Friday, November 30, 2007

George Carlin: The Sanctity of Life

What Secularism has meant

reposted from: NSS Newsline 30th November 2007
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.

Bruce Pitt (Nov 16) says .. We may all find different definitions of secularism using different dictionaries. Reader's Digest (1964) gives primacy to the root meaning (it comes from Latin, saecularis: a lifetime) and notes that it is concerned with this world, before getting to: "sceptical of religious truth or opposed to religious education." Chambers (1972) does similar before getting to "the belief that the state, morals, education, etc, should be independent of religion." Oxford (1998) puts this world first but goes on to imply neutrality towards religion in other matters. (A Catholic dictionary would probably define it as Satanism.) It would seem that secular has lost its age old meaning and may be losing its statutory element. "Challenging religious privilege" (or, perhaps: "Promoting freedom from religion") already reclaims the devoutly-worldly meaning.

Let us not do anything that would encourage believers in socially-sanctioned superstition to join the NSS and destroy it from within.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is Religion Dangerous?

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is Religion Dangerous?

I was at a conference yesterday with theologian Professor Keith Ward. He gave a talk based on his book Is Religion Dangerous? and then he and I had a debate. Here's one of the points I made.

Keith (whom I like v. much, by the way) takes the view that religion is not to blame for much (indeed, in the book he even says that it is not a cause of evil, and that it is not intolerant [the intolerant merely use it] - however, his actual view is bit more nuanced than that).

Many, including Keith, recommend religion for social engineering purposes. They claim that (i) it helps build a sense of community, (ii) it makes people happier and healthier, and (iii) it makes them better behaved.

Suppose it does. Even if it were useful in these ways, it seems to me there are nevertheless special dangers attaching to the use of religion as a tool.

Religion is immensely powerful and can behave in unpredictable ways. Take the young earth creationists back in the 60's. A tiny band of crackpots. Who would have predicted that this weird little belief system would, within the space of a half century or so, infect the minds of 100 million Americans, including smart, college educated people?
Had you made that prediction back then, people would have laughed. "That could never happen here!" they'd say. Yet it happened.

We have here an illustration of the gobsmacking power of religion to get even very smart people to believe palpably stupid things. We also have an illustration of its unpredictability.

Religion, it seems to me, is a bit like nuclear power. Immensely powerful and (arguably) useful. And, perhaps most of the time, it runs quite happily, doing not much harm.

But unless it is extremely carefully controlled and monitored, it can very quickly run out of control. Indeed, just as with nuclear power, you can predict the unpredicted. Somewhere along the line, something probably will go wrong, and when it does, you have an extremely toxic situation on your hands. A religious Chernobyl.

Is nuclear power safe, or dangerous? Perhaps it can be used safely, but that's not to deny that it is potentially hugely dangerous. The same, I'd suggest, is true of religion.

Keith Ward agreed with me, by the way.

Let's also not forget that only five of my lifetimes ago the Catholic Church was still garroting Europeans who failed to believe what the Pope told them. Yes, I know your local vicar seems like a nice chap, but we'd be wise to remember that our freedom from religious oppression and violence is a very recent development.
Currently, the UK Government is fostering, and in many cases, sponsoring a great many little religious nuclear power stations up and down the country. What has now become very apparent to me is how very little monitoring there is of what goes on in them. Basically, in the independent sector, they're self-monitored.

When I spoke about the potential dangers of faith schools on Radio 4's Today programme, a member of one of the Standing Advisory Comms. on Religious Education (SACRE) contacted me to say, "Thank goodness you're bringing this up." He regularly goes into schools and is horrified by what he sees. And he's a Christian.

If you're not worried about what's going on in some religious schools, you should be. Here's a brief excerpt from a Radio 4 interview with Ibrahim Lawson, head of an Islamic school:

IL: [t]he essential purpose of the Islamia school as with all Islamic schools is to inculcate profound religious belief in the children.
ER: You use the word "inculcate": does that mean you are in the business of indoctrination?
IL: I would say so, yes; I mean we are quite unashamed about that really…
ER: Does that mean that Islam is a given and is never challenged?
IL: That’s right…

Quoted in the BHA pamphlet "The Case for Secularism", pub. November 2007.

One of the key safeguards religious schools need to have in place is a critical culture. My own view is schools like Ibrahim Lawson's should no longer be tolerated, let alone be state funded.

Seems to me the UK Government is currently promoting the building of religious nuclear power stations up and down the country - many of them dodgy.

I'd be particularly interested to hear from teachers and others working in this field who have knowledge of the current system - perhaps they can reassure me? Or confirm my suspicions? Remember, I'm not saying all faith schools are dodgy.

For more of my views on faith schools, see my The War For Children's Minds.

Ron Murphy said...
It's pretty well establish that any faith: - has its own set of rules - these rules are not open to interpretation, except by a self serving elite. - these two conditions cause the faith to evolve over time to include all sorts of rules, and appropriate punishments for breaking them. - criticism is not tolerated (to varying degrees) - reason is not applicable Compare this with nuclear power. When a government is hell bent on promoting nuclear power, at the expense of issues such as cost and safety, then all the above might apply to nuclear power too, up to a point.
The limit of the comparison is that the last two conditions are not supposed to apply. It might appear, through political coercion, that criticism and reason are not tolerated, but in the long term they are applicable - the use of nuclear power isn't a faith position.
Though the misuse of nuclear power could be ultimately destructive, it's misuse is most likely to occur in the hands of extreme faith based ideologies - and I include the totalitarian atheistic as well as the theistic faiths. You can argue the toss about what type of democracy is best, but at least you are allowed to argue. Can you do that in a theocracy? If two theocracies clash on fundamentalist issues, and given they both believe in martyrdom, do you suppose a nuclear holocaust would be avoidable? So religion is more dangerous than nuclear power.

Allowing faith groups to run public services takes pressure off government

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.
Rahila Gupta

No faith in the state

Allowing faith groups to run public services takes pressure off government, but it doesn't serve the interests of a diverse population

November 28, 2007 7:00 PM | Printable version

Rolling back the frontiers of the state used to be a pet Tory project. Labour has taken it on with gusto: the frontiers have shrunk to such an extent that they have left the body politic exposed. The provision of public services has been offloaded on to the business and voluntary sectors. Giving business new opportunities for profit has ensured Labour's longevity in government while the voluntary sector - the so-called third sector - has done the same job more cheaply, often at the expense of poorer conditions of employment for staff and by supplementing its income from private sources. However,

the reasons why government has been actively courting faith groups which have been swelling the ranks of the voluntary sector are less clear.

