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Jessie

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Reply with quote  #1 
I'd like to start a campaign to get as many people as possible in Cambridgeshire to answer 'no religion' or similar in the 2011 Census.  I feel this is important as the 2001 Census results are frequently used to support special privileges given to Christianity and C of E in particular.  I'm convinced this is because most people consider themselves Christian simply because they were christened.  Would anyone else be willing to work on this?
wheels5894

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Reply with quote  #2 
I am not in Cambridge but in Scotland but I am just as interested. Do we know what the question is going to be? I thought it was to be be 'What religion are you' to which I had planned to answer 'n/a' but I think there was to be some changes.
Jessie

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Reply with quote  #3 
Apologies for the delay in replying but I have been away from the computer. 

I understand that the current proposal is that it will be an optional question and that 'no religion' is to be at the top of the list.  The questions do not make any distinction between religious affiliation and actual practice, which is the reason I suspect a lot of ticks for 'Christian' will be simply because people were christened, because they want to make some sort of 'cultural' statement or because they haven't really thought about it much, rather than because they actually believe and consider themselves to be represented by organised religion.

There do not seem to be any questions about 'spirituality', deism or pantheism although there is a box marked 'Any other (write in).'

I'd like to persuade those who believe but do not follow organised religion to tick 'no religion' or 'any other' as I think that is a more appropriate response and weakens the power of the C of E and RCC to claim to speak for those who tick 'Christian'.

I am happy to get this rolled out around the country rather than just Cambridge but it needs more than two of us to do it!  What about something similar to the atheist bus campaign in the months before the Census?  Does anyone have any influential contacts who might be interested?

Godfree

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Reply with quote  #4 
It's a good idea but is it a difficult concept to get across?

I think I have helped my 'undecided' friends see the situation clearly by pointing out the wrong assumptions about religion that people tend to fall into.

I think it is a slow and difficult process which can't be forced. Forcing your ideas on someone will generally make people stop listening.

So I suppose we need a list of the wrong assumptions that people make about religion, presented in way that isn't negative about religion. We don't want to be seen as anti-religion or to lose fence sitters!

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The most preposterous notion that homo sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of his creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Jessie

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Reply with quote  #5 
I'm really more anti-religious-interference-in-other-people's-lives than anti-religion.  I can't say I would take any exception to those who do not try to force their morality or values on me.  What bothers me is the way organised religion does interfere and impose and claims to represent those who tick the religious boxes on the census form when it does so. 

Most people are decent human beings who treat others with humanity and compassion.  Many religious leaders seem to overlook this aspect and concentrate instead on dogma, doctrine and literal meaning within very old holy books, written for societies very different from the liberal one we have now.  I'd like to help people to see how their 'ticks' can be used by some to control aspects of our lives. 

Also, I think there are a lot of people who think there is a god or 'something supernatural' but who do not believe what is written in the various holy books.

I certainly have no wish to force anyone to accept my view - that is entirely against my principles.
Godfree

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Reply with quote  #6 
I think we have similar view point. Probably 6 on the Dawkins scale..

What I think is important is to define what you want to do with the campaign and I'm been thinking overnight about this and I really think that it knocks on to the definition of the Cambridge NSS. (Graham - I don't want to undermine you. Please feel free to tell me to shut up!)

There is a danger that we could come across anti-religious (which we are for sure) http://www.cambridgesecularsociety.co.uk/

I think it is important to understand one of the lies that the religious leaders try to push. They always talk about "the evils of secularism". Their message being secularism=atheism.

The definition of secularism is the separation of church and state. There is no reason why religious people can't be secularist. There are scientists who regularly comment on PZ Myer's blog who are clearly religious and sick of the insanity and stupidity of the zealots.

We shouldn't exclude these people and in fact, I really think we need these people. They are the people that will be better at persuading the "woolly" minded religious that the state getting involved in religion is unfair/discriminatory/wrong etc, etc..

Someone's religious/worldview should be their personal business and not something that they are judged by or expected to conform with. They should keep it to themselves when appropriate.

I think it is important not to push the secularism=atheism=humanism angle but to make it a secularism=non discrimination=inclusive of all angle..

For your campaign I would think you would want to target the apatheists who don't really care or think about god but have been told they live in a christian country. They tick christian because they don't know the real meaning.

The people you don't want to isolate are the believers that might be secularists .

The bus campaign was run as an atheist organisation which I think let them be more negative about god..

