Rally for the "Secular Europe Campaign"

We have a fantastically diverse continent with an unbelievable variety of cultures, languages and traditions. Believes are also part of it which is fine (for those who need it). Whatever your believes, if you agree that particular religious groups and believes, be it christian, islamic or else, should have no special rights in a juridical sense in our political systems join the rally on saturday the 15th of September.

Diversity only works well for all of us if the set of rules that govern us are stubbornly sober minded and underline the support for individuals. Why should the churches for example get a special treatment in regards to criminal law, taxation etc.? Why should ideological groups be allowed to run schools or prohibit the publication of cartoons?

In the last ten years we had religions coming out more and more into public life and pushing their ideologies (often in their typical aggressive manner) into our faces.

Let's show that we, secular atheists or privately religious people , want to draw a line to the special treatment of religions.

The rally starts at 13:30pm and we as the European Club meet from 13:00h at Storey's Gate, a street just opposite Westminster Abbey. I will be having a European flag with me and if you cannot find us please CALL ME ON[masked] 313.

The issue is a serious one but as good spirited Europeans I would expect us to simply have fun on a nice city walk in fresh air. If it's a sunny September day (let's pray to the great mother, Zeus, Iupiter, Teutates and Odin that it will be) we should hopefully simply enjoy ourselves supporting a good cause. Afterwards we can of course go to a park or a pub together. The rally ends in Surrey Street very close to the Royal Court of Justice, the George (our film venue), Covent Garden and the river. 

The rally is organised by the British Humanist Association, see this link for more details:

http://www.humanism.org.uk/meet-up/events/view/191?page=1&utm_source=e-bulletin+subscribers&utm_campaign=18198e1642-BHA_e_bulletin_2012_05_21&utm_medium=email

Since this is a very public event I don't want to be too strict on RSVP rules but I would appreciate if you got your RSVP status right a day before the event. There will be a last reminder on thursday the 13th of September which gives you a chance to RSVP yes or cancel it if you've said yes before.

Thanks, Dennis

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  • Tom

    Catholicism insists on the unity of the state and the Church.

    September 17, 2012

  • Andrea

    It's interesting how active the discussion continues online after so few showed up on Saturday to discuss their views at the George.

    1 · September 17, 2012

    • Gareth

      You can't troll someone if they're actually sitting there.

      September 17, 2012

  • Dennis

    My goodness there is darkness in Tom's comment. Or do I as a continental European not understand the humor? It is a bit like satire. :)

    September 17, 2012

  • Dennis

    A fantastic diverse range of speakers, from NGOs to womens' rights activists to Psychologists etc...It gave a good insight and lots of new information on the subject, a lot to think about and act upon. Thankfully it was a lovely day so I could get a bit of a tan as well :)

    September 17, 2012

  • Serkan S.

    Well, that's your opinion Tom. Fortunately, there are people who are able to imagine and hope that it will happen one day.

    September 16, 2012

  • Tom

    State and religion can not be separated. It is essential they are together.

    September 16, 2012

  • Marcello

    The children will always be influenced no matter what.
    The only thing left to decide is who would influence them:
    -their parents?
    -the churches and other entities running schools?
    -the government?
    My vote is for a mix of all, but the government is the scariest of the three because is the strongest and can enforce whatever policy it wants.
    I'm an atheist, but it's my own choice, and I think that banning religious symbols in classes like they do in France is a violation of children's freedom, and it's exactly the sort of thing goverments are keen on doing.
    Today the government might impose Darwin, tomorrow will ban him and we might not be sasllowed to teach otherwise.
    And I even see an argument for financing religious schools, as not doing it means asking their pupils to pay twice, once in taxes and once in fees. And I'd rather have the parents deciding what school to send their children to rather than the state.

    September 12, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      How can there be too many religious schools when at present there doesn't even seem to be enough. They are 'over-subscribed'­ in other words more demand than places available. No doubt because so many atheists/humanists sending their kids there.

      September 16, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      71% of the UK population can be identified as 'Christian', you can bet far fewer than 71% of our schools are Christian, so how do you get 'too many'?? Only 15% are Atheist yet they expect more than 15% secular/atheist schools.

