of the challenges presented by the present Government.

Glenys Thornton has a wealth of experience battling for social justice both in and outside Parliament.  She entered the House of Lords in 1998 and since then she has held positions including Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home office), Shadow Spokesperson on Health and Shadow Spokesperson on Equalities and Women’s issues.Glenys photo

One of the ongoing battles in the House of Lords has been against the proposed ban on organisations, such as the British Humanist Association, challenging unlawful school admissions policies. Education minister Nicki Morgan, who was pushing for the ban, claimed such challenges were ‘vexatious.’  In fact 87% of the challenges have been upheld. Violations uncovered by the BHA include faith schools directly discriminating on grounds of race and gender, failing to prioritise children in care, and asking unlawful questions about family background.

A second issue, which again reflects the conservative religious nature of the present Government, is their refusal to permit Humanist marriages in England.  Every recognised religion has the right to conduct a marriage service in this country. This includes, for example, Scientologists, and the Aetharius Society which was founded in the ’50’s on a belief in UFO’s and extra-terrestrial visitors! Yet the Government continues to block attempts to allow Humanist marriages, a right enjoyed in Scotland since 2005. Baroness Thornton raised the issue again in the Lords this May, and was again rebuffed by a Government spokesman

TALK BY HUMANIST ASYLUM SEEKER FOR REFUGEE WEEK. WANSTEAD LIBRARY. 27 JUNE 2016

The speaker was a  Humanist and former head teacher from Balochistan, a province in the south-west of Pakistan. He described his work in Pakistan and the threats he received from the Taliban  which led him to flee for his life. He also provided fascinating insights into the politics of Pakistan today. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.1057

This was one of several events being held in Redbridge to mark Refugee Week.

LB Redbridge supported the meeting by providing the room free of charge. Proceeds of the leaving collection, which would normally go to defray the costs of the room, were therefore earmarked for donation to one or more refugee charities recommended by Redbridge council.

LANDMARK COMMUNITY COHESION EVENT
WALTHAMSTOW TOWN HALL FRIDAY 20 MAY

East London Humanists took centre stage in a historic ‘multi-faith’ event in the lovely art deco council chamber of Walthamstow Town Hall.

The event, hosted by Councillor Kastriot Berberi, included contributions from several local Humanists, Waltham Forest Councillors, a Christian Pastor, and a local Imam. For full report see the ‘past events’ section of this site.

imagesChair of East London Humanists, Paul Kaufman, welcomed the recent election of a Muslim Mayor of London. He described this is a sign of progress which transcends party politics. It demonstrates the importance of every section of community, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or belief, having the opportunity to participate in public life on an equal footing. This includes Humanists, that is the ethical non-religious. Although many Humanists don’t identify themselves in this way, they in fact make up the second or third largest belief group in the Borough.

Councillor Louise Mitchell described how her Humanist values informed her work for fairness and justice and to make the Borough a better place for everyone to live. She pointed out that William Morris, one of Walthamstow’s most famous Humanist residents, was also the author of the Borough’s motto ‘Fellowship is Life and the lack of fellowship is death.’  Louise also described the important part she was able to play as a Humanist representative at the Borough’s Armistice Day commemoration.

Alice Fuller, a Walthamstow resident, a former Trustee of the British Humanist Association, and currently the co-ordinator of the BHA Young Humanists, described her work to promote greater understanding of Humanism. She explained how she had been brought up in a family with Humanist values, although neither she, her parents or grandparents, had realised this at the time.

Ruth Kaufman, the Humanist representative on the Waltham Forest SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education) explained the importance of teaching about Humanism in schools and the value this has in promoting harmonious relations between different faiths and beliefs. She pointed out that  this may be the first opportunity some youngsters have had to discover the core human values which the non-religious share with the religious.

The Imam, Mehmed Stubblla, described Islam as a religion of peace. He spoke powerfully about the right to believe or not to believe and the importance of our common values, no matter where we get these from.

The event was a great success, with much opportunity both before and after the presentations for getting to know each other and exchanging thoughts and ideas on building community bridges.

THE MUSEUM OF IMMIGRATION AND DIVERSITY
EXCLUSIVE EAST LONDON HUMANIST GUIDED TOUR
MONDAY 18 APRIL 2016

Opportunity for guided tour of 19 Princelet Street arranged exclusively for East Princelet StreetLondon Humanists. A fascinating building and a unique cultural institution. ‘One of the capital’s finest buildings’ – The Observer. ‘A remarkable and moving exhibition’ – Evening Standard.

Picture shows some of our group in the synagogue built in what had been the back garden of 19 Princelet Street. In earlier years the house had been occupied by Huguenots. The house and the area reflect the different waves of immigrants over the centuries which contribute to the make up of London today.

THATS HUMANISM! MONDAY 21ST MARCH 2016.
YE OLDE ROSE AND CROWN, WALTHAMSTOW

Discussion based around a showing of Stephen Fry’s stimulating and witty short videos ‘What makes something right or wrong’ and  ‘How do we know what is true?”index

An informal get together and a chance to meet and exchange ideas with our diverse group of local Humanists and free thinkers. Ye Olde Rose and Crown  is a convivial community and theatre pub.

END ALL BLAPHEMY LAWS!
MONDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2016.
WANSTEAD LIBRARY

Talk and discussion led by Bob Churchill (IHEU).