Am I right that the NSS doesn't declare itself as an atheist organisation?

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The most preposterous notion that homo sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of his creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Aotearoa

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Reply with quote  #7 
I have been meaning to write a post on what I see as being the purpose of this society and I see that this thread is now heading a bit in that direction.

Secularism to me (as Godfree has also mentioned) is about separation of "church" and state and the creation of a level playing field so that no one group (religious or otherwise) has special privileges over others.

As an example it would be no more right for the current "communities" secretary to create a group of purely atheist advisers as it is for the creation of the group of purely "faith" advisers he has just announced yesterday.

Having said that we need to be pushing for evidence based rational approaches to the issues that society faces. People who claim to have special insight into these need to be able to back up their position with evidence that supports their claims which stands up to rational enquiry.

One of the things that led me to join the NSS was the constant "chipping" away by special interest groups unsupported by any real evidence in order to gain special privileges for themselves. This was not just about religious people but others who practice pseudo science such as homeopathy etc.

Back to the point of this thread. I would be nervous about a campaign purely aimed at getting people to answer questions on the census in a particular way. Would it be better to make sure that the guidance on how to answer particular questions was clear on what was actually meant by answering in a particular way and its potential knock on effects? (I think that both the NSS and BHA have been lobbying to make the census question clear in this respect).

Just my two peneth worth. Feel free to disagree.

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Theology - "equivalent to the study of what colour the flippers are on the Loch Ness monster"
graham

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Reply with quote  #8 
Interesting debate guys. To address a few of the issues raised: In forming this society my main aim was to establish another front to fight the cause of secularism against the increasing clamour of religious groups to win special treatment and privileges from a governing class that takes the view that religion is good for us.

Secularism doesn’t necessarily mean atheism, so appealing to agnostics, or the “I don’t want to think about it” brigade may be the most effective way of attracting support. Recently Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS declared himself to be an “indifferentist” rather than an atheist, he said he was more interested in advancing the secular agenda than worrying about the existence of God.

However arguments about secularism inevitably end up in atheism versus god and religious belief. For example the secularist objection to an Act of Worship in schools could be regarded as simply the removal of religious influence in education (separation of Church and State) but inevitably it will end up as a debate about belief in god and the argument that religious belief demands special respect.

As regards the policy of the CSS, this forum offers an opportunity to express different points of view and for members to campaign on particular issues using the CSS as a platform. We don’t have to follow a strict agenda; there is room for different perspectives although if we do start a campaign, for example on the Act of Worship in schools, we will need to adopt an agreed position for it to be effective.

Personally I am a fairly uncompromising atheist in the Dawkins mould but I recognise that this approach can be counter productive if the aim is simply to get more folks to join us. We do need a larger base and to encourage people to post as you have done. Despite my pleading quite a few people have joined without making a contribution to the forum, but it is still early days. I remember joining the Dawkins forum in 2006 when there were only a handful of posts, now there are more than 2 million, ok we will always be small compared with that but I hope that in the future we can be a force to be reckoned with and effect opinion and policy locally.
graham

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Reply with quote  #9 
In reply to jessie’s OP. I agree that this would be a worthwhile campaign. Have the 2011 census questions been published, is there any form of consultation?
graham

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Reply with quote  #10 
Our counterparts in Derby are worth checking out. http://www.secularderby.org/index.html
They have managed to get a non-theist view, (humanism), included as part of the Agreed Syllabus for RE for all Derby City and Derby County local authority schools, quite an achievement! If we decide to campaign on similar issues we can learn a lot from their experience.
Aotearoa

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Reply with quote  #11 
I believe that the 2011 Census questions have been out for "consultation" for some time. The NSS has responded to this. See: http://www.secularism.org.uk/uploads/35430434015cc7c284491961.pdf


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Theology - "equivalent to the study of what colour the flippers are on the Loch Ness monster"
wheels5894

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Reply with quote  #12 
That new wording would be an improvement but not really enough. We raeally need something more like

"Do you actively practice a religion?" 

as this would then separate out the proverbial sheep and goats and, with luck, leave the real religious believers in the religious category whilst the disinterested would be less likely to put 'C of E' giving that organisation more influence than it deserves.

With regard to Secularism, surely this is trying to create a state that is not tied to any religion, as the USA is supposed to be, allowing everyone to practice whatever religion they want as long as they let other do the same. The NSS wants to disestablish the Church of England as it gains unfair advantage bu the link to the state over all other religions and the non-religious too.

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