Andrew Copson

What is Humanism?

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, attended the Guildford & Woking Humanists group meeting at the Guildford Institute this September 2019. During this packed event, his talk emphasised the importance humanism has in life. Andrew’s talk explained humanism in terms of reality, morality and purpose. 

The physical, scientific and material reality is one of the pillars of humanism; understanding that morality is a social instinct that comes from within us through values, cultures and ethical thinking. Humanists do not accept the “revealed wisdom” of the holy books (e.g. prophets claiming to have a direct line to God). The humanist approach to the purpose of life is that we make our own purpose by creating experiences and forming relationships. This is the basis of what humanism means. 

Humanists believe that those who legislate on such complex moral issues as assisted dying, stem cell research, or what should be taught in the school science curriculum, do so on the basis of evidence and reason and not by invoking the authority of the holy books, which reflect an ancient and very different world view.

They campaign against honour killings and violence against women, discrimination against “untouchables”, the persecution of homosexuals, violence against apostates, genital mutilation (especially female circumcision), violent exorcisms, the killing of “witches”, and other unacceptable practices which often find support in some of our most revered scriptures.

Humanists UK provides a range of services and support for individuals and the community: pastoral care, ceremonies, funerals, weddings, education and teaching resources for school and colleges.  The work of Humanists UK helps with ethical questions such as assisted dying, sexual reproduction rights and stem cell research.

Humanists UK also promotes human rights and secularism.  Secularism is much misunderstood. It calls for the state to be neutral on matters of religion and belief which is why Secularists can be both religious and non-religious. They are very active in campaigning, lobbying governments, influencing policy work and changes in the law. 

Andrew covered a wide range of aspects on Humanist and Secular topics including his new book on the latter and engaged in a discussion with many attendees at the end of the evening. 

We were also delighted that Anne Milton, MP for Guildford, was able to attend and she paid Andrew a remarkable complement at the end by saying “In my 40 years attending many presentations, I have found tonight’s talk one of the best and most interesting I have every attended”.

For more information on Humanism, go to the Humanist UK website. For more information on Secularism try Andrew Copson’s book (2017 edition) Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom.

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