      September 16, 2012

  • Dennis

    Meet me for the rally at 13:00h at Storey's Gate near Westminster. Anyone is welcome to join us at 17:00h at "The George" (opposite Royal Court of Justice) for further discussions, no matter if you are for a secular state or prefer inquisition or a caliphate. Mind you the discussion at the pub is not organised in the sense that a room has been booked or speakers being organised. But hopefully we can get our own corner upstairs and depending on the number of people, atmosphere, general interest I might try to channel and moderate a healthy discussion on secularism. I would do it in order to keep the focus on the issue, should however the mob rage I'll leave you to it :). See you later! My number again:[masked]

    September 15, 2012

  • Andrea

    I'm amazed that Germany is quoted as a secular example... If I remember correctly the German government collects a so called "church tax (Kirchensteuer)" on behalf of the two largest churches... I wouldn't exactly call this secular.

    September 14, 2012

    • Andrea

      Will definitely come to the George at 5pm, even if I'm not yet sure if I'll make it to the rally too.

      September 14, 2012

    • Andrea

      Will see you at the George, looking forward to a vivid discussion.

      September 15, 2012

  • Marcello

    To be honest I'm keen to reverse one of your question: Why should ideological/religious groups forbidden to run schools?
    Not having the taxpayers funding them is a different issue.

    1 · July 17, 2012

    • Andrea

      Exactly.

      September 14, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      Because the Christian schools do much better and the atheists have developed a huge inferiority complex. Most atheists are desperate to send their kids to a Christian school even pretending to be Christian to get their kids in. So much for 'humanism'.

      September 15, 2012

  • Maja

    This has been the most commented meetup and only 10 people are going. So I have decided to feature it in order to open space for further debate. If anyone (of the many people) with strong views wants to organise a separate debating meetup on the issue, just drop me a line.

    September 14, 2012

    • Gabby

      Hi Maja. Some people may choose not to come to the event as it is about supporting a particular view. People are meeting at "The George" at 17:00h which is the pub hosting the monthly film nights opposite the Royal Court of Justice.
      Please advertise that. I would be up for organising debate and discussion not just on this topic.

      September 14, 2012

    • Maja

      Excellent, I will leave it to Denis to make further announcements as he is the organiser of this event.

      September 14, 2012

  • Chris O.

    It is my belief that any kind of belief system that is practiced by society, could be useful in having a proportional influence on the government, in order to act as a kind of moral watchdog. Without that influence, the danger is that we could be on a slippery slope to the state becoming a kind of universal psuedo-religion enforced upon us all, regardless of our beliefs. The history books have shown us that the state being the dominant moral influence on society, never leads to a happy ending.

    September 14, 2012

  • Chris O.

    I believe that it is in the nature of equality, not to make everything the same, but to allow people lead their lives in a way that allows them to practice their individualism in a way that does nor impinge upon the ability of others to do the same. Therefore the idea of religions not being allowed tp run their own schools seems to contradict that idea of equality. As long as religions do not prevent parents and children have the ability to educate ad raise their children in a largly non-religious environment, then who are we as a society to deny parents the right to educate their children in a religious environment?

    September 14, 2012

  • Gabby

    The article is titled 'Children from immigrant families 'face significant challenges' in UK schools' but concludes 'compared with most other OECD countries, students in the UK enjoy relatively fluid intergenerational upward mobility.'

    !!!??? I couldn't understand what it was saying - was that the point or am I just an ignorant disadvantaged immigrant? I look forward to meeting you Dennis.

    September 11, 2012

    • Feros

      Yeah - But it would make for a sterile discussion. I've only really given my views on comparative philosophies towards education and integration as a subset of this - My views on Britain are far from rose-tinted.

      September 12, 2012

    • Dennis

      Good, it should be made clear rather than always fighting with extremes in a debate. At least in a sterile debate you can work along the issue to come a bit forward, in a heated one with extrem positions you just get extreme responses. Let's have a coffee party, not a tea party :)

      September 12, 2012

  • Feros

    I think your reading of it is correct Gabby - It's an attention grabbing, slightly misleading headline in the Guardian but the conclusion is pretty positive about comparative chances for progression in the UK. A situation that's blindlingly obvious to most immigrants in any event.
    But Dennis, you've accidentally wondered off-topic: Shouldn't you delete your own comment as you do with other peoples?

