The Mythology of Islam

Liverpool Humanist Group presents:-

The Mythology of Islam

a talk by Guy Otten

Date:     Thursday 14th March 2013
:    7.45pm
The Crown Hotel (upstairs room), 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ
Suggested contribution of £3 (£1 students and unwaged)

El Azhar University, Cairo by Ludwig Deutsch 1890

Liverpool Humanist Group are pleased to be able to announce the first in our new 2013 season of monthly lectures and discussions with an invited speaker.

Thursday, 14th March 2013 at 7:45pm in The Crown Hotel, 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ

As usual, we will meet in the upstairs room.

Whereas research into the historical origins of Christianity began in Germany in the nineteenth century, and revealed the Roman political origins of much of Christianity and the Bible, serious historical research into the origins of Islam is of much more recent date.

Guy Otten will present a talk outlining what recent scientific and scholarly research has to say about how Islam came about, and what reliable evidence there is for what was happening in the Middle east around the time of Islam’s foundations. He will summarise the evidence from the fields of history, linguistics, archaeology, textual analysis, numismatics, etc.

Whilst rejecting Islamophobia, the irrational fear of and prejudice against Islam and Muslims, he will explore the rational basis for criticism of Islam.

Guy Otten is Chair of Greater Manchester Humanists; he is a Member of the Board of Trustee of the British Humanist Association; he is a BHA accredited Humanist Celebrant; he is currently writing a book on the origins of Islam.

Guy Otten

Guy Otten, Chair of Greater Manchester Humanists

It will be good to see new and old friends at what promises to be an interesting evening.







“We all remember how many religious wars were fought for a religion of love and gentleness; how many bodies were burned alive with the genuinely kind intention of saving souls from the eternal fire of hell. Only if we give up our authoritarian attitude in the realm of opinion, only if we establish the attitude of give and take, of readiness to learn from other people, can we hope to control acts of violence inspired by piety and duty.”

– Karl Popper in “Utopia and Violence” (1947)

What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach. We may admit that our groping is often inspired, but we must be on our guard against the belief, however deeply felt, that our inspiration carries any authority, divine or otherwise. If we thus admit that there is no authority beyond the reach of criticism to be found within the whole province of our knowledge, however far it may have penetrated into the unknown, then we can retain, without danger, the idea that truth is beyond human authority. And we must retain it. For without this idea there can be no objective standards of inquiry; no criticism of our conjectures; no groping for the unknown; no quest for knowledge.”

Karl Popper in “Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge” (1963)


Global Humanism

Liverpool Humanist Group presents:-

Global Humanism

a talk by Bob Churchill

Date:     Thursday 13th September 2012
:    7.45pm
The Crown Hotel (upstairs room), 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ
Suggested contribution of £3

Boys and girls at the Isaac Newton Humanist School in Masaka, Uganda, returning from the football pitch.

Liverpool Humanist Group are pleased to be able to announce the first in our new season of monthly lectures and discussions with an invited speaker.

Thursday, 13th September 2012 at 7:45pm in The Crown Hotel, 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ

As usual, we will meet in the upstairs room.

Bob Churchill will talk to us about the work of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), and about Humanism around the world. Having worked professionally for two national Humanist organisations, the British Humanist Association, and the Uganda Humanist Association, and lately at the IHEU itself, Bob has a unique perspective on “global Humanism”. How is Humanism expressed in other parts of the world? What are the issues being addressed – or faced – by humanists in differing regions? With particular emphasis on the work of IHEU’s staff, delegations and national member organisations, Bob will attempt to answer these and any other questions you may have.

Hopefully, he will also tell us more about his experiences working in Uganda, and of the efforts of Ugandan Humanists, Skeptics and Freethinkers to establish a Humanist movement, and set up Humanist Schools. As many of you will know, Liverpool Humanist Group has been active for some years in raising funds for the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust.

It will be good to see new and old friends at what promises to be an interesting evening.

Bob Churchill was Head of Membership and Promotion at the British Humanist Association from January 2008 until May 2011. During this time he was actively involved in the Census Campaign, played a major role in setting up HumanistLife and the Resolution Revolution, and supported the Atheist Bus Campaign.

He subsequently spent a year as a Development Executive Volunteer with the Uganda Humanist Association.

He is currently employed as Communications Officer by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

Faith Schools and Education

Liverpool Humanist Group presents:-

Faith Schools and Education

a talk by Richy Thompson

Date:     Thursday 12th January 2012
:    7.30pm
The Crown (upstairs room), 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ
Suggested contribution of £2-3

Richy Thompson, BHA Campaigns Officer, in Liverpool with Richard Jacques, Chair of Liverpool Humanist Group.

Richy Thompson, BHA Campaigns Officer, will discuss the history of ‘faith’ schools in England from the founding of the “National Society” (the National Society for Promoting Religious Education) up to the rise of Academies and Free Schools, before debunking some of the myths surrounding them. Richy will also explore other issues of concern to humanists in the area of education.

The Christian Church was arguably the first provider of schools and universities in England and Wales.

The National Society was founded in 1811 to provide schools for poor children.

The original name was ‘The National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church’. The founders were deeply concerned about the fate of the population, including children, working in the factories, mills and mines of the newly industrialised Britain. They set up the Society to raise money to build schools and pay teachers.

These schools were to teach basic skills and also to provide for the moral and spiritual welfare of the children, by teaching them the ‘National Religion’ – Christianity as represented in the Church of England and Wales.

Their aim was to found a church school in every parish and by 1851 (still 20 years before the state took any responsibility for education) there were 12,000 schools across England and Wales.

Following the reformation in the 16th century, the Catholic Church’s role as a provider of public education went largely underground until the 1800s. In 1847 the Catholic Poor School Committee was established which focussed on the promotion of Catholic primary education. This was followed by the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850. Because the Church has always viewed education as vital to the formation and development of the whole person, it put the setting up of schools for the Catholic community ahead of building churches, often using its schools in those early days as the place of worship for the parish.

The British Humanist Association advocates a genuinely inclusive school system in which all pupils are educated together, not separately according to the beliefs of their parents. Humanists believe that the rights and entitlements of both the religious and the non-religious can be respected within community schools.

BHA education policies arise out of humanist principles and concern for the common good and social cohesion, as well as an awareness of the needs of non-religious people and experience of working with members of religious groups. The objectives of the BHA in the area of education are:

  • Inclusive, integrated community schools, and an end to state-funded religious schools, which are unnecessary, discriminatory, and potentially very divisive.
  • Inclusive school assemblies, not compulsory “collective worship”.
  • Reform of “Religious Education” to be an objective fair and balanced education about religious and non-religious beliefs and values.
  • A broad education that prepares young people for adult life in a pluralist society, including sex and relationships education, values and citizenship education, and the development of curiosity, thinking skills and creativity.

Richy Thompson - BHA Faith Schools Campaigner

Richy graduated from the University of Oxford in 2010 with a first in Computer Science. While a student there he founded and was the first President of Oxford Atheists, Secularists and Humanists, and also coordinated the first Oxford Think Week. He subsequently became Press Officer of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS), and in July 2010 was elected as the third President. He simultaneously became a campaigns volunteer at the BHA as well as the European Humanist Federation, before becoming the BHA’s Faith Schools and Education Campaigner in May 2011.

In a climate of thought that is increasingly unfavourable to (Christian) beliefs it is a mistake to try to impose them on children, and to make them the basis of moral training. The moral education of children is much too important a matter to be built on such foundations … Margaret Kennedy Knight (1903-1983) speaking in a BBC radio broadcast in 1955 entitled Morals without Religion.

All children should be free to grow up in a world where they are allowed to question, doubt, think freely and reach their own conclusions about what they believe. Ariane Sherine Comedy writer and journalist.

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.
Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

Three words you will never hear a religious person say to their offspring: “Think for yourself”. Anon.

We educate each other. Richard Jacques and Rex Bradley

North West Humanist Conference 2011


                                   united on purpose

 What the world most needs at this moment is a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the species as their moral community.   For this we need to develop an utterly non-sectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration.  We need a discourse on ethics and spirituality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourse of science is.

Sam Harris Killing the Bhudda

Announcing our inaugural regional conference

Organised by Lancashire Secular Humanists, Liverpool Humanist Group and Greater Manchester Humanists

Humanism for the 21st Century

Saturday 8th October – Sunday 9th October 2011

(Optional pre-conference evening entertainment on Friday 7th October)

St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, Manchester M12 6FZ

(A few minutes walk from Piccadilly station. Ample free on-street parking nearby)

The Conference Objectives are:

  • To enrich the knowledge and commitment of new and existing members
  • To develop links between local Humanist Groups – particularly those in the North West
  • To develop links with other like-minded groups in the North West
  • To help participants move forward in living their lives as Humanists
  • To enthuse participants with the message that we have something really worthwhile to offer
  • To help promote the value of Humanism to the wider public


Friday 7 October:
Evening Pre-conference entertainment (showing films of interest to Humanists)
Saturday 8 October:
From 9.00 am Registration
9.30 am Opening of conference
9.45 am Keynote address by Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA); followed by break-out groups and plenary discussion
1.00 pm Buffet lunch on site
2.30 pm Panel discussion on conference theme chaired by Guy Otten. Panellists: Andrew Copson; Dr Evan Harris (BHA Vice-President); Professor Ray Tallis; and Professor Carole Truman
5.30 pm Close
Evening: Informal dining at various locations (facilitated get-togethers)
Sunday 9 October:
9.30 am “Why more equal societies almost always do better” Kathryn Busby, The Equality Trust
11.10 am “Why bother? – with so many apparently insoluble global problems…” Marilyn Mason, Humanists for a Better World (H4BW)
12.30 pm Conference close

Tickets:          £42 including lunch and refreshments (£36 early-bird reduced price for bookings received by 18 August 2011)

For further information, and to book a place, please download our booking form here.

BHA Holyoake Lecture 2010: John Harris

Holyoake Lecture 2010: John Harris

Date: Thursday 21st October 2010
Time: Doors open at 6:00pm for 6:30pm start
Venue: St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, Manchester M12 6FZ
Cost: BHA members £6; £3 for students; £9 others

NOTE CHANGE OF VENUE: The Main Hall, St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, Manchester M12 6FZ

Holyoake Lecture 2010

Tickets available online – Or call 020 7079 3580 (office hours).

For the British Humanist Association’s second annual Holyoake Lecture in Manchester, Professor John Harris speaks on Taking the “human” out of Humanism. The event will be chaired by humanist philosopher, Raymond Tallis.

Professor John HarrisDiscovery and innovation are creating new technologies which challenge our notions of humanity to and beyond breaking point. These technologies will improve cognitive powers, extend life expectancy and enable us to interact intimately with machines.  It is certain that in the future there will be no more human beings but we may hope that there will still be beings for whom the philosophy of humanism, almost certainly under a new name, is relevant and important.


John Harris is the Lord Alliance Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester. He has written widely on biotechnology and ethics, including Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People, Clones Genes and Immortality, and On Cloning for the Thinking In Action series.

John Harris - Enhancing Evolution John Harris - Clones, Genes, Immortality John Harris - On Cloning


Buy your tickets online. Alternatively you can pay over the phone with a credit or debit card at 020 7079 3580. Lines are open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.

Christian Zionism

The Liverpool Humanist Group presents:-

Christian Zionism

A major obstacle to peace in the Middle East?

a talk by Hilda Reilly

Date: Thursday 14th October 2010
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: The Crown (upstairs room), 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ
Cost: Suggested contribution of £2-3

Many Christians believe that the return of Jews to the land of Israel is in accordance with biblical prophecy and a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Christ. Such beliefs are particularly strong among evangelical Christian groups in America who exert a powerful influence on US policy in the Middle East.

Hilda Reilly is the author of Prickly Pears of Palestine, an account of six months she spent in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While there she spent some time in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, getting to know a community of Christian Zionists. She will talk about her experiences there, as well as giving a broader picture of the history and aims of the Christian Zionist movement, and exploring the extent to which it represents an obstacle to the achievement of peace in the Middle East.

From the reviews of Prickly Pears of Palestine:-

In all the political discussion about peace in the Middle East the lives of the Palestinians and their suffering has tended to be forgotten and Hilda Reilly’s book brings out these human aspects so clearly and vividly, making the reader understand what it is really about. Tony Benn

This book gives a tender human face to the terrible suffering caused by the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Clare Short

Prickly Pears of Palestine is a moving and vivid introduction to the realities of life in Palestine/Israel. Bruce Kent

I thought I was well-informed on Palestine, but still reading Hilda Reilly’s Prickly Pears of Palestine was an eye-opening experience. Craig Murray, author of Murder in Samarkand

Objections to Humanism

The Liverpool Humanist Group presents:-

Objections to Humanism

a talk by Andrew Copson

Date:     Thursday 9th September 2010
:    7.30pm
The Crown (upstairs room), 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ
Suggested contribution of £2-3

Andrew Copson is the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association. He will be presenting a number of frequently expressed objections to the principles on which Humanism is based and demonstrating the fallacy of each.“The human race to which the individual belongs, may not survive, but that should not deter him… Wherever our race comes from, wherever it is going to, whatever his own fissures and weaknesses, he himself is here, is now, he must understand, create, contact.” – E M Forster

Andrew became Chief Executive in January 2010 after five years coordinating the BHA’s education and public affairs work. His writing on humanist and secularist issues has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and New Statesman as well as in various journals and he has represented the BHA and Humanism extensively on television news on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, as well as on television programmes such as Newsnight, The Daily Politics and The Big Questions. He has also appeared on radio on programmes from Today, Sunday, The Last Word and Beyond Belief on the BBC, to local and national commercial radio stations.

He is a former director of the European Humanist Federation (EHF) and is currently a Vice President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), where he leads on strategic alliances and is a member of the growth and development committee. He has previously served as a delegate of the IHEU to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and has also represented humanist organisations to the United Nations (UN) and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He has been an adviser on Humanism to the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the BBC, and the Office of National Statistics among others. He is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Humanist Reference Library at London’s Conway Hall and, in a previous post in the office of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston in the House of Lords, he provided the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.

Andrew graduated from the University of Oxford with a first in Ancient and Modern History and was a member of the winning team of the 2005 Young Educational Thinker of the Year Programme. He is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an Associate of the Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff University. He came to the BHA in 2005 from the Citizenship Foundation, where he worked on political literacy projects.