Humanism Now

14. 2023 Review & 2024 Preview; Hope, Awe & Collective Human Achievement

January 07, 2024 Season 1 Episode 14
14. 2023 Review & 2024 Preview; Hope, Awe & Collective Human Achievement
Humanism Now
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Humanism Now
14. 2023 Review & 2024 Preview; Hope, Awe & Collective Human Achievement
Jan 07, 2024 Season 1 Episode 14

Send us a Text Message.

Join us as we review the 2023 year in Humanism and preview the events for 2024 with our regular panellists, Mark, Nicole & Katia.

Together with host James, they discuss; insights from 2023 meetups and conventions, inspiring personal experiences, a varied events calendar and the important role of humanist voices in 2024's major democratic elections.

Finally we pay a special thanks to our Producer Rob, who is moving on to bigger things in 2024!

This week's panel only discussion is themed around the values of hope, wonder and collaborative achievement - thank you for joining us the debut year of Humanism Now.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Join us as we review the 2023 year in Humanism and preview the events for 2024 with our regular panellists, Mark, Nicole & Katia.

Together with host James, they discuss; insights from 2023 meetups and conventions, inspiring personal experiences, a varied events calendar and the important role of humanist voices in 2024's major democratic elections.

Finally we pay a special thanks to our Producer Rob, who is moving on to bigger things in 2024!

This week's panel only discussion is themed around the values of hope, wonder and collaborative achievement - thank you for joining us the debut year of Humanism Now.

Episode References:

Support the Show.

Support us on Patreon

Click here to submit questions, nominate guest & topics or sponsor the show.

Follow Humanism Now @HumanismNowPod
X (Twitter)
YouTube
Instagram
TikTok

Follow Central London Humanists @LondonHumanists
Centrallondonhumanists.org.uk
Meetup
Facebook
X (Twitter)
YouTube

CLH are an official partner group of Humanists UK and an associate member of Humanists International

James H:

how, how, how, how. Hello everyone, and welcome back to Humanism Now, the podcast from the Central London Humanists. I'm your host, james. Well, we've made it to the end of 2023, our first year of running the Humanism Now podcast and it's been quite an eventful year, both for us here as a club and for humanist issues globally. So we're doing things a little bit differently this week. I'm delighted to be joined by some of our regular panel guests to talk about some of our reflections and highlights from the past year and also what we'll be looking forward to in 2024. So welcome back, mark. I know you've just returned from your trip to the US. Good to see you.

Mark A:

Thank you, james. Yeah, delighted to be here, looking forward to this.

James H:

And Nicole from Leicester Humanists.

Nicole S:

Hello, lovely to be here.

James H:

And returning for a second time. It's great to have Katia.

Katia U:

Hi James, hi everyone, it's great to be back. Thank you for having me again.

James H:

It's a pleasure, and so we'll have no guest interview this week. We're just going to hear from our panel. As mentioned, we really wanted to reflect on all the achievements and activities that have been going on this year and, in planning for this, it really brought home just how much has happened in 2023. Mark, if I can come to you first, what stood out for you, both in terms of your activities running the Central London Humanists and generally, how will you reflect on the year?

Mark A:

Yeah, for me it was a really enjoyable, fulfilling year. I mean, a lot has happened with our group and for me personally in terms of my involvement with humanism. As treasurer, I've had the opportunity this year to really sort of get stuck in. It's quite a slow transition originally to taking up the fully taking out the position. But I've been, I've had complete control of that. So that's been, it hasn't been.

Mark A:

I should say this to any of my potential successors it's a doddle, it's very easy work and that's been very interesting. But I've also been delighted to be able to get involved with some of our other events, particularly around talks, with helping to put on a particular event which we called what does humanism mean to me, which was a sort of a slight variant on our normal talk, and it went pretty well. So I was very satisfied to be involved with that. I can talk more about that if you like, and also personally I was also, you know, I went to my first ever humanist UK convention in Liverpool and that was a great experience as well. So there's been a lot going on.

James H:

Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned the convention. It was a first first annual convention for me as well. I was extremely impressed with the turnout, the quality of the speakers really great to meet so many fellow groups around the UK and a couple of speech talks in particular have really stood out. I think they're available on YouTube if anybody wants to find them. Nicole, you was it your first time at the convention this year as well.

Nicole S:

No, it was my second time actually. Yeah, it was. I thought it was brilliant. I had a great time, really really wonderful experience.

James H:

Mark, who were the speakers that really stood out for you.

Mark A:

Well, actually I just got the book of one of the well, not one of the talks, but of the written by some of the speakers. One of the ones that particularly stood out to me was around the inequality issue, which was a real eye-opener, and so that was delivered by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, or Wilkinson, pickett or Wilkinson yeah, there's a bit of a pun on a singer's name there, but yeah, so their book I don't know if you can see that spirit level has just arrived as a birthday present for me. So that one made a, that one made a real impression. But there were lots of, there were lots of really excellent talks. I thought the standard was extremely high. I think we had the.

Mark A:

There was a panel discussion about politics and humanism and how particularly focusing on this whole issue, about trying to get a broader representation, and we had a bit of a follow-up to that, didn't we? With connection that you made, james, with the conservative humanist politician and speaker who then subsequently came to talk to us. So there was a. There was a real link there between the convention and some of our subsequent activities. That was.

