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The All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group

Watch members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group describe how their humanism links with their politics
Well, the All Party Parliamentary Group brings together people from across different political parties who have got a shared interest. In this case, a shared interest in promoting humanism both within parliament and of course within public policy and society at large. I think that politics and any kind of activity divorced from ethics would be meaningless and I think that humanism just provides that meaning for me. I have a set of values which I identify as humanist because it’s a value system about my approach to society and my fellow human beings about what I see as my duties to them and to the society in which I live.
I expect that most members of parliament are atheist or agnostic they certainly don’t - they’re not actively practicing any religion - and yet religious procedures govern an awful lot of what happens in this place. I mean, we have a state religion. We have an upper house which has clerics with reserved places within it. Every session of the parliament begins with prayers and not just praying to God but praying to a Protestant version of a Christian God. That is how we start our day which certainly excludes me and excludes many other members of parliament who are elected to represent us.
There’s always a danger particularly when it comes to social policy, that people with religious beliefs, which I respect and which they obviously are entitled to, but they have an undue influence on public policy when it comes to matters such as gender politics, sexual politics, a woman’s right to choose, and issues like that, so I think those of us who aren’t practicing a religion need to be wary of making sure that present an alternative to those that do.
I felt that politics was the only way to have an impact on changing society, to open it up, to make it fairer for people. My mum and dad were very pro-Labour and wanted to see a different sort of world and so I joined because I wanted to change the world, and I’m still trying to do that. I get the opportunity to discuss, debate things, to meet people, and to get exposure to ideas and information that most people don’t, so I’m extremely aware of the privileged position which that puts me.
And we also have a platform both in parliament, and on the media, and in the public eye, to promote what we believe in, and, in a sense of humanism, to promote a respectful tolerant diverse society. I get a better chance to do that as an MP I guess than most humanists do elsewhere and it’s something I fully intend to take advantage of.
I mean I think it’s important to say that humanism is a credo that straddles political divides. I mean, you know, there are conservative humanists and there are socialist humanists, and all in between. There are a number of my colleagues without faith in the Conservative Party who have a very developed set of values, and values which would be broadly identified as humanist. As a practical conservative approaching the problems of society from a pragmatic, not an ideological point of view, then it’s on the basis of a pragmatic approach to the challenges that society face that I would see myself as a humanist. We need a strong and empowering state.
We need to give people an individual freedom but we also need to ensure that our collective requirements as a society - be at a local community level or a national level - are properly organised, democratically put into effect by a government that doesn’t mind using its power for the common good.
The good thing about being a humanist is that you, it’s grounded on respect for other people. That’s why I try to see the other point of view, I try to have a a proper dialogue and discussion with people, and if I don’t agree with people or if they can’t budge me on a point of view, at least respect their right to hold a different view, and hope that they will respect mine, so I think that makes that makes it easier to get through life.

The All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) is a cross-party group of Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords of all the main parties, including members from the Crossbenches in the Lords.

The Group has grown rapidly from its beginnings in the 1960s. In 1996 it had 47 members and it now has over 100. Its officers are drawn from all parties. Currently its co-chairs are the Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and the Labour peer Baroness Joan Bakewell. Other officers include members of the Liberal Democrats, SNP, and Crossbenches, as well as further Conservative and Labour politicians.

The Group meets around four times a year to hear speakers and discuss relevant issues, as well as to share information and receive briefings on matters of interest. These matters are wide-ranging and include the promotion of a rational approach to bioethical, medical, and scientific issues, and the defence of free speech, civil liberties, and education.

Humanists UK provides the secretariat to the Group, briefing it regularly on matters of shared interest and working with members to table motions, amendments to bills, questions to ministers, and to intervene in debates.

Question: Is there any role for faith in politics?

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Humanist Lives, with Alice Roberts

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