    September 11, 2012

    • Dennis

      "A rigid top-down enforced cultural ethos". That's another aggressive assessment and unreasonable.

      September 12, 2012

    • Feros

      You don't think the continental education model is more dirigiste than the UK's? I think most people would disagree with you. Surely the very fact that the UK's considering 'Free Schools' is proof of this.

      September 12, 2012

  • Feros

    I thought this was a social group? It seems to have been hijacked for political reasons, or this was your motive? Perhaps the group leaders should have been clear about this to begin with.
    Also Dennis, although you disingeniously start by saying this is about secularism, lo and behold, all your examples seem to be about Muslims. Perhaps you should leave your racist agenda masquerading as laicite in France, the UK is more advanced and more tolerant of divergent opinion. It's strange isn't it that we have religious schools in the UK and yet we're far more integrated than Germany and France where until recently you wouldn't even let black people read the news on TV. Would you ban private Jewish and Catholic schools as well or is it only the poor who shouldn't have a choice?

    September 9, 2012

    • Marcello

      This is a political event in a multi purpose group.

      September 12, 2012

    • Marcello

      You're welcome to join, ignore or criticize ar you're doing, but not to talk of hijacking, as politically biased events are quite common in the club, which doesn't have an agenda but host people with different ones. BTW, as far as I know humanists are much more worried about christian schools at the moment, purely because they're the vast majority of the religious ones in the UK.

      September 12, 2012

  • Dennis

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/sep/11/children-immigrant-families-uk-schools Aaaaaaaah, loving it! Here an article from the guardian:"British schools among the most socially segregated in the developed world". Not really functioning, is it? (Sorry, had to bring that :) )

    September 11, 2012

  • Dennis

    Hi Gabby, let's go to "The George" at 17:00h which is the pub hosting the monthly film nights opposite the Royal Court of Justice.
    Feros please come as well and we might be able to release some hot air out of you ;). The issue discussed is definitely a cultural issue so it should be in line with your impression of a cultural club. Looking forward to see you there.

    September 10, 2012

    • Gabby

      Great I'll be there. Will most Europeans have seen this discussion and this proposal to meet? Is it possible to set it up as an additional Meet Up to give everyonea chance to join the discussion?

      September 11, 2012

  • Feros

    The subject under discussion was the merits or otherwise of a secular education system. My experience is that the British are no more religious than the French or Germans despite the high number of religious schools, and society here is significantly more integrated. From the perspective of integration, which is one of the main arguments used for secular education yes I'd conclude that France and Germany are dysfunctional. The same tolerance that allows religious schools in the UK also allows foreigners to easily get good jobs in the UK, it meant that I had openly gay teachers at school in the 80's and it means that I work happily in a team with people who went to secular, jewish and catholic schools as well as madressas. Why do ethnic and religious minorities brought up in france and germany move to London for greater opportunity if the secular model works so well? And why choose the muslim/headscarf example when the vast majority of religious schools here are christian and jewish?

    September 10, 2012

    • Dennis

      Amusing is that you don't understand that I refuse to have a debate here. And while many controversial points may have been made, you're the only one to become offensive. Amusing is that you shout about lack of tolerance, Nation comparisons, subjective perceptions etc. while no one is willing to jump onto your train of heated emotions. You argue in a way that describes others as blind and yourself as knowing and understanding. And that in a pretty harsh manner. Never mind the dysfunctional, intolerant Germans and French, I can't verify that, but I can read the tone of your writing.

      September 10, 2012

    • Dennis

      The upcoming event is about secularism, let's have a lively and heated debate over it when we come together. Then I'll be willing to make points more directly. On an internet forum it really doesn't work. This is to make announcement, comment as well, ok, but a full debate should happen face to face to react directly. Then I'll show you more of my "strategy" ;)

      September 10, 2012

  • Dennis

    Feros, are you sure you're interested in a friendly exchange of ideas with fellow Europeans? Remember that "dysfunctional" can be assessed differently, depending on the perspective. Discussing what's dysfunctional in Germany in comparison to the UK is a different debate. Would love to have it with you. Shame you can't come, you sound like great company. We'll just comfort each other in our dysfunctional state of mind.

