Secularists call for an inclusive national ceremony of remembrance

Nov 7, 2014

By The National Secular Society

The commemoration of Remembrance Day should be rethought and re-designed to make it a truly inclusive national event, and not one that is dominated by a single Christian denomination, say secularists.

The National Secular Society (NSS) has written to the Government asking it to review the dominant role of the Church of England at the national ceremony of remembrance, which it argues should be equally inclusive of all citizens, regardless of religion and belief.

In a letter to Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid, the NSS says it is important that we commemorate important dates such as Remembrance “as a nation” and points out that many people feel alienated by religious services.

The letter urges the Government to bring forward proposals for a more secular and inclusive Ceremony of Remembrance, pointing out that ceremonies in other countries, such as France, are led by civic and national dignitaries without any religious element.


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36 comments on “Secularists call for an inclusive national ceremony of remembrance

  • CBC Radio, the Harper government propaganda organ, about twice a day broadcasts a piece about some war Canada once fought to help sell the military and war generally. It might be the War of 1812, WWI , WWII , Korea, Afghanistan… Basically it gloats about winning, patting Canadians on the back for being so brave and clever to defeat the wicked enemy.

    They still use the old racist terms for their opponents and talk about them, as they did during the war, as if they were subhuman. They don’t ever mention current relations. There is never any discussion of the causes of the wars, or how they might have been avoided. This reminds me of a married couple where the wife recites a litany of all the things her husband ever did wrong, over and over and over.

    I suggested to the CBC that modern day Germans might find this constant dredging up hoary old disputes irritating. Most Germans were not even born when all this happened. The CBC said the Germans would not take offence, and between the lines suggested, they did not give a flying f*** if they did.

    I don’t want to expand remembrance celebrations to include atheists; I want to retire them entirely.



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  • It’s an interesting and heartening thing to learn that the Prime Minister and designer of the Cenotaph conducted themselves in such a laudable manner a hundred years ago.

    Hats off to them for keeping the sanctimonious prayer mongers at bay; I bet those self indulgent fools would have just loved to have hijacked the whole ceremony.

    However, unfortunately they still managed to maintain an indecent amount of influence.

    Dan Snow’s article is exactly what you’d expect from an ex Balliol historian; succinct and moving, without being “shrill” or “militant”; I mean, we wouldn’t want that would we.



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  • Probably the most moving elements of a traditional remembrance ceremony are secular – the laying of poppy wreaths and the recitation of the extract from For the Fallen as the Ode to Remembrance. I’d be willing to bet that a great many people think the Ode IS a religious piece on account of the CofE trappings that surround it, but it proves (if proof were needed) that secular words and symbols are massively better than religious ones in achieving the aims of such ceremonies.



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  • @OP – The commemoration of Remembrance Day should be rethought and re-designed to make it a truly inclusive national event, and not one that is dominated by a single Christian denomination, say secularists.

    It should also be rethought to highlight the futility of war, the incompetence of politicians and generals directing wars, and the pointless and ruthless sacrifice and suffering of the cannon fodder used to operate wars! – Not to mention the vast indebtedness and waste of money and effort put into pure destruction!

    These commemorations are all too often being used as propagandist gatherings to glorify the incompetent establishment, and dress up the victims as “heroes”!

    Once I was old enough to discover details of the WW1, I found it deeply offensive that the charity to support the wounded and disabled, was named after Haig, with his name printed on the poppies!

    Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig: World War I’s Worst General
    http://www.historynet.com/field-marshal-sir-douglas-haig-world-war-is-worst-general.htm
    One sees so many of these cemeteries and so many stones—along with the vast memorial at Thievpal bearing the names of some 70,000 British soldiers whose bodies were never recovered—that after a few hours of it, you feel numb. Overwhelmed.

    The magnitude of the battle still stuns the imagination. The Somme was an epic of both slaughter and futility; a profligate waste of men and materiel such as the world had never seen.
    On the morning of July 1, 1916, 110,000 British infantrymen went “over the top.” In a few hours, 60,000 of them were casualties. Nearly 20,000 of these were either dead already or would die of their wounds, many of them lingering for days between the trenches, in no man’s land.
    The attacking forces did not gain a single one of their objectives.