In this context,

the British Humanist Association (BHA) has published a timely report today. Quality and Equality: Human Rights, Public Services and Religious Organisations alerts us to the dangers inherent in the involvement of faith groups in service provision.
Employment legislation allows faith groups to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief in certain circumstances; there is the potential for discrimination against service users of different faiths; the possibility of lower standards of service or the non-availability of services which conflict with religious principles such as the right to life; and there's the shocking fact that the Human Rights Act does not apply to this sector thus giving us little chance of redress. Yet Blair's famous speech on multiculturalism in December 2006 identified equal treatment for all as one of the core values of Britishness.

The contradictions do not stop there. The government has been funding capacity building in faith groups as a way of promoting its cohesion agenda on the basis that better governance steers groups away from extremism. Under this policy it is mostly Muslim groups that have benefited. This is the flip side of the war on terror. On the one hand you target Muslim youth with a battery of anti-terror laws, on the other you throw money at them. When Blair lamented the fact that "Money was too often freely awarded to groups that were tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities", we felt hopeful that it marked the end of funding for faith groups. But the opposite has happened. An organisation like Southall Black Sisters, a secular group working with women across many ethnicities, faces the prospect of cuts under this policy while its local council bumps up its cohesion budget.

This grey area gets even murkier. There are faith groups providing independently funded services which do not feature in the BHA report because it chooses to focus on publicly funded services. Should a public service be defined simply as one that is publicly funded or should it be extended to include any service on which public authorities, like the police, rely on in order to carry out their responsibilities?

Take the issue of trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. Despite the scale of the problem, the government funds only 30 bedspaces at the POPPY project for women who have escaped. As provision is so skimpy, the police rely heavily on Chaste which uses church funding to provide 20 bedspaces, one third of the total provision in Britain for trafficked women.

Trafficked women, new to the country, are hardly likely to protest at the kind of refuge they are being given when they are desperate to escape from their traffickers. Unlike a religious adoption service, where diversity and choice might be desirable, it cannot be said that these women are choosing their service provider freely. According to the website, Chaste offers, "psycho-spiritual support when requested by those trafficked into prostitution, working with the known religious routes of confession, blessing, absolution...". The spokesperson for Chaste refused to be drawn on their policy on abortion, for example, or the number of pregnant trafficked women that they see on the grounds that it was a sensitive issue.

The government should be funding such services, run along secular lines, in order to ensure accountability and transparency. Where such provision is not available, it should not throw vulnerable people to the mercy of those with evangelical agendas.

A new film, The Golden Compass, has been accused of promoting atheism to children.

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.
James Ball

Golden delusions

A new film, The Golden Compass, has been accused of promoting atheism to children. But what's wrong with that?

November 27, 2007 3:00 PM | Printable version

The Golden Compass, the film of the first book in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, is released next week. The books recreate Milton's Paradise Lost with God as the great adversary: they accuse the (fictionalised) church of numerous crimes against humanity in the name of control.

These religious themes have been excised from the film as far as possible but religious groups in the US are still not happy. Bill Donahue, CEO of the Catholic League, has accused

the Golden Compass of being part of a "deceitful stealth campaign" to "sell the virtues of atheism". The Catholic League is urging Christians to boycott the movie.

Much as I would love to disagree, Donahue is right, though more as a result of simple marketing rather than some atheist conspiracy. The film has been toned down in order to reach a wider audience and so make more money. It will almost certainly encourage some parents to buy the books for their children.

With any luck, their kids will read them - and start asking some awkward questions.

The extent to which these books are genuinely anti-religious is debateable: God may be portrayed as a senile despot, but he is at least real. A truly atheist series would set about disproving him - but that would be far less entertaining. If we're counting the Golden Compass as anti-religious, fair enough: provided we remember it is offset by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Rings, and, well, the entire machinery of Christianity.

Children of religious parents are often indoctrinated into faith from birth. They are baptised - and baptism is irreversible - before they can give their consent, told Bible stories from earliest childhood as if they are unquestionable truth, and taken to church each week. Why should atheism wait until kids grow up before mounting a fightback?

Atheists and those of a religious bent can live and socialise together quite happily - we're lucky enough to live in a liberal and tolerant society. This does not mean we should pretend there are no ideological differences between us. Christianity and atheism cannot both be right. If the former is correct, atheists are doomed to hell; if the atheists are on the money, Christians are allowing an aeons-old lie to restrict their freedoms and choices in their one shot at life. The stakes are high.

Christians have a biblical duty to evangelise and spread the faith. This was once backed up with harsh punishment for heathens and apostates, but thankfully those days are over. Spreading the good word remains a worthy way for the faithful to spend their time, though.
If Christianity is allowed to convert the heathens, I think it only fair that the heathens are given a chance to fight their corner.

This need not be a bad thing for the Church. Having seen, chatted to, and even socialised with several evangelists, I believe faith is stronger for being challenged. If believers don't hear contradictory views, they have little reason to truly consider what they hold dear. This mature faith is all the better for this challenge: socialised Christianity often falters under a life crisis - the death of a relative, say, or the breakup of a marriage.

Christian groups need to decide what they really care about. Does a religion's worth come from "bums on seats" - the size of a congregation - or from the number of people who accept it "in their hearts"? Whether you're a believer or not, any religion that says the former is worth no-one's time.

So, why not stop protesting against anti-religious material? Instead of campaigning against a children's adventure film that has actively attempted to mollify Christian groups, let families go and see it: if the film echoes any of the book's promise, it should be an epic adventure. If that leads some children to read opinions which differ to your own, why worry?

There's no need to stop there. Christianity has almost everything going its way - culture and art for the last two millennia have been subject to its influence. It is in the home, it permeates society, and it recruits young. You can try to keep the flock faithful by silencing critics - or, failing that, petitioning the faithful to boycott their works. Alternatively, you can hone your own arguments, rally your evangelists, and spread the good word: and let your rivals do the same.

