Frequently asked questions
Please contact us if you have a question that is not answered here.
Do you want to ban religion?
We support freedom of belief as long as:
- No harm is caused, or called for, in the name of a religion or belief.
- No one tries to impose their religion or belief on to others - particularly children.
- There are no special privileges based on religious belief.
- Taxpayers do not fund religions in any way.
- All beliefs support freedom of thought, belief, speech and expression.
Are you anti-god?
The "a" in atheist stands for "not" - we are "not theists" - we are defined by what we are not, not by what we are.
We see no need for the god idea and no evidence for it - so we reject it.
We are no more anti-god than we are anti-Santa Clause or anti-Hobbit.
Can you or science prove there is no god?
Spectacular ideas, like the god idea, require spectacular proof.
The onus is on the proposer of an idea to prove it.
It is never necessary to prove a negative - or we would spend forever trying to disprove all sorts of silly ideas.
Do you hate religious people?
Of course not! Some of our best friends and professional colleagues are religious.
We don't hate anyone - we just believe that religion is responsible for many of the ills in the world today.
Do you tar all religious people with the same brush?
We don't tar religious people with any brush.
There are good and bad religious people just as there are good and bad non-religious people. Religion, or lack of it, does not make you good.
One look at the world shows that bad things are done in the name of religion and we don't understand how people who claim to believe in the same god, and read the same holy books, can adopt such diametrically opposed behaviour,
We understand that religious people frequently interpret their holy books in different ways so the yardstick for "goodness" must lie outside religion. We happen to believe that the yardstick is Humanism - something to which even religious people turn when judging the goodness or badness of actions.
Why are you so angry about religion?
We are not angry about religion - we are upset by many of the things done in the name of religion.
We recognise than most religious people try to lead good lives but every day on the news we see religious ideas used to justify murder, violence, oppression and discrimination.
We have never seen such things in the name of Humanism or "not-god".
What do you want to replace religion with?
We see no need to replace religion with anything - after all, we are not trying to prevent religious people being religious.
Millions of people lead happy, caring and responsible lives with no need for god or religion. For example, see the list of secular values which are totally independent of religion.
I am "searching" - is humanism for me?
Maybe, maybe not. Humanism is not a religion - nor a replacement for one.
By "searching" you are doing more than most religious people who simply accept the first thing that comes along.
The trouble is that some people never stop searching, they move from one thing to the next in the quest for "spiritual enlightenment" and the path becomes more important than the destination - yesterday paganism, today Buddhism, tomorrow pantheism, the day after crystals, lay-lines and LSD. There is no shortage of stops along this infinite path - all of them eventually turn out to be dead ends.
However, when you accept that there is nothing "out there", that this is the one and only life you have, and you are ready to get on with it, please contact us for a chat about the best way to lead an enjoyable, fulfilling and responsible life free of gods, religions and all the mumbo-jumbo associated with them
Isn't atheism just another form of religion?
There is no such thing as "atheism" - there is no ideology, or set of beliefs, shared by atheists. We have no gods, no holy books, no holy men, no holy places, no holy institutions.
Atheist don't "believe" in a "non-god" - we simply reject the god idea.
We feel the same about unicorns and fairies at the bottom of the garden - we see no need to propose their existence and no evidence for them.
There would be no atheists if there were no theists. We are defined by what we are not - not by what we believe.
How are you funded?
We have no need of money. We maintain our own web site - which costs next to nothing - and we sometimes rent a room or print a leaflet - then we scrounge the money from our better-off supporters.
When it comes to doing things, which is what we are really about, we give our time for free - time and intellectual skills are our most valuable assets.
Are you cynical atheists out to spoil everyone's fun?
We are sceptical, not cynical, and we are 100% in support of fun - it was religious puritans who banned the celebration of Christmas in 1644, not atheists!
We recognise that "faith" has absolutely nothing to do with evidence or proof - it is simply something believed without the need for proof.
There are fun parts to religion and there are miserable parts to religion. The fun parts involve comradeship, friendship, getting together with others and having a good time or doing good work. Also naming ceremonies, partnership ceremonies and death ceremonies (you can't beat a good wake!) All religious and non-religious people celebrate all three - there is nothing uniquely religious about any of them.
So, getting together with people and having a good social life (with or without the odd drink!) is fun - and we are 100% in favour of it.
Where we fall down is on the god-bit, the hierarchical church bit, the "our rules are the only rules" bit, the "our holy book is right, all the others are wrong" bit, the discrimination against others and the general miserableness ("thou shalt not ...") that is associated with some religions.
God is a truth - there have always been gods
The nature of "truth"
Truth is a loaded word, it is an absolute, a binary choice, something is either true or not.
You can't have relative truths - something can't be true for you but not true for me - despite Rudy Giuliani claiming that "truth isn't truth" and Donald Trump insisting on "alternative facts".
People need a little more education in philosophy and logic before speaking out of ignorance.
We are happy for you to believe in a god if you feel the need for one - but that does not make it a "truth".
We wonder who first came up with the idea of gods to explain the gaps in our understanding of the world? This "god of the gaps" seems to have fewer and fewer places to hide these days.
Do you accept that there must have been a creator?
Please see the article Answering the big questions of life for more details.
Surely there must be a reason for everything?
Why? The question does not arise as far as we are concerned. Isn't it enough to strive for a happy, caring, responsible and fulfilled life?
Humans are social animals, we need values and rules to enable us to function harmoniously with one another. Those values and rules are primarily derived from empathy and wanting to treat other people in the same way we would like them to treat us.
It's not rocket science!
Do you think it right to mock religious beliefs?
Yes - and for our own ideas to be mocked.
This is made clear in section 29J of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, 2006.
Section 29J: Protection of freedom of expression
"Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system."
