Back on 8 November 2007 I was pleased to speak at a seminar hosted by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce) on the question "Does a modern, plural society require a neutral state?" It was to launch a very useful piece of work by the Humanist Philosophers' Group making the argument for a 'yes' to that one. I find myself largely agreeing with their booklet, which acknowledges the problem with 'neutrality' incidentally. Of course I'd want to supplement what they have to say from a theological perspective, and indeed did so.
My short speech is now up on Ekklesia. A podcast of the event is also due on The Times newspaper website in the near future, I'm told. There were some lively questions, and all told it was a model of constructive discussion on religion and secularity: not ducking tough issues, but seeking ways forward together, rather than simply a stand-off. The RSA blurb was as follows:
A panel of speakers to include David Papineau, Professor of Philosophy of Science, Kings College London, Simon Barrow, Co-Director of Ekklesia and Indarjit Singh, Director of the Network of Sikh organisations , debate a new pamphlet from the British Humanist Association (logo pictured) on The Case for Secularism: a neutral state in an open society. Chaired by Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and broadcaster