Christina Martin: Why is it fine to mock disabled people, but off limits to joke about God?

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.

.. we've got comedian Christina Martin asking why jokes about disability are considered fair game in comedy, while jokes about religion can get you banned from venues and broadcasting channels.

Christina wrote a piece for us earlier this year where she told how her jokes about Jesus and the Pope had affected her chances of appearing on Paramount TV, who were seemingly too worried that she might offend Christian viewers. Yet, as she observes in her latest piece, time and again she hears comedians mocking disabled people to the sound of roaring laughter. Why is this considered fine, while jokes about God are seen as too likely to offend?

Have a read of Christina's piece and let us know what you think by commenting on this blog post. Do you think disabled jokes are becoming all too common in comedy? Or should no topic be off limits? Does religion get unfairly shielded from mockery, or is it wrong to poke fun at deeply-held beliefs?

Catholic commentator Christina Odone in row over carol service speech

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.

Catholic commentator Christina Odone in row over carol service speech

Catholic journalist Christina Odone has pulled out of speaking at the Royal Commonwealth Society's annual carol service after her speech was rejected for being too polemical.

Odone, who regularly bemoans the "persecution" of the religious in British society (see our July editorial), had penned a speech on what she sees as the hostility shown towards those wishing to express their religion in Britain, claiming that "in a culture increasingly hostile to God and his followers, expressions of faith have become taboo".
She had been asked to speak about "opportunities for all", and told that her speech could be "political and controversial".

Stuart Mole, the director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, told Odone the speech would not be suitable for the carol service, saying
it was necessary to consider those of little or no faith who nevertheless might wish to turn up and hear a few carols. Instead Odone was asked to read a passage by Bertrand Russell,
and needless to say she refused and pulled out of the event.

All this led to a heated exchange between Odone and Mole on this morning's Today programme, which you can listen to here (skip 20 minutes into the audio clip).

UK teacher goes to court in Sudan

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.
UK teacher goes to court in Sudan
Police outside the court in Khartoum
Police prevented journalists from entering the court for the hearing
A British teacher charged in Sudan with insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs has been taken to court.

Journalists were prevented from entering as Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, went inside.

She was arrested after complaints that her primary school pupils had called their class teddy bear Muhammad.

The prime minister is taking a "close interest" in the case and has spoken to her family, his spokesman said.

And Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he hoped "common sense" would prevail in the case.

The Sudanese legal system has to take its course but common sense has to prevail
David Miliband
UK Foreign Secretary

If convicted, Mrs Gibbons could face a prison sentence, a fine or 40 lashes.

She was arrested on Sunday in Khartoum after allowing her class of primary school pupils to name the teddy bear in September.

Muhammad is a popular name in mainly Muslim Sudan, and a boy in Mrs Gibbons class has said he suggested to the class the teddy bear be named after himself.

'Chaotic' scenes

When she arrived at the building on Thursday Mrs Gibbons was taken with about 20 officers into one court before being ushered into another room - in scenes described as "chaotic" by BBC reporter Amber Henshaw.

Embassy officials and her legal team were initially not granted access to her, but were later allowed in.

A teddy bear on sale in Sudan

Meanwhile, in London Mr Miliband met the Sudan ambassador to discuss the case, reminding him of Britain's "long-standing tradition of religious tolerance".

The UK government, which is providing consular support to Mrs Gibbons, said it was "very concerned" about the case but hoped it would be resolved swiftly.

"The Sudanese legal system has to take its course but common sense has to prevail," Mr Miliband said.

"It's not about disrespect for Sudan, it's about being absolutely clear that this is an innocent misunderstanding."

After the meeting with Ambassador Omer Siddig, Mr Miliband said he emphasised Britain's respect of Islam and the "close relations" between the two countries.

"The Sudanese Ambassador undertook to ensure our concerns were relayed to Khartoum at the highest level.

"He also said he would reflect back to Khartoum the real respect for the Islamic religion in this country."

BBC world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds said the British government was treating the case as a consular issue and not a diplomatic incident, with Mr Miliband's approach being to avoid confrontation with Sudan.

Khalid al Mubarak, of the Sudanese embassy in London, said Mrs Gibbons had adequate support.

Gillian Gibbons
If convicted Gillian Gibbons could face a prison sentence

"Like all legal systems the judge can decide to dismiss the whole thing or that the case goes on anyway.

"Mrs Gibbons has consular support, the British embassy has one of the best solicitors in the country whom I know personally.

"There is no worry on that front at all. She will be very well represented and well treated."

Even though the British government has expressed concern about the arrest, Mr al Mubarak dismissed any suggestion that diplomatic relations had become strained, instead saying there had been "sensationalist" reporting.

"The general situation and relationship are very good now, with the exception of this minute and unexpected incident of Mrs Gibbons."

Sudan's top clerics have called for the full measure of the law to be used against Mrs Gibbons and labelled her actions part of a Western plot against Islam.

Find out about educational parameters, find out about etiquette and gestures
Jenny Johnson
Head of Cactus TEFL

But in Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission was among Muslim groups to call for her immediate release.

Chairman Massoud Shadjareh said: "Both the Sudanese government and the media must refrain from using Islam and Islamic principles to legitimise this fiasco, which may result in the unjust conviction of an innocent person, and which will only lead to the promotion of Islamophobia and further demonisation of Islam."

And a spokesman for the Muslim youth organisation, the Ramadhan Foundation, said "this matter is not worthy of arrest or detention and her continued detention will not help repair the misconceptions about Islam."

Mastering Your Operational Excellence

reposted from:

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Brights - UK Projects

Hi Chris,

Many thanks for the contribution; it will be well used.

Do contact any of the Project Leaders as you see fit:

Comparative survey Brights v Supers: Zsuzsanna Sukosd

Darwin Day holiday: John Wiltshire

Guest speakers: Tony Roberts

National Census to introduce 'Brights': Richard Keatley

Publishers of dictionaries: Joseph Boyle

Universities - start a Bright group: Gill Main -

Welcome pack: Jeremy Pavier

I have listened on cassette to "This Other Eden" by Ben Elton and he went up in my estimation. I'll see if I can get this one out of the library!



> Dear Quentin,


> I have made a modest donation via paypal.