Mark A:

Neil Garrett for the record.

James H:

Yeah, I for me, I think, the impromptu talk that Adam Rutherford gave. We had a late dropout and change to the agenda and Adam Rutherford, with kind of a couple of hours notice, having been out of the bar drinking the night before, stood up and gave possibly one of the best talks I've ever seen on, I guess, his subject area of biology and inheritance and just some of the interesting mathematical truths about how we all have we will. We go back far enough. We all have the same ancestors and if you go far enough into the future, everybody will be one of your descendants If you're someone who has children. So it was a really fascinating talk, incredibly funny, and I think he'd thrown the slides together literally the night before. So what an incredible speaker he was. Nicole, what stood out for you?

Nicole S:

Yeah, I mean I was just going to say chip in about Adam Rutherford. I thought he was so great and he's so good at conveying what could be a very heavy and jargon and, you know, kind of difficult to decipher topic all these things about genetics. You know I'm no geneticist as I don't think any of us here are experts in that, but he conveys it so well and so funnily and so entertainingly and the main takeaways we can get from it are so fascinating. I'm just trying to remember because they were all so high quality, yeah.

James H:

It was a generally really high quality program and I think we had about 20 people there as well from the Central London Group and I know we're already building our group ticket for next year. So if you are listening to this and you're interested in joining us in Cardiff in June, do get in touch, because Central London Humanists will be taking a group to the next event and is shaping up to be just as lively and agenda as well. Perhaps not a highlight, but one final point on the convention for me. I joined your group, nicole, the young humanists, for their social after the first night, but left early because you know I can't quite hack it with you and AJ and the rest of the young humanists stumbled into the back into the hotel and bumped into Adam Rutherford in the lobby who was just such a gentleman, so kind and inviting me to come and join him for a drink while he was waiting and he was soon joined by Robin Ince, tommy Shepard and Andrew Copsson.

James H:

So I was there, sat with some of the superstars from the conference, having already been on a night out and a little bit uncertain of my surroundings. So I was desperately texting the rest of the Central London Group to say, hey, come and join me, and ended up kind of just sat there listening into a sort of live version of the Infinite Monkey Cage of my own. It was just a really entertaining, interesting night. But they were incredibly accommodating and very gracious to allow me to kind of gay crash the speakers after party and hopefully we've got some contacts for future guests on humanism now from the experience, sorry, but yeah, overall it's been a big year for starting new groups, I think, and non-maw-serving for Unicol. So how's it been your experience a few months into launching of the Lester Humanist Group?

Nicole S:

Yeah, it's been absolutely brilliant. So I've been thinking about it for a few years now. It's been a while in the making, but I was kind of a lone ranger so it was a bit more difficult. But this year I guess it was quite early this year Jeremy Rodel from the Dialogue Network of the Humanist UK put me and the rest of the Dialogue Network in touch and so we think we first met in maybe about May and then managed to launch in October, which I'm very happy with the timeline about it and how wonderful all the people that we managed to get, even before we launched, was the high caliber of people in the committee already. So I was very happy to work with such great people as Humanist UK tends to attract.

Nicole S:

Yeah, and it's been really wonderful. It's been a steep learning curve of making a local group. Obviously I've been involved in young humanists for a while, but that not being a geographical group is quite a different experience. But it's been great and it's been so important to try and make that local community and I'm really excited to see what we can do with it and see it grow and flourish.

Mark A:

Can I ask are you a branch or a local group? Just out of interest.

Nicole S:

We're a branch, okay, they keep changing the official name, so we're now a section, but with the official Humanist UK bit is whatever that's called now.

James H:

Would anyone like to have a go at explaining the difference between a branch and a local group?

Mark A:

Other than the fact they're not called branches anymore. Well, maybe Nicole's going to be the person who's best qualified to unpack that for us.

Nicole S:

Yeah, so I think the difference is between a branch and local group is that a branch is directly a part of Humanist UK. So even though it's run entirely by local volunteers, we kind of get the support from the staff directly and we like on their website officially as a part of Humanist UK, whereas partner groups are we usually independently set up but are completely aligned with Humanist UK and have all same values and get invited to you know the help and advice and everything, but still have more of an independent flavour. I think that's the main difference.

James H:

Does anyone have any questions for Nicole?

Mark A:

Do you have any particular goals for your first year or for the next year for the group? Is there anything you particularly want to achieve?

Nicole S:

Yeah, so one thing we definitely like to do is make sure that everyone who already is a Humanist whether they know it or not in Leicester knows we're around and knows that what we're doing and what we're available to do, and that there's a lovely Humanist community available for them to tap into.

Nicole S:

Because I think this is one of the perennial problems with Humanism, isn't it? That many people are Humanists but just don't realise that that's what they are and, ironically, the most humanist attitude of being like. I believe all that, but I don't agree with labels, so I don't call myself a Humanist, which is one of the most humanist things people often say, because it's like yeah, I don't really like labels either, but this is helpful for the following reasons. So you're just like growing our membership, getting the word out there. We've got quite a lot of little publicity things that we're planning and we're hoping to have quite a big keynote speaker towards the end of the year as well, in about September or so and just building our pattern of what we do, so regular coffee mornings and pub visits and interesting things. So, yeah, it's shaping to be a good year, I think.

