I was turned down as a volunteer to be a speaker with 3FF ENCOUNTERING FAITH AND BELIEFS after I attended their training day.
The difficulty with the 3 Faiths Forum is quite evident in their title alone. They evidently realise that they have to somehow incorporate Humanism into their programme as it is now part of the curriculum for RE. The review of the Religious Education Council for England and Wales (REC) has published a new subject framework for Religious Education (RE), which, for the first time, puts non-religious worldviews such as Humanism on an equal footing in terms of curriculum time with religious beliefs. This is why 3FF are attempting to squeeze Humanists onto their format. Therein lies the problem with their ECB set-up which claims its ‘ young speakers’ explain their beliefs and how they came to hold them.
They state that: 3FF’s flagship workshop gives students the chance to meet our young speakers from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Muslim, Jewish or Sikh backgrounds, who are role models in interfaith dialogue and co-operation. Evidently, I didn’t fit the bill in terms of age and am not considered to be a role model in interfaith dialogue and cooperation!!
I first encountered the 3FF at our British Humanist Association meeting of SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education) members annual meeting the invited speaker was the director Stephen Shashoua of 3FF - Three Faiths Forum and later that month I attended an event at Alleyn’s school in Novemeber 2013 based on the format of the 3FF.
Alleyn’s is an independent co-ed christian school in Dulwich. Their website states: The six aspects of Alleyn’s Vision are underpinned by the values of Alleyn’s Christian Foundation, whose motto is ‘God’s Gift’, and further enriched by those of other faiths which are all respected and valued at Alleyn’s.It was an evening event and the audience was a mix of adults and pupils with their parents. It was instigated by one of my fellow Humanist celebrants who was keen to set it up with Alom Shaha as the Humanist speaker. Alom is an ex-pupil of the school and author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook. It followed the usual format of the 3FF of a facilitator and speakers telling their personal story of how they came to their beliefs. The usual format is, of course, three speakers but this had four!
Here is the for that event
Encountering Faiths and Beliefs
Whatever our own backgrounds, the opportunity to hear from people with different faiths or beliefs from our own is rare. Based on a programme developed by 3FF (Three Faiths Forum), on 28th November you can come and hear four speakers – Christian, Jew, Humanist and Muslim – explain their beliefs and how they came to hold them. And afterwards, there will be a question and answer session.
The panellists are :
• Abigail Kay: graduate charity management trainee
• Alom Shaha: author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook and a trustee of the British Humanist Association
• Rev. Paul Collier: Copleston Centre Church, Peckham
• Themina Kazi: Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
It was quite interesting and I thought I would inquire further about volunteering as I reckoned that it sounded like a good way to volunteer to speak in schools about Humanism. As so many young people are NOT religious believers I think it is very important that this is acknowledged and that they get an opportunity to have their natural beliefs validated. Most importantly, I think that any forum should be INCLUSIVE. However, it is apparent that the very title 3FF is PROBLEMATIC and I had reservations about it.
I checked out their website. Three Faiths Forum | 3FF
It was the Encountering Faiths and Beliefs that interested me as this seemed to be the only section that even mentioned Humanist! So I applied and was invited to the training day which happened to coincide with the Wednesday of the Tube strike but I did manage to get to it via the overgorund to Kentish Town West from Clapham Junction without getting trampled.
Encountering Faiths and Beliefs
3FF’s flagship workshop gives students the chance to meet our young speakers from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Muslim, Jewish or Sikh backgrounds, who are role models in interfaith dialogue and co-operation. Speakers share short personal narratives side by side, and students have the chance to have their burning questions answered.
Through this workshop students will:
- Deepen their learning about different faiths and beliefs by engaging directly with people from various belief traditions and communities.
- Identify key similarities and differences, within faith/belief traditions as well as between them
- Have the opportunity to ask (often controversial!) questions in a safe space
- Practice skills for creating positive relations between people of different beliefs
Are you based near London? Do you want to promote understanding of your faith or belief?
We are looking for confident and enthusiastic volunteers from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds to speak with us in schools across London and occasionally further afield. Help us tackle misconceptions and inspire young people by sharing your experiences and beliefs.
You don’t need to be an expert – you just need some knowledge about your tradition in order to answer the students’ questions, a passion for discussing issues of faith and identity, and a willingness to engage constructively with others.