    Even so, a staff colonel had the cheek to write: “The events of July 1st bore out the conclusions of the British higher command and amply justified the tactical methods employed.”

    Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, chief of staff of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and architect of the battle, evidently agreed. On the day after the debacle, stating that the enemy “has undoubtedly been shaken and has few reserves in hand,” he discussed with subordinates methods for continuing the offensive.

    Which he did, with a kind of transcendent stubbornness, for another four months, until winter weather forced an end to the campaign, if not the fighting.
    By then, Haig’s army had suffered more than 400,000 casualties.
    For the British, in the grave judgment of noted military historian John Keegan, “the battle was the greatest tragedy…of their national military history” and “marked the end of an age of vital optimism in British life that has never been recovered.”

    But Haig was not finished yet.



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  • 5
    Treadmore says:

    This reminds me of a married couple where the wife recites a litany of all the things her husband ever did wrong, over and over and over.

    You may have underrmined your critical position of CBC right there 😉



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  • We can see the usual level of establishment consideration for the families of citizens who suffer loss from their wars – at least eventually and grudgingly, after years of campaigning!

    Military widows pension rules ‘unjust’

    It is an “injustice” that under current rules about 4,000 war widows and widowers have to surrender their survivor’s pension, Anna Soubry has said.

    Changes taking effect from April 2015 will mean those who “remarry, cohabit or form a civil partnership” will be entitled to the pension for life, the Ministry of Defence said.

    The decision follows claims from the War Widows’ Association that some of those whose spouses died or left military service between April 1973 and April 2005 stopped receiving their survivor’s pension once they remarried, cohabited with a new partner or formed a civil partnership.

    But Ms Soubry, Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, said it would be a “step too far” for the rules to be retrospectively enforced.



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  • Britain and USA have spent billions on the Iraq and Afghan wars, and now have “austerity budgets”!

    The United States has already spent close to $2 trillion on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those expenditures — on combat operations, reconstruction, and other direct costs of war — are only a fraction of what the wars will eventually cost the country, according to research by Linda Bilmes, Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy. The final figure, Bilmes calculates, will be $4 trillion.
    http://www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/publications/impact-newsletter/archives/summer-2013/the-costs-of-the-iraq-and-afghanistan-wars

    This is not a new phenomenon!

    During the First World War, Britain incurred debts equivalent to 136% of its gross national product, and its major creditor, the USA, began to emerge as the world’s strongest economy.

    Swingeing cuts in public spending were introduced in 1922 to ward off inflation. The ambitious reform programme drawn up by the minister of Christopher Addison, in February 1918 – which included major public housing and health schemes – was sacrificed on the altar of deflation and debt-servicing. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/aftermath/brit_after_war.htm

    ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬

    The scale of World War One was unprecedented in several ways, including the cost to finance it. In fact, several of the countries involved are still facing related debts.

    Earlier this week, the UK announced it will repay £218 million ($349 million) from the £2 billion of debt that it incurred during the war. National War Bonds were issued to the public in 1917 to support the effort, funded by widespread patriotic publicity campaigns and an attractive interest rate (both then and now) of 5%. (About 3 million Britons bought the debt and this is how the Spectator covered the creation of National War Bonds.)

    Ten years later, the bonds were refinanced by Winston Churchill into 4% Consolidated Loans. Facing the huge financial strains of the Great Depression, chancellor Neville Chamberlain used patriotism again to convert some of the “4% Consuls” into perpetual bonds, which give the debtor the right to never pay the principal as long as the interest is paid—which he cut to 3.5%. The government has been paying about £136 million a year to holders of the perpetuals and war loans. The government estimates it has paid £1.26 billion in total interest since 1927. Still, the Great War is estimated to have cost the UK around £3.25 billion.

    Britain can now refinance the 4% Consuls at more favorable terms to the taxpayer, and so it will pay off a tiny amount of its total debt in February—for the first time in 67 years.
    http://qz.com/290183/in-2014-countries-are-still-paying-off-debt-from-world-war-one/

    ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬

    On Oct. 3, 2010, Germany finally paid off all its debt from World War One. The total? About 269 billion marks, or around 96,000 tons of gold.



