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Posted by on Dec 6, 2008 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

What does it mean to be British?

The Humanist Philosophers Group, of which I am a member, submitted for the BHA a view about “What it means to be British”. I made only a small contribution, though you can probably guess what was. Go here.

This is part of a Government consultation on values.

Other views are here.


  1. This is an admirable statement not merely of what it means – or should mean – to be British, but of what it means to be human.The sad snag is that however uncontroversial these ideas were in the past, there are now very many people – perhaps millions – residing in this country who do not accept that “an open, inclusive and cooperative society from which no group or individual is excluded, and from which no group deliberately excludes itself” is a desireable goal.The real educational task is to persuade them that they are wrong. To start with, we should abolish state-aided “faith schools”.

  2. It reads like a charter and it has high ideals, that go much further than Britain. It’s part of what Dawkins called the modern ‘zeitgeist’, living in a globalised world, where tolerance and trust are the key factors to living a peaceful and, dare I say it, moral life.I’ve lived for over a half a century in Oz, and seen 3 waves of immigration: first from Mediterranean and Eastern Europe (following WWII), then from Asia (following the Vietnam war), and now from Muslim countries the world over (following conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, to mention a few).Assimilation occurs with the next generation, who often find themselves conflicted with their parents. It is also why I’m against self-segregated societies. But I think our generic attitude towards religion, of a healthy scepticism, is what separates us from America in particular. In Oz, religion is something you keep to yourself, and people who attempt to politicise it generally get short thrift. As long as we maintain that attitude, and promote critical thinking I believe we will have stability and a diverse, pluralistic, and harmonious society. Sport and education are the 2 major breakers of cultural barriers, for young people in particular.Regards, Paul.

  3. The problem here, Paul, is that most of the Muslims who have come to Britain over the past thirty years are from Pakistan and Bangladesh which have highly tribalised, traditional, religiously dominated cultures. Their second [and now third] generations have been politicised by our misguided involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and far from becoming more assimilated many of them are listening to the vigorous proselytization being carried out by Wahhabi’ist preachers funded by Saudi Arabia. They are in no mood to espouse the more tolerant values and openness which are essential for a cohesive society.At the same time, Christian extremists – notably the Roman Catholic heirarchy – are using the heightened profile which Islam gives to religious issues to press for more exemptions from equality legislation on the spurious pretext of ‘conscience’.This is not an easy time for British secularists.

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