Humanism around the World – December 2015


ianThe Central London Humanist Group is committed to keeping members informed of Humanism Internationally. We aim to do this through regular bulletins bringing members up to date with issues relating to Humanism around the world.

Edited by Ian Symons.


At the time of writing, many Humanists have been thinking about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, such as Bamako, Beirut and the Russian airliner in Sinai. While these outrages were not aimed at Humanists specifically, they were directed at the generally secular societies in which we enjoy our lives alongside people of many other beliefs and life-stances. The British Humanist Association and the European Humanist Federation both addressed this point in statements which can be found via the following links: BHA, EHF.

In his role as President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:
iheu“All nations must respond to this provocation with the values that violent Jihadist extremism most hates: with the patience and clarity that allow us to differentiate extremists and provocateurs from the ordinary people who share the religion that they claim; with the good judgement and rationality that allow us to work together as an international community to end the suffering that they cause; and with the firm determination to always promote humanity and hope, over hatred and fear.”


ashrafJust when the Saudi authorities appeared to be relenting in their treatment of Raif Badawi, having apparently not delivered life-threatening lashings to his back, and with latest reports suggesting that a reprieve might be on its way, they have come up with another piece of theistic barbarity. Ashraf Fayadh (left), a Palestinian poet and art curator, has been sentenced to death by the Saudis for ‘apostasy’ even though he denies that he has even left Islam. The BHA has joined a campaign by PEN International to secure his immediate and unconditional release.


Our last two bulletins led with the murder of non-religious bloggers in Bangladesh. Sadly things are not getting better. On 31 October the offices of two secular publishers were attacked by thugs with guns and machetes resulting in the death of one person and serious injury to three others. One of the victims was the publisher and a friend of blogger Ajivit Roy who was murdered early this year. An editorial condemning attacks, published in the independent Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star, is here.



A reminder, should one be needed, that secularism and tolerance are needed to protect religious people as well as non-believers was delivered in horrific manner in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh at the end of September when a Moslem was lynched by a Hindu mob for allegedly slaughtering a cow. It subsequently transpired that he had killed no cows and the meat in his house was mutton. While the incident is hardly unique in several centuries of communal violence in India, it comes at a time of increasing concern that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promotion of Hindu nationalism in Indian politics is encouraging such behaviour. indiaThe lynching came soon after the murder in Karnataka of a 77-year-old author and academic Malleshappa M. Kalburgi (left), a well-known critic of Hindu idol-worship and other superstitious beliefs. indiaEarlier this year, another campaigner against discrimination, superstition, caste politics and religious fundamentalism, Govind Pansare (right), was murdered in Maharashtra state. According to India’s NDTV news, Pansare had received death threats after saying that attempts were being made under Modi’s government to glorify Mahatma Gandhi’s ultra-nationalist assassin, Nathuram Godse.
A recent BBC report on increasing religious intolerance in India is here.


iheyoThe International Humanist Ethical Youth Organisation (IHEYO), the youth section of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, held its 2015 General Assembly in Oslo at the end of November. iheuMore than 50 organisations are full or associate members of IHEYO, representing a total of about 40,000 18-35 year-old Humanists from all corners of the world. The Organisation is run by a team of over 40 volunteers and has sub-groups representing young Humanists in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe.

IHEYO has just launched a new newsletter to keep people up to date with its activities and with a very wide range of issues of interest to Humanists internationally.


kasese More good news comes in this blog about progress at the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda. Established by the Kasese United Humanist Association in 2011, it is the only nursery and primary school in Uganda founded on the principles of Humanist values. Its ethos emphasises the importance of scientific education in seeking a fair, secure and just future. The school is supported by Humanists and other free thinkers and atheists from around the world, including the UK Uganda Humanist Schools Trust and members of the Central London Humanist Group. More information about the school is available here, and on its Facebook page.



wolvesUnmasking wolves in sheep’s clothing is how the European Humanist Federation characterises its newly-published list of some of the most egregious ultra-conservative lobbyists against human rights and secularism in Europe. EHF uncovered the ways in which some of these organisations try to pass themselves off as innocuous by adopting progressive-sounding names and disguising their religious motivations behind spurious legal and scientific statements. According to EHF, many characteristically equate abortion with murder, homosexuality with paedophilia, sex education with collective masturbation at school, and human rights activists with “sodomite lobbies”. The list is here on EHF’s website.


A recent survey by the Pew Foundation found that the percentage of Americans who say that they believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church or other religious services has declined in recent years. But the decline has been modest and from a very high base: from 92% in 2007 to 89% in 2014. The proportion of Americans who say they are “absolutely certain” that God exists has however dropped more sharply, from 71% in 2007 to 63% in 2014. Meanwhile, the percentage who say that they are religiously unaffiliated (which includes people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics as well as those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular”, all categorised together as “nones”) has increased from 16% to 23% over the same period. These trends and the role of religion in current American politics are discussed in some depth here on Huffington Post.

Despite this evidence of continuing high levels of religiosity, Christian academics such as those from Baylor University in Waco Texas, have been keen to undermine any progressive interpretation of the figures by pointing out that many of the “nones” evidently still believe in God.

Perhaps on a brighter note, the American religious establishment seems to have serious concerns about Presidential candidate Donald Trump, as this article in The Atlantic explains. Some (only some) of their concerns might even be shared by Humanists.


Pastafarian rights upheld in Massachusetts …

PastafarianThe American Humanist Association (AHA) is pleased to report that a Pastafarian woman from Massachusetts, Lindsay Miller (left), has been allowed to wear a colander for her driver’s license photo. The decision followed the intervention of AHA legal advisers on the grounds that she should be treated exactly the same as people from more traditional and theistic religions who can wear religious clothes in their licence photos. Ms Miller said, “As a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I feel delighted that my Pastafarianism has been respected.”

.. and a new billboard for Wisconsin

An 80 year-old atheist from Wisconsin is sponsoring this 10 metre long billboard beside a local highway.


This CLHG International Bulletin was compiled by Ian Symons on behalf of the CLHG Committee. Please send any comments direct to