Tag Archives: Religion

Almost three-quarters of Scots are “not religious”


Responding to new figures which show that almost three-quarter of Scots are “not religious” the Catholic Church has rather desperately claimed that “not religious” doesn’t mean “no religion.” If religiosity is not a binary yes/no position then it is equally true that those who tick the Christian box for cultural reasons are in no real sense practicing /believing Christians. I still have my granny’s rosary beads but that doesn’t mean that an increasingly minority religious belief system should  continue to have privileged access to government and schools.

Neil Barber – Edinburgh Secular Society – Edinburgh Evening News – 21 September 2017

Remove crosses from Mortonhall Crematorium

I hope that the City of Edinburgh Council will take the opportunity 
another two months of repairs offers (Your report 14 January) to remove 
the crosses that loom over both chapels (they need to be covered with a 
curtain for non-religious funerals).
    The Crematorium is a secular building and should not appear to be 
supporting one particular religious faith--Christianity. Only a minority 
are now Christians and most Scots have no religion. That should be 
reflected in the appearance of the chapels.

Steuart Campbell – Secretary – Edinburgh Secular Society
Published Edinburgh Evening News 18 January 2017


ESS Letter: Swear it’s true.

Today, September 30th is International Blasphemy Rights Day so it is a good time to remember that blasphemy, though not prosecuted for some time, is still a common law offence in Scotland.

International Blasphemy Rights Day

International Blasphemy Rights Day

In theocratic countries where the religion is the state the first victims are often minority faiths. Only secularism which separates religion from state can be fair to everyone involved.

Individuals of whatever faith or creed are entitled to respect and protection but that in no way means that, under fear of criminal sanction their ideas are not open to challenge.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published The Scotsman 30th September 2016

ESS Letter: May’s faith school ruling is beyond belief.

We were appalled to hear that Theresa May’s UK government is soon to allow English schools run by faith groups but funded by tax payers to select ALL of their students on the basis of the religious beliefs of their parents.


Having said that it is “unacceptable” for schools to “promote discrimination against people or groups on the basis of their belief, opinion or background” it is twisted thinking now to facilitate exactly that.

What right do religious groups have to take tax payers’ money for this self-promotion and what mandate does the entirely un-elected Mrs May have to make such draconian changes to the English education system ?

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 15th September 2016


ESS letter : Ozzie atheists say stop ticking Jedi in the census.

Symbol of the Jedi Order

Symbol of the Jedi Order

Seems that the ongoing joke of putting “Jedi” as a religious affiliation in a census is being campaigned against by The Atheist Foundation of Australia.

Their concerns are that the government gets a false impression of the general religiousness of its citizens which misdirects civic spending and how they allocate time slots on public radio and television.

That minority of Scottish citizens who do hold religious beliefs are quite rightly represented in a census but I wonder why people casually tick religious boxes when they have no real religious beliefs or lifestyle.

Maybe it’s through a sense of family or cultural loyalty or maybe it’s to cover their “fire insurance” as my Granny’s old joke used to go. I still keep my Granny’s rosary beads but if you don’t want religious ideas to be disproportionately represented in your name, for God’s sake tick the “none” box.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 24th August 2016

Scottish Parliament should determine whether to maintain Protestant and Presbyterian privileges in Scotland

Prince Edward, Lord High Commissioner, representing the monarch at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, together with the Moderator and procession

Legislation for increased powers for the Scottish Parliament should include provision to enable it to revoke the clause in the Act of Union of 1707 that requires a new monarch immediately at accession to ‘maintain and preserve the True Protestant Religion and the Presbyterian form of church government in Scotland’. Such a step would enable Scots to determine if they wish to eliminate this heritage of religious discrimination and remove the special constitutional standing of the Church of Scotland that now has the adherence of less than one in three of the population of Scotland.

This is proposed in an article in Democratic Audit by Professor Norman Bonney, Honorary President of Edinburgh Secular Society.

Prof. Bonney also proposes that the Church of England bishops in the House of Lords should lose the powers that they have to change laws on UK reserved matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2010 their votes were decisive in excusing religious organisations from some provisions of the Equality Act that apply to other bodies. ‘English bishops should vote only on English matters – if that is the wish of the English people’ he said.

The article in Democratic Audit can be accessed at http://www.democraticaudit.com/?p=9328

Tony Blair appeals for the world’s children to be taught respect for all religions. But should they not be taught to respect the more general right of others to free expression and association?

Under the auspices of his Faith Foundation Tony Blair has appealed for the children of the world to be taught in school respect for all religions. This appeal is questionable in many ways. An objective treatment of all religions would reveal their negative features which in many cases attracts valid criticism. For instance, why do so many denominations exclude women from their priesthoods and justify the patriarchal dominance men over women? There is a danger that encouraging respect will lead to an ignoring of the negative features of religions and a lack of objectivity in education on the issue. Indeed in the work of the Tony Blair Foundation there is only one form of one religious denomination that comes in for regular criticism.