> > PPS If you want to glimpse the future read "Six Degrees" by Mark Lynas:

> >


> Also if you want to glimpse another (possible) future:


NSS Debate 12th January 2008 - Dorset Humanists should affiliate to the National Secular Society

Do you want to put an end ... Leaflet - read highlights

Cobell meets DH 11/11/06:

Chris Street blog NSS:

Debate Motion: Dorset Humanists should affiliate to the National Secular Society

For the motion:
Chris Street and Richard Hogg
Against the motion: David Warden and Terry Baker

National Secular Society

History of NSS.

Half all local BHA Groups affiliate to NSS local groups
  • list of all groups
  • comments from other BHA-NSS local group members
Powerpoint presentation - hire Projector!!
NSS welcome message from Keith Porteus Wood

Those of us who value reason are becoming alarmed about the increasingly extreme religious influence in our government, our lawmakers, and our public institutions - especially in our education system. Many people, while standing up for freedom of religion, and freedom not to believe, feel that the proper place for religion is in the place of worship or home. They see the danger of religion becoming too politically ambitious.

The NSS is a rallying point for opposition to this religious resurgence. We must convince our politicians and public servants - as well as our friends, neighbours and colleagues - that our institutions and public life should be secular. A secular state should guarantee freedom of conscience, but eliminate religious privilege.

The only way to prevent the kind of religious power-seeking that leads to conflict is to make both religious discrimination and religious privilege constitutionally impossible.

We need a secular constitution that will:

  • End the privileged input of religious bodies to policy making and law-making
  • Keep all public services free from religious control so that that they remain equally available to all on the same terms
  • Abolish the established church and all its privileges (including 26 bishops in the House of Lords)
  • Put an end to the divisiveness of publicly funded religious schools by making them open to all without discrimination on grounds of religion, or lack of it, and bringing them under local authority control
  • Abolish blasphemy and similar repressive laws, rather than extend them

Religious influence in Government has not been higher in living memory. The rise of fundamentalist religion of all shades has the potential to seriously erode hard-won freedoms.

Individually, we can only look on with mounting fear, but working together we can make a difference. Join the fight for a truly secular society and join the National Secular Society today.

Keith Porteous Wood
Executive Director
National Secular Society

& Clair Rayner about joining the NSS.

A Message From Claire Rayner

Join the Society

Be on the side of all humanity, the side of intelligence, rationality and decency


"I do hope you’ll join the Society, because its work helps keep alight the torch of clear rational thought and plain common sense in a world that is beset by confusion, superstition and very muddled thinking. If only half the people who we know share our views on the absurdity of the many antiquated beliefs that litter our world, the National Secular Society would be one of the biggest and most powerful in the country."

Open any newspaper lately and you’ll be confronted with news of some fresh religious conflict. Whether it’s Muslims and Hindus at war over Kashmir, Catholics and Protestants murdering each other in Northern Ireland or Christians and Muslims doing so in Indonesia, the ghastly carnage continues. And if it isn’t holy warfare it’s the promotion of some exploitative money-making New Age superstition like feng shui or miracle healing.

Irrationality and religious exploitation are mushrooming all around us and pose a severe threat to reason and civilisation; that is why the National Secular Society is as important now — maybe even more so — as when it was founded in 1866.

We are one of the few organisations that are fully committed to fighting superstition and religious privilege. We are up against enormously powerful institutions: the churches and a Government that seems determined to make us all into God-fearing Christians once more. As one of our Honorary Associates, Jonathan Meades of the Times so succinctly put it:

"If you believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden you are deemed fit for the bin. If you believe in transubstantiation, parthenogenesis and the rest of it, you’re deemed fit to run the country."

Our opponents often accuse us of being negative. But, as one of our past Presidents, Barbara Smoker, observed: the Society’s vigorous opposition to the forces of superstition, obscurantism and illiberalism could equally well be described as its vigorous support for progressive liberal causes. When the NSS campaigns against censorship, it is campaigning for freedom of expression; when it campaigns against the any of the social and fiscal survivals of religious privilege, it is campaigning for equality in a pluralist society.

We need your help and support so that we can make the voice of reason heard more loudly in our society. Join us today, and become part of what has been called "the best of causes".

Many prominent public figures have aligned themselves with the National Secular Society. From science we have Professor Richard Dawkins, whose books The Selfish Gene and Climbing Mount Improbable have brought Darwin’s theory of evolution back into public consciousness; and the late Professor Francis Crick, the Nobel prize-winning discoverer of DNA, was a long-standing Associate.

Influential playwrights Harold Pinter and Edward Bond are enthusiastic supporters, as is the best-selling novelist Iain Banks. From journalism, Polly Toynbee — the award-winning Guardian columnist — helps promote the cause whenever she can. Agony aunt to the nation, Claire Rayner, has been active in the Society for many years. Sir Ludovic Kennedy, whose recent book All in the Mind: A Farewell to God caused such controversy, is a well-known atheist. Gore Vidal, the American political thinker and writer, recently joined the illustrious gallery of Honorary Associates.

I hope you will join the Society, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

More about NSS here.

About the NSS

We want a society in which all are free to practise their faith, change it or not have one, according to their conscience. Our belief or lack of it should neither advantage nor disadvantage. Religion should be a matter of private conscience, for the home and place of worship; it must not have privileged input into the political arena where history shows it to bring conflict and injustice.

The National Secular Society is the leading pressure group defending the rights of non-believers from the demands of religious power-seekers. We campaign on a wide range of issues, including religious influence in the government, the disestablishment of the Church of England, the removal of the Bench of Bishops from the House of Lords and for conversion of religious schools (paid for by the taxpayer) to community schools, open to all.


  1. We fight to protect free expression from attacks by religious groups, often keen to restrict comment about, and examination of, their activities.
  2. We want the blasphemy law to be abolished and artistic expression to be protected from religious censors.
  3. We lobby the BBC to reduce the amount of religious propaganda paid for by licence-payers, very few of whom are interested.
  4. We want to ensure that human rights always come before religious rights, and to fight the massive exemptions religious bodies are granted from discrimination laws that everyone else has to observe. The NSS was prominent in the campaign to frustrate religious bodies’ attempts to opt out of the Human Rights Act – we fought to limit exemptions in the employment discrimination legislation and other equality law.

Even now the government seems anxious to increase religious involvement in public life. Each increase disadvantages those who have no religion.

