Humanism and Civil Society in Modern Scotland

Humanism and Civil Society in Modern Scotland

Research Workshops 2014-15
sponsored by the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Humanism and humanist organisations have matured rapidly within Scottish civil society in the last fifteen years. The Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) has developed into a major institution, providing in 2011 a total of 2,486 “legal” marriages – more than any church except the Church of Scotland. Humanists have fostered consultative roles in many aspects of Scottish life: the Scottish parliament, National Health Service, education providers and human rights groups, to name but four. With other Scottish arms of organisations like the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, and with local groups like the Edinburgh Secular Society and student and humanist groups atheist groups, there is a burgeoning no-religion sector in Scotland.‌

Callum Brown’s Humanist History blog

These RSE-sponsored workshops bring together academics and Humanist and Atheist leaders to explore the place secular humanist organisations have in the past, present and future of Scotland. Royal Society of EdinburghThe project will assess ways forward for integrating secular humanism into Scottish civil life, and ways by which humanists can boost the wellbeing of Scottish communities.

Professor Callum Brown's inaugural lecture

The Workshops are convened by Professor Callum Brown, Professor of Late Modern European History in the School of Humanities, University of Glasgow. Inquiries about the Workshops may be directed to him. (Please note that attendance is by invitation only)

The Humanist Information Day is an event open to the public.

Videos and audios of the Workshop presentations will be available on this site after each one.

Travel Bursaries for Graduate students
20 Day Travel Bursaries are available (5 for each Workshop) to graduate students at Scottish UK universities, in History, Philosophy, Sociology or Anthropology, with a demonstrable scholarly interest in atheism, humanism, rationalism, scepticism or allied life stances. If you wish to apply, please send a one-page application with your name, institution, qualifications, supervisor or contact staff member, with email addresses, and a 250 word explanation of your interest, to Callum Brown at least 30 days ahead of each Workshop.

Humanist Research Workshop 1: Fri 7 March 2014

Humanist Research Workshop 1
Friday 7th March 2014

Scottish Humanism: belonging and identity, members, and participants

Who are the members of Humanist organisations? What do they want from a Humanist organisation? These questions are amongst the thorniest for humanist, atheist and secularist organisations. Those who join come with a variety of views and desires. Some may come for intellectual gratification, and like to hear gifted lecturers. Some come for campaigning work against the undue influence of religion and the churches. Some come for fellowship, or for ways to contribute to good causes in a distinctively humanist or non-religious way. Most come for a mixture of these and other reasons. In the Workshop, we address these issues. The keynote speaker is Dr Matthew Engelke of the London School of Economics, giving a presentation on his recent anthropological research amongst English humanists of the BHA on their meetings and activities, and looking to the implications for Scottish humanist and secularist organisations.

Programme

Room 432, St Andrews Building, Eldon Street (building E14)

9.30-9.50am                Coffee

9.50-10.00am              Callum Brown (Univ. of Glasgow), Welcome

10.00-11.30am            KEYNOTE Dr Matthew Engelke (LSE), "What do humanists want from humanist organisations?" (with discussion)

11.30-11.45am            Coffee

11.45am-12.15pm       Douglas McLellan (Chief Executive, Humanist Society of Scotland): "The Humanist Society of Scotland: what it offers to members"

12.15-12.45pm            Caroline Lambie (editor Humanitae, HSS magazine): "Running a magazine for Humanists"

12.45-1.30pm              Lunch

1.30-2.45pm                Prof. Callum Brown (Univ. of Glasgow) "Humanist Lives: why do humanists join humanist organisations?" (with discussion)

2.45-3.00pm                Tea/coffee

3.00-3.30pm                Mandy Evans-Ewing (Univ. of Glasgow Humanist Chaplain and celebrant), "Humanist chaplaincy and celebrant work"

3.30-4.00pm                Mary Wallace (HSS celebrant), "What clients want from celebrant work"

4.00-4.45pm                Open Discussion: How can Scottish secularist and humanist organisations better benefit their members?

4.45pm                        Close

6.00-8.00pm                Workshop Dinner (sponsored by RSE)


Humanist Research Workshop 2: Fri 25 April 2014

Humanist Research Workshop 2
Friday 25th April 2014

Title: Scottish Humanism: growth, composition and objectives in international perspective

The aim of this workshop is to collate and exchange information on the historical growth of secular humanism in Scotland, and to set this against the background of international development. The context of declining organized religion, with various churches entering membership crises, and the increasing number of people defining themselves as of ‘no religion’, will be explored. The Workshop will bring together key speakers from the humanist and academic sectors presenting papers on the trends in religious decline in Scotland and on the rise of no religionism internationally. The keynote speakers are Dr Tina Block (Thompson River University, British Columbia) who will explain how Canada has been dramatically transformed in the decades since 1945 from a highly religious society to one with dramatic growth of no religionism; and Prof Steve Bruce, eminent sociologist and author of over 20 books including God is Dead (2002).

