First Humanist Chaplain in NHS

First Humanist Chaplain in NHS April 11, 2018

This is a great sign and a reflection of shifting attitudes and demands within UK society at large.

This is from The Guardian:

The appointment of 28-year-old Lindsay van Dijk as a humanist chaplainat the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS trust, leading a team of three Christians, is a rather overdue acknowledgment of the changing religious nature of Britain. It should also make us think about the nature and function of religion, and how little this has to do with belief. Humanism is increasingly the default position in England when people don’t want to think about theology or religious questions. It has replaced “C of E” as the translation of a muffled “don’t know” in questions about religious identity. It’s not the same as atheism, which implies a much sharper-edged conception of identity….

The reason this shift doesn’t much diminish the amount of spirituality in the world is that religions are not really about belief at all. They are about identity, morality and myths. Because we imagine that religions proceed from doctrine to practice, we tend entirely to misunderstand the way that they work. In fact we get it precisely backwards. Religions become incredible not as a result of scientific progress, but because the small, taken-for-granted habits and rituals that sustain them fall out of use. But the human needs that sustained them remain.

In part, these are for rituals to mark birth, death, marriage and other major events. Humanism supplies all of these in modern Britain, as do its religious competitors. Beyond these special occasions, there are ordinary day-to-day needs in any community that have traditionally been filled in this country by Christians and in particular by the Church of England, but are increasingly filled by humanists and others who offer services of a religious nature to people who are uncomfortable with the idea of “religion”. This idea has been explored in a series of works by the Lancaster University sociologist of religion, Linda Woodhead.

She says that the meat and drink of chaplaincy is emotional healing; the management of personal relationships, which might be called counselling; and divination, or advice about the future. None of these require a belief in God, of course; but none are defensible on grounds of strict rationality, either. They are a central part of Pentecostal Christianity and of some forms of Islam, too. In a humanist guise, they are immediately attractive to young people in this country because they seem not to require allegiance to anything ridiculous.

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