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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.

Member Survey Results

You might recall that a survey was recently sent to our members as part of a broader initiative linked to the South Central England Humanist Network (SCEHN). We had 198 responses to this questionnaire, which makes its statistically significant at the SCEHN level but less so at the Group level. We had 21 responses from Guildford & Woking Humanists (GWH).

We will discuss the GWH feedback at our next group meeting on the 12th June, but a brief summary of the overall results is given below for those who can’t make it. We’ll update with any feedback we receive at the meeting.

  1. Almost half the members found their local group via Humanists UK or via a local recommendation.
  2. Most people joined their local group in order to meet like-minded people or to some extent, for talks or discussions. Interestingly, not a single respondent put social events as their top choice, although in the freeform questions members said they enjoyed the social aspect.
  3. When asked what they least liked about their group the top answer was the small number of members, followed by cost and venue.
  4. When asked what changes they would like to see the top answer was; more young people, followed by different demographics and more campaigning in the community.
  5. The primary reason why they stop going to meetings is that they don’t have the time or accessibility issues.
  6. We see a heavy weighting to older age groups. This is a major challenge for the SCEHN and we imagine, also for Humanists UK. Engaging with younger people needs to be a specific focus.
  7. Respondents were split virtually equally between male and female (not for GWH where female outnumbered male responses).
  8. Interestingly, over half of the respondents said they would be willing to contribute time, skills or money to their local group.


Download our group calendar as a PDF: 2018 Calendar

“Believing that it is possible to live confidently without metaphysical or religious certainty and that all opinions are open to revision and correction, [Humanists] see human flourishing as dependent on open communication, discussion, criticism and unforced consensus.”
                                                                                             – Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy —       

We are a Humanist group for residents of the Guildford & Woking boroughs of Surrey, and of course people from beyond are welcome too. We hold monthly meets at the Guildford Institute, usually with a speaker, on the 2nd Tuesday of every month and regular social gatherings in Guildford and Woking. See our Calendar page and subscribe to our Twitter and Facebook feeds for more details.

You don’t have to identify yourself as a Humanist to come along, you only need an open and inquisitive mind. We hope to see you soon.