Lords debates contribution of athiests and humanists to UK society

24 July 2013


A former Bishop of Oxford and the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group will debate the contribution that atheists and humanists have made to British society in the House of Lords on Thursday 25 July.

Lord Harrison (Labour), who tabled and will open the debate, said:

“It is no surprise that the reported numbers of humanists and atheists showed a marked increase in the latest census, conducted in 2011, contrasting directly with a significant decrease in the number of people going to church. However, it saddens me that the significant contribution that both humanists and atheists make goes largely ignored or unrecognised, even though we make up more than a third of the UK population.  For example, we have no representation at the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph – and will not this year, I have recently been informed by the Government – even though there is room for representatives of groups involving a much smaller percentage of the population.

“Society continues to be divided along the line of religion, whether it is schoolchildren through exclusion from assemblies in a religion other than their own or democratically elected representatives from the House of Commons Chamber whilst prayers are held. Yet we are united in our belief that some of this country’s finest buildings, in the shape of our parish churches or city cathedrals, should be conserved for our communities’ continued use.

“I hope that this debate celebrates the many positive contributions that humanists and atheists make to British society and encourages people to consider how the many different ways in which we can – and do – work together for the good of us all.”

Other Members scheduled to speak include:

The Viscount Craigavon (Crossbench), Lord Layard (Labour), the Bishop of Birmingham, Lord Maxton (Labour), Lord Morgan (Labour), Baroness Meacher (Crossbench), Lord Soley (Labour) and Baroness Warnock (Crossbench) are also expected to take part in the debate.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Conservative) will respond on behalf of the Government.

The debate will begin at about 2pm and will be webcast at www.parliamentlive.tv. The debate is also open to the public. Journalists wishing to attend should go to Parliament’s Cromwell Green Entrance and should allow time for security screening.

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