    September 10, 2012

  • Feros

    I'm unfortunately away on Saturday so you'll have to make do with agreeing heartily with each other. Maybe another time.
    I would agree with you on that one point though, it is a cultural rather than philosophical issue. For the UK to follow the obviously dysfunctional Franco/German model on this question would be big step backwards.

    September 10, 2012

  • Gabby

    the discussion has been really interesting so far. I would really like to meet up and discuss the issues further. Dennis could you arrange going somewhere after? I think if you did some of the people who wouldn't go to the rally would come (Gareth? Feros?) and we could have a good discussion (so long as we all promise not to punch other peope's lights out - I promise).

    September 10, 2012

  • Maja

    You think so? I see nothing wrong with having a healthy debate.

    September 9, 2012

  • Gareth

    Wow! This got pretty nasty pretty quickly.

    September 9, 2012

  • hans

    I just watched an informative program on 4oD: "Faith School Menace?", which provides good input to this discussion.
    Key findings: 1/3 of all schools in Britain today are faith based (and 100% of these are funded by the taxpayer). Worryingly, these schools lack central control by OFSTED. This leaves religious scholars in charge of a discriminatory admission procedure and a bastardized science curriculum which rejects fundamental facts such as the theory of evolution.
    Here is the link so you can make up your own mind: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/faith-school-menace/4od

    August 21, 2012

    • Feros

      100% of faith schools are funded by the tax payer are they? I think you need to go back to school yourself and perhaps re-take basic maths...

      September 9, 2012

  • Phil

    Having been to the Leveson Inquiry discussion and heard no desire for real change in journalism (only debates about the finer points of regulatory practice) I think the one group with excess influence today is the media - and today hearing from the Chancellor that the UK's socio-economic policy is led entirely by financial institutions ( http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1584689_chancellor-george-osborne-welcomes-aaa-rating-con ) I'd put financial institutions as a close second!

    July 30, 2012

  • Gabby

    Looks like it would be good to have a meet up to discuss religion, education, indoctrination. Are you meeting somewhere afterwards?

    July 19, 2012

  • Steve

    Children are individuals, and I certainly was as a child. I resented the religious "we know best" attitude at school. Schools are for learning things, not for moulding them into mini parents.

    By all means, teach them about other cultures, but if you are going to teach them about religion(s) than they also have to learn that not everyone in this world believes in god(s).

    Would we defend making our children conservatives? Labour? Or any other party? No, we don't do what with politics.

    2 · July 18, 2012

  • Dennis

    Please be aware that the rally is about SECULARISM, NOT ATHEISM. Secularism means only the seperation from state & religion. It is to limit too great an influence of interest groups including atheists. There is no ideological side to be taken in this rally it is for those interested in seeing limited influence of single-issue interest groups, such as Religions, Atheists, Nationalists, Kapitalists etc, in the constitutional and legal setup of european states. It's rather dull & unemotional really

    1 · July 18, 2012

  • Dennis

    confident enough as Muslims to have their belief and still wanting to enjoy the wind in their hair. It is the strictly enforced neutrality by the state that gives them both experiences! That's just one example but I'm happy to discuss the issues in full when meeting people face to face. In the meantime here's a cause to support :)
    http://humanism.org.uk/news/view/1079

    1 · July 17, 2012

  • Dennis

    ..se different thoughts and beliefs as what they are. A variety of options. And only with a clear open mind are you in the state to make decisions. For Religion, Atheism, Nationalism, etc. Some Muslim girls in France have by the time they leave school at 16 or 18 the experience of wearing a headscarf in the evenings and weekends and wearing none during the day at school in public. With 16 or 18 they will be able to decide if the scarf is something they want to wear or if they think that they are

    July 17, 2012

  • Dennis

    Schools as public institutions have a certain duty on how to deliver values and that can only be as neutral as possible. That is not a state that can be reached at some point once and forever but like democracy something that has always to be worked on and upheld. Of course there is influence in thought and belief from day one on earth from parents, friends, TV etc. But it shouldn't let the state off the hook to always strive for an education that gives children the mental ability to see all tho

    July 17, 2012

  • Max

    School should be all equal...I think that that was intended as no school shoul be allowed to teach a single faith or religion but should instead inform/educate pupils and let them make their own decisions.
    There will always be some schools better than others at educating; that is another subject...