Only by secularising our institutions can we ensure that no religious ideology can dominate and discriminate against others.

More Information

On joining NSS Dorset Humanists must agree to the NSS General Principles:-
  • Secularism affirms that this life is the only one of which we have any knowledge and human effort should be directed wholly towards its improvement.
    • cf BHA..
  • Affirming that morality is social in origin and application, Secularism aims at promoting the happiness and well-being of mankind. Secularism demands the complete separation of Church and State and the abolition of all privileges granted to religious organisations.
    • cf BHA...
  • Secularism affirms that progress is possible only on the basis of equal freedom of speech and publication; that the free criticism of institutions and ideas is essential to a civilised state.
    • cf BHA...
  • It asserts that supernaturalism is based upon ignorance and assails it as the historic enemy of progress.
    • cf BHA...
  • It seeks to spread education, to promote the fraternity of all peoples as a means of advancing universal peace to further common cultural interests and to develop the freedom and dignity of mankind.
    • cf BHA...
  • To remove an impediment to these objectives, we demand the complete separation of Church and State and the abolition of all privileges granted to religious organisations.
    • cf BHA...
The NSS is certainly vigorous in its opposition to
the forces of superstition, obscurantism, and
illiberalism; but that is merely another way of
looking at its support for liberal causes. When it
campaigns against censorship, it is campaigning
for freedom of expression; when it campaigns
against faith schools, it is campaigning for
educational impartiality; and when it campaigns
against any of the social and fiscal survivals of
religious privilege, it is campaigning for equality in
a pluralist society.

Affiliated Local Groups
Birmingham Humanists; Blackpool & Fylde
Humanists; Brighton & Hove Humanist Society;
Bromley Humanist Group; Chiltern Humanists;
Cornwall Humanists; Cotswold Humanists; Coventry
& Warwickshire Humanists; Democratic Association;
Devon Humanists; Ealing Humanist Group; East
Kent Humanists; Essex Humanists; Farnham
Humanists; Greater Manchester Humanist Group;
Hampstead Humanist Society; Havering & District
Humanist Society; Humanist Society of West
Yorkshire; Isle of Wight Humanists; Leicester
Secular Society; Lewisham Humanist Group; Liberal
Democrat Humanist & Secularist Group; Norfolk
Humanists; North East Humanists; North London
Humanist Group; Sheffield Humanist Society; South
Hampshire Humanists; South Somerset Humanists;
Suffolk Humanists; Sutton Humanist Group; Welsh
Marches Humanist Group; West Glamorgan
Humanist Group.

Various Documents

The NSS in Parliament

Our Honorary Associates

cf BHA Distinguished Supporters of Humanism

These are our supporters who work and speak on our behalf in politics, human rights, science, philosophy, the arts, writing, journalism and broadcasting.

Religion in Schools?

The law requires Religious Education to be taught in schools. For many years it was the only compulsory topic in the school curriculum. A religious element in daily school assemblies is also required by the law, but 80% of secondary schools do not conform with this legal requirement. Sometimes the reason is the practical difficulty of arranging assemblies, but often it is that the majority of pupils and staff do not wish to take part in an act of worship.

Legally, if a parent or guardian so requests, pupils can be excused from religious education lessons or religious assemblies. No reason need be given for such a request; however before making one, parents and pupils should be aware that such action might result in ostracism by fellow-pupils or even victimisation by teachers. We have heard of teachers retaliating against requests for withdrawal by excluding pupils from receiving information disseminated during assembly.

Secularists particularly object to religion being taught in schools as fact. If there is to be religious education, secularists consider pupils should be told that "some people believe this and others believe that and yet others believe none of these things".

Because they believe religious schools result in increased levels of sectarianism, Secularists would like to see the elimination of denominational or religious schools. This particularly applies to areas of historic tension between Protestants and Roman Catholics, such as in Northern Ireland, the west of Scotland and Liverpool. Cohesion in the community is also particularly at risk if religious schools result in pupils being segregated on ethnic and/or socio-economic lines. Communities will best learn to live peacefully together if they grow up - and learn - together, respecting each other’s differences. If they are separated into religious groupings at such an early age, racism and lack of understanding will inevitably increase.

Charles Bradlaugh (1833 - 1891): Founder

Charles Bradlaugh

Based on an article for the NSS website by David Tribe, author of President Charles Bradlaugh, MP (London 1971), former president and honorary life member of National Secular Society and former editor of The Freethinker.

THROUGHOUT its history the National Secular Society has included a number of colourful and distinguished personalities; none more so than its founder, Charles Bradlaugh.

Bradlaugh founds the National Secular Society

Bradlaugh first came to prominence as a freethought lecturer to groups that had survived the disappearance of Chartism and, under the influence of George Jacob Holyoake, were being transformed from Owenite into secular societies. In 1858 Bradlaugh became president of the London Secular Society, succeeding G J Holyoake. Two years later he became co-editor of The National Reformer, which under his leadership became dedicated to atheism, republicanism and neo-Malthusianism (contraception).

In 1866 he conceived and founded the National Secular Society, and became its first president.

Throughout the 1880s he tirelessly travelled the country giving secularist lectures and participating in debates, not to mention assisting George William Foote, founding editor of The Freethinker, in his blasphemy defence (unfortunately without success).

In 1876 a Bristol bookseller of freethought and pornography was prosecuted and gaoled for selling an "obscene" contraceptive manual, Charles Knowlton's Fruits of Philosophy. Its publisher was Charles Watts, Bradlaugh's subeditor, printer and publisher, and father of the chief founder of the Rationalist Press Association. Arrested himself, Watts pleaded guilty against the wishes of Besant and Bradlaugh, who dismissed him from all positions.

Besant and Bradlaugh then formed a Freethought Publishing Company and republished Fruits of Philosophy themselves. They were arrested, tried and sentenced to six months' gaol, but appealed and won on a legal technicality. This famous trial split the freethought movement but largely helped to reduce the size of Victorian families.