Mark A:

That's excellent. Sorry, I'll go ahead, mark. I find that, yeah, that's really fascinating and we could probably talk for quite a long time about this, which is just maybe we do somewhere else because, you know, as in terms of the rest of us being committee members with Central London humanists, there's a lot of common interests and ground and approaches and tactics and things that we could talk about. I mean, we I'd certainly be keen to learn from what you're doing, and it may well be there are things that we're doing that you might find useful. So, yeah, that's a really fascinating area around how you grow that community and what type of activities work best in different settings.

Nicole S:

Yeah, definitely. We'll have a longer chat about it at a different time.

James H:

Yeah, and thanks for mentioning the work that Jeremy does as well, because I think he's a good contact and we'd love to have him on the show in the new year in terms of bringing together a lot of the local groups and again he ran a session, I think as a sort of side project during the convention, which brought a lot of people together and particularly helping answer to answer that question which you mentioned, that when you introduce humanism to people, I think there can be an initial hesitance or a lack of understanding. I was just wondering does anybody have a kind of stock answer that they like to use when, or an elevator pitch when, someone asks what humanism is?

Nicole S:

Yeah. So it's always really tricky, especially because you don't always know exactly how much somebody wants to know. So if I'm not sure and I think they're just like, oh, they have no idea what it is, I say it's a positive type of non-religiousness as a very, very short thing. Obviously that doesn't include all of it, but you know, because a lot of people think, and if they're not very well versed in it they think, oh, atheism is just negative and lack of everything, and then if they are slightly more interested, the longer short answer is something I draw on from when I do school speaker visits. So, separating into humanists, I try to understand the world through science and evidence and good evidence and what is good evidence and the scientific understanding of the world, and not believing in a God or gods or afterlife or anything supernatural or spiritual, but then also fundamentally believing that we should be good people because that's inherent to us and that we should enjoy our lives because it's the one life we have. And that's kind of my little pitch.

James H:

Yeah, I think that's a great start and kind of ticks all the right boxes there in terms of being universal enough to appeal to everyone but, I think, distinct enough from most religious or other forms of ideology. And it's important to flag some of the activities I think we've been involved in outside of our groups as well. Katya, I know you've been active with humanistically speaking, which we've had a couple of speakers from already. Alex Williams, who was on episode three, I know, is one of the contributors that humanistically speaking. So how was, could you tell us more about your time and activities with them this year?

Katia U:

Yeah, so that was my highlight of the year for many reasons. I mean I, as Mark was saying before, I could talk about it for a very long time, but I'll try to give the very short answer. So, humanistically speaking, wanted to organize a trip of humanists from all over the UK to go to CERN, which is the research, nuclear research facility kind of in Switzerland and France, and it's actually a very difficult thing to organize. So when it finally went ahead, I was very excited. I was very glad to be going with other humanists, because it's always really nice to share that kind of thing with like-minded people. I wanted also to go with the group and it was great to meet other humanists from all over the UK and CERN itself.

Katia U:

I think what I would like to highlight from it, you know, obviously it's an awesome experiment. It is the greatest piece of kit that we have been able to build as human beings, I think. But visiting it you really get the sense of thousands of people, thousands of scientists. There's also loads of staff and PhD students galore, all collaborating, all working side by side, from 70, 100 different countries, putting politics and all other things aside, and I just thought that it was so clearly a message of hope because we can work together. So that just kind of floored me really seeing it and that was so lovely and also I'm quite interested in that kind of thing and this is a great example also of this human adventure, which you know.

Katia U:

I would say that it is a humanist thing that I have found in many humanists that we're interested in human achievements, all the positive, of stressing the positive and using this evidence-based approach to actually discover, you know, where we are, what we do, why we do what we do, how can we do better. So, giving a full explanation of what the universe is made up of and you know well it's not a full explanation, but pretty good explanation of how things work in matter and the universe I just find it so exciting and an antidepressant, if ever you needed one. So, yeah, that was definitely my highlight Listening to the three of you. I'm quite sorry I didn't go to the conference, so I've just always found it tricky to plan it in, but the way you've spoken about it really makes me want to start. You know planning. I've noted down the dates 14th to 16th of June, so, yeah, but that was definitely 2023. Very highly hardly made.

James H:

Fantastic. Yeah, I visited CERN a couple of years ago as well, so, similarly, it's after, most obviously, the major discoveries that were made there. But exactly the same thing stood out to me that this is a purely about collaboration and discovery and exploration, and it is those feats, that and that attitude that reassures you about humankind and how, when we can collaborate, the amazing things that we can achieve. I think what stood out to me was the idea that you know what they're discovering, these particles, that the elementary particles that come from the Big Bang, have been around for eternity and we are made up of them, and the fact that we, we are made up of these, of these elements of the universe that have been around for billions of years, for us to come to the point where we can begin to understand that and be aware of it. This is one of the most incredible discoveries and makes you feel really lucky to be alive. Lucky to be alive now and in awe of the universe and what we will discover in the future.