We’ll provide you with training to help you share your story in an exciting way, and tips to improve your knowledge. You’ll become part of the 3FF speaker network, with regular meetings, opportunities for personal development and interfaith events. All your expenses will be covered (including the necessary DBS check) and you can pick the sessions which match your availability.
Here is the response that I got from 3FF.
Thank you so much for applying to become a Speaker with 3FF, and attending Speaker Training on Wednesday.
We much enjoyed meeting you, and would like to thank you for sharing your many interesting ideas and contributions throughout the day. However, we do not feel that becoming a speaker with 3FF is the right volunteering opportunity for you at the moment. We have to be very careful at 3FF that we retain a positive interfaith message during our workshops. Whilst we aim to be as inclusive as possible of all faith and non-faith perspectives, we also have to ensure that we do not send speakers into schools who give negative or critical views of religion. Although we have no wish to ‘police’ our speakers’ use of language and we encourage them to express their experiences honestly, we are also conscious that some of the vocabulary which appeared in your story on Wednesday could cause offence in some contexts; and we have to tread very carefully to ensure that we are respectful of other people’s beliefs and ideologies.
We are grateful for your interest in 3FF and hope that you will continue to be involved with our work through other capacities. Please sign up to our mailing list to be kept informed of different opportunities and our ongoing work. Do also feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss the points in this email further.
With thanks again for your interest, and all good wishes,
At the training session I said what my early experience of being brought up by nuns in the very Catholic Ireland of the 1950s which included the the early preparation , aged seven, for making confession to and having to go to tell our to a priest in a dark confessional box like a wardrobe and how we had to learn by rote the dogma of the church using the questions and answer format of the cathecism in preparation for receiving Holy Communion which is supposed to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of a little white wafer whilst dressed as minature brides in white, dress, veil and matching accessories. I said how it was strange and spooky but how a seven yearold couldn’t question it. I said that I came to realise later the role of women in Catholicism and religon was repressive and that the ethos and influence of the church in Ireland was one of the main reasons why I emigrated.
I responded and attached my revised bland personal story.
Thanks for email letting me know that you do not want me to become a 3FF volunteer based on my story presentation at Wednesdays training. As this was something I had written before coming on the training I went ahead and delivered it on the basis that it would have to be altered according to the feedback and training. I, like many BHA members, have rejected religious beliefs as we search for knowledge and answers.
I thought that part of this training was to share with others my particular story and journey to becoming an atheist/Humanist Celebrant from my early experiences of the religious schooling and repressive Catholic culture of Ireland in the 50s and 60s which was one of the main reasons that I emigrated. I would have thought that many personal stories representing non-religious beliefs would have come from people who had some awareness of religious cultures and been reared in nominally Christian countries like Britain who then reject them. As a non-believer I am acutely aware that school assemblies have to be of a ‘mainly Christian character’ and that is something that the BHA challenges.
Most members of the British Humanist Association would have been brought up in some sort of religious environment and are therefore predominantly C of E atheists. People from an Irish Catholic or Muslim background are very rare! I also did notice that the three Humanist stories that we were presented with at the training were male and I recognised who they were!
My personal story of how I became a Humanist.
My name is Jeanne Rathbone and I am a Humanist. I was born in Ireland and left as a teenager and came to London and I have lived here for 52 years since 1962. I have three children and a grandchild. I have had a varied career from being a laboratory technician, childminder, youth worker, Women’s Officer in local government, trainer, adult education tutor, counsellor, comedy performer and now Humanist ceremony celebrant.
Ireland was a very Catholic country in the 50s and most schools were run by nuns and priests. At the age of seven I was beingprepared, like all the other children, for the religious rituals of confession and first communion. I had to learn by rote the teachings and rules of the church from the catechism which was done in a questions and answers format. I felt uneasy about a lot of this but I felt that I couldn’t question it and went along with it and the compulsory attendance at church every Sunday after that. By the time I was a teenager I knew that I didn’t believe in gods and I had resolved that as soon as I could that I would stop going to church.
I went to University in my home city of Galway. I was the first in my family of seven to go to University and, as my father was paying for it, he would only fund me if I studied science rather than arts subjects. I failed my examinations and felt I had to leave home and so I came to London and stayed for a short time with one of my sisters who was married with a family. I ended up working in a laboratory because of my qualifications but didn’t like it.
Soon afterwards I met my husband and we actually got married in a church in Ireland, where my uncle was the priest, because there were no registry offices in Ireland then. However, to get married in the church we had to attend a pre-marital course run by a priest. It did feel hypocritical but my husband thought it was funny as I always seem to argue with the priest. After that I had nothing to do with the church.
