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Hull and East Riding Humanist Group

A social group for humanists, atheists, secularists, sceptics and agnostics

Law and Morality

Posted by Tim on 19/04/2019
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Date:        Monday 15th April 2019, 7.30pm
Venue:    Willerby & Kirkella Parish Institute, 58 Main St, Willerby, Hull HU10 6BZ

Our speaker for our April meeting was David Horsley who was for many years a history master at Trinity House School in Hull and is a former Mayor of Beverley. He is a theology graduate of Lampeter University and continues to be actively involved in local politics. David last spoke to us in March 2017 on Religious Education and schools. On this occasion he will be addressing the issue of Law and Morality. It has been said that Law is essentially a set of rules and principles created and enforced by the state whereas morals are a set of beliefs, values and principles and behaviour standards which are enforced and created by society. Legal and moral rules can be isolated with the former being created by the legislative institution of parliament, whereas the latter have evolved with and through society and are the standards which society in general accepts and promotes. Some laws mirror the majority of society’s moral view such as the prohibition against murder, but other laws such as those relating to same sex marriage, abortion or euthanasia are contested.

Date:       Monday 16th October 2017, 7.30pm
Venue:    the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

Our October meeting was a talk by group Chair John Hawkins on the subject of Morality, Theology and Autonomy. Religion has the reputation for causing endless conflict in history but many human beings stick by their religious beliefs and practices in the face of persecution and social disadvantage. Those beliefs and associated practices often appear irrational, absurd and/or incomprehensible to many people today. John explored the underlying issues looking at religion from a historical perspective having regard Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and other World Religions and Ideologies.

“Where Does Morality Come From?”

Posted by Tim on 02/05/2016
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Date:       Monday 18th April 2016, 7.30pm
Venue:    the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

Our April meeting was a talk by Vice-Chair of HERHG Brian Fendley on answers to the question “Where does morality come from?”

HERHG Meeting on 24th June 2013

Posted by Tim on 07/06/2013
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7:30 pmto9:00 pm


The next meeting of the Hull and East Riding Humanist Group will be on Monday 24th June 2013 at 7.30pm in the back room of The Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG. All welcome.

Arne Norderhaug PhD will be giving a talk on

“What is morality and where does it come from, if not from God?”


We are constantly faced with the question: “What shall I do?”, and, with morality appearing to provide answers, it seems important to know what it says. However, we encounter 2 vexing problems: precisely what morality asks us to do is disputable, and it seems not entirely clear why one must act morally.

It has been widely thought that, considering the eternal life apparently on offer, solutions to both lie in the point that morality is what God wants us to do  –  as stated in certain old scriptures. But this becomes suspect when we begin to doubt which scriptures (if any) are genuine and we find ourselves without reliable observation of God and therefore inclined to conclude that He is merely a myth. There is also the following point (referred to by Peter Singer in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1986 and apparently made by Plato some 2500 years ago): if it is divine approval that makes an action morally good, we could not say that God approves of an act because it is good. Without an independent standard or goodness, we would be saying only that God approves of God.

Many have therefore turned to other possible sources of morality (more or less helpful in resolution of the 2 problems)  –  e. g. social evolution (usually amounting to relativism), human nature (moral intuition or conscience) and pure reason (apriorism). However, nobody seems thus to have found a morality which is entirely convincing, fully justified and generally acceptable.

Before we can consider morality sensibly, we must have a reasonably clear idea of what this word means. I therefore start with dictionary definitions before moving on to what scientists (mainly sociologists and psychologists) have observed and what philosophers have come up with  –  after all, moral philosophy (ethics) is one of the 3 or 4 major branches of philosophy.

I end up arguing that we now have a way out  –  and only one sensible such. This involves (temporarily) suspending using the notion of ‘morality’ and instead considering what rules for behaviour pertain to the most acceptable political process (which is readily done without using the word ‘moral’; and we do not need to involve words like ‘right’, ‘good’ and ‘just’ either). However, when our society has adopted those rules (which it seems sure to do, sooner or later), people seem likely to come to refer to them as their ‘moral’ rules (and to connect the other moral words to them).

These rules (many of which should be enshrined in law) will no doubt include some which facilitate the development of cooperative consciences which make people feel guilty if they do not abide by the rules decided upon in the most acceptable rule making process. Together with sanctions in support of the rules provided by law and other social mechanisms, these will give individuals reasons for abiding  –  and to abide would probably be said to be to act ‘morally’.