Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Start of the Norfolk Humanists


We have to thank Philip Howell for the formation of the original group of Norfolk Humanists and Secularists.  In 1976 Philip wrote to the Eastern Evening News in response to letters from the ‘Save Religious Education’ Campaign.  Philip and others were against the religious indoctrination of children.  The British Humanist Association offered support and following a meeting at Philip’s home, it was agreed to form a Humanist and Secularist Group.  Later the group became affiliated to the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society.

Vince Chainey was Chair of the Norfolk Humanists and Secularists until 2012. In 20
05 he gave an interview about his journey to Humanism. 

From BBC Norfolk : 

How I became a Humanist

It wasn't until I was in my mid-fifties that I realised I was a Humanist - and had unknowingly been a Humanist since my teens.

My parents were not particularly religious, although probably believed in a God and an afterlife as did most of their generation, so they sent me to a Church of England school.

I was a choirboy and my vicar talked me into becoming the server at our local church, being the boy to carry the cross in front of the choir and then helped the vicar at the altar.

I soon realised that the correctness of the ritual was more important to him than the compassion, which I, as a young sensitive caring lad had been led to believe was religion.

Rejecting religion

I looked at other religions and became interested in science, evolution, and astronomy, as well as history which showed me that religions had been the cause of much anguish and wars, so I rejected religion.

It wasn't until I was in my fifties that a colleague died and his family organised the usual Church of England funeral.  I was so disgusted that the vicar had said nothing about his achievements in life or his wonderful character and only talked about God and an afterlife - everything that my friend did not believe in.

A year later I attended a Humanist funeral ceremony and was so impressed by the contrast.  I enquired more about Humanism and realised I had been unknowingly a Humanist since my teens.

I joined the local group which has been going for the past 30 years and has about 50 members which is democratically run by a committee elected yearly.

Vince Chainey 2004

What it means to be a Humanist

Humanism is a life stance for those who can no longer believe in the various mythical religions of the world, but are willing to base their conviction on respect for human kind as moral beings.

It is a philosophy of life based on rational, logical reason, and our common humanity and advocates the application of scientific method to solve the problems of human welfare and our happiness, rather than relying on dogmatic ancient religions which divides societies.

On a practical level, many people find it hypocritical to go through a religious ceremony when they live their lives without religion.

There are humanist groups all over the country with trained, accredited officiants who perform dignified non-religious funerals, memorials, weddings, same sex affirmations and baby naming ceremonies.

These are widely respected and are evermore popular as society is becoming more secular with over a third of the population now non-religious.

Ethical and moral code

Humanists believe that people can live a happy, just, and fulfilling life based on an ethical and moral code, without worshipping a supernatural god or believing in the promise of a better after life, or the threat of eternal punishment for disbelief.

We have a concern for humanity, as well as for all other creatures and the environment. As this is our only life, we should do all we can to make it happier and better for everyone.

We recognise that moral values have evolved with human society to be the best way for humans to live together on our planet. They are founded on human nature and experience alone and not given to us by a supernatural being.

Open society

We accept and value freedom of thought in an 'open society' and campaign against religious privilege, and the connection between national government and state church, collective worship in schools, and that religious education should be balanced to include all world philosophies and religion.

Humanist groups are affiliated to the British Humanist Association which was formed just over 100 years ago, but is not a mass membership organisation.


From the Norfolk Humanists 2013:

The Norfolk Humanists said a fond farewell to Vince Chainey in 2012 as he was moving away from Norfolk.

Vince Chainey 2012
As a Celebrant Vince conducted over one thousand celebrations.  The Norfolk Humanists thanked Vince for all his hard work both as Chairman and as a member.  Vince will be much missed.

Today the group is known as the Norfolk Humanists (for the sake of brevity and considering Secularism is an intrinsic part of Humanism). We have lively meetings on a variety of interesting topics, and maintain a busy and fully interactive Facebook page.

The local group meet in Norwich every two months, as advertised on our website

We have guest speakers and discussion evenings as well as social events. We hold exhibitions and campaign against religious privilege, but do not evangelise.

If you would like to enquire about becoming a member of the Norfolk Humanists, 
please email us from the website or fb page.

If you would like to find a local celebrant, please try here.


Fact File

-  According to the 2001 census, at least 15.5% of the population is non-religious, making this the second largest "belief" group in the UK.

- According to the 2011 UK Census, those of no religion are the second largest belief group, about three and a half times as many as all the non-Christian religions put together – at 26.13% of the population. 16,038,229 people said they had ‘no religion’ with a further 4,406,032 (7.18%) not stating a religion. 58.81% described their religion as Christian and 7.88% as some non-Christian religion. This represented a massive change from the 2001 Census, where 15.5% of the population recorded having no religion, and 72% of the population reported being Christian.

- The Humanist vision is 
A world without religious privilege or discrimination, where people are free to live good lives on the basis of reason, experience and shared human values.
-  Humanists trace their roots to the rational philosophy first created in the West in ancient Greece. Many regard Socrates as the first and greatest of the Humanists.

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