This is the web site of the Suffolk Humanist and Secularist Group, providing fellowship, education and ceremonies for Humanists and Secularists in Suffolk, NE Essex, and elsewhere.

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Our apologies for the infrequent posts on this website lately, but we're moving everything to a new Wordpress website, which means going through all the old stuff and editing or deleting some of it, which takes time. When finished, the site will be easier for members to use and for us to maintain. Watch this space.

Spring 2014 newsletter out now

April 2014 newsletterOur latest newsletter is ready for you to download now. It features some public perceptions of Humanism, a report about the need to reduce or stabilise the world's population, our officers' reports on activities over the last year, a piece about preserving bodies (if you must), news from all over the place, and dates for your diary.

Click here to download the PDF.

Denis on BBC Radio Suffolk with Rob Dunger

Our esteemed secretary, Denis Johnston, will be on BBC Radio Suffolk on Sunday morning with Rob Dunger, talking about the BHA's new videos that explain Humanism. He's on at 7.35am, but if you're having a lie-in you'll be able to listen later via the BBC Suffolk website - see link below. Don't forget that the clocks go forward at 1am!

30/03/2014 - 07:35 - 07:50

New BHA videos

"How can I be happy?" is one of four short videos, narrated by Stephen Fry, released by the BHA to explain what Humanism is.

To see all of them, click here to visit the BHA website.

The risks of being a freethinker where atheism is a capital offence

However much we may be annoyed by the activities of religious organisations in the UK, at least we're free to express our opinions about religion and belief without fear of death, which isn't the case for many atheists worldwide. Bob Churchill of the International Humanist & Ethical Union was interviewed on BBC World News about the Freethought Report, which showed the extent of discriminatiuon against atheists worldwide.

The first report was published in 2012 on International Human Rights Day, 10 December. In his preface to the report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, said:

As a universal human right, freedom of religion or belief has a broad application. However, there seems to be little awareness that this right also provides a normative frame of reference for atheists, humanists and freethinkers and their convictions, practices and organizations. I am therefore delighted that for the first time the Humanist community has produced a global report on discrimination against atheists. I hope it will be given careful consideration by everyone concerned with freedom of religion or belief.

Coronation Street's Humanist funeral

Suffolk Ceremonies Team

Left to right: Margaret, David, Sophie and Sue.

The TV funeral of Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper on Friday 31st January may bring back memories for the thousands of Suffolk and N E Essex families who’ve arranged something similar for a loved one. Since 1991, the Suffolk Humanist Ceremonies Team – David Mitchell from Pettaugh, Sue Hewlett from Stutton and Sophie Lovejoy from Brightlingsea – have helped Margaret Nelson from Elmsett, near Hadleigh, to meet increasing demand for funerals free from religion. 

Hayley Cropper is played by actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association. The Suffolk Humanist Ceremonies team are members of the group, Suffolk Humanists and Secularists, which is affiliated to the BHA.

Margaret says, 

For thousands of viewers who’ve never been to a humanist funeral, Hayley’s will show them what they might expect. No hymns, prayers or religious readings, but a dignified, personal celebration of a life, where mourners can share memories and their sense of loss.

People often ask us if we knew the person who’s died, because they recognise his or her character and personality in our description, but mostly we didn’t. We aim to find out as much as we can by talking to the people who knew him or her. It’s like a mirror, reflecting back a familiar portrait in words.

Some relatives or friends contribute their own memories to the ceremony, though we take the precaution of asking them to write it all down in case they’re overcome by emotion on the day.

Families choose music that was special to their loved one, and some even wear clothes that reflect his or her personality. I’ve done a funeral for a keen camper where all his friends wore colourful Hawaiian shirts, and at a funeral for a young Goth, we all wore black and purple, her favourite colours. Every funeral we do is different, because everyone is different.

Some of my friends used to think it was a very odd thing to want to do, but I’ve met some lovely people and heard some fascinating life stories over the years.”

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