Katia U:

Yeah, yeah, when people say we are made of stardust, it isn't a metaphor, it isn't a pretty picture, it is literally true. And you know that's the way of giving a very you know saying when you are evidence based and when you kind of say we do have answers for why are we here that don't involve a religious belief, and you start with that one, you really capture people's attention immediately because they go Well, what do you mean literally? Well, people use the word literally way too much busy. No, no, no, you know the atoms that make up your body and everything around you were made in a star going boom somewhere. You know for the hydrogen and the helium, which is probably already around.

Katia U:

But that is such a wild adventure, CERN, and it also makes you feel that that Europe is worth fighting for. So, kind of, looking ahead, I'm quite hopeful that that the anti EU rhetoric has quite died down in the UK and we might rejoin and it's not just CERN, that is a global or, you know, mostly Europe organized by European countries. There's loads of other projects that we will get more into when and if we join back there's. You know, if you've listened to Brian Cox at all, there's millions of pounds that that we could and projects that we could tap into as part of space projects that are that you can't do it as a single country. So, looking forward to 2024, I think that's one of the things that that I would underline.

James H:

Yeah, one of the criticisms that you often face, I think, for those of us with a naturalistic worldview, is that we, we lack, or you know, there's, no kind of wonder and amazement. And hearing you talk about the, the expiration and the discoveries that are happening at CERN. And, yeah, the next phase, I think, is looking, looking at the on the macro scale and out into the cosmos, yeah, I, it's hard to suggest that we're not looking at these things and with awe and wonder. And, you know, looking, there's a magic to reality which these, these huge collaborative projects can help us understand, and it's amazing how it very soon becomes part of the general understanding of how the world works. You know, it probably takes, you know, five, 10 years for these things to trickle down, but you know, the next generation are going to have have all of this information available to them and and can build on it.

Mark A:

I was just going to say how well you sort of stole my line, james. I was going to say exactly the same thing that as humanists, we are seen as having this rather prosaic worldview because we don't embrace the wonders of the awe, that that the new menace, as I think they say about, about religion, and in fact I would say it's the opposite. It really ties in with what Nicole was saying about, you know, the fact that we do embrace this spirit of inquiry and this sort of desire to explore and understand our world, which is actually, which is very, the very epitome of a sort of an attitude of awe and appreciation for the wonders of nature. So I think it's, yeah, it's, it's, it is exciting and it is the positive aspect of where we are now and and it exactly corresponds, I think, with the spirit of humanism as something which embraces that and champions that.

Nicole S:

Yeah, and I was just going to say as well, as well as the fascination with the natural world, it's the awe of what humans can do, like you said, james, like how we are just and in catiozola and we're just start us, but we can understand this and give these things words and language, and I mean even things that humans were doing 500 years ago. You know, you look at amazing buildings and stuff. You're just like this is incredible and it's because humans did it, not because we were endowed with something special outside of us. It's because of our nature as humans, for whatever reason that is, and I think that's really amazing.

James H:

Kathy, do you want to close off that? On that point, is there anything you wanted to say?

Katia U:

I've heard people say that you know that you're taking kind of the charm out of things when you explain it in in minute detail. They often give the example of a rainbow, like, just look at a rainbow and just be in awe of the rainbow, and if you you're picking it apart and you're talking to me about you know the light and how it's being reflected and refracted, and I don't find that to be with me and with many people that I've met through humanism to be the case. It's actually even more wondrous because you get back into the story of how this was discovered by a particularly curious, intelligent, you know, experimental human being and another example of we have gone through this adventure of learning so much, being able to rely on our own wits to figure things out, compared to what used to be thought, that everything you could know was from divine endowment. So for me, that is the huge thing that has that has changed, that we have this method that permits us to get to know certain things whilst trusting just ourselves. So that's a wonderful thing.

Katia U:

I would also like to add with with what Nicole has said there's all of this evidence of cave paintings that actually now go back further and further and further and we're finding them everywhere, and I also really like the part about revising what you know and saying, okay, you know all those history books, you know don't throw them out, but you know, shelf them to the back, and we're rewriting history all the time. I also think that's, and I see it as part of the human adventure. It doesn't have to be with a great big particle accelerator.

Nicole S:

Yeah, I really like that because it's that admitting that you were wrong or mistaken, whether that's on a personal level or like a societal level, Because I think most humanists understand that. You know, the idea of a truth, a fundamental truth, is very, very difficult, Whereas through scientific method, what you're trying to get is the closest we can to truth, and those things are always subject to change and updating, based on when we find new things. One good example it's a very simple one for people to understand, I think, rather than all this particle stuff that is quite is can seem a bit more ephemeral.

Nicole S:

In Leicester I'm sure most people are right in 2012, was it when they found Richard the Third, basically and he was buried under the car park. But if you look at all of the history books before that, they all say different things. Some of them like, oh, he was dumped in the river.

Nicole S:

Or they say, oh, we don't know what happened to his body or he was chopped up and humiliated or cooked or you know some other wild things, but then all those things are now we know them to be definitely wrong, and it's that constant updating of when we find new things. Again, it's very humanist attitude and I think it's really important to to all things, no matter what they are.

