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Monday 2 April
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April Fools' Day

Humanist, semiotician, essayist, philosopher, and novelist Umberto Eco, wrote in Foucault's Pendulum  that ‘[t]here are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics…’ and went on to say:
 
‘Fools are in great demand, especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone but provide material for conversation…Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs. They offend all the rules of conversation, and when they really offend, they’re magnificent…’
 
Sunday marked April Fools’ Day – an international celebration of pranks, jokes, jests, and japes – a day that reminds us our how utterly fallible we humans are.
 
The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness appears in Chaucer's 1392 Canterbury Tales. While April Fools’ Day has been linked to the change between the Julian and Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, the day also has links to the Roman festival of Hilaria, and the Medieval Festival of Fools.
 
While many worry about looking foolish or being taken for a fool, Eco reminds us that being a fool is not always a bad thing. In fact, there is a naive charm in being a fool that can be alluring, or at the very least entertaining. But the need for sometimes playing the fool can yield more positive results than laughter and entertainment. In a less-sophisticated implementation of Aristotle’s first principle, by asking what may be thought to be foolish questions, a greater understanding can be realised. To discuss something, we need to know what we are discussing, or as Voltaire said, ‘If you would converse with me, define your terms’.

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News from the BHA

Lords Reform Committee will recommend Bishops retain reserved seats

Contradicting earlier rumours, it has been reported that the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform are to recommend that Bishops should retain reserved seats in a revised upper chamber. 

In early October 2011, we submitted written evidence to the Committee, arguing that Bishops should have no reserved place in the Lords. Following on from this, our Chief Executive Andrew Copson gave oral evidence to the Committee in late November, following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read more here.

MPs’ support for assisted dying guidance ‘a welcome first step’ in schools

Assisted dying was debated in the House of Commons last week, the first major debate on the issue since 1997. After almost five hours, MPs agreed without a vote to endorse the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPPs’) guidelines on when to prosecute individuals for assisting another to die. However, a further motion, which would have invited the government to consult as to whether to put the guidance on a statutory basis, was not supported.

We've congratulated the vote as a welcome first step, but support the legalisation of assisted dying, and therefore believe things need to go further.

Read our full report here.

Methodists risk giving up all their education principles on a wing

Last week saw the Methodist Church hold a meeting aimed at ‘re-invigorat[ing] its engagement with the education sector’. We've expressed dismay at the related Education Committee Report with its calls for expansion and increasing evangelisation of Methodist schools, and expressed concern at the Department for Education’s role in instigating this development.

Earlier this year, following the passage of the Education Act, the Department for Education (DfE) gained the power to force failing schools to convert schools to Academy status. Three Methodist schools were announced as amongst the schools to be forced. As a consequence of this, the Methodist Church was required by the DfE to set up an Academy umbrella, the Methodist Academies and Schools Trust (MAST), or else lose control of its schools that become Academies.
 
Read our full report here.

BHA welcomes plans for new religious education subject framework

Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb has asked the Religious Education Council for England and Wales (REC) to consider excellent practice in religious education (RE) teaching and present its findings in a report, as well as to support the REC in shaping a revised RE teaching framework that matches the design and style of the future National Curriculum.

Read more here.

Help us improve our website by taking a short survey

We are going to be redesigning our website to make sure that it is easy to find the information you need. Let me know how we can improve what we do. Please visit our website and tell us what you think.


The Pod Delusion this week finds out why health screenings might actually be a bad thing, discovers how to make an IMAX film without CGI effects, and tries to get Alan Turing on the £10 note. Listen to episode 129 here.

If you like the show why not support the Pod Delusion by subscribing to the show and helping to pay for things like website hosting, upkeep and excellect content. Details on how to support the Pod Delusion can be found here.




This week on Humanist Life we have links to articles on the election process for the next Archbishop of Canterbury, news that Tunisia is edging away from Sharia, a list of the world’s worst persecutors of Christianity, MPs trying to overturn the ASA ban on advertising that God can ‘heal', Rowan Williams saying that the fixation with identity politics is fragmenting Britian, and statistics showing that the Swiss assisted dying rate has risen sevenfold in 11 years.
 
