Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Discussion Group - Basic Income

We had a very lively discussion on basic income, a disarmingly simple idea, a guaranteed minimum income that is given unconditionally to everyone without work requirement regardless of wealth, income or age. On top of a basic income everyone can earn extra in a paid job. Basic income shall allow every human being to fulfill basic living needs.

We touched on the main Pros

  • It would reduce unemployment and the stigma correlated to it
  • It would tackle poverty and give dignity esp. to the poor and elderly
  • It would underpin non-profit, not-well paid and/or un-paid jobs (like charity work, creative jobs, care of children or elderly) 
And main Cons:
  • Too expensive to finance
  • People would stop working
  • No one would do low paid/unpopular jobs anymore
With regard to the last point, the effect of it might be that people would have to be paid much higher wages to do such jobs, which could then be seen as a positive effect.
We further discussed how close we are to making basic income reality in countries like Finland where 65% of parliamentary candidates were in favour of basic income or Switzerland. Even the Green Party in the UK talks about basic income in their current election manifesto. We concluded with the main obstacle/ open question of realising such a simple social idea:  Is basic income possible in the current political system of capitalism - a profit driven system, where the gap between extremely high paid and low paid jobs is still too high? We finally agreed that we as humanists lean towards the idea of basic income with its very humanistic values but we remained sceptical if the time and circumstances of this simple idea have come yet. “Stronger than a thousand armies is an idea whose time has come” (Oscar Wilde).  

The next meeting is on 21st May when the subject will be ‘World Population Issues’. All are welcome; we meet at 8.15pm at The Waterhouse, 67-71 Princess Street, Manchester, M2 4EG.
We are not booking a particular room but will aim to meet in a room at the far end of the building from Princess Street. It would be helpful if you would let John Coss know if you will be coming (email:secretary@gmh.humanist.org.uk or phone@ 0161-430-3463). 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Introduction to Humanism

The April meeting at Stockport was Introduction to Humanism by David Seddon. This is our annual introductory lecture at which we introduce new members to ideas of Humanism.

If Christians were wiped out Christianity could be re-instated using the literature. The same goes for Muslims and other religions with a written body of work. Humanism would not be so easily reinstated because we do not have a creed and the ideas would have to be worked out from scratch.

Religions are named after those who are worshipped and adored. Humanism is named for Human Beings with all of their faults. We don’t know a single Christian or Muslim who has met God or Allah, but we know plenty of Humans and their many unremembered acts of kindness. We know that sometimes they will let us down but we cannot be sure of anything about God. People are doing wonderful things now resulting in a civilised world with art, music, science, the NHS and many other wonderful institutions.

4 ½ Basics

1) God: We have no way of knowing if God exists and people who believe have no way of knowing either. Humanists live their lives as if there were no God. What are people doing when they pray? It seems a strange and meaningless activity although some may use it to order their own thoughts.

2) Death: Primitive peoples invented religion to explain the difference between living and death. Humanists believe nothing supernatural happens after death and adopt a mature philosophical attitude that death is the end of us. We reject the idea of going somewhere else. Some kind of immortality is achieved by remembering famous people or our ancestors.

3) Science and Knowledge: Humanists believe that evidence is needed if something is true therefore we cannot know anything about God.

4) Religion and Evangelism: The basic legal position is that we are a Christian country with an established Church. But do the establishment follow the Sermon on the Mount? Are the Meek important? Are the Peacemakers blessed? (Do we have World Peace?) Do they say’ love your enemy’? Do they turn the other cheek? Humanity is about looking out for one another and making a difference in someone’s life.

5) (4 ½) I think rather than I believe: One needs an awful lot of faith to believe in the resurrection, and how can one believe that flying a plane into the twin towers will let someone in to paradise. Humanists believe that this is the only life we have. Most religious people acknowledge that only a fraction of them will go to heaven. Christians believe in Original Sin - God made us all and people were bad so to compensate God sent his only son so we could be forgiven and go to heaven! They also believe in the perfectibility of man.( If man keeps trying he will make progress.) Humanists believe in the right and ability to be happy, whilst religious people are big on guilt. Happiness should not have guilt attached to it. Religion keeps women in their place, whilst humanists believe in gender equality. Christians believe in suffering, tolerating slavery in the past. If we were all born equal why have the idea that there is someone to worship?

David went on to discuss some important thinkers in the History of Humanism: Epicurus(representing ancient Greece), Shakespeare(representing the Renaissance), David Hume(the Enlightenment), Jeremy Bentham( Utilitarianism), Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft ( Rights of Men and Women respectively), Charles Darwin (Science), Sigmund Freud (Psychology), and Jean Paul Sartre(Philosophy).