We support freedom of thought, belief, speech and expression - as long as it causes no harm.
- You have no choice over your sex, colour, sexuality or race - and any prejudice or discrimination based on these is to be condemned.
- You make a personal intellectual choice (preferably an informed choice rather than one based on ignorance, prejudice or indoctrination) when you choose a religion - or no religion.
- All intellectual choices should be subject to challenge, criticism and, occasionally, ridicule.
- Those insecure in their religion will demand that their critics be silenced and that they be protected by law.
- Those secure in their beliefs will not worry about criticism and ridicule.
A free society is one in which anyone can say anything as long as they don't promote hatred or call for harm to be done. We judge people not by what they say, or claim to believe, but by what they do.
We should be free to say that, for us:
- all man-invented gods are superstitious nonsense;
- all man-written religious books are nonsense - sometimes dangerous nonsense;
- religious ritual is designed to impress the gullible;
- everyone should be free to say and do what they wish - as long as they bring no harm to others;
- all religions try to prevent free speech and to limit the freedom of individuals.
Which religions do you disagree with?
All of them.
We do not discriminate between Christians, Muslims, Judaists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Bahaists, etc.
Even those of one religion cannot agree with one another and they have all fragmented again and again into opposing sects: Catholics, Protestants, Methodists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, Baptists, Wesleyans, Sunni, Shia, Liberal, Fundamentalist, Born-Again, Pentecostal, Jewish Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ultra-orthodox, Reformed, Un-Reformed, - the list goes on and on and on.
We sometimes ask:
"If there is only one god, why are there so many religions - and which one is right?"
The response we get is usually:
"We are right, they are wrong."
My god's better than your god
Christian Bible, 2 Samuel 22:38-51:
"You armed me with strength for the battle. .....
I beat (my enemies) as fine as the dust of the earth;
I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets."
Christian Bible, Deuteronomy 2:33-34:
"And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.
And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain."
Of course, a little selective interpretation will make this go away.
Isn't England already a secular country?
Unfortunately not. We have:
- An established religion - Christianity in the form of the Church of England.
- Religious leaders making our laws - 26 un-elected and un-accountable C of E Bishops sit by right in the House of Lords.
- Politicians failing to state their religious beliefs when expressing opinions based on those beliefs.
- Over 30% of our schools are "faith" schools - dedicated to instructing children in one religion - and paid for 100% by taxpayers.
- Women, homosexuals and others legally discriminated against because of the rules laid down by religions.
- Religious organisation allowed to opt-out of employment and discrimination legislation.
Religion may be the active occupation of a tiny minority of its population (less than 7% of the population regularly attends religious services) but England is far from being a secular country!
Should parents bring up children in their own religion?
We believe all young people have an absolute right to make a free and informed choice about what to believe.
Free means without undue pressure and informed means understanding the alternatives before making a choice.
We support teaching about different beliefs to enable young people to make an informed choice.
We oppose religious schools and we oppose worship in schools - because they are based on the assumption that there is a god and, in the case of religious schools, that the religion of that school is the right one and all others are wrong.
Parents do not own their children, they have a responsibility towards them. We understand that, for some parents, religion is very important to them and they feel the need to pass this on to their children. However, there is a big difference between telling children about something to enable them to decide for themselves, and imposing it upon them. We are opposed to the imposition of religious beliefs - by anyone.
Should parents send their children to faith schools?
No - see above.
Apart from denying freedom of choice, Religious schools are highly divisive. Northern Ireland is a classic example where Ian Paisley represented the ultimate in extremist religious bigotry.
Some faith schools, particularly Catholic and Muslim schools, are designed to indoctrinate children through the all-pervasive "god assumption". The head teacher of a Derby Catholic primary school said "god is part of everything we teach - across the curriculum." Such schools are closed to speakers from a non-theist view point - though we are happy to provide speakers if they put the interests of children above their religious interests.
CofE schools are moving this way with continuous calls for them to be more "evangelical" in their teaching and to see taxpayer-funded schools as the saviour of the rapidly shrinking church.
Outside teaching about religions there is no place for religion, or the trappings of religion (crosses, special clothes etc.) in schools.
How can we expect to create a harmonious and integrated society when the very idea of faith schools promotes disharmony and fragmentation?
What happens when you die?
You die. Your existence ceases as a conscious being.
Your atoms are recycled within the Universe after you are burnt or buried. Plant a tree over your grave and your atoms will become part of that tree. That tree may be cut down to become furniture or paper - and your atoms will be within them. When the Sun explodes, and the Earth ceases to exist, your atoms may become part of a new star or a new planet - and the cycle goes round and round - for ever. Brilliant!
That's it. No more, no less. No supernatural "souls" or "spirits" or "life after death". Death is natural part of life and not to be feared. Pain is to be feared. Dying an unpleasant death is to be feared - that's why we support the idea of a dignified death at a time of your own choosing.
If you believe that there is something after death, ask yourself the simple question: "what came before life?" You had no consciousness before you were born, so why expect any after you die?
You get one chance in life - so make the most of it. Enjoy being with people, help out where you can and do some good on the way.
What about heaven, paradise and hell?
The promise of a place heaven is part of the toolkit for suicide bombers.
Historically "heaven" and "hell" were invented to keep the poor in their place - things may be hard on earth but there is a reward in heaven.
to spend the rest of eternity in the fires of hell."
In the past, conditions were so hard that many people found it difficult to go through life without a belief that there was something better to follow. Churches came along to take advantage of this by offering a guaranteed way to heaven while they exploited the labour or income of the poor. That's why the poor got poorer, the rich got richer, the churches got bigger and churchmen got fatter living off the backs of their flocks.
History contains an endless list of rebellions of the poor against the oppression of churches. So, while religion can be used to keep people in their place, many people see through it and fight back.