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  • If the pressure is kept up, the”step too far” argument might be overcome, in light of the fact that there’s an election in the offing.

    They’ve already started pulling goodies out of their cache of bribes.

    I’m afraid that Bertrand Russell was right when he said: “…our leaders are stupid and wicked…”.

    But, we’re obliged to vote; our hard won freedoms are delicate flowers, and must never be taken for granted.

    Unfortunately, at present it’s Hobsons choice.



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  • The whole Remembrance Day thing sickens me, with or without the CoE. All that talk of the “ultimate sacrifice” as if those involved had any choice in the matter. Conscription was introduced in Britain in 1916 after the romantic gloss of going to war had lost its allure among potential recruits, when the realities of the slaughter permeated home to Britain.

    The issues at stake were not worth one drop of working class blood.



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  • Tomorrow, Remembrance Day, I’m having lunch with a female friend at Gordon’s Wine Bar, the frontage of which is identical to how it was in 1914, and there are photos extant of crowds outside the place celebrating the coming of war.

    They’re a ghostly reminder, but tragically we haven’t really learnt anything since.



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  • I was trying to edit that last post when that fucking “Tell us how we’re doing” tab came up, and by the time I’d managed to get rid of it my time had elapsed.

    Please cut that out Mods; we’re doing just fine thanks.



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  • Nothing to do with us, SG. We’re just here to ensure compliance with the Terms of Use. We don’t design the site, select the articles, or anything else.
    Technical issues & any other feedback can be submitted to the site managers via the blue question mark at the bottom of each page.



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  • 14
    bonnie says:

    Small paper forget-me-nots are being handed out at local veteran’s donation spot. The flower’s name is double apropos, considering the recent shake-up / scandal with the VA (chief was fired, R A McDonald now leads). Pitiful.



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  • 15
    bonnie says:

    haven’t really learnt anything

    ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ – Lew Ayer’s convincing performance fell on deaf ears less than 15 years later. Alas, how many can resist a rally cry, to arms! to arms! Is it not a natural state of homo sapiens?



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  • Bonnie: A wonderful film, which stands head and shoulders to this day above anything else in the genre, including The Young Lions.

    Apocalypse Now, although a masterpiece, is in a different category.

    And now, this very today, we have Mikhail Gorbachev warning of the dangers of another cold war; what are we doing?

    This is a wonderful planet and we’re devastating it and condemning our children to live in terror.

    “The human race is a bloody disgrace whilst stuffing food in its face.”. Spike Milligan.

    I’ve had enough of this for today; a glass or two of a fluid of a certain burgundy hue is called for methinks.

    I don’t think Mr Milligan would disapprove.



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  • Reading these posts I suddenly remembered the words of my old headmaster an ex-gunner who said.

    “There’s nothing sweet and pleasant about dying for your country”

    He was a raving Protestant who bladdered on about almighty god whenever he had an excuse but this statement was about the only thing he ever said that I agreed with.



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  • 20
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Thank you Alan, for that post about Douglas Haig; horrifying.

    But, sadly apologists for the Field Marshal still persist.

    Hey, Field Marshal Haig was a true British hero and strategic genius. Just ask former Secretary of State for Education and Pob/Derek Zoolander looky likey Michael Gove:

    ‘Goveadder’: the education secretary meets his fate in the trenches

    I like to play Spot the Biggest Poppy on the Politician at this time of year. Nigel Farage was sporting one the size of a dinner plate on Channel Four News the other evening. That shows just how much he loves Britain, you see. There’s a peculiar sort of bullying that goes on with poppy-wearing in the media; appear on television without one in the fortnight leading up to Remembrance Sunday and the Daily Mail-reading, disgusted-of-Tunbridge-Wells patio-Phalangists come out in force. Kudos to those like newsman Jon Snow who refuse to be pressured into donning what has become a badge of faux-patriotism cynically exploited by politicians, as those from this class are wont to do.

    It’s like the Stars and Stripes pin in this respect: American politicians who neglect to accessorize themselves with this bit of tin at times of national ceremony do so at their peril. Back again to the other side of the Atlantic and Labour leader Michael Foot lost his shot at becoming Prime Minister when he showed up at the Cenotaph wearing a disrespectful donkey jacket. One would have thought that was appropriate given the famous line about British troops in WW1 and what they were led by.

