Article for Ilford Recorder ‘Spiritual Life’ column celebrating the Humanistic values represented by new and past presidents of Humanists UK (for publication 24.1.19).
“Humanists UK began 2019 with a brilliant new President. Appointed for 3 years, Professor Alice Roberts steps into the shoes of the previous president, Iranian born comedienne Shappi Khorsandi. Other former presidents include Iraqi born physicist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al Khalili and agony aunt Claire Rayner.
Alice is an evolutionary biologist. She is the first appointed Professor of Public Engagement in Science at Birmingham University and is also well-known as a TV presenter. The BBC recently broadcast her Royal Society Christmas lectures. Alice has long been a supporter of Humanists UK and was prominent in our campaign against the teaching of creationism, a creed which flies in the face of scientific evidence and has no place in our schools.
Alice said on taking up her new position: ‘As an anthropologist I strongly believe in our common humanity. We can rise above the tribal divisions that have caused so much anguish and damage in the past. The real hallmarks of humanity are curiosity and an amazing ability to cooperate. If we can use science wisely and work together, I believe we can overcome the huge challenges facing us this century.’
A question often asked when talking to schools in East London is ‘who leads the Humanists?’ I explain that Humanists think for themselves and that there is no leader as such that we follow. However, any organised group needs spokespeople. Alice, like those presidents before her, ably represents the diversity, passion and values of the Humanist movement. “
Chair East London Humanists
Article published Barking and Dagenham Recorder 19 December 2018.
‘Do Humanists celebrate Christmas? It’s one of the most common questions Humanists get asked in school talks. Perhaps some students think non-religious people like us miss out. I explain that people everywhere have always loved to celebrate special occasions. It’s one of the things that makes us human. Bleak mid-winter is one such time. It’s marked all over the northern hemisphere, from native North Americans to the Zoroastrians of Iran. And let’s face it, many hallmarks of what we here call Christmas, like crackers, tinsel and pantomime, have nothing to do with religion.
The word Christmas still carries religious significance for practising Christians. But for others it has joined the many words absorbed into our rich language, reflecting our diversity and multi-cultural history, their origin often forgotten. Who now cares that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday refer to Norse Gods, or that Saturday is named after Saturn, the Roman God of renewal and regeneration? In fact the ancient festival of Saturnalia, held in December, featured gifts, partying and decorations. Like many Humanists I will be celebrating Christmas. These are times of great uncertainty, hardship, and attempts to sow division. That makes it more important than ever to celebrate our common humanity. Christmas is also a time to remember the importance of fellowship with friends, family and complete strangers, and of giving. And as the days start to get longer, it is a time to celebrate life itself. ‘
Chair East London Humanists
This opinion piece (Barking & Dagenham Post 5.11.18) highlights the undue influence enjoyed by the Church both in the US and here. Continue reading
In his regular opinion column for the Barking & Dagenham post the Chair of East London Humanists expresses his personal view on the anti-Semitism debate (published 26.9.18).
“I write in my personal capacity as a Jew, an atheist and a Humanist. Not everyone seems to realise that you can be Jewish without having any religious belief. In fact I am every bit as Jewish as the Chief Rabbi. Despite my lack of religious belief I have the right to become an Israeli citizen. I qualify because my mother was Jewish, and under Jewish law that makes me Jewish.
I actually have no desire to settle in a region my ancestors left eons ago. I find fulfilment living here in this richly diverse country. As a Humanist I care equally for everybody’s wellbeing, and I am concerned about the millions of displaced Palestinians who don’t enjoy the same rights as me. Until recently they and generations before them lived on land which is now occupied by Jewish settlers. I have misgivings about any state where the right to citizenship depends on ethnicity or religious belief. I am also concerned at the means used by the Israeli state to perpetuate this unfairness.
Jews, just like any ethnic or religious group, do not all speak with one voice. We are all individuals with our own opinions and values. No one can claim to speak on behalf of the whole Jewish community, and not all Jews, religious or otherwise, support the Zionist project. Anti-Semitism is a dreadful scourge. However, legitimate concerns about anti-Semitism should not distract us from concerns about injustice to others, or stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. “
Chair, East London Humanists
East London Humanists examine Boris Johson’s burka comments and refusal to apologise in this piece for the ‘Spiritual Life’ column, Ilf0rd Recorder 24.8.18 Continue reading
East London Humanists argue the extreme weather is a wake up call in this article for the Barking and Dagenham Post August 2018. Continue reading
East London Humanists reflect on the lack of statues of women, and champion a neglected local heroine, in this opinion piece (Newham Recorder 2 August 2018) Continue reading
East London Humanists reflect on the significance of the recent referendum in Ireland in this opinion piece for the Barking & Dagenham Post July 2018. Continue reading
East London Humanists reflect on how Trump’s values are diametrically opposed to ours. (Opinion piece Barking and Dagenham Post & Newham Recorder May 2018). Continue reading
This opinion piece for the Barking and Dagenham Post (11.4.18) looks at a threat to community cohesion largely ignored by the mainstream media. Continue reading