Tuesday 11 October Amersham SBH 2pm
NOTE: afternoon meeting
Humanism and the Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education
Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs) exist for all local authority areas, and are made up of teachers, religious leaders and Councillors. Some, but not all, admit Humanists into membership (Herts does not).
Elaine Lever is a member of Milton Keynes Humanists and a Humanist celebrant, and has been a member of both the Bucks and Milton Keynes SACREs for some years. The main function of the SACREs is to advise the local authority on Religious Education (RE) matters, and on collective worship in Community Schools, but the Buckinghamshire SACRE has a wider aspiration: ?to ensure that all pupils in our schools develop spiritually, academically, emotionally and morally so that they are able to understand themselves and others and cope with the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities of living in a rapidly changing world?.
Elaine will explain more about what the Standing Advisory Councils are and what they do, and what she has been able to achieve as a member of the Councils for Bucks and Milton Keynes. Perhaps also whether the religious bodies are co-operative or obstructive, and what more she hopes to achieve, or thinks it possible to achieve. Is it satisfactory for the curriculum on religious/belief studies to be organised locally or should it become part of the national curriculum?
Tuesday 8 November Wendover Library 8pm
Co-ordinator of My Death My Decision
My Death, My Decision
The title of Phil Cheatle?s talk reflects the name of his organisation. He took over last year as Co-ordinator of My Death My Decision (or MDMD), which was established in 2009 as the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS). Its founder was Michael Irwin, a former Medical Director of the United Nations, and a former Chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
When the Voluntary Euthanasia Society was re-structured in 2005, to become Dignity in Dying, its main objective was limited to changing the law to provide doctor-assisted dying only for the terminally-ill (that is, those who are expected to die within six months). SOARS considered this change most unfortunate as disabled people and the very elderly can suffer much longer and more severely than the terminally-ill. So the main long-term objective of SOARS (and now of its successor, MDMD) is to get the law eventually changed in the UK so that very elderly, mentally competent individuals, who are suffering unbearably from various health problems (although none of them is ?terminal?) are allowed to receive a doctor?s assistance to die, if that is their persistent choice.
Wednesday 14 December Amersham LBH
President of the NSS
Religion: A Threat to us All
The National Secular Society, to which our group is affiliated, works towards a society in which all citizens, regardless of religious belief, or lack of religious belief, can live together fairly and cohesively; it campaigns for a secular democracy with a separation of religion and state, where everyone's Human Rights are respected equally.
Terry Sanderson has been President of the NSS since 2008. Prior to that he was for many years a gay activist. In his recent autobiography, ?The Adventures of a Happy Homosexual?, he writes: ?At the beginning of this story I, along with every other gay man in the country, was a sexual outlaw. If I had expressed my sexual preference for those of my own sex I could have ended up in prison. Now, six decades later, I am about to exercise my option to be married to my male partner. During that same period, religion has staged a revival that could conceivably reverse everything that gay people have achieved. In Europe, only a few short years ago, religion was regarded as being in its death throes. Now it is renewing itself in new and more frightening forms, with the potential to threaten us all.?
Is he right? Is religion still a threat to us all? If so, what can or should we do about it? Discuss these issues with Terry, and with Keith Porteous-Wood, NSS General Secretary, who will also be attending.
January: New Year Lunch
Tuesday 14 February Wendover Library 8 pm
Senior lecturer in cognitive psychology at The Open University.
The Consciousness Conundrum
What is consciousness, and how do physical processes in the brain give rise to the subjective life of a conscious mind?
Simple animals like the amoeba presumably have no such experience, since they have no brain or nervous system, yet they can react to their surroundings well enough to survive without it. Many of our own cognitive functions such as perceiving objects, making decisions, and even performing apparently voluntary actions can take place without consciousness intervening, but if we can function without conscious awareness, why should consciousness be there at all? Is consciousness just an accidental by-product of having a large brain, or has it been selected for by evolution because creatures with consciousness have improved prospects for survival? Historically, questions about the ?hard problem? of consciousness have primarily been a topic for philosophers, but advances in neuroscience are bringing us closer to a scientific understanding.
Peter Naish is a senior lecturer in cognitive psychology at The Open University. He will be revealing many of the latest developments in our efforts to unravel the mysteries of consciousness.
Wednesday 8 March Amersham SBH
Tuesday 11 April Wendover Library