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Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Atheism, Morality, Politics | 7 comments

Absolutely awesome! Humanism and Atheism debated in the House of Lords

You must must watch this. Hopefully I can embed the video. Watch it from 2.12pm onwards. This is why I love this country. Discussing philosophy fairly and squarely within the confines of our Parliamentary system (even if the House of Lords is our non-elected part).

If I can’t get it to embed, check it out here (I can’t):

Woo hoo! Give us public space! The opening statements were nothing short of superb. To bring up Democritus’ atomism, Lucretius, Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, Diderot and so on. In fact, on listening, all the speakers were fascinating, for and against. This is argument enough in defence of the Hous of Lords! This should have got way more press.

This is what the British Humanist Association had to say:

Peers celebrate humanist contribution to British society

July 25th, 2013

Parliamentarians in the House of Lords debated the contribution of humanists to British society today. The debate was called by Lord Harrison, who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) and British Humanist Association, and contributors included prominent humanists Baroness Whitaker, Lord Soley, Baroness Meacher, Lord Maxton, Viscount Craigavon, Baroness Massey and APPHG Chair Lord Warner.

The debate celebrated the work of the British Humanist Association (BHA), including our campaigning on public policy and ethical issues; the contributions of Humanists and atheists over the decades to defending our democratic freedoms, by campaigning for free speech, secularism, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and an end to all religious privileges; humanists’ willingness (despite the misinformed image of ‘militant atheists’), to cooperate with religious groups on issues of common concern, such as on education issues; the work of Humanist celebrants accredited by the BHA, who conduct ceremonies attended by over 250,000 people each year; and the work of Humanists who provide pastoral support to the non-religious in institutions such as hospitals, prisons and universities.

Lord Harrison commented on the fact that the number of non-religious people in the UK is on the increase (as shown by the 2011 Census and various other surveys), and that many of them have a Humanist worldview.  This means that Humanism is the default philosophical position for millions of people in the UK today.  Lord Ahmad responding on behalf of the government mentioned the Humanist contribution to charity volunteering, as well as the contribution of individual Humanists to various secular charities which are supported by the religious and non-religious alike. The Bishop of Birmingham talked about the value of humanist funerals and the Church of England’s support of the move towards the legal recognition of humanist marriages and celebrated the contribution of atheists and Humanists to the common good

The enormous contribution to public, intellectual and creative life in the UK from the BHA’s Distinguished Supporters, which includes philosophers, scientists and leading figures in the arts, was noted by Lord Warner, Baroness Whitaker and Lord Maxton.  Baroness Massey talked about the work of the novelist E M Forster, who was Vice President of the Union of Ethical Societies (the BHA’s forerunner) in the 1950s, and a member of the BHA’s Advisory Council from its foundation in 1963.  Humanism is at the heart of Forster’s work, which focuses on human relationships, and the need for sympathy and tolerance between individual human beings from different sections of society and different cultures.

Humanist support for assisted dying with ethics and personal autonomy at its core featured prominently in speeches given by Baroness Meacher and Lord Warner , with Lord Warner adding “It’s a cause for celebration that more people in UK are moving towards humanism and atheism and politicians, media and monarchy need to recognise this.” 



For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.


Humanists in Parliament:


Contributors to the debate:

Lord  Ahmad of Wimbledon (Minister)

The Bishop of Birmingham

Viscount Craigavon

Baroness Flather

Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Lord Harrison

Lord Layard

Baroness Massey of Darwen

Lord Maxton

Baroness Meacher

Lord Morgan

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Lord Soley

Baroness Turner of Camden

Lord Warner

Baroness Warnock

Baroness Whitaker

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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  • Neil Webber

    Glad you enjoyed it :)
    I heartily agree that all the speakers were excellent

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Forgot to H/T you!

  • Phasespace

    I have to say I am immensely jealous. It is pretty much impossible for something like that to happen in the U.S. right now without the high likelihood of violent repercussions for the speakers.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      That was the main reason I posted this, so that US audiences can see the difference. I understand your frustration. Out of interest, can you see the video from the link in the US?

      • Phasespace

        Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it is viewable here. The video seems to require the silverlight plugin, and I have had a long sordid history with that piece of software. The plugin doesn’t work at all on my system at work, but I’ll give it shot on my home system tonight (although I won’t hold my breath on it working on that one either).

  • Chris Street

    I’ve made a Wikipedia page for the debate:

  • Pingback: Full transcript of House of Lords Debate on Atheism and Humanism | A Tippling Philosopher()