Archive for May, 2008

British Humanist Association Education Website Launch

The British Humanist Association have launched a new website with education resources for teaching Humanism in schools. This is great news! What with the Humanist Society of Scotland launching its education strategy and the launch of the Humanist Academy, there is now a plethora of materials available for learning about Humanism. Teachers, parents and pupils alike can look around and choose the most relevant materials for them. So what does the new BHA website have to offer?

Following the recommendation in the 2004 National Framework for RE that Humanism be included as an example of a non-religious worldview, the BHA have created resources for pupils from 5 to 16 years. These resources are provided on the new Humanism for Schools website which includes teaching toolkits, humanist perspectives, a library and some assembly ideas. There are six toolkits ranging from what humanists celebrate to discussing how we tell right from wrong. Resources include video clips, worksheets and powerpoint presentation materials. There are even appearances from the popular children’s author, Philip Pullman.

I certainly haven’t read all the materials but it looks quite promising. The site design is pretty clean and easy to navigate with some simple pictures to liven it up. I’m also pleased that there’s a diverse range of humanists represented with regards to age, gender and ethnicity. I’d love to know what other people think of them. Please feel free to comment!

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Ladyfest Edinburgh: Faith and Feminism Workshop

As part of the ongoing Ladyfest Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Feminist Network hosted a workshop on Faith and Feminism. Women of all faiths and none were invited to come along and talk about their experiences and thoughts. The event was hosted at YWCA Roundabout Centre.

Continue reading ‘Ladyfest Edinburgh: Faith and Feminism Workshop’

Undermining Abortion Law *Urgent*

This Tuesday (May 20th) as part of the the Human Embryo and Fertilisation Bill, there will be a vote on whether to reduce the legal limit for abortion procedures from 24 weeks to 20. This is an extremely important issue and should be subject to open national debate first with the opportunity for all arguments and opinions to be heard. This is not a ‘women’s issue’, it is about access to necessary and life-saving medical care.

I don’t want to get into a full discussion about abortion right now, although I might look at it in another post. However, I do want to make an urgent appeal. Please write to your MP asking them to keep the limit at 24 weeks, because this is not about ‘abortion’, this is about access to very necessary health care procedures. Late term abortions are rare and normally carried out as a last resort if the health of the child or the mother are at risk. Having to carry to full term and then go through the birth of a child that you know will not survive or may even be stillborn is devastating and incredibly traumatic. In these cases, it is fairer to terminate the pregnancy and let the parents mourn and try again for another child. Some debilitating diseases such as Edward’s Syndrome are usually only detected in weeks 20-21 onwards. Finally, I probably don’t need to explain that if the pregnancy kills the mother then the child will not survive either and we are obligated to save lives where we can.

If you are anti-abortion/pro-life, I respect your opinions and your right to discussion and protest, but please do not block access to health care causing unnecessary lives to be lost. Please continue to voice your opinions, but please help protect access to necessary medical procedures.

For more information and advice for writing to or phoning your MP, see the Abortion Rights campaign. There will be a protest in Edinburgh on Monday 19th at 6pm at the Mound. Here are 24 reasons for 24 weeks. Finally, some evidence that this is part of a sustained attack on abortion rights.

Erika Moen and Not Believing

I recently ordered a pile of comics from the ever interesting and cool Erika Moen and discovered the short, humorous tale of how she stopped believing in God. Erika Moen writes autobiographical comics dealing with episodes from her life and personal issues such as sexuality and relationships. She has a nice, fluid drawing style with great expression and recently won three awards at the Stumptown Comics Fest 2008 (Outstanding Debut, Outstanding Writing and Outstanding DIY). The content can be quite mature and sometimes quite graphic but it’s all served up with a good helping of humour and brutal honesty. A few days later, I bought the first volume of the Flight anthology which showcases talented young comic artists and. lo and behold, there she was with a piece about wishing that she could believe and have ‘faith’.

The God story is here and, if you’re interested, her online diary comic is here.

Humanism and Polyamory

Humanist celebrants in the UK have been performing same sex affirmation ceremonies since 1987, but should humanist organisations offer affirmation ceremonies for relationships with multiple partners?

The Polyamory communities in the UK and the USA have been open and vocal for many years now. Polyamorists believe that it is possible to have healthy and loving relationships outside of the traditional view of monogamy. Polyamorists vary widely in the relationships they participate in and how they approach them. Some may be fairly flexible arrangements involving complex arrangements of a group of individuals whose lovers and interests overlap. Other polyamorous groups may consist of a stable arrangement of people all committed to each other. A group may even raise children together, with each partner equally committed to raising their child in a loving community. Polyamorous relationships grow and change with individuals, just like monogamous relationships.

Is there any reason why Humanists should oppose multiple partnerships? Under law in the UK, polygamy is illegal, but so was homosexual marriage! If we can accept that marriage law concerning homosexuality is outdated and inappropriate, maybe it’s worth taking a second look at the issue of monogamy. Here’s what american polyamorous activists Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt have to say about the subject:

*”We see marriage laws imposed by the government as a blatant violation of the Constitutional separation of church and state, […].”

So what are the arguments against multiple partners? Like the bar on homosexuality, this piece of legislation probably has roots in societal views heavily influenced by the bible. Is there any evidence which shows that being in a committed, consensual, shared relationship harms the individuals involved? Or anyone else for that matter? Arguing nowadays that raising a child outside of a traditional, monogamous relationship is inferior and harmful would be outrageous and highly insulting to single parents, guardians and all those who care for children outside of the nuclear family arrangement. Can anyone argue that polyamorous relationships are less stable when divorce is a common occurrence in today’s society and without reliable data on this topic? Finally, trying to look to nature for some ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ behaviour concerning relationships ‘in the wild’ is simply ridiculous. Observing the relationship behaviour of other primates is interesting, but irrelevant: humans should be compared with humans. There is no natural marital order to the world; as long as we’re not breaking the laws of physics nobody’s going to get hurt.

As far as I can see, there’s no reason not to award the same respect and consideration to relationships with multiple partners. If people are in love and want to share their commitment to each other with their community and have it recognised, I wish them good luck and many happy times.

*Easton, D. & Liszt, C. A. (1997). The Ethical Slut. Greenery Press, San Francisco. p.209.

Persepolis in the cinema!

Yesterday, I finally got to see the film adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis. Persepolis is an auto-biographical story about growing up in Iran during the revolution. I am a huge fan of the original comics, as well as her other works. Satrapi draws bold images, full of blocks of colour and an exotic style which really give flavour to her work. What makes this film particularly exciting is that it was written and co-directed by Satrapi herself and her fellow comic artist Vincent Paronnaud.

So how did it fare on the big screen? I loved it! The art looks great and it was a pleasure to see the characters move and interact on screen. I saw a screening with the original French soundtrack and the voice acting fits perfectly. The English subtitle translations seem good too.

The story is a mix of her experiences growing up and the political situation around her. In fact, it is impossible to separate the two. Every aspect of her life from her relationships to her music tastes are permeated by the politics around her and her identity as an Iranian. Similarly, observing their everyday lives, it is clear to see how the religious is the political. Satrapi is also blessed with having an intelligent and caring family, who are always ready to explain things and let her express her views. Life is not always easy and Satrapi tries to tell it like it is without glamorizing tragedy or covering up her faults and mistakes. I almost forgot to mention that she has a wicked sense of humour and is unafraid to speak her mind, so if you’re imagining some kind of quiet, subservient, muslim girl, think again…

If you want to see a fantastically animated, absorbing tale of an intelligent, feisty girl growing up with the Islamic Revolution and much else besides, then head along to your local cinema now!