ESS Letter: Secularism

Church and State

Richard Lucas despairs about the modernising of The Church of Scotland over sexuality and relationships and their opposition to smacking children. (letters 26th May)

He laments that these are “secular values.” Mr Lucas should remember that Secularism is concerned only to separate church and state makes no judgement of religious ideas per se.

I imagine that if asked, many secularists would applaud The Kirk or any organisation finding its way towards liberalism and decency but the internal ideological struggle of a private religious group has nothing to do with Secularism.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in Scotsman newspaper 27th May 2016

ESS Letter: Secular Time


This week saw the pageant known as The Kirking of the Parliament and much is being made of its new “inter-faith” credentials including a contribution from Humanist Society Scotland.

Is this a step in the right direction? We know that all religious groups combined now amount to fewer than half of all Scots.

The solution to the privilege of one minority religion proclaiming its affiliation with our democratically elected parliament is surely not to shoe-horn in a whole bunch of other religions.

Pageantry and ceremony add value to our lives but could we not have a secular event which represents all Scottish voters?

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in the Scotsman newspaper 13th May 2016

Edinburgh Secular Society – Annual General Meeting 2016


Edinburgh Secular Society – Notice of Annual General Meeting 2016

All members are welcome to attend.

Time: 12;45pm
Day:  Sunday
Date; 24th April 2016
Venue: Royal Over-Seas League (Stevenson Room), 100 Princes Street, Edinburgh.

ESS Letter: Rights of Children V Religious Rights

Relgion v Child rights

We were heartened to hear that a court in England has ruled against a Muslim father who wished for his sons aged six and four to have their genitals surgically altered in keeping with his religious beliefs.

The boys’ mother had argued that they should be allowed to decide for themselves when they are old enough.

Adult religious belief must be respected but it does not trump the rights of children who are too young to understand or consent to such a procedure.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 22nd April 2016

ESS Letter: Bible-based morality


To its credit the SNP government is to amend gender recognition laws to promote the freedoms and rights of transgender Scots.

This welcome initiative is of course opposed by David Robertson of The Free Church who has blustered about “the destruction of traditional Christian ideas of sexuality and marriage” and how it will mean “the destruction of humanity and cause chaos.”

Religious groups must be free to campaign on any issue so long as it is not from a platform of privilege: we might, for example, support their opposition to poverty or homelessness so we have no right to deny them a voice simply because we might disagree on this occasion.

However if bible-based morality creates ungenerous attitudes of such naivety, intolerance and gracelessness, is it any wonder that the vast majority of Scots aged under-thirty are now having nothing to do with Christianity ?

 Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in Edinburgh Evening News 4th April 2016

ESS Letter: Time to end religious privilege in Scotland

Relgious Privilege

With the most recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey showing that 52% of Scots are not religious it is official that Scotland is NOT a “Christian country.”

It must now be time to rethink the anachronistic advantages this particular religion enjoys: unelected representatives on local education committees, open-door access to the developing minds of state school children, taxpayers’ money given to “faith schools”, automatic stewardship of civic ceremonies, annual pageants proclaiming their affiliation with our judiciary. The list goes on.

As secularists we feel no schadenfreude at this predictable decline as all are entitled to their beliefs, but Christianity is now only a subset of a minority.

The state’s duty is to protect the right to private religious belief and not to privilege it.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in Glasgow Herald 6th April 2016

ESS Letter: The “real meaning“ of Easter?


Deriving its name from Eastre, a goddess of Spring, Easter means different things to different people.

Rebirth is a universal theme: eggs work for everyone, garden centres are jostling and for Christians it is represented in the resurrection story.

With this plethora of interpretations of the Spring equinox why do posters on church doors continue to proclaim the “real meaning“ of Easter?

Might it be that the “intolerance” which Christians claim to experience would abate considerably were they to share their festival with the words “our meaning?”

Neil Barber – Communication Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in Edinburgh Evening News 25th March 2016. 

‘Enlighten Up Campaign’


The Enlighten Up campaign calls for removal of unelected religious representatives from Local Authority Education Committees and exposes worrying details of current religious representatives in a new report.

Humanist Society Scotland has launched its new Enlighten Up education campaign calling on the Scottish Government to end the guessing game for parents and ensure that every member of local authority education committees are accountable through the ballot box.

Sign the petition here

Nathan Alexander: Exploring the deep roots of Scottish secularism

Scottish Secularism

PhD candidate at the School of History, University of St Andrews, Nathan Alexander examines the roots of secularism in Scotland

IN listening to opponents of secularism in Scotland, one would think that challenging Christian privilege was somehow a recent phenomenon here.

There is no doubt that the nation boasts a long Christian history, but one can equally find a long history of a bold questioning of the authority of Christianity – certainly not always prominent or mainstream, it is true, but present nonetheless.

Thomas Aikenhead (c. 1676-1697) might be one of the earliest figures in this alternative tradition. In his third year studying at the University of Edinburgh, Aikenhead was charged with blasphemy in late 1696.

Among his crimes were ridiculing the Bible, dubbing theology “ill-invented nonsense”, and asserting that both Jesus and Moses were merely magicians who had learned their craft in Egypt. Aikenhead’s indictment was based on blasphemy laws dating from 1661 and 1695, which prescribed death for those who denied God or the trinity.

Despite desperate pleas from the young Aikenhead that he had repented his irreligious views and that he was a minor, not yet 21 years old, he was convicted in December and subsequently hanged on 8 January 1697, though not, it should be noted, without some Christians arguing for leniency.

Aikenhead’s execution – the last one for blasphemy in Britain – sent shockwaves throughout Britain and continued to be infamous in later centuries and indeed up to the present day…….(full article here)

ESS Letter: Religion in Scots Law

The recently published Glasgow University report “Religion in Scots law” is quite an eye-opener in its revelation of vestigial religious privilege.

Who would have guessed for example that blasphemy, though not prosecuted for some time, is still a common law offence in Scotland?

The religious must be free to take their beliefs and their ancients texts as seriously as they like but it is quite absurd to insist, under pain of criminal sanction, that everyone else does too.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer  – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in Scotsman newspaper 2nd March 2016.

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