Bob Churchill gave a world tour of the use of so-called ‘blasphemy’, from cheeky adverts to the most necessary criticisms of religious beliefs, practices and institutions. He discussed how ‘blasphemy’ laws violate freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, how they are linked to the persecution and murder of religious minorities and the non-religious, and  how humanists and others are working to abolish ‘blasphemy’ laws and uphold human rights.

bob-speaking-philippinesThe talk included a grim account of the dreadful systematic murder of Humanists in Bangladesh, a number of whom Bob has known directly and indirectly. The talk was given further poignancy by a contribution to the discussion from a local supporter, a former headteacher in  western Pakistan now seeking asylum in the UK. He  gave a first hand account of how he and his partner had to flee as a result of the threats to their lives.  He made the important point that much  persecution goes unreported because it takes place in remote areas where  brutal retribution against non-conformists is exacted by zealots in the community.

The meeting  noted the failure of the current Tory Government to act on flagrant abuses of human rights in cases where there has been alleged ‘blasphemy,’ for example in the case of Raif Badawi.

Bob also described the attempts there have been to ‘rebrand’ blasphemy as ‘defamation of religion’ with a view to making laws of this nature, for which there can be no justification, appear to be somehow acceptable.

Bob is Director of Communications for the International Humanist and Ethical Union, having previously worked at both the British Humanist Association and the Uganda Humanist Association. He has appeared as a spokesperson on the likes of BBC News, Channel 4 News and Al Jazeera and as a speaker at World Humanist Congress, Skepticon, GeekFest London, the Institute of Fundraising Technology, and the European Humanist Youth Days.

BURNS NIGHT AND A CELEBRATION OF HUMANIST POETRY
MONDAY 25 JANUARY. WANSTEAD LIBRARY

An evening of readings and discussion led by the dulcet tones our very own Scottish bard, Stephen Harvie.  Other contributions included readings from among others, Shelley and from poet, playwright and distinguished supporter of the BHA, Maureen Duffy, who originates from Stratford.

Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that,
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind,
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY!
THE GEORGE PUB, WANSTEAD.
MONDAY 14 DECEMBER.

East London Humanists  annual end of year get-together  upstairs at the George in Wanstead.

EDUCATION. ISSUES AND CAMPAIGNING UPDATE
Monday 9 November 2015
Stratford Circus,  Stratford.

Meeting led by Jay Harmer, Faith Schools and Education Campaigner at the British Humanist Association. Jay is also on the steering groups of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education and the Fair Admissions Campaign and is a representative of the BHA at the Religious Education Council for England and Wales.

Jay spoke about issues including Faith Schools and discrimination in admission and employment, religious education, collective worship, and evolution v creationism in schools.
BHA_Portrait_04-15_hi_0311-e1430842152245-300x400

One of the main talking points was the landmark case brought by the BHA and which was being heard in the High Court that week. We were delighted to discover just a few weeks later on 28 November that the Government suffered a massive defeat. In his ruling Mr Justice Warby strongly supported the BHA argument that the Government had been wrong to exclude Humanism from the GCSE Religious Education Syllabus.

The judgement has implications which go much further than requiring the contents of the GCSE syllabus to be reviewed.  It is hoped that the ruling lays the ground for local groups such as East London Humanists playing a bigger part in speaking to schools and other similar organisations.

HUMANISM – WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Monday 26 October 2015,
Wanstead Library.

AF photo smIntroduction to Humanism led by Alice Fuller.

What is humanism?  What do humanists really believe? What is the philosophy behind it? How do non-religious people solve moral dilemmas?

An interactive talk aimed at answering all of these questions and more. An introduction for anyone wanting to know what this non-religious lifestance is all about led by Alice, a campaigner, previous trustee of the British Humanist Association and humanist living in Walthamstow. Alice thinks that life can, and does, have meaning without god and religion, and that humanism is more relevant than ever before.

WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER
Jim Al-Khalili in conversation with Ziauddin Sardar: Humanist and Muslim perspectives on the modern world

Organised by the British Humanist Association, the Muslim Institute, and Conway Hall. A special dialogue event featuring BHA President Jim Al-Khalili and Muslim Institute chair Ziauddin Sardar in conversation.

Back to the Enlightenment?

In Jim Al-Khalili’s final public appearance in his term as President of the British Humanist Association, engaged in conversation with Ziauddin Sardar, Chair of the Muslim Institute.

A unique event which brought together two important figures with humanist and Islamic perspectives on the modern world, with plenty of time for questions and for informal dialogue.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili is President of the British Humanist Association. He’s an Iraqi-born theoretical physicist, author, and broadcaster. His book, Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science, visited a time when the Arab world was at the centre of the Enlightenment and the driving force of gobal scientific inquiry. This was also the theme of his sellout 2014 British Humanist Association Voltaire Lecture.

Professor Ziauddin Sardar is Chair of the Muslim Institute. He’s an internationally renowned author, broadcaster and cultural critic.

The event was chaired by Innes Bowen, author of Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam.

THE REFUGEE CRISIS – A HUMANIST PERSPECTIVE
GROUP DISCUSSION MONDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2015
YE OLDE ROSE AND CROWN PUB, WALTHAMSTOW.

There was a lively and challenging group discussion on this topical issue.

By way of introduction the question was asked whether there is a specifically Humanist perspective? Of course human empathy is central to Humanist values. No decent person could be unmoved by the plight of those fleeing war and extraordinary hardship. But what of our evidence based, rational approach? Hard questions include why give priority to the fit and better off who have made it to Europe, rather than those still languishing in camps, sometimes for years as a result of previous conflicts? The UN estimate for example that there are still over 4 million Palestinian refugees who have been displaced since 1948. Should we distinguish so-called economic migrants who are fleeing desperate poverty? And why the sudden surge in compassion? Shouldn’t we always have been offering to share what we have with those in desperate need?