Other Events

Assisted Dying: A Matter of Choice? 
Tuesday 3 April, Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London
Registration 6.00pm – Debate starts 6.30pm – Bar open from 7.45pm

The Law Society is holding a public debate on Assisted Dying: A Matter of Choice? 
 
The event will be chaired by Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, Vice President of the Law Society. The panel includes Baroness Young from the Commission on Assisted Dying; 
Campaigner Debbie Purdy who won a case in 2009 demanding greater clarity from the DPP; Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick from Not Dead Yet UK; and Robert Preston,  Director of Living and Dying Well.
 
Full details can be found here.


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In This Issue
Editorial
News from the BHA
BHA Events
Affiliated Group Events
HumanistLife
The Pod Delusion
Other Events

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BHA EVENTS
 


BHA Annual Conference 2012
Fri 8 June - Sun 10 June

National Museum Cardiff

 
New speakers announced! Richard Herring, Iszi Lawrence, and Carole Jahme are joining our spectacular line-up in Cardiff.
 
Book today: you never know what the future will bring! ...Or do we?

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Wednesday 25 April
Tuke Hall, Regent’s College Conference Centre, London 
7pm for a 7:30pm start - 9:00pm
 
Robin Ince, comedian, writer, and 'that sort of thing' will be presenting this year's Voltaire Lecture. The subject is 'The Importance of Being Interested' and the audience can be assured of a fair amount of science, including references to Feynman and Darwin. Details and tickets here.

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AFFILIATED GROUP EVENTS
 
SCANS (South Cheshire & North Staffordshire Humanists)
Mon 2 Apr 
7:30pm, Newcastle-under-Lyme
Do Faith Schools have a place in British Education? Presented by Richy Thompson, Campaigns Officer from the BHA. Details here.
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Sutton Humanist Group
Wed 4 Apr
Speaker from Compassion in Dying. Details here.
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Brighton & Hove Humanists
Wed 4 Apr
7.30pm, The Lord Nelson Inn, Trafalgar Street.
School Religion and Religious Schools. Details here.
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North Yorkshire Humanist Group
Thurs 5 April
Book Club Meeting - Free Will, by Sam Harris. Details here.
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Oxford Humanists
Wed 11 Apr
6 - 9pm. Informal pub 'drop in'. Details here.

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Harrow Humanists
Wed 11 Apr
8.00 pm at HAVS lodge 
Faith Schools and education. Details here.
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Plymouth Humanists
Thurs 12 Apr
6:30pm - 8pm
Pre Dara O’Briai
n - Social Drink. Details here.
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Milton Keynes Humanists
Thurs 12 Apr 
7.00pm - 9.00pm
Religion for Atheists. Details here
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Essex Humanists 

Sun 15 Apr 
7:30pm, Chelmsford 
Exemptions: Religious & Secular. Details here.
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Berkshire Humanists
Sun 15 Apr
9:30am, Reading
Berkshire Humanists will be holding a stall in Reading. Drop by, or if you want to help visit the website here.
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East Kent Humanists
Sun 15 Apr
2.30om University of Kent, Canterbury
Old Age Rational Suicide – a talk by Dr Michael Irwin
Dr Irwin is a retired GP and former Medical Director of the United Nations. As a result of his campaigning on the topic of ‘old age rational suicide’ he was arrested in 2003.  No charges followed, but he has repeatedly been investigated by the police, and regularly makes the headlines for his unbowed stance on this topic. Details here.
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Birmingham Humanists
Mon 16 Apr 
7:30pm – 9:30pm, Moseley Exchange, 149 Alcester Road B13 8JP
Just suppose - say no to religious indoctrination. Details here.

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Watford Area Humanists
Tues 17 Apr
7.30 pm, White Lion Pub on St Albans Road.
Details can be found here.
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Lancashire Secular Humanists 
Wed 18 Apr
7.30, Great Eccleston Village Centre, 59 High Street, The Square, Great Eccleston. PR3 0YB
Question time. Details here.

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