Sunday, 1 May 2016


At the April Manchester meeting (after the AGM) Elio Pennisi delivered an interesting brief on culture and how this interfaces with belief.  

Elio touched upon the anthropological concept of culture which argues that simple societies without knowledge and reason had a large proportion of believers.  This, Elio argued, explained why religion was so prevalent during the Middle Ages and how the number of religious followers has reduced since the Enlightenment.

Thereafter followed some interesting discussions in smaller groups on elements of culture.  The following observations were made; that language serves as a cultural determinant; that we can belong to a number of sub-cultures at the same time (music, work, hobbies); that the term “race” is questionable given the level of interbreeding over millennia; that culture is a phenomenon amongst primates and this develops because primates see themselves as superior, and in order to feel this way need to distinguish themselves from other groups.  Elio concluded by asking those present to complete a questionnaire.  

Elio has subsequently collated and analysed this data and reports that those partaking in the questionnaire considered the following to be the determinants of culture :

1. Education in Humanities and Social Science, 
2. Ethnicity, language and kinship, 
3. Education in scientific disciplines, 
4. Moral belief systems, and 
5. Arts (music, theatre, cinema, painting, sculpture…).   


On 20th April Narendra Ghulati gave Stockport Humanists a personal view of Hinduism. It is a complicated religion with a large number of gods. He considers it is a way of life rather than a religion.

God has created us all and we are in his image. The principal deities are: Vishnu, the Creator; Shiva, the destroyer; and Bramha the supreme god giving direction and guidance. Different people worship different gods, but each person worships only one of the gods so the religion can be regarded as monotheistic. Hindu Temples concentrate on one deity. There is also a Devil god with nine lives.

Many stories in the Hindu Religion predate, but are similar to those in other religions. E.g. populating the world after a deluge.

Hindus are born with religion and believe you have a set number of breaths before you die. They believe in reincarnation and that everyone has to go through different animal stages before becoming human. The present life is a result of previous Karma. On death, only the body dies and the soul (Atman) escapes into another body.

There are a lot of gods for Hindus to believe in but Narendra says that you have to follow life around as what you want to believe yourself. One complication for the religion is that you can make your beliefs as you go along. Some Hindus do not believe in the images, just in the almighty god.

Narendra does not go to temple on a regular basis because he does not believe in idol worship. But he respects other sects.

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, celebrates the return of Rama from a 14 year exile. In Manchester it is celebrated in Platt Fields and Albert Square.

Narendra went on to discuss the caste system. The Brahmins are a priestly caste involved in imparting knowledge. There is also a warrior caste (Kshatriyas); a merchant caste (Vaisyas); and a labour caste (Shudras), the lowest of whom are the so-called untouchables. As a trader, Narendra would not be allowed to teach as this is reserved for Brahmins. However if a Brahmin wished to be trader he would be allowed and he would still retain his Brahmin status. Intermarriage between the castes used to be strictly forbidden, but travel is making the system weaker. Although when Hindus climb the ladder through education they cannot rid themselves of the label of their caste. 

Hindus have a large number of festivals. There is usually something most weeks, sometimes including fasting. Which you are involved with depends on your beliefs. Marriages are also performed with religious ceremony.

There are 16 ceremonies each person is supposed to be involved in before they die. These include: before conception, birth, and rites of passage. 

Many within Hinduism do not believe in God, but when tragedy happens most people turn to God. 
There is eternal guidance for morality, but no written down Commandments. Buddhism and Jainism are branches of Hinduism.