28 December 2005


An article by George Jellis, from our local paper, the Leicester Mercury.

It is time for people of no faith to demand that they are no longer ignored by government.

Are you one of those who does not go to church, except on special occasions? One who, if you think about religion at all, considers it a medieval relic of little relevance to the modern world? Yet, when asked "What religion are you" (as in the census), you name the religion you were brought up in? You are probably really a humanist.

There are many people like you - sleeping humanists. The truth is that the non-religious people in this country now form a third of the population. The trouble is, they are an unseen, silent mass. It is time for them to speak out.

Politicians often try to appeal to "people of all faiths or none", but often they forget the "none" because the non-religious are almost invisible to them. They do not have a "vicar" in every parish.

Their spokespeople do not stand out in fancy-dress costume. They do not speak from the grandeur of churches, temples or mosques.

The Government has increasingly been relying on self-appointed groups, who profess a medieval faith, for modern policy advice.

It is supporting more "faith-biased" schools, where religious indoctrination is inescapable, and where in some cases creationist myth is taught as a rival to evolution science.

There are also plans to follow the US in putting social welfare in the hands of religious evangelists who are more concerned with gaining converts than with dispensing aid in an unbiased manner.

Religion should certainly be taught in schools, but as part of history and world culture. Our freedoms to criticise the silly ideas of religion, or to make jokes about it, are in danger of being curtailed by legislation on the grounds that it is encouraging hatred.

We must stand up for free speech. At the same time, there is a failure to counter those religious bigots who try to censor legitimate artistic endeavour.

In short, all of these activities amount to the insidious spread and growth of unelected, retrograde theocracy. If you believe that irrational, ancient beliefs are a menace and are causing social divisions, then you should not be afraid to say what you really think, despite threats of hellfire, excommunication, ostracism, or worse.

If you feel the need for support in this, or wish to support others of like mind, join your local Secular Society or Humanist Group and work for change.

You have a duty to life, earth and humankind. Show the Government that the non-religious represent an increasingly important part of the population whose interests must not be ignored.


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