Programme

Room 230, St Andrews Building, Eldon Street (building E14)

9.00-9.20am                Coffee

9.50-10.20am              Callum Brown (Univ. of Glasgow), "No religionists: their growth and numbers internationally"

10.20-11.20am            KEYNOTE Dr Tina Block (Thompson River University, British Columbia): "Secular growth: the Canadian experience since 1945" (with discussion)

11.20-11.35am            Coffee

11.35am-12.45pm       KEYNOTE: Professor Steve Bruce (Univ. of Aberdeen) "Religion and the Exotic: compelling reasons why there is not likely to be a religious revival"

12.45-1.45pm              Lunch

1.45-2.15pm                Ivan Middleton (former chair, and celebrant HSS): "Changing contexts for humanism since the 1960s"

2.15-2.45pm                Gary McLelland (organiser, Edinburgh Secular Society, & Sunday Assembly in Scotland): "The campaigning and celebration work: what works in Scotland?"

2.45-3.00pm                Tea/coffee

3.00-4.00pm                Open Discussion: How can Scottish secularist and humanist organisations grow? How do they fit in with international developments? 

4.00pm                        Close


Humanist Research Workshop 3: Fri 5 Sept 2014

Humanist Research Workshop 3
Friday 5 September 2014

Title: Scottish Humanism: its publicity and campaigns

This workshop will focus on the campaigning and communications work of humanist organizations in Scotland and beyond. It will explore what the organisations of humanism, secularism and freethinking seek to do, the methods they employ, and how these might have changed over the decades. At the heart here are issues of strategy and effectiveness, and sensing what works in different places. But it also involves the identification of campaign partners. And should secularist organisations talk to the churches? The keynote speakers are Professor David Nash (Oxford Brookes) who has published extensively on the history of atheism and campaigning, including Blasphemy in Modern Britain 1789 to the Present (1999); and Andrew Copson, the CEO of the British Humanist Association.

Programme

Location: Sir Alwyn Williams Building, Level 5 (top floor).
(building D20 on Campus Map, listed under “Computing Science”)

9.30-9.50am               Coffee

9.50-10.00am             Callum Brown (Univ. of Glasgow), Welcome

10.00-11.15am           KEYNOTE Prof David Nash (Oxford Brookes University), "Secularist campaigning: its history and success" (with discussion)

11.15-11.30am           Coffee

11.30am-12.45           KEYNOTE Andrew Copson (CEO BHA), "Campaigning at BHA and IHEU” (with discussion)

12.45-1.30pm             Lunch

1.30-2.15pm               Alistair McBay (Scottish representative, National Secular Society), "The NSS: what it has achieved and what its contemporary aims are"

2.15-3.00pm               Ian Scott (President, Glasgow Skeptics, HSS), “The work of the Glasgow Skeptics"

3.00-3.15pm               Tea/coffee

3.15-4.00                    Local Humanist Groups: What can they do? A discussion with Colin Hutchison (Glasgow Humanists) and Geoffrey Armitage (Dundee & Tayside Humanists); chair: Callum Brown

4.00-4.30pm               Open Discussion: What can secularist organisations achieve on their own? Who are their allies? Should they talk with the churches?

4.30pm                       Close


Humanist Evening Discussion: 12 November 2014

PUBLIC OPEN EVENING

This event is sponsored by the Royal Society of Edinburgh through a Research Workshop Award on “Humanism in Scottish Civil Life” held by Prof Callum Brown at University of Glasgow

Humanism and the Future of Scotland: An Evening Discussion

Wednesday 12 November 2014, 7.00pm-9.00pm
Western Infirmary Lecture Theatre (WILT), off University Avenue, near Byres Road.

The evening will take the form of a group of prominent Humanist figures in Scottish life being led in discussion by Callum Brown FRSE, Professor of Late Modern European History, University of Glasgow

Humanist, Skeptic and Secularist organisations will have stalls in the Foyer from 6.00pm.

Refreshments available

With the referendum well behind us, this evening is an opportunity to ponder one of the great recent changes to Scotland: the growth of people without religious affiliation and of Humanism. Some 37 per cent of Scots in the 2011 Census stated that they had no religion (up from 28 per cent in 2001). Humanist celebrants now provide more than 2,000 weddings per year, more than all churches expect the Church of Scotland, and the numbers continue to rise sharply.

