When I went to University, I was very involved in the Student Christian Movement, which seemed to me to be part of the radical Christian questioning at the time, i.e. the Honest to God debate, and I again fully enjoyed the arguments among the people I met about the different churches etc. But my doubts were growing about the truth of the basic beliefs, and in my PGCE year, during a philosophy lecture on rational thought, I suddenly realized that thinking, logic and all the discussions on ethics, from Plato onwards were enough for me! I remember that moment as one like when the heavy burden fell off Christians back in John Bunyans Pilgrim Progress, and Ive never looked back!
I did describe myself often as an atheist, but increasingly I wanted to be affirmative and positive about my beliefs, so I called myself, and felt myself to be, a Humanist, someone who wanted to put all their efforts into ameliorating life for people, rather than spending time and energy on supernatural superstitions. I wanted my children to concentrate on this world, and the communities and people around them instead, as I had during my teenage years, worrying about transubstantiation and constubstantiation for example, and why no one answered my prayers.
Six or seven years ago I felt it important not only to affirm this belief wherever possible, but also to identify with a group who felt likewise to campaign against the many privileges the faith groups enjoy in the UK, 26 bishops in the House of Lords for example, and so I joined both the BHA, and the NSS to help in their campaigns for a more secular and rational basis for our society. And then three years ago I found the Harrow Humanists and am really pleased to have joined such a welcoming, thoughtful and like-minded group of people. Its a monthly oasis!
In 1960 Jim Taylor Junior, an American with a drink problem, took over as world leader of the Exclusive Brethren, and introduced new rules which many people consider caused it to become a cult. One of these was that life insurance was banned, and another was that non-members could no longer have social contact with members. My uncle, who had always worked in life insurance, committed suicide as a result of losing his job. Three weeks later my parents were visited by members of the Exclusive Brethren who told my father that as my mother was a non-member he would have to leave her if he wished to remain a member. If he didnt leave her, he would have to leave the Exclusive Brethren and have no further contact with his blood relatives. My mother refused to join, and my father cracked up and attempted to murder her. He was receiving psychiatric care for a year afterwards.
In 2004 my partner and I became involved in funeral arrangements for a non-religious friend, which was conducted by a Humanist celebrant. Many people who attended were so impressed that they said they would like similar funerals themselves. One of them was my partner, and when he died four years later he also had a Humanist funeral. A neighbour whom I knew slightly at the time got to hear about it, and invited me to attend a meeting of Harrow Humanists, where I instantly felt very much at home.
After that I came to London University to do my first degree and was keen to meet other gay boys. I started, as most gay men do, with the scene but hated its superficiality. You can have a good time if you have good looks and a gym-trained body. I had neither. Then, through a notice in Time Out I read of a meeting for gays to take place at Conway Hall, organised by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA), which has now been incorporated into the BHA. I went. The main speaker was David Starkey. I was welcomed and surrounded by serious-minded people like myself who were unlike most other gay people I had met. They were mostly refugees from religion and I started to realise that most religions are hostile to homosexuality. The problem is not homosexuality, which I now know is inborn, but religion itself. Thanks to GALHA, I now feel complete without the shackles of religion. Humanism is a force for love and concern for people whoever they are. I am much happier now that I have found it.