Respect for the right of people to hold different beliefs and associate on the basis of them should be a value taught in all schools – but this should not be focused exclusively on faith. By focusing on religious differences is not Tony Blair contributing to an excessive focus upon, and privileging of, this one sphere of human activity? Pleas for tolerance should be much wider than those just based on religion. To be fair there are sections of his latest article that refer to the need to foster understanding across barriers of religion ‘and belief’ but the dominant focus is on religious difference.

Tony Blair outlines his views at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29553001

Scottish churches worried by the resurgence of secularism


The rise of articulate and influential secularism in Scotland in the last few years clearly has the religious establishment rattled. The Pope Emeritus railed against ‘aggressive’ secularism. The Roman Catholic Cardinal for Edinburgh and St Andrews criticises ‘ill-tempered’ secularism. The newly appointed minister at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, the flagship kirk of Scotland, has been imported from Chicago and, according to the Times, says that one of his priorities will be to confront ‘raucous’ secularism. ESS looks forward to hearing the views of Rev Calum MacLeod, formerly of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, on the separation of church and state.

Could it be that the religious authorities are so rattled because secularists have increasingly exposed and challenged the unjustified privileges granted to some religious denominations such as having financial subsidies of various types from the Scottish Government, a separate system of schooling, the right to impose prayers in schools, and to nominate voting members to otherwise elected local authority education committees?

Secularists simply use the mechanisms of democracy to challenge such religious privileges and promote the separation of church and state. ESS looks forward to more democratic debate and decision making on these issues.

New visitors to this site are encouraged to read the reasoned case for secularism put out in these posts and join the ESS.

The Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office –monitoring and influencing the Scottish Parliament

The head of a foreign state arrives in Edinburgh with the Duke

The power and influence of organised religion in the Scottish Parliament and with the Scottish Government is evident in the handling of recent issues raised by secularist groups.

One of the strongest lobbying groups focussed on the Scottish Parliament is the Catholic Parliamentary Office. It employs a staff of four. Its only major defeat in the 15 years of the Scottish Parliament is the same sex marriage legislation. Its website is http://www.rcpolitics.org/index.html

Secularist groups in Scotland are staffed entirely by volunteers. They have made a great impact and they will continue to do so.

Read ‘Parliamentary Focus’ on the front page of its website for the Catholic Parliamentary Office’s view of recent secularist initiatives in the Parliament.

Comment on the feature. The UK state, for historical reasons, does regard the Church of Rome as a potentially hostile foreign power since the monarch cannot is not allowed to be of that faith. No political parties propose to change the relevant laws either in a continuing UK or an independent Scotland.

The hierarchy of priests, bishops and archbishops in the Church are answerable to the head of a foreign state. The Church is an international organisation headquartered in Rome with local paid priestly staff following the decrees of headquarters and with their careers dependent on their superiors as the experiences of exiled former Archbishop of Edinburgh, Keith O’Brien, demonstrate. It has no democratic annual conclave like that more democratic deliberative Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Like all multinationals the organisation may have interests that conflict with local ones.

Need for equal gender opportunities in the Scottish Parliament’s weekly ‘Time for Reflection’

Former MSP for Dunfermline, Bill Walker, pictured right, with Rev Martin Scott and  Mrs Scott at the Scottish Parliament prior to Rev Scott’s contribution to Time for Reflection at the Scottish Parliament 28 January 2014. Source http://www.billwalkerdunfermline.com

The weekly four minute ‘Time for Reflection’ (TFR) in the Scottish Parliament is meant to reflect the diversity of religion and belief in Scotland by having contributions from a wide range of different denominations and philosophies roughly in accordance with their population support. Unfortunately, as ESS Honorary President, Professor Norman Bonney, recently argued in the Scottish Parliament, this approach to equal opportunities in religion has worked at cross purposes with the Parliament’s commitment to equal gender opportunities.

Prof Steve Bruce and Dr Marta Trzebiatowska (Aberdeen University) have demonstrated that women are significantly more religious than men (‘Why are women more religious than men? Oxford University Press 2012). Yet only 30 per cent of contributions to TFR are from women.

This disparity highlights the fact that most religious denominations, despite having a majority of women members, tend to be dominated by men. Some well known denominations even exclude women from their priesthood. The Scottish Government now has a target of 40 per cent for women on its cabinet and on public boards. Perhaps the Scottish Parliament, which falls short by this standard in TFR, should aim higher with a target of 50 or 60 per cent female contributors to remedy female disadvantage in many sects.

And should the Scottish Parliament consider disallowing participation in TFR by denominations that exclude women from their priesthood in order to demonstrate a strong commitment to equal opportunities for women? Otherwise it looks as though it is conniving with, or accepting of, the grosser gender inequalities to be found in some denominations.

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