After I had two of my three children I went to study philosophy at University. I enjoyed it. One of the subjects was epistemology and metaphysics which is examines truth, belief and the supernatural. By then it was obvious that I would be described as an atheist.
At the same time I got interested in feminism and attended groups and classes which focused on why women were treated differently to men and what the origins of this might be. Again I concluded that many of the misogynistic attitudes towards women came from religious thought and that men were predominantly the leaders and the writers of the holy books and women had a secondary place.
I became involved in the Labour party, in local politics, in feminist and Irish groups and campaigns. I was a school governor for decades and believe that all children should be educated together. I feel strongly that inequality in wealth, power and opportunity is bad for us all and society. I believe in democracy, free-speech and challenging privilege and unfairness.
About twenty years ago I went to a few funerals here and in Ireland which were all conducted by a religious minister although the people who died were not religious believers. I knew there had to be an alternative and when I looked into it I found that there were organisations representing the non-religious but it was the British Humanist Association that reflected most what I felt and believed.
I joined and when I got the welcome pack it mentioned that they did provide people who conducted the rite-of- passage ceremonies of funerals, weddings and namings sometimes called hatchings, matchings and dispatchings. They were called ‘officiants’ then but now we are called ceremony celebrants. All our ceremonies are personal and different. It is the most rewarding and interesting work that I have ever done. The funerals are the most important as we are helping people to say goodbye to someone they loved. I help people to say what needs to be said at this time and encourage them to share their thoughts and memories of their loved one. Namings and weddings also include family and friends speaking and wedding couples write their own vows to each other and there is a section called the ‘Story so far’ which is all about the couple, how theymet and the dynamics of their relationship.. There is usually humour as I believe that it is essential to life.
My first feeling after joining the BHA was ‘at home, at last‘. I applied to train as a celebrant. It felt like all my knowledge, experience and skills came together and that I had finally found out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I describe myself as Humanist. Although I don’t believe in gods or the supernatural I do not want to be described only as an atheist as it says nothing about what I do believe. Humanism is a philosophy of life and ethics that is based on human nature and the natural world. I believe that we have to take responsibility for each other, for solving the problems of humanity and for keeping a balance between our needs and nature.
I have served on faith and belief groups as I believe that there should be a humanist perspective included but also because it is crucial that we come together as an inclusive group of religious and non-religious. I am a member of my local SACRE which decides on Religious Education syllabus and I am invited into schools as a humanist speaker.
I think that the 3FF format is one of the best ways of introducing children to different religions and beliefs with a facilitator and three different faith/beliefs represented with their personal stories followed by a Q&A session. I think young people relate to it very well and as they become more informed they can pass it on to their parents.
11th February 2014
Hannah, Grandmother Coldest day yet of November her voice close in my ear-- tell them priests nothing. Was I twelve? Thirteen? Filthy minded. Keep your sins to yourself. Don't be giving them a thrill. Dirty oul feckers. As close as she came to the birds and the bees. on her knees in front of the Madonna, Our Lady of the Facts of Life beside the confessional-- oak door closing like a coffin lid neatly carpentered waxed and buffed. In the well made box of this poem her voice dies. She closes her eyes and lowers her brow to her joined hands. Prays hard: woman to woman.
I was recently sent a utube link about a young Irish women who made the most momentous decision not to shave her armpits. OMG.
Now if a geriatric women , like myself, made such a proclaimation it would be NO news at all. This is yet another sexist/misogynistic/ageist issue over women’s bodies and their appearance - body hair, make-up, pre-pubertal and anti-ageing obsession, female genital mutilation, foot fetishism – stilettos, chinese foot-binding, ballet en pointe, shoe collections, female fashion, body shape/anorexia/permanent dieting etc….
The Daily Mail online asked
Can it EVER be socially acceptable to have hairy armpits? Woman who gave up shaving debates prickly subject on This Morning
According to Wiki Pubic hair removal occurs in certain cultures; for example, it has long been practiced widely, if not universally, in the Muslim world due to a religious injunction. In Western culture, beginning in the 1980s, there has been a trend among women to remove or trim pubic hair, either partially or completely; the trend later spread to men as well.