His radical politics soon led to a parliamentary career

At the same time as setting up the NSS, Bradlaugh was involved in radical polities. He fought for the right of atheists and religious fundamentalists to affirm in court cases which resulted in the Evidence Further Amendment Act 1869), which removed blatant injustices. He agitated for parliamentary reform, involving proportional representation, universal franchise and abolition of the House of Lords (but later compromised by supporting the introduction of life peers); the removal of restrictions on activities on Sundays; the disestablishment of the Churches (This was achieved for Ireland but not of course for England); land-law reform and Irish emancipation from English oppression. He did not advocate Irish independence though; he preferred a British federation, with separate parliaments for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1880, after three unsuccessful earlier attempts, Bradlaugh was elected to Parliament for Northampton. When he asked to affirm instead of taking an oath before taking his seat, a parliamentary select committee declared that the right freethinkers had to affirm in law courts didn't extend to Parliament. He then asked to take the oath, but another select committee found his known atheism prevented this but he should be allowed to affirm under pain of statute (penalties for voting without taking the prescribed oath). The battle over his being sworn in began the day he took his seat and voted, and resulted in convoluted legal arguments continuing for six years. Eventually, in 1886 after the 1885 general election he was allowed by the Speaker to take the oath at the beginning of the session, before objections could be made. While all this had been going on, his seat was vacated but he was re-elected at three by-elections (1881, 1883 and 1884).

Throughout this cause celebre, Bradlaugh represented himself, and was arguably the most proficient lay litigant in England. It took great courage. He was even imprisoned in a cell in the famous Clock Tower under Big Ben - he was the last victim to be incarcerated there. Once he was literally thrown out of the Palace of Westminster.

Bradlaugh was a diligent Member of Parliament and soon became highly respected. His greatest success was the introduction and passage of the 1888 Oaths Act, allowing universal affirmation as an alternative to the oath. But he did much to establish and brief the Royal Commission on Market Eights and Tolls in support of small traders and consumers, and sat on the Royal Commission on Vaccination and select committees on anachronistic perpetual pensions for the aristocracy, employers' liability, destitute immigrants and friendly societies.

Internationally he was known as the "member for India" and it was believed that, without his premature death in 1891, he would have become Gladstone's Under-Secretary of State for India.

Bradlaugh the international politician proclaimed "The Future President of England" by the New York Times

As a friend and supporter of Continental republican freethinkers living in or visiting England, he was as celebrated (notorious) outside as inside Britain. In 1870, following the overthrow of Louis Napoleon, he supported Republican France during the Franco-Prussian War and in 1871, after the war, he was invited to sue for peace between the Paris Commune and the Versailles Government.

Stimulated by French and other European republican uprisings, and by the unpopularity of Queen Victoria as the non-performing "widow of Windsor", republicanism took off in Britain. In 1871 Bradlaugh wrote a bestselling Impeachment of the House of Brunswick and became president of the London Republican Club. Inspired by him, throughout the country a number of NSS branches spawned or transformed themselves into republican clubs and a National Republican League was formed in 1873. That year, during a US lecture tour, the New York Herald proclaimed him as "The Future President of England".

But intrigues involving religionists, independent adventurers and communist-anarchist infighting in the First International, together with Victoria's return to activity and popularity, led to republicanism's collapse in 1874.

Outside parliament his influence waned with the rise of socialism (not social democracy), which he opposed as vague in details but likely to lead to violent revolution, tyranny, censorship, lack of enterprise and economic stagnation (criticisms later vindicated by experience in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union). Instead he extolled, perhaps too optimistically, education, reform and cooperative retail, building, friendly and insurance societies.

Bradlaugh's private life

Born in 1833 to a solicitor's clerk and former nursemaid, he was brought up in the East End of London and the Church of England. Leaving school at eleven, he became an errand boy, clerk and cashier.

As a candidate for confirmation, seeking explanation for discrepancies in the Gospels and Thirty-Nine Articles, he fell out with his pastor and family, left home, came into contact with freethought propagandists and espoused atheism. After three years in the British army, stationed in Ireland, he became a solicitor's clerk and small businessman.

He married in 1855 but his wife was an alcoholic and they separated amicably in 1870. Annie Besant, the estranged wife of an Anglican clergyman, met Bradlaugh and joined the NSS. Soon she became his closest friend and collaborator. Had Bradlaugh and Besant both been free, they would have married.

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We are here to help you set up your own secular group.

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Annual Report 2007 :
Keith Porteus Wood - in 2007 wins IHEU award 'Distinguished service to Humanism'

NSS is Affiliated to Amnesty Int, Eur.Humanist Federtaion, IHEU, Liberty.
Support: Hum. Peace forum, Dignity in Dying, Eur. Womens lobby, Abortion Rights

President: T Sanderson, VP: Anna Behan, Jim Herrick,
Council members: Dennis Cobell +7

Change name from Dorset Humanists to Dorset Secularist Humanists?

Letter to CGS re: Affilation

From: Terry Sanderson []
Sent: 18 November 2007 11:59
To: 'Chris Street'
Subject: RE: Dorset Humanists to affiliate to NSS?

Dear Chris,

You ask what the benefits of affiliation are. Well, there are no huge benefits in the sense of input from the NSS, it is more a matter of whether you want to add your support to our efforts to create a secular society. I notice that there is a strong perception among your members that the NSS is composed of a bunch of “militant atheists” who are all out to destroy religion.

I think this is unfortunate, for although our aims and objectives do make clear that we are an organisation of non-believers (“assails supernaturalism as the enemy of progress”) our primary purpose is not to promote atheism, but to argue for secularism from the perspective of non-belief. There are religious secularists, too, and we don’t ask them to abandon their faith in order to prove that they aren’t just a bunch of evangelists posing as secularists.

The NSS has always been militant in its opposition to religious power-seeking. When religion misbehaves or tries to impose irrationality by law, we are not mealy-mouthed in opposing it. Some regard this as aggressive and I suppose it is. Someone has to speak out plainly against religious privilege, and the NSS is that someone.

There is also a perception that the NSS is some kind of outpost of the BHA. This is not the case. The two organisations are completely autonomous and although we share some members, we don’t always share the same aims or the same approach to achieving those aims. This is going to be explored at our AGM.

