Friday, 18 January 2008

Andrew - a Humanist

Today is my nephew Andrew's birthday but he is no longer here to celebrate it. He died in June 2006 after a lengthy and unpleasant illness. Andrew was a humanist. Humanism is a non-religious ethical outlook on life.

- feel scientific & other evidence provides the best way to understand the universe (rather than feeling that religious beliefs are needed for a ‘complete understanding’)
- believe that ‘right and wrong’ can be explained by human nature alone, and does not necessarily require religious teachings, and
- base their judgments of right and wrong on ‘the effects on people and the consequences for society and the world’.

In the 2001 census 7 out of 10 people ticked the ‘Christian’ box but, with church attendance now below 7% and under 1 in 3 marriages taking place in church , the British Humanist Association claims the figure was clearly more about cultural identity than religious belief. I recall a discussion Jo and I had about religion on one of our first dates and we both concluded we were Christian in so far as we endorsed those basic religious tenets which formed a code of conduct to live by. That rather endorses the BHA's claims.

The BHA devotes much of its time to campaigning and lobbying on behalf of everyone who considers themselves to be a humanist or holds similar views – in fact, anyone who tries to lead a moral or ethical life and makes decisions on the evidence rather than on the basis of religious doctrines.

A more recent Ipsos MORI poll has shown that 36% of people – equivalent to around 17 million adults – are in fact humanists in their basic outlook as defined above. Another question in the poll found that 41% endorsed the strong statement: ‘This life is the only life we have and death is the end of our personal existence’. Fractionally more - 45% - preferred the broad view that ‘when we die we go on and still exist in another way’.

If what Andrew believed is true he has had his life that is an end of it. If what I believe is true he is up there somewhere - in the broadest possible sense - saying "Damn, got it wrong!" Either way - and since we cannot provide a scientifically proven answer it is fairly irrelevant to us down here - Andrew continues to exist in our thoughts.

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