Humanist ideas are seem to be re-shaping Scotland’s moral landscape – on equal marriage (the legalisation of gay marriage); assisted dying (with the late Margo Macdonald MSP’s efforts to obtain a bill to legalise this receiving strong support from Humanists and Secularists); and with wider efforts to admit non-religious organisations to the provision of moral education in schools.

This evening is about exploring how Scotland is changing in response to Humanism:-

  • What would a Humanist Scotland look like?
  • Is Humanism affecting Scottish culture in writing and the arts?
  • Is there a Humanist ethical system challenging traditional religious ideas?
  • Are the Scottish Parliament and local government responding to the changing religious landscape?
  • Do Scottish journalists and broadcasters reflect Humanism in their reporting? 

Admission is free.


Humanist Research Workshop 4: Fri 9 Jan 2015

Humanist Research Workshop 4
Friday 9 January 2015

Humanism in Scottish Public Spaces

Humanism has become embedded in certain aspects of Scottish civic society - notably celebrant services and, though much smaller in scale, in chaplaincy work in hospitals and universities. This Workshop explores other directions through which humanist and secularist organisations may benefit the wellbeing of Scots. It looks at methods of inclusion of the secular in art and museum services, at the role of critical thinking in wellbeing and education, and how Scots Law is disposed towards religious and secularist issues. The speakers include: philosopher Dr Victoria Harrison who asks how the secular can be accommodated in the museum; Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association, who speculatively explores humanism in the public sphere on an international basis; Gary McLelland of the HSS who reports on efforts to increase the place of Humanism in the Scottish classroom; and Jane Mair & Thomas Green who have an open discussion about how Scottish weddings have changed from a legal perspective.

Programme

Room 253, Gilbert Scott Conference Suite (Main Building, entry by Main Gate) (building A27)

9.00-9.20am                Coffee

9.50-10.00am              Callum Brown (Univ. of Glasgow), Welcome

10.00-11.30am            Dr Victoria Harrison (Philosophy, University of Glasgow): "The museum of the secular: how should a museum of religions tackle secularity?"(with discussion)

11.30-11.45am            Coffee

11.45am-12.45pm       Dr. Stuart Hanscomb (School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow): "Critical thinking and wellbeing"(with discussion)

12.45-1.45pm              Lunch

1.45-2.15pm                Gary McLelland (Education officer, HSS) (Schools Officer, HSS): "How humanism is invading the classroom"(with discussion)

2.15-2.45pm                tbc

3.00-4.00pm                Open Discussion: In what ways should humanist organisations be planning to increase their presence in the public sphere in Scotland?
                                    Is there a need for an academic subject - "Humanist / Secular Studies" - in a Scottish university?

4.00pm                        Close


Research Outputs

This page provides links to the presentations and papers by participants in the Research Workshops. Click on the links below to access Video files, Audio files and pdfs on a variety on aspects of Humanism in Scottish civil society. The materials are copyright to the authors and presenters, and should not be republished without full acknowledgement. Some of the video files cover only parts of the talk concerned; the audio files, pdfs and linked articles are complete.

New links and materials will appear as the Workshops progress.

If you would like more information, please contact the Director of the Workshops, Professor Callum Brown, professor of Late Modern European History in the School of Humanities at the University of Glasgow. His email is callum.brown@glasgow.ac.uk More of his commentaries concerning workshop themes are to be found on his blog.

Workshop 1: Scottish Humanism: belonging and identity, members, and participants

(1) Workshop Summary
(1) pdf

(2) Douglas McLellan (Chief Executive, Humanist Society of Scotland): "The Humanist Society of Scotland: what it offers to members"
pdf - audio - video

(3) Callum Brown, "Why do Humanists join Humanist organisations?" 
 - audio - video

(4) Mandy Evans-Ewing (Univ. of Glasgow Humanist Chaplain and celebrant), "Humanist chaplaincy and celebrant work" and Mary Wallace (HSS celebrant), "What clients want from celebrant work"

Workshop 2: Scottish Humanism: growth, composition and objectives in international perspective

(5) Workshop Summary
(5) pdf

(6) Callum Brown (Univ. of Glasgow), "No religionists: their growth and numbers internationally"
(6) pdf - video

(7) Dr Tina Block (Thompson River University, British Columbia): "Secular growth: the Canadian experience since 1945"
(7) pdf - video

(8) Professor Steve Bruce (Univ. of Aberdeen) "Religion and the Exotic: compelling reasons why there is not likely to be a religious revival" - amended and published as "Late Secularization and Religion as Alien", in Open Theology online journal
article - video

(9) Ivan Middleton (former chair, and celebrant HSS): "Changing contexts for humanism since the 1960s"
video - audio

(9) Gary McLelland (organiser, Edinburgh Secular Society, & Sunday Assembly in Scotland): "The campaigning and celebration work: what works in Scotland?"
video - audio