Saturday, 30 May 2009

Recommended Reading List #25

Obviously Reading List loves lists, and Berkshire Humanists have produced a series of seven questions which voters may wish to ask candidates and political parties who canvas them.

While BH's list pertains to the particular interests of advocates for secular values, we want to know what you'd ask...


  1. if you could only own one CD, what would it be?
    what do/did you do prior to politics?
    do you own more than one property?
    are all heroin addicts victims?
    what is your favourite alcoholic drink?
    do you own a sit on lawn mower?
    have you ever smoked a cannabis joint?
    do you visit church on a regualr basis?
    if you had to eradicate cats or dogs, which would you choose?
    why should I vote for you?

  2. Gideon's questions are much more interesting (and revealing!) than those from the Humanists! I am still stuck on Question 1.

  3. I would have to agree with Anonymous. Gideon's questions are more interesting. The BH questions are a bit dry and wonky.

    You must belong to the British Humanist society? Do they do anything fun or do they just have meetings to discuss coming up with questions for candidates? (Was thinking maybe I should go to a meeting sometime.)

  4. Brian Bucklebury30 May 2009 at 18:28

    anything by the who
    office job
    doubt it

  5. Why are all politicians corrupt?

  6. Anon,
    all politicians?

    Hello Elizabeth,
    actually I'm not (they don't allow big ginger hominids of the pongo borneo variety through their doors - we just sit in the trees and watch), though if you're interested you should check out their site at

    Personally speaking, what we believe isn't as important as what we know, and what we think is only relevant insofar as it informs what we do.

    According to one local guru this fits with the concept of Mana accepted by animatists... well, we're all animals at heart!

  7. In terms of what you believe not being (that) important I disagree.

    Anecdotally, I have noticed that in the minds of most "believers" knowledge and belief seem intertwined, for example, if you asked a pro-life evangelical in the USA (particularly Kansas as it happens) "why do you believe abortion doctors are evil", the answer would almost certainly come back "because I know in my heart that abortion wrong" (or some such)

    Surly it is the group reinforcement of "belief" that often leads to very bad stuff (like shooting doctors); I would concede that belief also can lead to good things too, for example the civil rights movement. So, I would care very much what people believed, it's a good indicator of what they might do.

  8. Elizabeth, Whilst I can see your point about the BH questions being dry, I think you need to look at them in context more.

    The representation of these views are hardly ever surfaced in the normal cut and thrust of political debate, apologetics is normally the order of the day; some of these issues (particularly faith schools IMO) are quite important issues that may adversely affect community cohesion and freedom of speech over the long term. So I think if you are keen to see a more rational and fair society and think vested religious interests stand in opposition to that as I do then these kinds of questions and the issues behind them are up there on the list.

    PS I've never been to any of the meetings either, but the WEB site and the email alerts are quite thought provoking and worth getting IMO.

  9. Shame that the British Humanists don’t like feedback. I had a perfectly reasonable reply to their doorstep questions awaiting Humanist Approval but they’ve removed it. God that annoys me.

  10. Gideon Mack - Care to share your reply here?

  11. Yes, Steve, I'd be interested to know that too...

    BTW I didn't mean to understate the importance of belief, only to say that knowledge is more important. I hold to this principally because what is provable is more reliable than what cannot be disproved.

  12. (1) Yes – but call yourselves ‘interested people’ not humanists
    (2) Yes – but call yourselves ‘interested people’ not humanists
    (3) Yes – as long as they’re local ‘interested people’ irrespective of being believers or not
    (4) HRA applies to the individual not society – it helps
    (5) No – it’s National Law or anarchy
    (6) Insular and divisive but OK if you like that religion – voodoo if you don’t
    (7) In principle I agree with the council delivering cost effectiveness which Reading Borough Council fails at

  13. Thanks GM, I agree, your reply seems perfectly reasonable to me?

    Shame they didn’t frame these questions with some context, the first one for example is about the various SACRE (Schools Advisory Council on Religious Education) boards in the region, particularly Reading & Wokingham. These are bodies that give advice to schools on the content of religious education and essentially set the syllabus. If we have to have them at all then you would think it right and proper that reasonable representation be given to non-believers as well as believers, since non-believers represent a sizable proportion of the population. This is not the case, there is no Humanist/Atheist/Agnostic representation on these boards and requests to allow representation and participation have been denied with no stated reason. So here we have a bunch of religious people seemingly deciding that opponents and critics of religion can’t have influence. Hence Q1, i.e. it’s about religion so being identified as a Humanist/Non-believer is fairly central to the position.

    I think 2 & 3 have a similar context but I’m not sure of the specifics.

    Totally agree with you on 4 except that I think it is wrong to protect religion or the religious from criticism, either protect everyone from being “offended” or no one.

    5 - Yep.

    6 – Agreed, there is a fine line though, what do you think the government should do if a school teaches its pupils that Jews are animals or that laws can be ignored, or just plain indoctrinates rather than teaches – seems unfair to the children to me.

    7 – Agreed but you wouldn’t want the Catholic Church responsible for sex advice clinics etc. (there has to be some limits applied)


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