A wide range of opinions were expressed. There was underlying compassion from all present and a general concern that more should be done particularly to ease those in immediate danger. At the same time many spoke of the immensity of the challenge. There was also recognition of the limits on our compassion and ‘compassion fatigue.’ One contributor suggested that human ability to apparently disregard the suffering of others, or compartmentalisation, may have evolved as a coping mechanism  to deal with the overwhelming feeling of helplessness in the face of so much suffering.

[Ye Olde Rose and Crown is a convivial community and theatre pub. It serves a great range of real ales and pizzas are available from the mobile kitchen on the pub frontage.  It is approximately five minutes walk from Walthamstow Central (Victoria Line) and Overground and Walthamstow Bus Garage. There is some street parking nearby but watch out for restrictions! The meeting is in The Red Room at the far end of the ground floor].

LEYTONSTONE BIG WEEKENDER
CAR FREE DAY SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER.
EAST LONDON HUMANIST STALL

The Leytonstone Big Weekender featured a wealth of food and drink, arts, culture and live entertainment.  For the first time our group had a stall at the annual car free day on the Sunday.Leytonstone Car Free Day 13.9.15 (6)Entertainment included top ska band The Selecter, DJ Kevin Morrish, Rags Rudi, Fruitful Earth, President Lincoln, Madness Tribute band, ‘One Step Behind’ and more.

Our interactive stall attracted great interest from the diverse crowd. Attractions included an ‘Are you a Humanist?’ quiz and a ‘Can you identify the Humanist’ exhibition.

THE ANCESTORS TRAIL
SATURDAY 15 AUGUST 2015

Instead of our usual monthly meeting, our group participated in The Ancestors Trail.

This annual event, organised by the Central London Humanists, combines walking, evolution and art. Several hundred people from London and beyond took part.

Based on Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The Ancestor’s Tale,’ the Trail guides its walkers along a time line from the present day back 3.8 billion years to the origins of life, with each step representing a million years or so.

The event celebrates our place within the biodiversity machine we call evolution. The Trail is made up of several walks of varying lengths, located in Epping Forrest. The day ended with an evening of eating and entertainment in Cheshunt.

MEET, WALK, TALK,THINK,DRINK,EAT!!!
SHORT TOUR OF RADICAL EAST LONDON
MONDAY 20 JULY

A gentle stroll starting at Mile End Tube and taking in a number of sites associated with the rich history of freethinking and progressive politics in East London. Individuals featured will include Annie Besant, Sylvia Pankhurst and Minnie Lansbury.

* Annie Besant (1847-1933). Prominent speaker for National Secular Society; prosecuted 1877 for publishing a book on birth control; leading light in London matchgirls strike 1888; campaigner for self-rule for India & Ireland.

* Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 – 1960). Leading suffragette and campaigner for women’s rights; lifelong campaigner for peace and against fascism and colonialism.

* Minnie Lansbury (1889 – 1922) Leading suffragette. One of five women councillors on Poplar council jailed for six weeks in 1921 for refusing to levy full rates in this poverty stricken area. She developed pneumonia in prison and died the following year.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT. WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT PLANNING TO SCRAP IT?
WHAT CAN WE DO TO SAVE IT?  WANSTEAD LIBRARY.  22 JUNE 2015

Speaker Hamilton Hay, a leading educator with Amnesty International. Amnesty is actively involved in the campaign against the Government plans.

The proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act were tucked away in a single paragraph at page 60 of the Conservative Party Manifesto. They were barely discussed in the election campaign.   If passed they will transform the landscape for human rights in this country.  Even members of the Conservative Party have grave doubts about the proposals, and the coming months will see the subject hotly debated.
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This was an opportunity to find out more about the importance of the HRA, why the Government finds it such an inconvenient piece of legislation, and what we can do to help save it.

Perhaps not surprisingly Hamilton presented a compelling argument for retaining the Human Rights Act.

EAST LONDON HUMANIST GROUP AGM
MONDAY 22 JUNE 18.45 – 19.15

The East London Humanist group was formed in 2012. This was our third AGM. We are now a well established group with around 300 subscribers on Meetup.  Our Chair presented a round up of the wide range of events and activities which our group participated in during the year. The seven members of our committee were re-elected.

SHOWING SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE KILLED FOR
NOT BELIEVING IN GODS. LECTURE THURSDAY 2 JULY.

On 2 July the British Humanist Association hosted the 2015 Voltaire Lecture. It was given by Bonya Ahmed, the humanist writer, Islamist attack survivor, and widow of murdered blogger Avijit Roy, and was chaired by the BHA President, the broadcaster and physicist Jim Al-Khalili.

This was a very special event in solidarity with all those killed simply for being humanists, and follows the third such death in three months, after Anantas Bijoy Das was killed earlier in May. Just today Bangladesh has announced an official ban on an Islamist group linked with these attacks, but while this news is positive, we know that meaningful action will only come when governments like ours are willing to push Bangladesh to commit to a zero-tolerance approach to religiously inspired violence and reprisals against ‘blasphemers’.

MONDAY 18 MAY 7.00 P.M.
HEROES OF HUMANISM.
AN EXPLORATION OF THE BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE ARCHIVE

A fascinating exploration of the treasures held by the archives of the Bishopsgate Institute, with archivist Stefan Dickers.

