BBC on Secularism


Cathedral and tower block face each other. Image © Anssi  Ruuska/iStockphoto Secularists support the separation of church and state ©

Secularists oppose religion or the religious being afforded privileges, which - put another way - means others are disadvantaged.

They believe that the reduced numbers attending church show that people have chosen to give up faith. They say this underlines the unfairness of giving any special privileges or rights to faiths.

Secularists are particularly concerned about education. They think that religious schools are divisive, and damage the prospects of a harmonious and diverse society.

Secularists are not against the right of individuals to have a religious faith. What they oppose is special treatment for religious beliefs and organisations.

They think that the protection already given by the law, including human rights legislation, should be sufficient to protect believers from assault or discrimination.

You may be surprised to know that while most secularists are atheists, some secularists are actually believers in a faith. While they believe, they don't think that belief is a reason for special treatment.

Charles Bradlaugh was one of the founders of Britain's National Secular Society. His political activism kept the atheist point of view in the limelight during Victorian times.

Strong Secularism

Some secularists go further; they want religion to be regarded as a private matter for the home and place of worship - and that the state should be blind to religion.

They also seek to separate those bits of our present-day culture that originated in religion from the religions that inspired them.

Secularists support:

  • The complete separation of church and state.
  • The disestablishment of the Church of England.
  • The repeal of the Act of Settlement.
  • No official representation of religions in Parliament. (Britain is the only Western democracy with such representation.) This would mean no bishops in the House of Lords.
  • The banning of prayers from Parliament, Council chambers, etc.
  • The ending of religious oaths as a condition of holding public sector jobs.
  • Money given to religious organisations from public funds should not be usable for missionary work.
  • The abolition of any special privileges granted to religious organisations.
  • The abolition of any special protection granted to faith groups.
  • The conversion of faith schools to community schools open to all pupils regardless of faith or lack of it.
    • Religious education should be non-denominational and multi-faith.
    • No religion should be taught as fact and no religion described as superior to another.
    • Education should also cover non-religious ways of looking at the world
    • Some secularists would prefer RE to be replaced by citizenship lessons including only brief coverage of the basic tenets of world religions.
    • This would not exclude religious references in other subjects such as history, art etc.
  • The abolition of "blasphemy" laws.
    • Secularists support the protection of individual believers, but not the protection of their beliefs.
    • Secularist groups are entirely opposed to discrimination against people because of their religious beliefs.
    • Secularists believe that the law should not restrict reasonable and vigorous criticism of religion.
    • Secularists believe that the law should not prevent criticism that hurts religious feelings.
    • Secularists do believe that the law should not permit incitement to religious hatred.
    • Secularists support legislation to outlaw discrimination in employment on the grounds of religion (or lack of it).
    • They oppose exemptions which religious organisations are seeking to enable them still to discriminate.
    • Abolition of the special treatment given to religious broadcasting.
British Secular Society: