Posts by Callum Brown

Re-ritualisation?

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Is this the capital of the cairn? If you set off north from Fort William in the West Highlands of Scotland, steering for the bridge over the sea to Skye, you will come across a layby on the left hand side where there are hundreds, very possibly thousands, of stone cairns. Most of them are small,… Continue reading

Death in Canada

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The funeral seems to be dying in Canada. It is not just the case that the funeral is becoming less religious, but that the actual concept is fading. This is giving Canadian secularisation a distinctive hue, and points one way in which nations with rapid religious decline may develop. It is often said that in… Continue reading

Getting angry with BBC’s “Thought for the day”

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    Nothing exercises the ire of British humanists and atheists more than religionists’ monopoly of the “Thought for the Day” slot on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme.  Less than 4 minutes’ long, I have found on visiting Humanist groups around the UK that this irritates British secularists in the same way as Americans get… Continue reading

Kathleen Nott and the “problem” of the female atheist

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A noteworthy absentee from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is Kathleen Nott (1905-1999), who I came across recently. Nott was a poet, novelist, humanist and philosopher, and I think she deserves more attention.[1] I came across Nott because she wrote the introduction to a rare species of book – the autobiography of a female… Continue reading

“Noneship” is about non-believing and non-belonging: 84 per cent of British “nones” don’t believe in God, according to new YouGov poll

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British adults “nones” (with no religion) are now clearly both non-believers as well as not belonging to a church or religious tradition. The results of a YouGov of 8,455 people, published today, indicate that British secularisation has a comprehensive non-religious character to it.[1] Whilst 41 per cent of Britons identify as Christian, 38 per cent… Continue reading

Why a secular-humanist historian likes churches

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This was the view from the front door of a rented holiday home in Norfolk in eastern England that my wife and I stayed at for a fortnight each July for about ten years. The house was nothing exceptional (though at its heart was a two-roomed 17th century dwelling). But the view was stunning. As well… Continue reading

Estonia – few gods, but loads of angels

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In late September 2013, I was in Estonia, widely referred to on the web as the ‘most godless’ nation in the world. This is based on a 2005 Eurobarometer poll Social values, Science and Technology Report (June 2005)[1] which recorded the Baltic state as having the lowest level of belief in the existence of God in all… Continue reading

Is being “spiritual” to be “non secular”?

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   Yoga at English Bay, Vancouver, 2009 A recent judgement (December 2013) [http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2013_0030_Judgment.pdf] by the British Supreme Court raises an interesting point about the epistemology of the secular. Whilst the judgement of their Lordships was undoubtedly right, since it ended one form of religious discrimination, the terms of their ruling exposed a shortfall in understanding contemporary… Continue reading

Gay marriage can divide humanists

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Gay marriage is generally supported by the worldwide movement of humanists, and generally also groups of atheists, secularists and freethinkers. But there are some who oppose it. Since 2009, I have interviewed over 70 atheists, humanists and secularists, and a small proportion of these opposed extending gay rights. As part of my oral history of humanism, I… Continue reading

Pat Duffy Hutcheon: A Humanist Life

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Pat Duffy Hutcheon was born in 1926 in rural Alberta. She became a sociologist of education, writing a major textbook in the field, and in her later years emerged as a well-known Humanist author, including The Road to Reason: Landmarks in the History of Humanist Thought (2001) and Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in the… Continue reading