The Bishopsgate Institute holds a wealth of books, journals and objects relating to the secular and freethinking movements going back to the early 19th Century.This includes collections relating to two important figures in the movement.

Charles Bradlaugh (1833 – 1891) was a passionate atheist and orator. In the days before TV and radio he spread his ideas by publishing books and pamphlets and speaking at meetings up and down the country. He assisted in founding the National Secular Society in 1866.

In 1880 Bradlaugh was elected MP for Northampton but was unable to take his seat in the Commons due to his refusal to swear the religious oath then required. He was elected three times as MP. His refusal to swear the oath led to his arrest, and eventually to reform of this requirement. The campaign included a petition which gained 241,970 signatures in 1882.

Bradlaugh was also, together with Annie Besant, an early campaigner for artificial contraception. In 1877 they were convicted of ‘obscene libel’ for publishing ‘The fruits of philosophy’, a book advocating birth control. They were both sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. Their plea for contraception to be made available to all classes was vigorously opposed by the churches, a policy only abandoned by the Church of England in 1930 but still maintained by the Catholic church today.

The Bishopsgate holds the most comprehensive collection of artefacts associated with Bradlaugh, from pamphlets and books to photographs and even his spectacles.

George Holyoake (1817 – 1906) campaigned throughout his life for social reform based on an ethical, non-religious platform. In 1842 he was the last person to be convicted of ‘blasphemy in a public lecture.’ He received 6 months imprisonment.

Following his release from prison Holyoake began publishing a weekly journal, ‘The Movement’, later to become ‘The Reasoner,’ which by 1853 was selling 5000 copies per week. The journal supported the ‘moral force’ Chartist movement. It also criticised Christianity and argued for a belief system based on reason and science. Holyoake first coined the word ‘secularism’ to describe this movement, preferring it to the term ‘atheism’ which he believed was too negative as a description. By the mid 1850’s there were 40 secular societies around the country. Holyoake was replaced as head of the movement by Bradlaugh in 1858.

The Bishopsgate Institute has a considerable collection of artefacts associate with Holyoake, including diaries, numerous publications and the original arrest warrant for blasphemy.

There was also an opportunity to see a number of other fascinating aspects of the Institute’s collections, including the archives of the British Humanist Association and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

The Bishopsgate Institute is itself a beautiful building and community asset which should be more widely known. It is free, has great facilities, is open 6 days a week and welcomes all visitors.

MONDAY 27 APRIL 2015. Wanstead Library
POSITIVE HUMANISM AND THE UGANDA HUMANIST SCHOOLS TRUST

Talk led by Steve Hurd, founder of the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust.

The phasing in of universal primary education in Uganda in 1990 led to huge demand for secondary  education which the Government was only partially able to meet. The residual need has been met by private bodies, including religious foundations and evangelicals.  UHST was founded in 2008 to offer students the alternative of a liberal secular/Humanist education.  The charity raises funds and currently supports three Humanist schools in Uganda.

conference-930x480A Humanist since his student days, Steve taught Economics and Geography in a secondary school in Uganda from 1970 to 1972. This started a lifelong interest in development issues. After some years teaching in schools in the UK he taught Economics, including Development Economics, at Staffordshire University and set up an Economics teacher training programme. After joining the Centre for Research in International Teacher Education at the Open University he became co-Director of a British Council funded project in Uganda that created materials to support secondary school teachers in Uganda (www.elateafrica.org). This provided the opportunity to get to know the Humanist schools set up in Uganda after 2005.

Steve spoke about the educational context in Uganda and the progress and challenges facing the schools in their early years. He also discussed a new project to develop an ethos for the schools based upon “Positive Humanism”.

TYOUNG HUMANISTS LAUNCH EVENT
FRIDAY 27 MARCH 2015. LANTANA BAR, 55 CITY ROAD, LONDON, EC1Y 1HQ

The new section of the British Humanist Association (BHA) for 18-35 year olds, Young Humanists, held its official launch event in central London on Friday 27th March

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You can follow the Young Humanists on Facebook (www.facebook.com/YoungHumanists) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/YoungHumanists).

 You can join or donate or register for the free e-bulletin online.

Young Humanists is UK-wide and other events are being planned for later in the year.

EVIDENCE MATTERS!  ACCOUNTABLE ELECTIONS, EFFECTIVE POLITICS.
DISCUSSION LED BY PRATEEK BUCH – ‘SENSE ABOUT SCIENCE.’
MONDAY 23 MARCH, WANSTEAD LIBRARY

Prateek Buch is a policy director of Evidence Matters, a campaign started by the charity Sense About Science as a collaboratve intiative with partner organsations, which builds on their efforts to increase public demand for evidence to be used transparently and effectively throughout publice life.  Prateek spent 11 years as a research scientist at UCL, developing gene and stem cell therapy for disorder that cause blindness, and is an experience Westminster policymaker.

Prateek gave a brief introduction on the work of Sense About Science. The talk then focussed on how asking for evidence can increase public pressure on politicians to use evidence effectively and transparently.  Prateek drew on recent examples, celebrating where it’s done well (MPs changing their mind, policy trials in areas like education); exposing where evidence is abused (drugs policy, welfare and crime); and sharing insights into the complexity and uncertainty at the heart of how evidence should inform policymaking in the public interest.