James H:

Yeah, I think it's important to to look at truth as enjoying the pursuit of truth rather than seeing it as a destination and landing on certainty. And I think science is really about narrowing the band of what's worth pursuing constantly. And it always seems a little bit like if you ever see one of those videos of a fractal that's constantly zooming in. The closest you can, you can narrow the scope of where the correct answer might be, but the closer you look, the more complications arise. And it's it's that constant refining and refocusing and or indeed, when we, when we talk about historical matters, sometimes it's it's completely rewriting and realizing that the theories we had or what we thought was was the case doesn't align with the new evidence that arises. So I think, with that, with that attitude of constantly refining and reviewing and reflecting, that's probably a good place to bring this part of the discussion to, and we'll come back and talk about what we're going to be most looking forward to in 2024.

Lucy Potter:

Hi, my name is Lucy Potter and I'm a researcher based at the University of Sheffield. I am currently conducting research on how asylum claims on the grounds of non-religiosity, which can include apostasy and blasphemy, are handled by the UK government. I am looking for refugees or people who are still seeking asylum on these grounds to take part in an interview with me on their experiences of the asylum system. This research is really important because there is no research on how non-religious asylum claims are dealt with currently and not much is known about non-religious persecution more widely. If you take part in this research, you will remain anonymous and unidentifiable, and I hope this research will make the asylum system inclusive of all belief systems, and I encourage anyone with experience to please contact me. My email is lpotter2atsheffieldacuk. Thank you.

James H:

Welcome back to humanism now. I'm still here with our panel this week, so we've discussed what we enjoyed and what we thought about 2023. Now we're going to take a quick look ahead to some of the things that are coming up in 2024. We spoke a lot in the first half about developing and growing these groups and since everybody here is involved in community organising, I wondered what the groups views are on how we can continue to grow both our local groups but also see humanism flourish around the world. Mark, what are your thoughts?

Mark A:

Yeah, so obviously being primarily involved as a member of a committee, of a local group will be quite a big one.

Mark A:

Central London Humanists alongside James and Katya there, that I think for me, by developing the local groups we can help to develop the movement more widely, so it's a win-win.

Mark A:

I mean I would like to see more members of humanism, whether they are actively paying members or supporters or listed members, so that we can increase our influence and which I think is a very positive and benign influence in society.

Mark A:

And so, yeah, I feel the sorts of we've been exploring some new activities and ways of engaging with people in quite a creative way, I think in the last maybe six months or so this year, and there have been some quite successful events attracting more people and generating quite a lot of excitement and general interest. So, you know, maybe sort of tinkering with the format, the sort of more formal talks that we have done, which are still a valid and interesting, useful thing, but maybe getting involved with things which are a little bit more interactive, more social, more accessible, and exploring those and so that we have a varied offer at the Central London Humanists between things which are, as you say, a bit more intellectual and more traditional and things which are just sort of trying to be engaged with a wider spectrum of people and make things more fun. That's in terms of our like our talk events. Obviously we have a whole range of other activities which are very much about sort of fun and fellowship as well, like the walks and the pub socials etc.

Katia U:

Yeah, just to come back onto what Marcus just said, this year there was just kind of a an energy to do with our group where we've multiplied the types of events that we're doing and I think they are receiving a very, very good. No, I think they are getting a very good reception. So I really want to congratulate Mark and James and many other on the committee that have come up with these. You know all these iterations of how we can come together and be in a group and I think that's going to be such a lovely thing going forward to have a bigger group with activities for for all. I was really looking forward to our Christmas party and I'm looking forward to the next time we do that.

Katia U:

It was a comedy night and everyone was just raving about how good it was, how great an event. Obviously, I got sick and wasn't able to join, but it's always the case that these things get repeated. So if you can't come to one event that you're interested in, you know you, you just wait a bit and it'll be done again. That's one of the things that I think that we're doing really well this year, I feel we we really consolidated, consolidated on. We survived lockdown by going online. We did loads of things during lockdown and now that everyone well, that a lot of people are happy to meet in person again, we're we're really using that as well. So, yeah, great job to everyone involved. James, mark AJ, congratulations.

Mark A:

I'm just going to quickly come back before James comes in because I want to say that, yeah, that the just comment on the comedy night, which unfortunately I wasn't able to attend either because I was away. But I mean, as far as I can tell, everybody had a fantastic time and it was extremely well organized and it's probably our most successful event. I mean in terms of the numbers attending and you know, you know all the other metrics. It. I think it's the most successful, best event probably we've had since I've been involved with this group and so huge credit to James for taking the lead and organizing all of that. It's a fantastic achievement. And James remind us how much money have we raised for McMillan as a consequence of that to the fundraising associated with that event?

James H:

Yeah, I mean. Thanks to the audience and the generous donations of everyone who came along, we were able to make a donation of £500 to McMillan Cancer Support. So we're obviously thrilled with that and the fact that everybody could have a good time and enjoy themselves doing it. And we did meet quite a lot of new members and had that awkward conversation about what is humanism with them. So hopefully we'll be seeing many of the members again soon. But I definitely echo the idea that mixing up and trying different things with the events has been a really great result for us this year.

James H:

And I'd say to Nicole or anybody else who is in the midst of starting or thinking of starting their own local group try different things for sure. I think we had had a tendency in the past to do lots of lecture style events. You know we humanists were interested in science and ethics and so we get in an academic speaker to come and talk about the latest thinking there and that has its place, and I think we'll still do many of those over the next year. But we did try lots of different things. You know the comedy night was a success and Mark mentioned the what humanism means to me. That was an open mic without any external guest speakers and really just our members coming and sharing their personal stories and answering that question that we mentioned at the start of what is humanism and what is its personal resonance? Why is it that you like to identify with that label, which again got a lot of new people in through the door? Because perhaps you know it broke down that barrier to entry to find out about humanism.

