Humanism and the Farnham Humanists group
Who are Humanists? A Humanist outlook on life allows us to think and act freely on the basis of reason and compassion, rather than be bound by any dogmatic rules or by awe at a super-natural myth. We may not agree on everything, but Humanists have important beliefs in common:
- We think that this life is all we have and we need to make the most of it.
- We consider morality comes from human nature and experience rather than a deity.
- We believe a moral code is essential to preserve a social order of peace, mutual respect and compassion.
- In day-to-day behaviour, Humanists conduct their lives in much the same way as liberal members of the established religions.
Who were Humanists? The roots of Humanism go back to 500BC and have been nurtured by thinkers such as Erasmus, Voltaire, Gibbon, Hume, Shelley, Darwin, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell and Jonathan Miller.
What is the BHA? The British Humanist Association grew from 19th century secular societies. It campaigns on a number of social/moral issues. There are over fifty local groups. Affiliated Members should join the parent body, which has many distinguished supporters, e.g. Jane Asher, Richard Dawkins, George Melly, Salman Rushdie, Polly Toynbee. You can visit the BHA website at www.humanism.org.uk A leaflet about the BHA may be sent with this one to give you some fuller information.
So what about Farnham Humanists? We are a new group founded in June 2004. There are established groups in Guildford and in Southampton but it was found that there were sufficient humanists in the West Surrey and N.E. Hampshire area to support a group centered in Farnham. We have just over forty members at present. We are confident about continuing to grow, as society becomes more secular. Less than 10% of the population attend places of worship. Most people today are humanists with a small “h”, wanting to see life improve from a rational and moral stance rather than a supernatural one. If you would like to be a humanist with a big “H”, come and join us.
Do I have to be converted? Certainly not in any conventional sense. Humanists cherish freedom of thought and that often brings a new richness to life. We make our existence known so that those who wish can meet and enjoy the fellowship of like minds.
What do we actually do? Although we are new group we have decided on a number of positive actions.
- Making the group known to the local communities, e.g. Publicity in Libraries etc. Stalls at shows. Through local TV and radio.
- Community work, e.g. visiting, but only on request, those in need of someone to talk about life generally, possibly in hospitals, hospices and prisons. Making speakers available for schools.
- Group meetings for discussion and to hear guest speakers. Group social events.
Do we hold ceremonies? Ah, you’ve heard about these? Many people know of the very personal and dignified non-religious funerals that Humanists have conducted for many decades. Less well-known are our ceremonies to celebrate a marriage or to welcome a new baby into the world These memorable occasions are not led by the group but by individual members who have been trained, accredited and monitored as officiants by the BHA. Some members of the Farnham group are qualified for this work.
Why is a group needed? That’s a good question! Many people reading our literature agree with every word printed. They know that they can be moral without believing in a god or gods. Their intelligence, common sense and acquired wisdom from experience tell them this is true. So, If they don’t want to practise a religion why should they join other Humanists? There are at least two reasons. Firstly, people like to share and discuss thoughts with people of like mind and feel part of a community with a common outlook. Secondly, the causes for which the BHA stands need wider support. Without secular groups, morality is defined chiefly by religious sects. We would like to see church and state separated and the act of worship taken out of schools — which should be for education rather than indoctrination. Schools should of course teach children about different religions and their effect on history and contemporary society, but that religion does not have a monopoly on morality. We need to have a local presence to promote non-religious morality. The BHA also campaigns on issues relating to the creation of a more open society and greater international co-operation. It is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)