Buxton group hears about Amnesty International

At the meeting on Monday 15th March at the Old Hall Hotel in Buxton, the group heard a talk from Anne Walker about her long-standing and considerable involvement in the work of Amnesty International (AI). Anne is also a long-standing member of the British Humanist Association and Greater Manchester Humanists. Anne gave us a very interesting and detailed talk. She started by asking us what we thought Amnesty is all about and then went on to describe its history from its beginnings in 1961 as an article in the Observer written by a UK lawyer about people who had been imprisoned because of their beliefs – who came to be called “prisoners of conscience” or PoCs. Throughout the 70s and 80s the remit of AI became wider and wider until it became so all-encompassing that it was confusing so in 2003, there was a change of mandate to simplify its aims so that it became all about human rights – promoting awareness of the larger picture and opposing specific abuses. The current mandate was adopted in 2007 and has widened the scope of the aims to become – to undertake research and action focussed on preventing and ending grave abuses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There have been some recent controversies within the movement, including one about the campaign against the death penalty and another on a woman’s right to choose abortion. Currently AI is involved in many campaigns, it has 2.8 million members in 150 countries, 260 thousand of them in the UK and it employs 320 staff who research the abuses that are reported to it. There are 300 local groups in the UK, one of which is in Buxton and has 100 members.

Everyone stayed behind after the discussion to meet Andrew Bingham, who had come to talk with us about the questions we sent out to all the declared candidates in the forthcoming general election. The questions were sent to all 6 candidates but only 3 had replied – Conservative (Andrew), Labour (Caitlin Bisknell) and Sylvia Hall (UKIP). Andrew was the only one to offer to come to speak to the group. The questions related to

– the “religious” question in the census
– allowing schoolchildren to decide themselves if they want to opt out of collective worship and religious education
– assisted dying.

Andrew appeared to be reasonably in tune with the views of the group. He seemed to think that the issues we had raised would not be settled on a party basis but that MPs would be able to vote according to their individual conscience.

The next meeting of the group is to be held on Monday 19th April at the Old Hall. It will take the form of a book group – all are invited to read “The Book of Atheist Spirituality” by Andre Comte-Sponville before the meeting and come along to discuss it. Even if you don’t manage to get round to reading it, please come along anyway as a synopsis of the issues it raises will be given by members of the group to kick-start the discussion. If you would like to discuss another book, please bring it alone prepared to introduce it to the rest of us. It would be helpful if you would let the secretary, Marge Rose, know if you intend to do this and the title of the book.

News from Buxton group – 30 Jan 10

The first meeting of 2010 was attended by an indomitable 7 of us since the weather was still not encouraging venturing out in the evening. We discussed current BHA campaigns and agreed to write separately to local candidates in the forthcoming election seeking their views on 3 topics:
– the “religious” question in the census
– allowing schoolchildren to decide themselves if they want to opt out of collective worship and religious education
– assisted dying.
Barry Thorpe is to provide drafts for the first two topics and Pat Thompson will provide one for the third.

No further nominations being received, Pat was elected chair of the group and Marge Rose elected secretary. This was carried nem con.

Although no-one new to humanism attended, it was interesting to discuss the history of humanism, a good life without religion and the scientific method with like-minded others.

The next meeting will be held on 15 February when Barry Thorpe will talk about secularism. Barry is a very active member of the National Secular Society.

Some discussion took place about marking Darwin Day – 12 February – this year. Di suggested that we could man an educational stand in the shopping centre. Marge agreed to look into getting some educational and publicity material for this.

