Dawkins’ influence over party politics

The Labour Humanists have been quite high profile at this conference and have been actively promoting their fringe meeting with A.C. Grayling on Monday. A year old, the group is mainly campaigning against faith schools. My erstwhile Doughty Street sparring partner Kris Brown is their Vice Chair and has been running around all week.

This is part of a growing trend. The Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats also only formed in the last few years. I have to confess to not joining this group when it was first set up. I remain wary of humanism in its more happy-clappy guise and the full page advert of the BHA in New Humanist this month, emphasising the need to “belong,” doesn’t exactly help (while recognising my own hypocrisy in that it is a sense of belonging that is one of the main attractions of party politics for me). But Richard Dawkins’ rallying cry, following the increasingly vocal anti-secularism of organised religions in the UK, has forced me to consider getting off the fence. It would appear that this is a cross-party phenomenon.

The BHA have also been high profile this past fortnight. I don’t remember them having a stand at the Lib Dem conference exhibition in the past and they are at Labour as well this week. Clearly they too are sensing the need to be more vocal and visible at the moment.

Where this will all lead is unclear. The anti-Dawkins’ backlash is already midflow, while a veritable anti-God publishing industry has taken the book world by storm. What is clear is that there is a lot of latent frustration out there. The emergence of these political groups is definitely a positive development but we need to be clear about our aims and I suspect will need to work together on a cross-party basis to be effective.


  1. I have my doubts about humanists too. I’ve joined my local humanist group, and so far I have met a communist, a racist, and a spiritualist. So I’m a member of the NSS, not the BHA. As for the Lib Dem humanist group, they seem to be fairly invisible – no Facebook group the last time I looked. But I’m not sure we really need a group at all. Because in my view the Lib Dems should become the secular party in its own right – the perfect issue to distinguish us from the others, especially now that Brown is quoting the Bible.

  2. I spoke to some of the Secularist and Humanist group at last year’s conference. They were at least clear on the difference between secularism and humanism, some members of the group are secularist Christians.
    They did complain that the Christian groups get much more funding, with permanent staff in Cowley street paid for by churches.

    The general trend is good though, secularism is a very much needed, especially given today’s religious climate…
    On that note, are there any secularist Islamic groups? I’ve heard of Muslims Against Sharia although I don’t know their line (its surely possible to be against sharia law but in favour of a theocracy…)

  3. The Liberal Democrat Christian Forum have a member of staff who, I understand, is based in Cowley Street. I don’t know how LDCF are funded.

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