Under my presidency I want it to be clear that the NSS is a pressure/lobby group fighting for a secular society. It is not a philosophical society looking at the “big questions” or trying to provide an alternative ethical framework, in the way that humanism does. It has a focused agenda, and a radical approach to that agenda. The BHA seems to be coming in our direction – a development that obviously does not please some of your members – but we are not coming in the direction of the BHA. We are not promoting humanism, we are not promoting a secular society that gives power to religion so long as “humanists” can have a few crumbs from the table. Secularism is a political aim that we think it achievable (although it is a long term objective in the present circumstances), but we want a secularism that does not give privilege to any ideology, be that religious or humanist.

Personally, I feel that the BHA’s approach of “the religious bodies can have their cake, so long as we can have some crumbs” (exemplified in the approach to religious education in schools) is counterproductive, and I am going to request a mandate in my election address at next week’s AGM to clarify that.

The NSS’s vigorous approach makes many humanists feel uncomfortable. That’s fine – they don’t have to join and they don’t have to feel that they are associated with us. We are a principled organisation, with a clear agenda, and we only want those who share our convictions to be part of the organisation. We don’t want members for the sake of it – especially people who don’t like what we do.

Obviously we would like Dorset Humanists to affiliate, but we only want them to affiliate if they share our aims and objectives. We don’t want you to join under any kind of misapprehension about what you’d be signing up to.

We feel that the NSS is very effective in getting the questions of secularism and rationalism in to the public domain. We have to do that on terms that the media understand. Some people perceive that as “militant” – so be it. We don’t apologise.

The affiliation fee is the same as an individual membership - £22 at present, although there is a motion to raise it to £29 at the AGM.

Hope this is helpful, and good luck.

Terry Sanderson

The God FAQ

reposted from:


Question: “Is there a God?”

Answer: “No.”

In the quite unlikely event that you were to discover any omissions or inaccuracies on this page, they may be reported to the international headquarters of The Official God FAQ, at, where they will be thoroughly investigated, submitted to rigorous scientific testing and, if substantiated, included in a subsequent update. Thank you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Debate between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ed Husain

reposted from:
WASP comments are in bright green; highlights in blockquotes (yellow).

On 20th November, the Centre for Social Cohesion hosted an evening debate in Westminster between Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP and self-declared Muslim apostate, and Ed Husain, the author of the best-selling book The Islamist.

Debating ‘The West and the Future of Islam’, the two speakers began by making a short speech setting out their arguments before taking questions from the audience.

During the discussion, which lasted for over an hour and a half,

Ayaan Hirsi Ali argued that Islam “as a body of ideas” is opposed to ‘Enlightenment’ values.

She further said that

unless Muslims actively confronted and rejected verses from the Quran which are hostile to women’s rights and homosexuals and accept a total separation of Church and State, then conflict between Islam and the West was inevitable.

Ed Husain responded that Islam could be interpreted in numerous different ways and that it was incorrect to state definitively whether Islam was for or against the rights of women and others.

He argued that Muhammad had aimed to improve the rights of slaves and women and that it was the responsibility of modern Muslims to continue to strive against injustice, intolerance and inequality.

Among the two hundred attendees were Charles Moore, the former editor of The Daily Telegraph, Martin Ivens, the deputy-editor of The Sunday Times, Melanie Phillips, the columnist and writer, and Owen Patterson, the shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

Andrew Anthony, the author of The Fallout: How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence, and Nick Cohen, author of What’s Left: How the Liberals Lost Their Way also attended, along with Jemima Khan.

Among those present was Asim Siddiqui, the chairman of The City Circle. Also in the audience were several former members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, including Maajid Nawaz and Shiraz Maher.

Earlier in the day, the Centre also hosted an informal discussion between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray, the Centre’s director, at the House of Lords.

The Centre will post a video of the debate between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ed Husain on this website by next week.

Blair 'nutter' fear angers bishop

reposted from:
WASP comments are in bright green; highlights in blockquotes (yellow).

Blair 'nutter' fear angers bishop
Tony Blair
Mr Blair said politicians who talk about religion "get into trouble"
A bishop has criticised Tony Blair after he said he avoided talking about his religious views while premier because he feared the "nutter" label.

The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, said he was "sorry" the former prime minister felt unable to talk about his faith.

It would have led to more constructive social policy at home and principled policies abroad, the bishop said.

Mr Blair's admission comes in the final episode of BBC One's The Blair Years.

During the interview, Mr Blair said faith was a crucial component for him in having the character to take on the prime minister's job and had been "hugely important" to his premiership.

Bishop Nazir-Ali
A Christian vision underlies all that is important about Britain: its laws, institutions and values
Bishop of Rochester

But while it was commonplace in the US and elsewhere for politicians to talk about their religious convictions, he added: "you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter".

British voters imagined that leaders who were informed by religion would "commune with the man upstairs and then come back and say 'Right, I've been told the answer and that's it'".

Bishop Nazir-Ali said: "I am sorry that Tony Blair feels he could not talk about his faith in case people thought he was a nutter.

"A Christian vision underlies all that is important about Britain: its laws, institutions and values.

"If Blair had been able to relate this vision to his policies, we would have had more constructive social policy at home and principled policies abroad."

Mr Blair's ex-spokesman Alastair Campbell famously warned reporters: "We don't do God."

He acknowledged to the programme that his former boss "does do God in quite a big way", but that both men feared the public would be wary.

Mr Campbell added that the former PM always asked his aides to find him a church to attend each Sunday, wherever he happened to be.

  • The Blair Years will be screened on BBC One at 2215 GMT on 25 November. The episode in which Mr Blair discusses his faith will be broadcast on Sunday 2 December.

  • Does religion have a place at work? Have you been discriminated against because of your beliefs? Do you think it would affect your opportunities for a promotion?

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Frequently Asked Questions about the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust

    reposted from:
    Chris Street comments are in bright green;
    highlights in yellow blockquotes.

    by Sam Harris

    Reposted from:

    Frequently Asked Questions about the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust
    Answered by Sam Harris

    Version 1.1

    1. As a bestselling author, can't Ayaan Hirsi Ali afford to pay for her own protection?

    For security reasons, I cannot give specific information about the arrangements that have been made for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but I can say that the average security costs for people with similar security profiles can be in excess of two million dollars per year. Needless to say, very few writers sell enough books to cover such an extraordinary expense (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not among them).