James H:

And I'd flag one other event that we tried and we'll definitely be repeating for 2024, which was the World Humanist Day online meetup, which really was the catalyst for starting the humanist humanism now podcast. We invited and got about 20 speakers from local humanist groups around the world I think we covered every continent with having a group leader, a group organizer, to come and talk about what they have, the issues that they're facing in their countries, which were were very wide ranging and high opening. But also it was just fantastic to have like minded people from around the world come and talk and share experiences and connect. So we'll be announcing or be making live the next World Humanist Day online meetup soon and if you are a local organizer anywhere or thinking of starting a group, please do join us. We want to meet as many international humanists as possible.

Mark A:

Just I just wanted to comment and say that how much I enjoyed that event as well it was. I think it was a great success and it was. It was that sense of connection globally with the wider humanist movement which made it really special. I thought that was an outstanding event and also showed that we can mix things up into in terms of online. We can.

Mark A:

Even though Covid's sort of over we will attempt to lock downs, we can still tap into what we learned during during that to have these, these wider events which are so resonant, and also then tie that in with our face to face. So we had a sort of a follow-up event and we, which actually very much connected with that one, where we had the sorry, I forgot his name the chair of Humanist International came to, yeah, and hands you speak, and so there was a. There was a sort of. We built in a sort of a quite a nice integration of the online and the face to face and also collaborating with the Association of Black Humanists at the same time with that, so sort of like a triple whammy in terms of you know, connections there.

James H:

Yeah, and I think, on the topic of trying different things, I really loved your summary of the trip to CERN that you undertook, katya. Do you think there's scope for more field trip style events that local groups can collaborate on, perhaps next year or going forward?

Katia U:

Yes. So since going to CERN I've mentioned it to to many people and I have got a response almost everyone has said oh wow, what a wonderful, you know, what a wonderful trip, what a great thing to do, and it has really made me enthusiastic about the idea of organizing and it doesn't necessarily have to be to CERN it could be CERN, but I'm open to suggestions. It's a really great way of not only meeting other humanists you can meet humanists from all over the UK because it would be open to you know, it wouldn't be just central London humanists and you spend a lot more time with them and you get to discover something together. I think that that is something going forward that I would really, really like to organize. That's my role at Central London. Humanists is mostly organizing really easy things like theatre trips, museum exhibits, so this would be a big step for me, but if people are interested, I would put the work in definitely.

James H:

That's great. So, nicole, has this given you some food for thought for what you can be doing with the Lester humanists, oh, and also the young humanists next year?

Nicole S:

Absolutely yes, I've been already thinking during this conversation about all the different things that both groups can do. Yeah, and it's just about kind of thinking about different things, isn't it? Like you were saying, katya? There's the more obvious things that humanist are interested in, like going to a museum or something, but thinking about this kind of grand, quite grand things is really exciting. Yeah, really look forward to planning all this sort of thing.

James H:

Perfect. Well, onwards and upwards to all of our groups for 2024. One other area that came up a lot when we were planning for this episode and looking ahead to next year is that it's a big year for democracy. I think it's. Two billion people will be voting in democratic elections and many of the issues are pertinent to us as humanists and, of course, most of us are living in countries that will be partaking in those elections as well. So you know, looking ahead, what does everyone feel is kind of the key issues that humanists should be looking out for as we go into an election year. Mark, I know you're a political. Would you like to offer some thoughts?

Mark A:

Yeah, informally, I think. I mean, I think that one of the things that shines through with humanism and it's made explicit on the HUK website is that we are very much in favor of democracy. I mean, that seems like common sense, but, you know, sometimes people associate being democratic with being overly populist. But I think, you know, I think that the humanist value of individual autonomy and choice and freedom, which is an important aspect, it completely resonates with democracy, because you know everybody's vote and voice, you know carries a certain should, have a certain amount of equality in its weight, and so therefore, you know democracy is very much alive. So I think we will. We will no doubt, as humanists, be looking to those political parties which best reflect our values in terms of democracy itself, but also respect for human rights, inclusivity. You know non-biggeted, non-prejudiced policies and, yeah, you know it will be.

Mark A:

It should be relatively straightforward in most instances to decide, certainly, which parties don't reflect those, those options and well, to be quite explicit, things like the right. You know the frightening prospect now that Trump, who is apparently ahead in the polls, could potentially be reelected. I mean, that would be obviously a catastrophe for humanists, I would say, and obviously the humanist movement has got a long tradition of being a pro-choice and you know what's happened with regards to Roe versus Wade is obviously something very disturbing. The fact that that could be you know that the power that the conservatives often and sort of anti-progressives have in the Supreme Court could then be also be reflected by a presidency which is, you know, incredibly well misogynistic and prejudiced and authoritarian, is quite a frightening prospect. So, yes, in those terms, I think our choices are probably quite stark and quite clear.

