Skip to main content
Read page text

Merchants House, 5-7 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RQ Telephone 020 3117 0630 Email Website Editorial Editor Daniel Trilling Assistant Editor Samira Shackle Commissioning Editor Laurie Taylor Associate Editor Sally Feldman Contributing Editors Alice Bell, Kenan Malik, Suzanne Moore, Nina Power, Alom Shaha Critics Fatema Ahmed, Mark Fisher, Jonathan Rée, Fiona Sampson Art Direction Emily Foster Copy Editing Dan Hancox Proofreader Tony Russell subscriptions New Humanist Subscriptions, Merchants House, 5-7 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RQ Email Telephone 020 3117 0630 Advertising Distribution Comag Specialist, 01895 433 753 Published by

The Rationalist Association Registered charity No 1096577, a company limited by guarantee No 4118489 The Rationalist Association is a charity promoting rational inquiry and debate based on evidence rather than belief. President Laurie Taylor Trustees Clive Coen (Chair), Sally Feldman, Ian Glendinning, John Metcalf, David Pollock, Stephen Sedley, Jonathan Stopes-Roe, Tess Woodcraft CEO Jose Gonsalves Honorary associates David Aaronovitch, Peter Atkins, Lord Birt, Colin Blakemore, Alan Brownjohn, Colin Campbell, Philip Campbell, Noam Chomsky, Helena Cronin, Richard Dawkins, Sanal Edamaruku, Ekow Eshun, AC Grayling, Trevor Griffiths, Tony Harrison, Simon Heffer, Ted Honderich, Robin Ince, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Richard Leakey, Stewart Lee, Haydn Mason, Jonathan Meades, Jonathan Miller, Edwin Mullins, Alice Onwordi, John Postgate, Philip Pullman, Amartya Sen, Simon Singh, Marcus du Sautoy, Ralph Steadman, DJ Stewart, Ian Stewart, Hazhir Teimourian, Claire Tomalin, David Tribe, Baroness Turner of Camden, Arnold Wesker, Francis Wheen, Elizabeth Wilson, Richard Wiseman, Lewis Wolpert

New Humanist | Spring 2016

Editor’s Note

Who gets to define our values?

In Britain, according to the 2011 census, around a quarter of the population openly state they have no religion. The number of people willing to call themselves Christian had fallen by 18 per cent since the previous survey. Millions of British citizens identify with other religious traditions altogether – and many people who might define themselves, say, as “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” in a cultural sense don’t practise their religion regularly or follow its codes of behaviour. Quite a few of those probably don’t believe in God, either.

In that context, it seems bizarre for the government to be making a renewed push to promote “Christian values” as an essential part of British identity, and to prioritise the interests of faith groups. In December, the prime minister claimed: “It is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none.” This has been accompanied by barriers to the expression of a non-religious outlook, from telling schools that they don’t have to teach children about atheism in RE lessons (page 10) to the continued refusal to legally recognise humanist marriages in England and Wales – even though Scotland has given couples this right for over a decade.

This trend is objectionable for two reasons: first, because prioritising Christianity over other religions reinforces the idea that people from other backgrounds only have a limited right to live in the UK; second, because public policy should not be based on the assumption that any religion is better than none. A record number of people are deciding that they don’t need faith to help them make ethical or political decisions, and this outlook should be given equal footing in public life.


We hope to reflect these principles in New Humanist, both through our coverage of atheist and secularist campaigns, and through a wider discussion of ideas, science and culture. Regular readers will notice that we’ve made a few small changes to the magazine’s opening pages: the most significant is that we’re now running your letters in the Witness section (pages 9-15). This gives us space to include a response, where possible, from the writer of the piece you’re commenting on.

If you’d like to write to us, our contact details are in the topleft corner of this page. l Daniel Trilling LUC


My Bookmarks

Skip to main content