In September 2013 the Woolf Institute in Cambridge convened an independent commission to undertake, over a two-year period, the first systematic review of the role of religion and belief in the UK today and to make policy recommendations.
Its report Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good was published in December 2015. Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, was one of twenty distinguished commissioners.
The report recognises the rapid increase in the number of people with non-religious beliefs and identities (49 per cent according to the British Social Attitudes Survey) and it gives considerable support to many humanist policy positions including a call for humanist representation on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, equitable representation for humanist chaplaincy in hospitals and prisons, the reduction of selection of school pupils and staff on grounds of religion, and the repeal of the requirement for collective worship in schools in favour of inclusive times for reflection.
Its recommendations include the following:
- A national conversation should be launched across the UK by leaders of faith communities and ethical traditions to create a shared understanding of the fundamental values underlying public life which foster the common good
- Voluntary organisations should promote opportunities for interreligious and inter-worldview encounter and dialogue
- Much greater religion and belief literacy in every section of society
- All pupils in state-funded schools should have a statutory entitlement to a curriculum about religion, philosophy and ethics that is relevant to today’s society, and the broad framework of such a curriculum should be nationally agreed
Dorset Humanists can play its part in fulfilling all such recommendations. In particular, I would like us to hold an event during Inter-Faith week (3rd week in November) and I would like us to strengthen our schools education project. We will also continue to arrange talks and evening courses to improve religion and belief literacy. I was pleased that the Bournemouth Echo included our humanist message on Christmas Day alongside religious messages and we have become a regular participant in the Bournemouth Remembrance Service.
Please have a think about how you, as a member of Dorset Humanists, could help us to fulfil these aims. We look forward to hearing your views.