Most mammals have light skin that is covered by fur, and biologists believe that early human ancestors started out this way also. Dark skin probably evolved after humans lost their body fur, because the naked skin was vulnerable to the strong UV radiation as would be experienced in Africa. Therefore, evidence of when human skin darkened has been used to date the loss of human body hair, assuming that the dark skin was needed after the fur was gone.
So there is a significant evolutionary link to humans shedding fur/hair becoming bipedal and people in hot climates becoming dark skinned.
Here is the link, from the London Irish Women’s Network, to the utube video clip of the young Irish women, Dr. Emer O’Toole who now lives in Canada.
Like it or not, there are few sights more arresting than a woman with a hairy armpit. The unfettered growth of female underarm and leg hair is considered one of the ultimate social taboos, dismissed as the kind of eccentric behaviour that should only adopted by hippies…and a staggering 80 per cent of the viewers agreed with her, as a live vote carried out during the debate saw an overwhelming majority of those calling in say they were horrified by the idea of a woman with hairy legs and armpits…..
Here is one bloggers response
On the one hand, we applaud Emer for taking a stand against what she believes is the unfair expectation that women look a certain way, but on the other hand — and we’re being totally honest here — all that furriness is really freaking us out. And we suppose that’s the whole point. To recondition our understanding of beauty.
But we just don’t know if we could take that plunge ourselves. Sure, it’d be nice not to have to deal with the daily monotony of whipping out the razor, or the awkward experience of getting our below-the-belt follicles ripped out by a total stranger, but there’s just something about smooth, fuzz-free skin that makes us feel slightly more well-kept and — we’ll say it — hygienic. That can probably be attributed to some deep-seated gender conditioning regarding how a woman “should” look, but that doesn’t change the fact that we just feel better after we’ve jettisoned all that extra fuzz.
That said, we don’t think Emer deserves any of the vitriol that is being directed at her. Scrolling through the harsh comments, it’s really depressing to us that the majority of the detractors appear to be female. Can’t we all just get along? (The Daily Mail)
The negative responses and remarks, often from women, are depressingly full of self-loathing and plenty of misogynistic comments and blogs too.
If life was too short for superwoman Shirley Conran ‘ to stuff a mushroom’ surely Shirley would agree that it also too short to shave, wax etc to satisfy men or to demonstrate their revulsion with their natural state.
We should all take ‘I’m Spartacus’ type action I’m Spartacus – Spartacus (8/9) Movie CLIP (1960) HD – YouTube by displaying some of the amusing Jesus and Mo cartoons. Jesus and Mo
The Guardian 28th January: The row blew up after Nawaz took part in a BBC debate where two students were wearing t-shirts depicting a stick figures of stick figure of Jesus saying “Hi” to a stick figure called Mo, who replied: “How you doin’?”
The politician, who is founder of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist think-tank, tweeted what he believes is a “bland” image and stated that “as a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that”.
This sparked a petition to have him dismissed as a parliamentary candidate, including by Mohammed Shafiq, a Lib Dem activist, and a series of death threats.
Last week, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, intervened to say he strongly supported Nawaz’s right to express his views and condemned death threats as “totally unacceptable”.
Yesterday, Nawaz and Shafiq released a joint statement saying: “We now call on those on both sides of this argument to return to moderate debate, free of insult and threat and we do so because we believe this is in the interests of our party, of the wider Muslim community in Britain and of the principles of peace to which Islam is committed.”
Shafiq, who is chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, later said on Twitter that he continues to think Nawaz’s position as a parliamentary candidate is untenable and strongly objects to his tweeting of the
I have enjoyed and been uplifted by these cartoons for some years as the National Secular Society Newsline depict them.
I am surprised that there doesn’t seem to be any bleatings complaints from the Jesus camp foll0wers as their main chappie is depicted in bed with another man AND referred to as a prophet and not GOD ALMIGHTY which they believe him to be.
The Lib/ Dems response has typically been a bit of of a shambles as they still don’t understand either their liberal bit or their democrat bit, especially Paddy Ashdown. They have also got their knickers in a twist over their Lord Rennard who is accused of sexual harassment but who has his own ‘little black book’ his party’s sex scandals to expose if he is expelled from the party.
Maajid Nawaz wrote a ccolumn in the Comment is free in The Guardian on Tuesday 28th January
Why I’m speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it
Maajid writes; I am acutely aware of the populist sentiment in Britain that derides Muslims who seek special treatment for their sensibilities, so I tweeted the bland image and stated that, as a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that.