    This might seem like an outrageous sum to spend so that one woman can safely stand at a university lectern and speak about the power of reason and the rights of little girls—and it is an outrageous sum and an outrageous circumstance. It is, of course, galling that a mere advocate of human rights and basic rationality should require special protection in the United States. But this is simply a fact of life in a world where freedom of speech and conscience falls ever more under the shadow of Muslim fanaticism. In my opinion, there is no one making a more heroic effort to change this fact than Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    2. In your original appeal, you wrote that "if every reader of this email simply pledged ten dollars a month to protect Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the costs of her security would be covered for as long as the threat to her life remains." How can you say this if you don't know how far the email has spread? And if you only need $10 from each person why does the security page have options to give as much as $1000 per month?

    The idea of offering a monthly subscription was to allow everyone to make a meaningful contribution to Ms. Hirsi Ali's protection. Given what I know about the general costs of security, and the fact that the original email went out to over 15,000 people, it was correct to say that Ms. Hirsi Ali's needs would be largely met if everyone gave $10 a month indefinitely. However, the truth is that only about half of the people receiving the email will open it; fewer will read it; and fewer still will donate.

    I would be extremely happy if we could meet Ms. Hirsi Ali's security needs in a grassroots way, with small donations, but this is not realistic. Protecting her will require some much larger gifts of money. Such gifts are still needed and actively being sought.

    3. Aren't there more important causes to support than the protection of Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

    There are countless worthy targets for our generosity. Whether it is helping to alleviate hunger in the developing world or building a new pediatric hospital in the United States, one must choose between absolute need and absolute need, and such choices often defy rational justification.

    Allow me to briefly make the case, however, that in this wilderness of competing needs and limited resources, the ongoing protection of Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserves our special commitment. In fact, few projects represent such a perfect marriage of moral and intellectual necessity. While the threat of Muslim extremism still seems distant to many of us living in the developed world, I think it is the one problem that has the potential to suddenly eclipse all others.

    When one considers the cascading effects of what 19 jihadists did with box-cutters on September 11th, 2001--now measured in the trillions of dollars--it is difficult to imagine how the world might look after a single incident of nuclear terrorism. I think it is safe to say, however, that if we do suffer even one such attack, global warming will seem the least of our concerns. For this reason, I think that the superstition and bigotry that currently plagues Muslim communities, East and West, is the most pressing issue of our time. I know of no person better placed to awaken the world to the scope of this growing emergency than Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    4. Might this just be a waste of money? Do bodyguards actually make a difference?

    Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of professional security should remember that Ms. Hirsi Ali's colleague, Theo van Gogh, having declined diplomatic protection of his own, was immediately murdered on an Amsterdam street. It is true that no security can be perfect, especially when one's enemies are willing to commit suicide. But the fact that U.S. diplomats successfully travel to places like Kabul and Baghdad demonstrates that the combination of intelligence, secrecy, and armed protection can make a difference. It is safe to say that Ms. Hirsi Ali is only alive today because the Dutch gave her diplomatic protection the moment she started receiving death threats in 2002.

    5. Isn't it true that the Dutch would still protect Ayaan Hirsi Ali if she remained in Holland?

    The Dutch government has said as much. But the offer does not seem to be in good faith. The threat to Ms. Hirsi Ali is actually greatest in Holland, and it is much more expensive to protect her there. In fact, the security precautions necessary to keep her safe in Holland are quite stifling. She is much better placed in the U.S. to do her work. (For more on this subject, please see the opinion piece I wrote with Salman Rushdie).

    6. Why single out Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Don't other Muslim dissidents need our support?

    There surely are other Muslim dissidents who are threatened and deserve our support. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the most visible, however. In the event we raise enough money for her security, we will help others as well. Several of us are in the process of forming non-profit foundations for this larger purpose.

    7. What will you do with the money, if you don't raise enough of it?

    The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust will pay for Ms. Hirsi Ali's security until the money runs out. Hopefully we will raise enough to cover her needs indefinitely. If we do not raise enough money, and no government steps forward to offer her diplomatic protection, Ms. Hirsi Ali could be forced to stop doing her work and enter the witness protection program. Hopefully it will never come to that.

    8. What will you do if you raise more money than is needed?

    Given the costs of Ms. Hirsi Ali's security, excess funds are not expected. However, if we raise enough money to cover Ms. Hirsi Ali's security, I will send an announcement by email to every person who has donated to the Security Trust through this website. This will give people a choice about whether to continue to give to a surplus fund. I will, of course, make a similar announcement if Ms. Hirsi Ali is ever given diplomatic protection by the U.S. government (or any other).

    The surplus fund will be used to support other dissidents and public intellectuals in the Muslim world - through conferences, media events, publications, or by making similar efforts to pay for their protection.

    9. Ayaan Hirsi Ali works for the American Enterprise Institute—a "neoconservative" think-tank. Why should liberals support her?

    Ms. Hirsi Ali's cause transcends politics and should motivate liberals and conservatives equally. The American Enterprise Institute, to its great credit and to the enduring shame of my fellow liberals, was the only think-tank to offer Ms. Hirsi Ali a job when her security concerns finally forced her to leave Holland. Even if you find the views of certain AEI fellows as objectionable as I do, please recognize that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an independent scholar. The AEI deserves credit for having the courage and wisdom to support her. While the AEI is shouldering the burden of Ms. Hirsi Ali's security for the time being, it cannot absorb these costs indefinitely.

    10. How widely is this appeal being circulated? Is this only a secular effort, or have you reached out to Christians and moderate Muslims as well?

    I've reached out to everyone I think could be helpful, including people like Pastor Rick Warren. I am very happy to say that Pastor Warren responded immediately (as fast as the fastest atheist) and pledged to help. I've also sent this appeal to my few contacts among practicing Muslims. Needless to say, I think it would be only fitting if moderate Muslims helped protect Ayaan Hirsi Ali from the immoderate ones.

    11. Is there a risk that a high profile appeal such as this might be seen as a victory by the extremists who threaten Muslim apostates?

    From my point of view, we don't have the luxury of worrying about this. I think our society should be devoting immense resources to the problem of encouraging and protecting dissidents in the Muslim world. Until governments realize this, private citizens will have to do what they can. The real victory for the extremists would be if someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali could no longer make public appearances and do her work.

    12. Will you personally be giving to the Security Trust every month?


    Questions about the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust to me at Please have the subject line read: "Question about the Security Trust"

    Go to the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust: