Non-religious identities and the experience of HE

Today I’m presenting at a conference on non-religious identities based on the work that we did on Religion and Belief in Higher Education.

This is what I thought I’d say 

I thought that this might be a place to set out my own religion and belief position as it was something that others made incorrect assumptions about when I was working on this project.

  • I am a pluralist. By this I mean that I understand and welcome the fact that there are multiple religion and belief positions in society. While I defent my right to try and convince people of the value of my own position I also see value in other positions and believe that society and the state should guarentee the space within which this pluralism can operate.
  • I am a secularist. By which I mean that I believe that the state should be kept seperate from religion and belief and that it should not give additional rights to any one position. This position includes a concern about things like public funding for religious schooling as well as to a belief that the Church of England should be disestablished. Secularism, in this sense, is a political position that I think that it is possible for a religious person to share. My belief in secularism does not mean that I think that religious people should stay out of politics or never speak of their religion in this context, only that state funding and state power should not be used to entrench religious positions.
  • I am an atheist. By which I mean that I do not believe in a deity or any other kinds of spiritual or supernatural force. I believe that the universe is essential a rational one that it is possible to understand. This does not mean that I claim to understand it, nor that I believe that everything in the universe will ever be understood by humans.  
  • I am a humanist (just about). By which I mean that I believe that humanity has the ability to solve its own problems and to manage its own affairs without the need for a deity. Humanism is a fundamentally optimistic position that argues that human beings have huge capacity for creativity, co-operation and mutual support. As a humanist I believe that we can and we ultimately will find a way to better govern ourselves and to create a world where individuals are respected and able to contribute to the greater good. However, while I genuinely believe this, I look around the world and see plenty of behaviours that challenge this belief. So my humanism at times seems most like a blind faith, but it is one that I continue to hold onto.

So there you go. I don’t know whether anyone is really interested in this – but I feel that it is important to be clear. I have some research interests around religion and belief and this can lead people to jump to the wrong conclusions.


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