Contribution of Humanists & Atheists – House of Lords Debate – Part 2

parliamentBaroness Warnock & Royall, Lord Soley & Warner ‘challenging religious faith’ (Atheism UK strapline) in a House of Lords debate. 

This is my 2nd post on this debate, the first post is here.

warnockAt 3.33pm Baroness Warnock said that religious people can be a danger if they insist that lack of proper literal religious belief is the cause of lack of moral sense. It is dangerous to society to suggest that without religion, or in the aftermath of religion, there can be no firm moral values and no shared or common ideals that can be universally worth pursuing. Despair of the possibility of a morality which is other than mere whim is dangerous because we may be forced into a false dichotomy: either a morality based on dogmatic transcendentalism, which can authoritatively dictate on what is right and what is wrong, or no morality at all, said Baroness Warnock. Background in her book ‘Dishonest to God‘. Read Baroness Warnocks’ full speech or watch her at 15:33:14.

At 3.39 pm Lord Soley an atheist and natural humanist said that so called religions of peace can end up fighting among themselves and killing large numbers of people. This happens because religion is similar to political ideology. If you lay down a set of assumptions, statements and beliefs that have to be accepted in order to become a member, you inevitably invite conflict and division.

soleyReligion comes from human beings struggling to understand a world with terrifying natural forces like thunder, lightning, earthquakes, volcanoes; the idea of God or gods was a very useful way of achieving social control said Lord Soley. You needed social control because, in order to survive, you needed to co-operate. Co-operation needs social control, so you build on it. If you then make the mistake of making all these assumptions about things that you have to accept, nobody should be surprised if divisions rapidly occur.

The great advance, said Lord Soley, brought by the Civil War to this country and the rest of the world was that it threw out the idea that the King was the representative of God on Earth. You no longer had the idea that you could not challenge your leader. In Iran at the moment, the Ayatollahs play that exact role. It will fail for similar reasons: ultimately, there will be a dispute about the correct interpretation. We get around that by having elections to throw out the person who thinks they have the right interpretation. If you are using a religious or God-based structure, you cannot do that. You have to rely on other things.  Read Lord Soleys’ full speech or watch him at 15:39:48



At 3.59pm Lord Warner said that Governments and parliamentarians should be more cautious about listening to religious interests when changing public policy about abortion, assisted dying, embryo research, faith schools, employment law, discrimination and gay marriage. Organised religions should be treated like any other pressure group. Their views should be listened to but given no more weight than any other set of interests.

Lord  Warner said how can a sovereign be crowned as a defender of the faith, if only a minority of the citizens hold that faith and the majority have no faith at all? Read Lord Warners’ full speech or watch him at 15:59:43


At 4.08 pm Baroness Royall of Blaisdon said she did not respect intolerance and utterly condemned oppression and certain practices carried out in the name of religion.

baroness-royall-of-blaisdonShe did do not accuse the church or any other religion of capitalising on poverty or ignorance, but all over the world many poor people and those who have little or no access to education, cling to religion in the hope of a better afterlife.

She recognised the invaluable role that churches and religions play in bringing people together and providing support, especially for the vulnerable. However, that coming together must not result in intolerant tribalism. Read Baroness Blaisdons’ full speech or watch her at 16:08:35


1) House of Lords video from 2.12pm to 4.40pm: Contributions of Atheists and Humanists to Society (from 14.12 hours).

2) Hansard transcriptionHansard: Contributions of Humanists & Atheists to British Society (from 2.12pm to 4.40pm) and links at TheyWorkForYou.

3) I blogged the debate for HASSNERS with atheist contributions (in red): HASSNERS reviews the debate in the House of Lords on the contributions to society of atheists and humanists.


Author: Chris Street

An atheist all my life. Atheism UK President (June 2014-)

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