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Humanist campaigning

Watch Humanists UK’s Richy Thompson explain the areas humanists can typically be found campaigning on.
The fact of the matter is that in the world today many human beings unfortunately aren’t able to live flourishing lives, so Humanists view practical action as so important in order to give everybody the opportunity to live lives that are well lived, enjoyable, and happy - and the only way that can be guaranteed is by giving them freedom of choice to live their lives in the way that they think is best, so long as they do no harm to others. Humanists UK, in its campaigning work, tends to focus on issues where there is disagreement between humanists and non-religious people, and the position taken by many religious groups.
The need for upholding human rights and equality for all, including around LGBT rights, for example, looking at reform of marriage law, women’s rights, or it could focus on specific issues like abortion and assisted dying, where the ethical view that non-religious people tend to take is different from that that many religious groups hold to. We campaign for a secular state that treats everybody equally regardless of religion and belief, which means focussing on the need for no discrimination in the provision of public services on the basis of religion; for no religious representatives sitting as of right in parliament, as Bishops do in the House of Lords, and an inclusive school system with no discrimination in admissions, for example.
A third of state funded schools are religious and
many of these schools discriminate in terms of who they admit: the religion pupils or their parents; who they employ as teachers and how they teach the school curriculum in subjects like religious education and sex and relationships education. Humanist UK has been doing campaign work for a very long time, so in the 60s we were involved in a campaign that led to the Abortion Act - that meant that abortion became legally available in Britain - and the decriminalisation of homosexuality. More recently, in 2008 England and Wales’ blasphemy laws were repealed which was a campaign we were very involved in.
2013 saw the legalisation of same sex marriages in England and Wales and that was shortly followed by Scotland, and humanist marriages have also gained legal recognition in Scotland and the government has powers to do the same in England and Wales too. We’ve been very involved in recent years against the teaching of creationism as scientifically valid in the school curriculum, and requiring every state school to teach evolution instead, something that has now been successful; and a few years ago we also took a successful legal case to establish that non-religious views, humanism, have to be treated equally to the major religions in the school curriculum.
‘Faith without works is not Christianity, and unbelief without any effort to help shoulder the consequences for mankind is not humanism.’
Harold Blackham, Handbook of Humanism

Practical action is important to humanists. We should judge people not just on what they say about injustice, but on what they do about it. Below, Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy, Richy Thompson, writes about the organisation’s campaigns work.

Humanists view campaigning as essential to making the world a better place. Humanists believe that everyone should be free to live as they choose, so long as they do no harm to others, and view the world as a place that presently denies such rights to billions.

It is important to recognise that there can be a difference between the campaigns individual humanists engage with and the issues that humanist organisations campaign on. The campaigns work undertaken by humanist organisations does not represent the full range of issues that individual humanists might devote their time to.

Individual humanists can be found taking practical action in a large diversity of settings, some visibly related to their non-religious beliefs, but most less so. Humanists’ altruism means that they can be found campaigning to alleviate poverty, to prevent environmental degradation, in favour of improving education standards, and against war. (Some humanists are pacifists, while others think that war should be avoided if at all possible.)

However, in practice, humanist groups themselves particularly focus in their campaigning efforts on issues where humanist beliefs are at odds with those of many organised religious groups. This is because, on such issues, humanist groups feel that they are the only people who might speak out on them. Religious groups are highly organised and well funded in their campaigning efforts, including at the UN, at the EU, and in Westminster. The Church of England is the eighth-largest charitable trust in the world, runs a third of state schools, and has 26 bishops sitting as of right in Parliament – all things that bolster its power.

In the video above, Director of Public Affairs and Policy, Richy Thompson, explains Humanists UK’s campaigns work, past and present.

Examples of Humanists UK’s work include directly challenging laws that discriminate against non-religious people, or that demonstrate prejudice against LGBT people and women; defending human rights; campaigns for a secular state, in particular in the area of education; and campaigns on ethical issues, for instance on assisted dying and abortion.

This article is from the free online

Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig

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