DEATH AND LIFE: WHAT’S HUMANIST ABOUT HUMANIST FUNERALS?
DISCUSSION LED BY HUMANIST CELEBRANT
MONDAY 23 FEBRUARY, WANSTEAD LIBRARY

Cate Thomas is an East London based celebrant trained and accredited by the British Humanist Association. She conducts non-religious funerals and memorials throughout the London area.

Cate will explain the relationship between the BHA and its celebrants, how and why funerals make people think about the relationship between life and death and what Humanists can bring to that.  There will be plenty of time for questions and answers and for discussion

 

CHARLIE HEBDO AND THE PARIS SHOOTINGS – A DISCUSSION.
PLUS GET TOGETHER AND PLANNING MEETING. 
MONDAY 26 JANUARY, WANSTEAD HOUSE COMMUNITY CENTRE

It had originally been the intention to devote the January monthly meeting to a discussion of our  plans for 2015. This was overtaken by the shocking events in Paris.
The meeting began with a brief summary of  the fascinating Muslim/Humanist dialogue organised by Central London Humanists last November, and of the Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression which came out of the 2014 World Humanist Congress. 

charlie-human1It was pointed out that the impact the  shootings made a big here is due largely to the events being so close to home.   Similar events are sadly not uncommon elsewhere. A number of countries still impose severe punishment for blasphemy, and there were speakers from around the world at the WHC who face the threat of death on a daily basis for expressing their views. A postumous award was given at the Congress to an atheist blogger hacked to death by a mob in Bangladesh

The shootings have had a particular impact on East London. One member from Tower Hamlets described how Adel Defilaux, a young Muslim, displayed a ‘Je suis Charlie’ sign outside his cafe in Brick Lane. He received violent threats from a fanatic, but others in the local community rallied round in his support. Other dangers are illustrated by reports of right wing groups renewing anti-Muslim patrols in the area.

The issues  discussed reflected many of the themes of the World Humanist Congress, particularly as to the limits of free expression.  For example, how should we have reacted when youngsters on an estate in Tower Hamlets flew an ISIS flag? Is it right to make simple membership of a group a crime?  To what extent should we tolerate those who believe in destroying our values?

END OF YEAR SOCIAL MONDAY 8 DECEMBER

Monday 8 December 7.00 pm till late.

The desire to celebrate special times is a universal human characteristic which goes back to time immemorial. It is not coincidental that so many cultures, from Native Americans to Zoroastrians, mark this gloomiest time of year and the turning of the sun with festivities. The Romans had their Saturnalia. We can thank the pagans of northern Europe for the Yule log and Hogmanay. East London Humanists  celebrated with their annual social at The George in Wanstead!

AN EVENING OF HUMANIST AND MUSLIM DIALOGUE IN

CENTRAL LONDON

Tuesday 25 November 2014, at 7:00 PM
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL*

Looking for Common Ground: How can Humanists and Muslims live and work together in 21st Century London?

London is probably the most diverse and vibrant city in the world. One in eight of our fellow Londoners is a Muslim, but how much do we know about London’s Muslim communities? And how much do they know about Humanism? Is there common ground? What diversity exists amongst Muslims in London? What is changing? Can we see beyond our differences? How can we work together?

This evening of discussion was a unique opportunity to address these questions and more. The evening was recorded. You can listen to it here.

Alom Shaha author of The Young Atheists Handbook was in conversation with:

Mamadou Bocoum – Public Relations Officer for the Sharia Council

Sara Khan – Co-Founder and Director of the human rights charity Inspire

Yasmin Rehman – from the Centre for Secular Space and researcher into polygamy and the law

Huda Jawad – Advisor at the Centre for Academic Shi’a Studies and Research Coordinator for Solace Women’s Aid.

Alom Shaha. Teacher, Scientist and author of 'The Young Atheists Handbook.'

Alom Shaha. Teacher, Scientist and author of ‘The Young Atheists Handbook.’

The evening was organised jointly by London Humanist groups in association with Conway Hall Ethical Society and the British Humanist Association as part of Interfaith Week.

In the first half of the evening each speaker was in a one to one conversation with Alom Shaha. The panel then took questions from the audience.

*Directions:  5 mins or so walk from Holborn & Chancery Lane Central Line; Russell Square Piccadilly Line. Buses include: 98 via Oxford Street which terminates in Red Lion Square. 19, 38, 55 and 243 pass Theobalds Rd entrance  to the Hall. Any bus to Holborn, Grays Inn Rd; Southampton Row  come close to the Hall. There is free car parking from 18.30. There are bicycle racks in the square.

HUMANISM AND POLITICS

Monday 10 November – East London Humanists Monthly Meeting
Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, E11 2RQ

A discussion led by group members.

Anyone rejoicing at the departure of Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Education may have been dismayed to see the words of his successor Nicky Morgan – “My mission in Parliament is to remember the Word of God and serve the Lord.” [She demonstrated her ‘mission’ by voting against gay marriage, notwithstanding she is also Minister for Women and Equalities!]

So the subject of our meeting was whether Humanists should also take a stand on political issues, and if so, then how?

Humanists campaign actively on gay rights, on promoting secular education and on end of life issues. Humanists recently joined the Climate Change demonstrations. Should we also have something to say about nuclear weapons, or war, or austerity and the growing gap between rich and poor?

It was noted that the all parliamentary Humanist Group has over 100 members who are drawn from all parties. [Chair: Lord Warner of Brockley (Labour); Vice Chairs: Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead (Crossbencher); Kelvin Hopkins MP(Labour); Lord Taverne of Pimlico (Liberal Democrat); Dr Julian Huppert MP (Liberal Democrat); Lord Garel-Jones (Conservative). Secretary: Baroness Massey of Darwen (Labour) Treasurer: Lord Dubs (Labour)].

