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Leicester Secular Society


Some Local Leicester Issues and Discussion Points

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Should we Cooperate with Inter-Faith Groups?

Somewhat confusingly, Leicester has two groups devoted to developing cooperation and understanding between people of different beliefs: First, Leicester Inter-Faith Council which holds talks followed by discussions (and also separate sessions devoted to meditation and prayer) and specifically states that "A warm welcome is extended to folk of any persuasion or none" {my underlining). Second, the Leicester Council of Faiths, about which I know very little, but believe it deals with more political matters.
I incline to the view that individual members should be able if they wish to attend meetings of the Inter-Faith Council, if only to act as grit in the oyster and perhaps get their members more aware of unbelievers' points of view. However, I expect it will be a frustrating experience. Also most secularists would not want to participate in prayer, which most of us see as futile, and even hypocritical. Personally I would also like to see more representatives of religions speaking to meetings of the Leicester Secular Society.

Where to Draw the Line between Tolerance of and Opposition to Religions?

The wording of our membership form says that we are against “religious nonsense”, and that we also believe in tolerance of other beliefs. There is thus an inherent conflict of principles here, and there are likely to be disagreements about where tolerance stops and opposition begins. In the past I've personally tended to be very tolerant; taking the view that if people want to believe silly ideas then let them, so long as I'm not forced to agree with them.
This question also relates to the Home Secretary's proposals for a law against “religious hatred”. (See the page on Blasphemy for more details). Many quotations have been cited, from the Bible (mainly the Old Testament) and from the Koran (though these differ according to the translation). But are not many of these quotations in any case ignored, or regarded as historical relics, by most believers? The trouble is I suppose that fundamentalists may interpret such statements as being currently valid moral teachings rather than history, or may seize on them to justify immoderate actions.
Apart from these extremes, which tend to get the headlines, isn't it true that many of the actual modern teachings of moderate religionists are harmful, and therefore hateful? One may think for example of Roman Catholic policies on contraception, Hindu attitudes towards the caste system, Muslim views on the treatment of women, and so on.

How Biased or Out of Touch is the Leicester Mercury?

‘Our’ local daily paper maintains, at the foot of its editorial opinion column each day that it “always strives to publish news and other information fairly and accurately with no allegiance to any political party and without discriminating against any individual or group.” Yet immediately above this notice it prints a ‘Thought’ which is always an obscure quote from the 1611 ‘Authorised Version’ of the English Protestant Bible, commissioned by King James VI & I, who also wrote a book on Demonologie and authorised the persecution of ‘witches’.
In 2001 I e-mailed the Editor, Nick Carter, asking for thoughts to be quoted from a wider range of sources and points of view, offering some examples from the works of Bertrand Russell, and received the following reply from the Deputy Editor Jeremy Clifford (11 April 2001):
Thank you for your e-mail regarding our thought for the day. You raise some valid points regarding our choice of thoughts which I have forwarded to the person who collates them. There is also an argument to be made to vary the source for the Thought for the Day. However, this is something we have spent quite a lot of time considering in the past. At the present time it is not our intention to discontinue using King James as our source. Many of our long-time, committed, regular readers feel quite strongly about the use of King James as the source for the Bible. It is one of the regulars that they look out for and with the fairly dramatic change we made to the paper last year when we redesigned it, for the time being it is something we are reluctant to change. That said, it is something we regularly review and your points are relevant and will be considered. Thank you for taking the time to write. (My underlinings.)
It seems, from the first comment underlined, that though the quote appears in the editorial column it is not chosen by the editor, but by some unidentified outside influence. This is a continuing campaign like that against the BBC "Thought for the Day" which is a God Spot in the middle of the Radio 4 Today programme.
Other aspects of the paper's coverage could also be mentioned, such as the space devoted every day to Horoscopes or their series of ‘stranger than fiction’ supposedly factual but undocumented stories of ghostly and superstitious occurrences.

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