News from the Buxton group – Jan 10

The December meeting took the form of a social with bring-and-share food. The next meeting will be on Monday 18th January at 7 for 7.30 pm at the Old Hall.  The subject will be the Basics of Humanism – there will be 3 sessions of around 20 to 25 minutes each – History of Humanism – Pat Thompson to lead; A good life without religion – David Seddon to lead; and the scientific method – Marge Rose to lead.  As usual, the meeting will be held in the Piano Lounge of the Old Hall Hotel, Buxton, from 7pm for a 7.30pm start. All welcome. Enquiries to Marge Rose on 01298 72310 or email marge.rose@btinternet.com

News from the Buxton group – Dec 09

On 16th November, Cath Johnstone from Transition Buxton came to talk to the group about Buxton’s answer to the twin challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil.  She started off by showing that the ideals of Humanism are compatible with the goals behind the Transition Town movement.  Climate Change is now widely discussed in the media but Peak Oil is rarely mentioned.(Note: Peak Oil is the term used for the point in time at which the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production declines. Beyond this point, oil prices may rise to very high levels, especially with increasing demand from developing countries, with potentially disastrous economic consequences). We brain-stormed all the areas of our life that are dependent on oil and realised how much we rely on it.  Cath told us that the Transition movement is a bottom-up approach to reducing that reliance.  So far, Transition Buxton has groups looking at local food production, local transport solutions and – coming soon – renewable energy options for the area.  Cath encouraged us all to start getting involved.

FMH Introduction to Humanism course

Exploring Humanism – an Introductory Course Led by Robin Grinter and Anna Whitehead started on 26 October 2009.  At the Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, M/C £12 for 6 weekly sessions.  Further courses are planned – contact John Coss for details.

Darwin and the Darwinian Controversy

A C Grayling:

Main Auditorium, St Peter’s House, University of Manchester, Precinct Centre, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9GH

18th November 2009 from 18:30 to 20:00

A lecture organized by the British Humanist Association, Chaired by Professor John Harris

A C Grayling

A. C. Grayling will address the controversy surrounding Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, followed by questions. The event will be chaired by John Harris, professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester and member of the Humanist Philosophers.

Anthony Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association. He has been a Guardian columnist and written for The Times, the Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect. Participating regularly in radio and television discussions, Anthony Grayling is one of Britain’s best known intellectuals.

Cost: £7 (£5 for members of the British Humanist Association or Greater Manchester Humanists) payable at the door. Doors open at 6pm.

Change of subject

The ethical jury session at Friends Meeting House on 14th October has had to be postponed.    Robin Grinter has stepped into the breach and will talk about the 10/10 pledge.

The 10/10 campaign is designed to tell the world that there are a significant number of people and organisations in the UK who are prepared to commit themselves to do their best to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% in the year 2010. The aim would be to help towards a ‘sea change’ in opinion, by encouraging others to do the same.

News from the Buxton group 09/09

About a dozen people met for the third meeting of the group held on 21st September at the Old Hall.  Pat Thompson gave a talk on the pressure group “Dignity in Dying”, formerly “EXIT” and before that “The Voluntary Euthanasia Society”.  The subject of the meeting was timely as interim guidance on assisted suicide were due out 2 days later.  Pat discussed the aims of the group and gave some idea of the situation in other countries.  She had also brought her “living will” and she explained how to obtain one and its legal status.  There followed a lively discussion on many of the issues.  The next meeting is on 19th October when Barry Thorpe will present his views on faith schools.

Buxton local group Sept 09

The next meeting of the group will again be held in the piano lounge of the Old Hall Hotel, Buxton – 7 for a 7.30pm start on Monday 21st September.

Pat Thompson will talk about the work of the campaigning group “Dignity in Dying” formerly EXIT.  She will discuss current issues, how the work relates to Humanism and how to make a living will.

The programme for the rest of the year is:

19th October :  Faith Schools with Barry Thorpe

16th November : Transition Buxton with Cath Johnstone

21st December : Social evening

Buxton local group

The last meeting of the group was held in the Old Hall Hotel on 20 July 2009 at 7.30.  Around 12 of us, led by Anna Whitehead from GMH, participated in a taster of the “Introduction to Humanism” course developed in Manchester.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and grateful thanks are due to Anna.

It was agreed that meetings would be held monthly on the 3rd Monday of the month and that formal committee arrangements could wait until we all got to know each other better.

No meeting in August

The next meeting of the group will be held on 21st September.  Pat Thompson of the Buxton humanist group will talk about the campaigning group “Dignity in Dying” which works for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life.

The meeting will again be held in the piano lounge of the Old Hall Hotel, Buxton on 21st September 2009: 7pm for a 7.30pm start.