American comic creator Jennie Breeden of the Devil’s Panties webcomic (actually just an autobiographical comic, not as alarming as it sounds) makes some interesting observations about the consequences of asking for more religion in schools.
About thinking and living
Democracy is not something to believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.
Abbie Hoffman, (1936-1989), American activist
The UK General Elections take place this Thursday, so if you’re registered to vote don’t forget to make time to do so.
You probably don’t need me to tell you why voting is important and why it is essential that you make sure that your opinion gets heard and that you have your say in how you want society to be run, but I do want to mention a few reasons why this election is significant for me as a woman.
With this in mind, I call upon all eligible voters to empower yourself and your society, and make sure you vote this Thursday. If you are still trying to decide who to vote for, there’s still time to look at the policies on offer.
Whichever way you decide to vote, make sure that you have your say in how you want society to be run and how you want to change the world for the better.
Before you berate me for hopeless romanticism or being a sucker for the marketing message, let me just clarify: it’s time for the London demonstration for a Secular Europe! For those unfamiliar with the event, I should explain that it isn’t an anti-religious march but a demonstration against the privileged access of religious groups to political institutions in Europe. It’s held in solidarity with demonstrators in Italy who protest each year against the undemocratic influence of the Vatican in Italian politics. I attended the demonstration last year and I shall be there again today. If you are interested in finding out more or coming along, a letter from the organisers is included below:
Welcome to this almost solstice edition of the Humanist Symposium blog carnival! (Dec 21st is the Southern Solstice)
As this is the last symposium of this year, I thought I might take a brief look back. And what a year it has been! In January, the first buses took to the streets of London, UK, bearing the adverts that launched a worldwide movement. Atheist advertising campaigns sprang up all over the globe: the USA, Australia, Italy, Spain, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland and New Zealand. In February, people across the world celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work On the Origin of Species which presented his arguments for the theory of evolution by natural selection. In May, the world was introduced to Darwinius masillae, a.k.a. Ida, amidst a whirlwind of publicity. This 47 million year old fossil is thought to be a transitional form between the prosimian and simian primates, although this is still being debated. Finally, a recent NASA mission has found significant amounts of water on the moon. This raises the likelihood that bases could be built on the moon, facilitating future exploration of the solar system.
If all this isn’t enough excitement for you, then we have a bumper edition of the Humanist Symposium to keep entertained and informed over the holiday season.
The film Synecdoche, New York has been released on DVD recently and I highly recommend it. I managed to catch the film while it was still on at cinemas and I was very impressed. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it is characteristically innovative and unusual. The film has polarised audiences and this doesn’t surprise me. Synecdoche, New York has a difficult theme and no clear resolution. Running throughout the tale of one man’s attempt to create his lifetime masterpiece is the context of death and the threat of obsolescence. It is a very powerful tale of human struggle and mortal frailty with the underlying questions: What has he done with his life? Was it a life worth living?
I have recently moved to a new neighbourhood and while taking advantage of the free wifi at my local library I also took the opportunity to dig around in their shelves. There I made the pleasant discovery of a small and somewhat random philosophy section where I unearthed a recent offering from the British philosopher Julian Baggini. Baggini is a member of the Humanist Philosophers Group and one whose work I had not yet read so I decided to check him out, literally. The book I selected was The Duck that Won the Lottery: and 99 Other Bad Arguments published in 2008 by Granta.
One of my favourite ways to define Humanism is to say that it’s the belief that we can live good lives based on reason and compassion. The British Humanist Association also refers to ‘shared human values’ which adds another dimension to the discussion. While that’s a nice succinct description of the philosophy I use to live my life, it begs the question of how one lives a life based on reason and compassion. We’d all like to think that we’re perfectly rational and reasonable individuals with a clear idea of where to draw the lines but how should I hone my reasoning skills and open my mind to the perspectives and experiences of others?