David Flint is the Vice-Chair of the North London Humanist Group. Here we talk about his life work, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?
David Flint: I’m mostly English. One grandmother was a lapsed Jew but I never met her and didn’t know her ethnicity till I was 63.
I was born and brought up in Birmingham the only son of an accountant and a stay-at-home housewife. My father was an agnostic, my mother a rather nominal Christian.
Jacobsen: Following from the last question, how have these factors influenced personal life and views?
Flint: Not very clear. I don’t think I was ever a Christian and I was never a member of a church. I attended a Congregational church weekly between the ages of 14 and 17 as a sort of quid pro quo for attending the church youth club. I stopped after the school RI master gave me Honest to God to read.
I found I was a Humanist later than year after the minister gave the youth club a talk on humanism.
Jacobsen: How does a rejection of the supernatural change the way one lives one’s life?
Flint: Not sure that it did much but then I don’t think that religious belief made much difference to the lives of those friends who had it. Apart from weekly church attendance.
Jacobsen: How does an understanding of the natural influence views on life and meaning in the light of the aforementioned rejection?
Flint: From age 18 I was at University reading Chemistry and an active member of two humanist groups. I also went to lectures on philosophy and other topics. So it’s hard to establish which experiences formed my views.
I think humanism led me to be:
- Sceptical of all claims that beliefs drive behaviour. I thought and still think it’s more common for interests and desires to drive beliefs.
- Open to naturalistic explanations including genetic explanations of behaviour.
- Sceptical of the value of moral preaching.
Jacobsen: As the Vice-Chair, what are your tasks and responsibilities at the North London Humanist Group?
Flint: To make some decisions jointly with the secretary and chairman and to chair meetings in the absence of the chairman.
Jacobsen: What does an average gathering look like to you? What are the demographics of the North London Humanist Group?
Flint: An average meeting is 15 people and lasts 2 hours. There is usually an external speaker and the topic is usually related to religion.
Many of the group are my age (72) or older and some of us have been friends for 50 years.
There are more men than woman, though not overwhelmingly, and c20-30% have Jewish ancestry.
Jacobsen: How do you prepare for the activities of the community? What are some enjoyable and prominent events happening on a regular or annual basis?
Flint: Monthly meetings. Lunches or dinners about 3 times per year.
Jacobsen: How is integration with the surrounding community and culture? What are some joint activities with other faith/non-faith groups in the larger community?
Flint: We are a small group with little visibility and little formal interaction with churches, etc. joint activities with other groups are very rare.
Jacobsen: Who are some recommended speakers, authors, or organizations?
Flint: Humanists UK, National Secular Soc.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Flint: Humanism could be a call to arms. A demand that we base our lives and our politics on reason, evidence, and compassion. But though all humanists share those values they would be divided on their implications. (Except in our dislike of religious schools, the established church, religious dogmatism, etc. and support for legal abortion, voluntary euthanasia, equal marriage, etc.)
The humanist movement could have taken a lead on issues that are bedevilled by primitive thinking (not always religious) and a refusal to acknowledge evidence. These issues include policy on drugs, crime, and climate change. But since we are generally cautious and undogmatic disputes do not get resolved but rather tolerated.
I am not aware of any UK humanist body that has taken leadership on these, or related, issues.
That’s one reason why I devote most of my time to work on climate change policy for the Green Party rather than to humanism.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, David.
Flint: You’re welcome.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
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