The meeting as usual provoked a stimulating discussion. A famous quote from Marx (Karl) was given to kick things off – ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.’  The consensus at the meeting appeared to be that Humanists are, in their own way, all philosophers of a sort, and that most if not all Humanists  do want to make a mark on the world and leave it a better place,  It was argued that a lot of issues, such as gay rights, no longer fall easily into a left/right or party political pigeon hole.  However there was a distinct lack of consensus on the full range of issues Humanists as a group should be involved in.  One obvious conclusion was that this did not of course preclude Humanists from getting involved on an individual basis in political campaigns.

WHAT DO WE WANT FROM OUR SCHOOLS?  A CHARTER FOR SCHOOLS

Tuesday 21 October 2014, at 7:30 PM
Harmony Hall, Truro Road, Walthamstow, E17 7BY

Speakers:  Melissa Benn (education writer and author of School Wars: the battle for Britain’s Education); Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT;  John Cryer, MP for Leyton and Wanstead; Jenny Smith, headteacher of  Frederick Bremer School, currently starring in ‘Educating the East End’.

A meeting organised by Our Community – Our Schools, a group consisting of parents, teachers and local residents who have come together to campaign for progressive education in Waltham Forest.  The group was originally formed to campaign against proposals to set up Free Schools in the Borough.  East London Humanists were not involved in hosting or organising this event.  However our group strongly supports the aims of OCOS and share their concerns in relation to Free Schools and Faith Schools.

The speakers spoke passionately and eloquently in support of the principles set out in the Charter.  The charter and the speeches received enthusiastic support from the audience who packed out the Hall.   However, it was put  to John Cryer and Kevin Courtney on behalf of East London Humanists that, while their broad support for the Charter was welcomed,  the policies of the organisations who they represent concerning faith schools run counter to the inclusionary principles set out in the Charter.  Kevin Courtenay side stepped the question by saying the issue is complicated, while John Cryer avoided answering it altogether.

HUMANISM – WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Monday 6 October 2014, at 7:30 PM
Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, E11 2RQ

AF photo smIntroduction to Humanism led by Alice Fuller.

What is humanism?  What do humanists really believe? What is the philosophy behind it? How do non-religious people solve moral dilemmas?

An interactive talk aimed at answering all of these questions and more. An introduction for anyone wanting to know what this non-religious lifestance is all about led by Alice, a campaigner, previous trustee of the British Humanist Association and humanist living in Walthamstow. Alice thinks that life can, and does, have meaning without god and religion, and that humanism is more relevant than ever before.

MARCH FOR THE PLANET – SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER.

Climate Change rally outside Parliament 21.9.14

Climate Change rally outside Parliament 21.9.14

East London Humanists were among the tens of thousands who  supported the Climate Change March. It was  the biggest event of its kind and one of 900 events which took place around the world  in the lead up to the climate change summit due  in New York.

There are many reasons why it was felt important to part as Humanists.  Just one is taken from the words of Agnes Ojera, an activist in the Uganda Humanist Association. Speaking at the World Humanist Congress in Oxford in August she described her battle to convey the simple message that the only hope of making the world a better place is through our own actions  and that there is no God who will do it for us.  It is interesting to note that the organisers had chosen the Bishop of London to be the first speaker at the rally.

The Ancestors Trail. Weekend 29-31 August

Ancestor Trail Picture
Members of our group were among the many participants in this annual event which combines walking, evolution and art. Based on Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’, the Trail guides its walkers along a time line through deep time from the present day back over 3.8 billion years to the origins of life.

The event took place this year in Epping Forest.

For more details on the walk, and other events associated with the ‘Ancestor’s Trail’ weekend please check out the Ancestor’s Trail Website.

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World Humanist Congress Feedback and Discussion

Monday 18 August 2014, at 7:30 PM
Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, E11 2RQ

Local delegates gave feedback on the hot topics , debates and atmosphere of the World Humanist Congress which took place in Oxford on 8-10 August.

The Congress brought together over 1000 Humanists from over 60 countries. There was a fantastic array of speakers. Many have risked their lives in the struggle against religious repression and for freedom of expression, such as Wole Soyinka and Leo Igwe (Nigeria), Asif Mohiuddin (Bangladesh), Gulalai Ismael (Pakistan),Maryam Namazie (Iran) and our own Peter Tatchell. Other well known speakers include BHA President Jim Al Khalili, broadcasters Joan Bakewell, Nick Ross, Samira Ahmed and Kenan Malik, cartoonist Martin Rowson, Maajid Nawaz (Quilliam Foundation), Prof AC Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Alom Shaha and a host of others.

Topics covered by sessions included how we create a 21st century enlightenment, limits on freedom of expression and whether fundamental Islam presents a threat distinct from those of other fundamentalist beliefs.

TROJAN HORSES OR TROJAN HOAXES?

Monday 14 July 2014, at 7:30 PM
Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, E11 2RQ

Discussion on issues arising from the Birmingham Schools scandal led by Sadikur Rahman, a lawyer living and practising in East London and a member of the Lawyer’s Secular Society.

Sadikur is a local school Governor.  He was brought up in Birmingham and is familiar with  some of the schools which have been hitting the headlines. Sadikur spoke in a personal capacity.

Areas discussed included whether there is an Islamist agenda in some schools; whether the agenda is any different from that  of other religions or of faith schools generally; whether the Government has simply been pandering to UKIP voters; and the nature of so-called conservative Muslim values, and whether these are a threat.

