Humanist talk at Chichester Quakers 16th October 2017

Andrew Edmondson gave a talk on Humanism to Chichester Quakers.
You can download the PowerPoint presentation here.


Around 40 Quakers were in attendance and were most welcoming.

After the talk, various questions were asked.

Q: How do Humanists explain random events, including coincidences?
A: The common notion of a random event is one that cannot be predicted. Humanists rely on scientific explanations of events. Common sense suggests that all events are dependent on previous events. However, the world is so complex that it is impossible to predict most events. Some Humanists, including myself, believe that the universe could only unfold in one way following the big bang. One implication is that our sense of free will is an illusion.

Q: What do Humanists think about the arts, music etc.?
A: We are no different from the overall population. Our overall aim is to reduce suffering and increase happiness for ourselves and others. The arts are one source of happiness.

Q: Happiness is not a well-defined term.
A: I agree, though the imperative is to reduce suffering. It cannot be denied that some people are happier than others and that our degree of happiness varies over time. Therefore it does make sense to talk about increasing happiness.

Q: We greatly value our silent gathering. What do Humanists do at their meetings?
A: We have regular speakers. Other meetings are social occasions where there is virtually never a moment of silence. We discuss local and national issues as well as our own personal experiences. Sam Harris, an atheist philosopher, neuroscientist and interviewer, has written a book called Waking Up in which he describes the value of meditation (mindfulness). As one of you has suggested, Humanists could be described as Quaker-Lite, as we have so much in common.

Q (from Andrew to the Quakers): What do Quakers think about Pacifism, which I find perplexing?
A: Although the original Quaker constitution of the 17th century was never to bear arms, these days Quakers vary in their degree of Pacifism, just as they vary in their belief in God or an afterlife. [We ran out of time to discuss this topic and agreed to discuss it at a future meeting]

The meeting ended as it began, with a period of silence.

Andrew was given an invitation to attend the upcoming Remembrance Day commemoration by the Quakers. He will explore the possibility of local Humanist groups attending, provided that the ceremony is appropriate.


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