Katia U:

Yeah, if I can add the fact that some of these elections can go very, very wrong, I think, makes us it's quite eye-opening what is at stake. It's frightening. Its eye-opening in the sense that, as humanists, we sit here and we say, oh, that would be terrible if it happened. It would be great also if our influence were great enough to keep it from happening, and that would be a reason for, you know, growing humanism to make people more aware of what is at stake. So, yeah, it's going to be a frightening, exciting year politically, not just in the US. Many places Mexico, where I'm from, also has a huge election. It's going to be a very big deal. It's going to be very divisive. Also, and it's not the only country, as you've said, there's, you know, millions and millions of of countries. Many big countries around the world have huge elections in 2024.

James H:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's key that we try and shift away from the polarization and populism and can at least have the debate where we agree on some general principles and as humanists we can promote those. You know trust in reason, you know promotion of human rights. And then let's have the debate. And I think that was one of the good things that H UK did with their cross party political panel when the humanist convention wasn't to say that, you know, you have to be a supporter or follow up one particular party to be a humanist, but we can agree on some basic principles of what we want and that we want humanity to thrive. And if we can agree on that, then we can. Then then we can engage in the political debate. But of course, you're right, it's becoming the divisions of the. The divisions are becoming more stark and of course the discourse becomes much more dehumanizing when that happens.

Katia U:

Yeah, just getting people back to believing in facts, getting them away from this messaging that is telling them you can't trust anyone, you can only trust what you already believe. You can't trust the media, you can't trust the experts, and that is. I think that's one of the things. That is the deep explanation of why we are where we are, because we keep saying, well, trump is is not the problem. Trump is a symptom of the problem, and I feel the problem is this kind of you don't need to be informed, you already know what you need to know.

Katia U:

I'm, I'm that would be my way of putting what is happening for many, many young people and you have these frightening statistics where you know what percentage of Americans believe the election was lost. All of the evidence has been put in front of them. They still believe the election was sorry. The election was stolen. What percentage of Americans believe the election was stolen, despite all of the evidence? I think that that is something that humanists can, can contribute. Let's trust knowledge. Let's put forward how we know what we know. Let's justify how we know what we know and get other people thinking how do they know what they know?

Nicole S:

That's something I was going to say. I think that one of the reasons humanism is so important as a democratic value is this idea of yeah, it's like, why do you believe? You believe and I've had some some of the best political conversations and discussions with fellow humanists and the reason being is that, even if they disagree with me or I disagree with them, it's like that they have come to it from a place of reason and rationality and evidence. So you'd be like, oh, that's, that's interesting. I don't think of it this way, because here's my evidence and reasoning, whereas if someone's coming at it from a fundamentally irrational place, as we've seen in lots of politics in the last few years, it's very difficult to have that reasoned conversation because, like you said, katya, if you're like, oh, but I just know this to be true and it's some wild claim, then how do you even start discussing that?

Nicole S:

I think, also, combating partisan rhetoric is becoming really bad, as I think, especially on the internet, this idea that anyone who disagrees with you is like definitely an absolutely monster of a person and they have no redeeming qualities, and they must believe this because they fundamentally hate everyone rather than thinking do they actually have a reasoned opinion that they've come to it from different life experience and different evidence. They've found different things and it's rather than it's rather than being like everyone who disagrees with me is ultimately an enemy, it's like right, what do we? Why do we actually all think this and have an open conversation and rather than decrying anyone who just doesn't agree with you entirely?

Mark A:

Can I just come in on that and say I really agree with that, with both what Katya and Nicole said, because I think it's there's the sort of two aspects. One is this idea that maybe humanism represents a sort of an underlying value system which can inform and improve our democratic functioning, because it's based on we value evidence and reason over sort of rhetoric and dogma, and also because I think that, the other aspect being that also that we we sort of do need to go back to what we were talking about at the beginning and where growing humanism is a positive thing in a general sense, because then humanists will have more influence on the political system. I mean, to some extent I would say that a lot of politicians are effectively political entrepreneurs. They're going where the votes are, they're chasing the vote. So if there's a lot of, there's a big humanist optionistic yeah, there's not all of them, but to varying degree.

Mark A:

They have to get elected, don't they? It's like survival of the most electable. That's why they're there. So if we have a bigger voice and we have it'll just give us more influence and effectively more power, in the way that, you know, churches do. So that sort of ties in again to the whole project of, you know, making ourselves more prominent and growing our movement.

James H:

Yeah, I think a lot of this is about changing the rhetoric and the political discourse as well and coming at it from that humanistic value of curiosity and to a point, nicole, not talking about necessarily treating the other side as bad people and our side is the good side, but really trying to understand and trying to appreciate where someone else comes from and changing that discourse away from one of certainty, which is how most of politics has spoken about, that people talk with so much certainty, and going actually to trying to dig into people's reasoning and understanding to get to core values that they're promoting. I think that's a big, that's going to be a big change. It's more probably a psychological change in the way that I think we naturally will follow someone who says they've got the answers rather than someone who is taught more like a scientist and is a bit more well. I'm following the data and if the facts change, then my opinion changes. That's not as compelling to people but I think more and more increasingly, through education and through lots of the discussions that are happening and promoting these values.