Sadikur pointed out that, although the letter which sparked off the most recent Government intervention has been described as a hoax, it is in fact based on legitimate concerns for which there is evidence. Sadikur also described the shift that there has been towards conservative values in sections of the Muslim community in his lifetime and the reasons for this.

There was a consensus that the sort of problems that have arisen in the Birmingham schools  are almost inevitable given the divisive nature of the faith school system.  The problems are not unique to Islam. There are lessons to be learnt from Northern Ireland where the segregation of children into Protestant and Catholic schools played an important part in the conflict.  It was agreed that the answer is at least in part a completely secular school system where religion plays no part. However there was some disagreement over the extent to which the wearing of religious dress and symbols by schoolchildren should be banned.

Much scorn and criticism was directed at the policies of Michael Gove, including his call for the teaching of what he describes as British Values.  No one had any inkling that within 24 hours of the meeting he would be sacked from his position as Secretary of State for Education. A great tribute to the power and influence of the East London Humanist group!

REDBRIDGE GREEN FAIR

Sunday 25 May 2014
Melbourne Field, Valentines Park, Ilford

A very successful outing for the East London Humanist stall.  Interactive features included the ‘Am I a Humanist?’ quiz and ‘Guess the Humanist.’  Few people, if any, were able to identify Frank Zappa and Brahms for the Humanists that they were!  On a more serious note, it was gratifying to engage with so many people who had no prior appreciation that Humanism is the name for the outlook that best reflects their view of the world.

Why we are Humanists

Monday 28 April 2014, at 7:30 PM
Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, E11 2RQ

An opportunity for everyone attending to share their thoughts and their reasons for describing themselves as Humanists and what led them to this position.   It was fascinating to hear the varied contributions. Some were brought up in religious backgrounds and realised early on that they did not believe in a God.  Others only realised this much later. Others were brought up in non-believing households.  A common thread was the time it took most people to discover that Humanism described their outlook on life.

There was a particularly interesting contribution from two elderly Pakistani men. One described growing up in Pakistan and realising that he did not believe in God. He later emigrated and, on reflection, decided that he was best described as agnostic. He now returns to Pakistan regularly, in order to teach what he describes as ‘critical thinking’ in a school.  He risks his life to do so, but explained at his age he is not too concerned about this.  For many at the meeting this example explained perfectly why, when we have the luxury of being able to openly express our views on religion in this country, it is important to ‘nail our colours to the mast.’

Date : 13 January 2014
Title : World War One Forum
Venue: Wanstead Library

Synopsis :

A forum to consider the Humanist response to the commemoration of World War One. 

A discussion was held amongst East London Humanists, as to whether and how we should be involved in commemorating the first World War.

Click here for a summary of the discussion that ensued.

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Date : 18 November 2013
Title : Spirituality.  What on Earth is it?
Venue: Wanstead Library

Synopsis :

Talk and discussion led by Marilyn Mason, former Education Officer of the British Humanist Association.

‘Spirituality’ hit the headlines on 17 October with publication by Christian think-tank Theos of a survey which claims ‘a third of the non-religious think spiritual forces could influence people’s thoughts or the natural world.’ But what is ‘spirituality?’ 

Click here for a summary of Marilyn’s talk

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Date :14 October 2013
Title : Assisted dying

Synopsis :

We had the benefit of 2 expert speakers, Doctor Phillip Graham Vice-Chair of Compassion in Dying (www.compassionindying.org.uk) and Verena Hewat, Project Director of sister organisation Dignity in Dying (www.dignityindying.org.uk)

Click here for a summary of the meeting

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Date : Monday 16th September 2013
Title : Introduction To Humanism

 

Synopsis :

The meeting was led by David Pollock. David has been active as a Humanist since the 1960’s. He was formerly President of the European Humanist Federation and is currently a Trustee of the British Humanist Association.  David lives in East London and is a supporter of our group.

The following is from David’s summary, ‘Humanism in Short.’

Click here for a summary of ‘Humanism in Short’

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Date : Sunday 7th July 2013
Title : Trip to Down House, Kent

Details of the trip can be found by clicking Record of 7 7 13 Trip to Down House, Kent

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Date : Monday 24th June 2013
Title : Meeting with Alom Shah
Venue : Wanstead Library

Synopsis :

The meeting was an opportunity to listen to and engage with the author of the much acclaimed book ‘The Young Atheists Handbook.’

Alom spoke about his background, about various elements of his book and of his work teaching physics to children.  He responded to questions which were put to him throughout the course of the meeting.

Details of the talk can be found by clicking Record of meeting 24 06 13 with Alom Shah

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Date : Monday 13 May 2013
Title : Population Matters
Venue : Wanstead Library

Synopsis :

Discussion led by Simon Ross, Chief Executive of Population Matters.

 Population Matters is the leading campaigning organisation on population growth.  Its distinguished patrons include Sir David Attenborough.

 The meeting was billed as follows.Populations worldwide are growing, ageing, industrializing, urbanizing and migrating.  These changes have huge consequences for how we live, for other species and for future generations.

 How should governments and individuals respond to these changes?  What is the influence of faith and relevance of ethics to these decisions?’

Details of the talk can be found by clicking Record of meeting 13 5 13 (2)

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Date : Monday 8th April 2013
Title : Equal Marriage
Venue : Wanstead Library

Synopsis :

Discussion led by Adam Knowles, Chair of Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association.

