Expressing Humanist Beliefs at Meetings

Humanists today do not worship, as they do not believe in a deity to be worshipped. However, the 19th century forerunners of contemporary Humanism, Ethical Churches, were run like very liberal churches, with sermons, ministers and hymns, and the British Humanist Association has in its archives copies of the 1818 Ethical Church / Ethical Society hymn book “Social Worship”. Ethical Churches, later Ethical Societies, fulfilled a need for non-conformists and freethinkers to get together for an inspirational communal experience, usually on a Sunday when everyone else was at church. The focus was on doing good and inspirational ideas such as peace, liberty, justice, duty and courage. These were reflected in the language and format of meetings, though their roots in Christian services are evident, with references to God and Jesus alongside poems by Keats, Wordsworth and Tennyson set to music.

Later, Ethical Societies in the UK joined together as the Ethical Union, which in the 1950s became the British Humanist Association.

Humanists who choose to meet with other humanists today can do so freely. They meet in each other’s homes or in public spaces such as libraries, meeting rooms or pubs. Their meetings vary according to the interests of the group but might include visiting speakers, discussions on ethical subjects, or planning social events or fund-raising for charities, but not worship or prayers. The meetings are important to their members as spaces where they can meet like minds and find support for their humanist worldview.

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