By the time the week was up I had received death threats, the police were involved, and a petition set up by some conservative Muslims to have me dismissed as the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn had gained 20,000 signatures. Then a counter-petition went up in my support, and many liberals jumped to my defence. In other words, all hell broke loose. So why did I do it?
Meanwhile the artist behind the Jesus and Mo was interviwed by the peace man PAXMAN - playing God, Judge and Jury - on Newsnight. Note quizzical sneer.
I have been campaigning by sending letters to The Irish Post and Irish World to have St. Brigid’s Day celebrated by Irish people and their friends as an antidote to the usual St.Patrick’s Day shenanigans. The paddy wackery, green hatted, Guinnes fuelled parades and pub events around the world are a sham and a shambles and explified by the national symbol – the shamrock from seamrog which means ‘little clover’. It has been registered as a trademark by the Government of Ireland. It is , of course, associated with St. Patrick who is said to have used it to demonstrate the ridiculous concept of the three gods-in one of Christianity where you could expect it to be like the three bears story – the daddy god called God, the baby god called Jesus and the mummy god called…. no mummy god but instead a Holy Ghost. Patriarchal nonsense.
St. Brigid’s Day is February 1st. By also marking her day as a celebration of Irishness the Irish season could be extended from February 1st to 17th March.
Here is what I sent to the Irish Post after I had spoken to their pleasant reporter Niall O’Sullivan.
St Brigid’s Day falls on February 1st and could be celebrated by Irish people around the world as an intimate gathering of family and friends as an antidote to the boozy, green-hatted shenanigans of St Patrick’s Day .
Story of St. Brigid
St. Brigid was born in AD 450 in Faughart, near Dundalk in Co. Louth. Her father, Dubhthach, was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother, Broicsech, was a Christian. It was thought that Brigid’s mother was born in Portugal but was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, just like St. Patrick was. Brigid’s father named her after one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion – the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge. He kept Brigid and her mother as slaves even though he was a wealthy man. Brigid spent her earlier life cooking, cleaning, washing and feeding the animals on her father’s farm.
Around 470 she also founded a double monastery, for nuns and monks, in Kildare. As Abbess of this foundation she wielded considerable power, but was a very wise and prudent superior. The Abbey of Kildare became one of the most prestigious monasteries in Ireland, and was famous throughout Christian Europe.
There are tales about her beauty, the St Brigids Cross made of rushes, her cloak etc
Ingredients for a St Brigid’s Day celebration of things Irish could include
Playing music, live or recorded, introducing friends and younger folk to the joys of hearing John McCormack, Mary O’Hara playing harp, The Pogues,the Chieftains, Sawdoctors etc.
Singalong …..dancing ………… Showing Irish DVDs
Irish poetry, Irish Dancers,
Solo party pieces of song, reciting poetry, excerpts from stories/novels, story telling, recounting snippets of own family history
Charades with Irish themes on theatre, poetry, film, song eg The Quiet Man, The Playboy of the Western World, Fairy Tale of N ew York,
Irish food – making of soda bread, barm brack, potato cakes, Tayto crisps, red lemonade etc. sharing recipes for Baileys type coffee cream liqueur, soda bread etc.
Display of Irish craft goods that we have all brought back from trips home including the jokey tea towels
There is enough there to fill an evening of entertainment across the generations and for non-Irish friends for a night of brilliant craic.
We will see what happens!!
Sunday Assemblies are non-religious gatherings who want a similar communal experience to a religious church. They are, usually on a Sunday but the one I attended in Crystal Palace was on a Saturday! They were founded by a pair of comedians called Jones and Evans It was Sanderson Evans, a bearded, aran-sweatered tall chap reminiscent of an Irish folk musician from the sixties who was cheerleader at the south London assembly which was initiated by my colleague Trevor Moore.
This a picure of a sparsely attended C of E function.
Their logo states their motto. A blog Atheist Church Movement Shake Up: Ideological Battle Leads to …
And, like the many churches that detractors say Sunday Assembly tries to mimic, there’s already been a schism of sorts. New York’s Sunday Assembly split off on its own after becoming frustrated with Jones’ and Evans’ insistence that they not use the word “atheist” to describe themselves, an organizer there said. Jones is not surprised that the proverbial twit hit the fan.
This poem was read which I liked. I found the singing cringe making.We sang I’m a believer
The two presentations from the local Transition Town and from our Humanist Ceremonies coordinator Isabel Russo were very absorbing and informative.
It Couldn’t Be Done