The meeting was billed as addressing the case for Equal Marriage, why it matters, what the obstacles are, how we got to where we are and the humanist approach to this question

Details of the talk can be found by clicking Record of meeting 08 04 13 (2)

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Date : Monday 11th March 2013
Title : Heroes of Humanism
Venue : Bishopsgate Institute

Synopsis :

Talk and introduction to the archives of the Bishopsgate Institute by archivist Stefan Dickers.

Details of the talk can be found by clicking Record of meeting 11.3.13

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.Date : Monday 11th February 2013
Title : Religious Education – A Humanist perspective
Venue : Wanstead Library
Synopsis :

Discussion led byRuth Kaufman, the Humanist representative on the Waltham Forest Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE).

Although it is a compulsory subject in all state schools there is no RE national curriculum.  So who should determine what is taught?  The answer for Local Authority-run schools is their SACRE

The talk shed light on what our children are taught, the role of the SACRE in determining this, and how Humanists are seeking to have the non-religious ethical view reflected.

Among the interesting contributors to the discussion was East London Humanist member Zelda Bailey, the SACRE rep for Tower Hamlets.   Ruth and Zelda’s experience of their respective groups was very different and reflects the very different approach taken in the two Boroughs.

One positive outcome following from the meeting was the agreement of another East London member to accept an invitation to become the SACRE rep for the London Borough of Newham.  Newham is a good example of a Borough with a SACRE which positively welcomes a Humanist perspective.

It is pleasing to record following the meeting that East London Humanists is now liaising with the SACRE reps for most of the East London Boroughs, namely Redbridge, Newham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

A link to details of Ruth’s talk will be put on this site shortly.

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Date : Monday 28th January 2013
Title : Religious Freedom’  v. ‘The Secular State
Venue : Wanstead Library

Synopsis :

This timely meeting was held a few days after theEuropean Courtannounced their judgment in the appeals of Nadia Eweida, Lilian Ladele, Shirley Chaplin and Gary McFarlane.  We were privileged to have as our speaker Corinna Ferguson, a lawyer from Libertyinvolved in the cases.

Broadly speaking Corinna echoed the view of the BHA in welcoming the judgements.Libertyhad intervened on behalf of the only successful applicant, Nadia Eweida.  Ms. Eweida succeeded in her appeal against the refusal of British Airways to allow her to visibly wear a small cross at work.  The view of the BHA andLibertyis that wearing a small cross in the circumstances did not unduly affect the employer or members of the public and it was disproportionate and unreasonable to forbid her from doing so.

In relation to the other appealsLibertyhad taken what is for them the unusual step of supporting the Government.  Ms. Chaplin was a nurse who failed in her appeal to wear a cross at work. Although the facts were almost identical to those of Eweida, there were good health and safety reasons for the refusal in Chaplin’s case

Ladele, a Registrar employed by Islington, was disciplined for refusing to conduct a civil partnership.   McFarlane was sacked for expressing conscientious objection to counselling same sex couples.  In both cases the Court found that the ‘religious rights’ of the applicants did not permit them to discriminate or to trump the rights of others.

The opening by Corinna provoked a lively debate. Particular exception was taken by one contributor to the ban on wearing the cross being characterised by Corinna as an example of ‘aggressive secularism.’  It was pointed out that Ms. Eweida could have worn the cross under her clothing if it was simply a matter of complying with her religious convictions, and that it was her actions which were aggressive.

A number also questioned whyLibertyshould use their limited resources to support the cause of Eweida.  It was argued that there are many other more pressing civil liberty issues to fight for.  The various ways in which the religious infringe the civil rights of others was also pointed out.  However, some of the audience were eventually won over by the explanation by Corinna of the importance of intervening on this occasion in order to maintain the credibility of the organisation across the political spectrum.

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Date : Monday 17th December 2012
Title : End of Year Social
Venue : Star of India Restaurant, Leytonstone

Synopsis :

Just about every religion and belief celebrates the winter solstice, from Aborigines to Zoroastrians, and East London Humanists are no exception.

Thus we came to hold our first social event to celebrate the season at The Star of India, a community oriented restaurant in Leytonstone.  A good time was had by all and much needed funds were raised for the group

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Date : Monday 19th November 2012
Title : The Indian Renaissance
Venue : Wanstead Library

Synopsis : Amal Choudhury a local member, gave a talk on the development of the development of civilisation on the Indian subcontinent over the millennia, the growth of the great religions in the region and the development of the caste system.

Having set the scene the talk went on to describe the life and works of Vidyasagar and his contemporaries who together led the so called Indian Renaissance in the 19th century and were at the forefront of the battle against the religious orthodoxy of the time.

Amal’s talk can be found here. Indian Renaissance

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Date : Monday 15th October 2012
Title : The Case Against Faith Schools
Venue : Stratford Circus

Synopsis : Tim Harrison, the recently retired London Regional Secretary of the NUT, spoke in a personal capacity on the case against faith schools.  Tim has many years of experience on the issue.  This includes involvement in the recent high profile, successful campaign in Barking and Dagenham where the local authority had been attempting to incorporate a community school into a voluntary aided Church of England school against the will of both schools.

A press release concerning this meeting can be found at Press release 3. ELH October meeting report.

Date : Monday 24th September 2012
Title : A Discussion On Why Humanism?
Venue : Wanstead Library

Synopsis : Zelda Bailey a member of our group. Led a discussion entitled Why Humanism?

Zelda’s talk can be found here Why Humanism