    July 17, 2012

  • Max

    Children of people who would send them to religious school have already a huge disadvantage as far as making their own mind up is concerned. To me that is one more reason to make sure that such schools wouldn't exist.
    Atheism?!? Who said anything about that? My point is that regardless of their own faith or ideology, some parents want to live their kids free to make their own mind up. To say that that is not true would be like speaking on behalf of every parent on this planet...

    July 17, 2012

  • Maja

    Schools will never be "equal" there will always be better and worse schools. I agree, the system is not fair, but even in communism, where all schools were "equal" there were better and worse schools. I do have to admit that the standard between them didn't vary as much as in the UK today. I am not advocating that no improvements should be made, I'm saying that banning religious schools is a bad idea and will not solve anything in the context of equality or bettering mutual understanding.

    July 17, 2012

  • Sandra T.

    At the moment in the UK people cannot choose which state school their children have to go to, they get allocated places depending on home distance etc, by the council. Religious groups should not be given the chance to run schools, like that all schools would be equal and this problem would be sorted.

    1 · July 17, 2012

  • Maja

    I disagree, some parents want their children to go to religious schools and atheism is not neutral it is also an ideology. I think things should be pretty much left as they are. People can send their children to whatever school they want (or educate them at home) and then we'll all meet in the workplace or on Meetup when we are adults and see who we want to associate with :-)

    July 17, 2012

  • Max

    Well those are all very good points, however, going back to the original issue; a good starting point is for ideological/religious groups not to be allowed to run schools.
    As far as how parents teach their children...I think that it wouldn't be right to generalise. I am sure that some parents would be happy to have their kids decide for themselves.

    July 17, 2012

  • Maja

    Please note the difference between how things "should be" and practice. In reality parents create "mini me" versions of themselves by teaching their children beliefs and values that are close to them and by choosing a school for the children. Parents also influence the choice of university if only by which university they can afford to send their child to.Schools are a part of society and society is not neutral, it has a structure which new citizens need to fit in after going through education.

    July 17, 2012

  • Sandra T.

    Those are valid points, Hans, this is precisely why schools should be special places for them to be free from doctrines as much as possible, because they are already getting them from families, government, etc. They should be taught facts as facts and the rest should be clearly introduced as myths or stories, but more importantly, they should be taught to think, to ask questions and to wonder

    1 · July 17, 2012

  • hans

    Interesting debate! The most important gift a parent can give a child is capacity for independent thought and freedom to reflect using all the available "tools and theories". But what does it mean in practice? Families and governments always seek to "indoctrinate". Children are part of a cultural or social context. How do schools give them the best chance to develop? If schools should be "neutral", how do we find appropriate teachers? And does it assume reform of society's power structures?

    July 17, 2012

  • Max

    Hey Dennis,
    I did all of my studies at the Mickey Mouse school and I turned out to be just fine...:-D

    July 17, 2012

  • Max

    I think they should be forbidden for the simple fact that otherwise, the pupils will be influenced at a very young age, with very little chance to make their own choices in regards to faith and religion.
    Marcello,
    In my humble opinion, schools should be about education and not indoctrination.

    2 · July 17, 2012

  • Dennis

    Because only the state should run schools to enable equal chances. And the state should be commited to strict neutrality and schools that guarantee children an education without ideology since they only learn to find they place in our world. In the end they can chose to stick to whatever they like. But if we allow Opus Dei, Salafist, Neonazi, Scientology and Mickey Mouse schools the state does not fulfill it's task of granting equal opportunities to children and keeping the peace within society.

    1 · July 17, 2012

  • Sandra T.

    Because children should grow free from indoctrination as much as possible, and the school should be a safe haven where they can just be children and learn to think freely

    2 · July 17, 2012

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