    A friend of mine is a big animal lover. Elephants, rhinoce… nah, I just mean she really loves animals. She buys purple poppies and attaches them to her dogs’ coats to honor all the animals that were killed in conflict (She’s seen War Horse about two hundred times). I don’t think any of her pooches is particularly religious, and she’s never been asked to leave when she takes them to memorial events wearing these things.

    The reigning monarch is also head of the Church of England. If she is expected to attend such ceremonies, it’s only natural that they will also be religious in nature. Get rid of the monarchy and the Church will fall too, it’s as simple as that.



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  • @OP – The commemoration of Remembrance Day should be rethought and re-designed to make it a truly inclusive national event, and not one that is dominated by a single Christian denomination, say secularists.

    The problem is, that it is used as positive spin on the mess and carnage caused by the incompetence of the British establishment, so with the Queen the head of the CofE and the British establishment, the CofE is the perfect tool for the job.

    The costs and blunders can be hidden behind sympathy and empathy for the injured and bereaved, with criticism deflected by the pretence that criticism of the establishment, is “being unsympathetic to those who suffered” from the devastation caused by their leaders.
    These ceremonies are glorification of disastrous wars, and of the sorts of people responsible for such disastrous political and military judgements.
    Only the losing commanders of losing governments, end up being tried for war-crimes against humanity.



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  • This is why heads of state and the loftiest ranks from the armed forces should be excluded from the ceremony, their place taken entirely by ordinary folk. For me the act of Rememberance is entirely about the loss of innocent lives in our collective service. The fact that every life lost was the result of someone else’s folly, (Kitchener’s, say, or Hitler’s), is beside the point. They didn’t have to die if only we (all) had been cleverer, kinder, better people.

    We needed to fight the evil of Hitler but the sociopaths we needed to also lead us, who asked for sacrifice, can do us the final honour of staying away this once. This isn’t a service of absolution.



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  • Phil Rimmer:

    We needed to fight the evil of Hitler…

    It depends who you mean by “we”. Certainly the workers were no better off as a result of the slaughter of WW2. Some 60 million dead, 20m of them on the Eastern Front between Russia and Germany. But of course it was exactly the workers who had to do the fighting. whilst their respective national leaders allocated the divisions in their struggle over which parts of the globe they could control.

    Stalin was nasty bastard, but “our” ally, (eventually.) He got at least one thing right when he said that “The victors write the history”.



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  • Katy Cordeth Nov 9, 2014 at 1:20 am

    A friend of mine is a big animal lover. Elephants, rhinoce… nah, I just mean she really loves animals. She buys purple poppies and attaches them to her dogs’ coats to honor all the animals that were killed in conflict

    The husband of my father’s cousin, had been in charge of pit ponies in England, and horses on the battlefield. He used to get very upset about what artillery shells had done to his horses.



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  • I would agree – these tactics were obviously repeated by the Red-Army in WWII – with absolutely devastating casualty rates, but ultimately Stalin’s & Russia’s sacrifice led to Allied victory and maybe we should also remember the huge-cost that Uncle-Joe’s forces paid in refusing to yield to the Nazi assumption of superiority and proving that all human beings are equal when the JSII’s were rolling underneath the Brandenburg Gates in 1945…..Such monumental folly barely 21 years after the first World-war……Such stupidity sadden’s me still…



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  • Hitler had to be stopped. period.

    Indeed he did. Though pacificism should be our default mode, there comes a point, somewhere…

    @MrDArcy

    Lives may well be lost due to our folly in the excercise of righteous warfare. But there is such a thing as this latter. I don’t have to be an idealist to hold this view, merely a betterist…



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  • M27Holts Nov 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Hitler had to be stopped. period.

    It is credibly arguable, that both Hitler and Stalin rose to power, as a result of the devastation and chaos, caused by the incompetent war-mongers of WW1.



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  • M27Holts

    Hitler had to be stopped. period.

    I can only repeat my point that the majority of people (workers) gained absolutely nothing from both WW1 and WW2. Indeed they were the very ones who were forced into losing their lives, on behalf of their various countries.