James H:

That is changing and it comes back to humanizing your opponent and being tolerant and curious, which is, by definition, is never easy. It's not easy to be tolerant. You've got to really dig deep to try to understand and empathize with someone's other points of view before you can even start to attempt to change their mind as well. A lot of it is about changing that rhetoric, and I hope our groups are going some way to helping change the style of discourse. But, mark, are there any specific issues, particularly for us here in the UK? We're almost certainly going to have an election, I think in 2024. Are there any specific issues that you think humanists should be paying attention to?

Mark A:

Yeah, I think it's pretty well accepted now that it's highly likely there'll be a change of government and the polls have been very stable for quite a long time. It's looking very much like we will have a Labour government, unless something very strange happens. I think that's the consensus of the experts. I think probably, looking at the Labour program as it specifically affects humanists, two things stand out would be maybe House of Lords Reform and assisted dying legislation. In terms of assisted dying, there's been some very good positive sort of mood music at the very least recently around this. I don't think there's a suggestion it would be part of a Labour program, but there is a suggestion that could be. It would certainly be potentially a well-received private members bill that might receive, because they often require a bit of government support to get through. So there's a strong sort of steer that that's on the cards, which is a positive.

Mark A:

On the other hand, one of the sort of flagship policies that was sort of mentioned when I went to visit the AGM of the All-Parliamentary Humanist Group back earlier this year was that there was a lot of optimism around House of Lords Reform and obviously specifically which is generally a good thing, but specifically as it relates to getting rid of our status as the only country in the world, alongside Iran, that has clerics as of right in its legislature. So that was by removing the 25 or 26, if you get the precise number Anglican bishops in the House of Lords. Unfortunately, that's now been dropped. As I understand it as a commitment, it's something which the party has said they might try to achieve as they can, which I think in my understanding experience it means it's pretty unlikely to happen. So that is disappointing. So they give you one hand and take with the other, which is probably quite typical of politicians.

James H:

Yes and again. These are issues which hopefully, humanists can unite around and use our voice to make them prominent on the political agenda. Cathy, I know you have a personal connection to this year's election. How are your thoughts going into?

Katia U:

It's a very personal thing that is hopefully happening for me in 2024. So I filed my papers for naturalisation. After living in the UK for 12 years, I will hopefully finally be able to vote and, this being such an important election, I'm really looking forward to that. I hope it will also make me, when you're more engaged, you're more hopeful. So I'm hoping it makes me more hopeful, because I'm quite pessimistic at the moment with UK government and not just the people in charge. Now I mean, that's easy, but will it change enough? But I'm hoping that it does and I'm going to cast a vote, so that's already, for me, super.

James H:

Well. Congratulations, cathy, and thank you for flagging hope. I think we're in desperate need of peace and hope and optimism globally now. But I'm sensing personally, I've sensed a change in the air and I really am optimistic and looking forward to 2024. And I do believe that hopefully we will have a more positive year ahead. So I think that's probably the perfect place to leave it. Thank you so much to our panel Just before we go, nicole, where will you be spending New Year's Eve this year?

Nicole S:

I'm going to be in Nottingham, which I'm excited for. My partner, rory, is playing a New Year's Eve gig, so that'll be a fun way to to ring in the New Year.

James H:

Fantastic. Well, thank you for joining us again and, katia, where will you be?

Katia U:

It's just so not interesting. I'm just going to be here at home with my partner. I don't really do New Year's parties all that much. I feel that it makes me sound really old. Maybe I should plan one for next year. Definitely there will be champagne, whatever happens. Wherever it happens, I will be bringing the New Year in with some bubbly. Yeah.

James H:

Wonderful. Well, thank you again for joining us. And, mark, what will you ring in the New?

Mark A:

Year, nothing specific planned, so I'm open to offers. So yeah, otherwise, mark, come over. Well, there you go, so one already.

Katia U:

Yeah, an impromptu party.

Mark A:

But yeah, at the moment it was just somewhere in North London.

James H:

So any listeners in North London with a spare champagne flute do get in touch. And so, and thank you, mark, for joining us, and with that we are. That's a wrap for Humanism Now, in 2023. And just to say a personal thank you to everybody who has been involved and contributed to help us get our show off the ground this year Nicole, katia, mark and our other regular panelists, aj, audrey, lola who've given so much of their time and really helped the show be a success. Also, to all of our fantastic guests from around the world.

James H:

Again, it's a huge honor to welcome you onto our little show and we hope to grow and continue to invite some of the world's leading humanist thinkers in 2024. And finally, a very special thank you to our producer, rob Davy, who, sadly, is moving on to bigger and better things. Well, good for him, but sadly for us, he's moving on to bigger and better things in 2024, starting his master's course. So unfortunately, this will be his last episode as our dedicated producer, but certainly hope to see Rob back in the future. He's given a huge amount of time and effort and I had to make myself and our guests sound much better and much more coherent than we actually do so. Rob, all the best for the future.

James H:

Thank you for your time and contribution and, finally, thanks to everyone who has listened and subscribed. It makes a big difference to us. We do see the stats, we see where people are listening from, and it's great to know that we've got a global listenership. So if you are a fan of the show, please do like, please do share, please do give us a five star rating. It makes a huge difference and helps more people find humanism now and hopefully learn a little bit more about humanism. So with that, thank you, have a fantastic new year and all the best for 2024.