    Yes Hitler was an odious evil bogeyman, but then so was Stalin, and he was on “our” side. But wars are not caused by evil men. They are caused by the real fight over control of global assets. They are caused by rival capitalist groups with opposing interests slugging it out using the national armed forces to do the job. And who makes up the armed forces ? Well who else but workers ! Certainly during WW2, they had no choice whether or not to fight, they were conscripted, – forced into the armies. There is no doubt they were fed a merry load of nationalist propaganda about ‘democracy’, the ‘motherland’, ‘opposing the fascists’, etc. plus of course God was on their side. How strange then that they were forced into fighting capitalism’s wars ! Evidently the nationalist propaganda was not quite enough for the “ultimate sacrifice”.



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  • I think it is interesting, therefore, that it was the upper classes that had the greatest proportion of dissenters over war with Germany in WW2 and it was decidedly the lower classes that chose voluntarily to fight fascism in Spain four years earlier. Fighting as they did on behalf of communist forces meant Stalin at the time of ww2 was seen as a very suitable ally to the working classes. The scales only fell from their eyes after his death. They felt a great deal of comity with the Soviets at the time.

    Invasion of their country is not dissinteresting to the proles…



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  • But then the USSR was capitalist in all but name. State capitalist. The workers remained enslaved to capital just as strongly in Russia as elsewhere.

    And yes many willing went to fight in Spain, as indeed we see now in Syria. What bloody fools they were / are. But come on Phil, do you really think that their opinions were / are not influenced by the media ? Controlled by whom ?

    The fact remains that most of those who paid the “ultimate sacrifice” were forced into that position.



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  • Phil Rimmer:

    I think it is interesting, therefore, that it was the upper classes that had the greatest proportion of dissenters over war with Germany in WW2 ……

    Of course ! They were the ones with the most to lose ! America didn’t join in till 1942 and Pearl Harbour. Isolationism just wouldn’t play by the rules ! Others would lose their lives. War is very, very expensive, far better to reconcile the differences with diplomatic and political discourse than with all out war.

    And of course many of the German capitalist class had a great admiration of the British Empire, as it then was. IMO they made the mistake of thinking they could get rid of Hitler easily once he had served his purpose. There is no doubt that Hitler had popular support within Germany , from his election in 1933, right up to his death. Any dissent was ruthlessly dealt with.



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  • The workers remained enslaved to capital just as strongly in Russia as elsewhere.

    Then we British proles fooled ourselves about them at the time.

    What lies were we told by the nobs in charge?

    So appeasement would have been your preferred route?

    And when do we get to own our own state? When do we get to defend to the death our families?

    At least we got Beveridge and then the biggest erosion of unmerited power ever.



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  • Phil Rimmer:

    Then we British proles fooled ourselves about them at the time.

    The Russian proles had no more choice about going to war than did their British counterparts.

    What lies were we told by the nobs in charge?

    Oh none at all Phil !

    So appeasement would have been your preferred route?

    No. I would prefer that the workers don’t get involved in their masters’ power struggles.

    And when do we get to own our own state? When do we get to defend to the death our families?

    Is that what you think WW2 was about ? I don’t. 60m dead, don’t forget.

    At least we got Beveridge and then the biggest erosion of unmerited power ever.

    Ah at last the tender heart of the British capitalist class giving us proles “cradle to grave” state care. How nice of them ! How wonderful of them. How unfortunate for them it was going to turn out to be so bloody expensive ! In the good old days of capitalism workers did the decent thing by dying off after a year or two of retiring at 65, even if they reached that age. Now the cheeky bastards are living longer and longer and demanding ever increasing medical and other care which was unthought of in the 1940s.

    But that’s another issue. Wars are not fought to defend democracy or establish welfare states. They are fought for control of real assets and for political control.



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  • No, really, what lies were we told by the nobs in charge? It was a real question demanding a real answer.

    And no, nothing to do with WW2, but when do we get to own our own state? Have we arrived yet? Can we proles choose to take our country to war?

    Are we proles really as empty headed, morally vacuous and disengaged as you suggest?

    How nice of them ! How wonderful of them.

    They owed us and they fucking knew it….

    I would prefer that the workers don’t get involved in their masters’ power struggles.

    Yet how often their needs coincide…



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