Andrew Copson, who runs the British Humanist Association, is a third generation post-Christian. “I grew up in a post-religious society in the Midlands. I went to an entirely secular primary school and secondary school; the popular culture I imbibed was things like Star Trek. I read fantasy and science fiction. I studied classics at university and some modern history.”
He was talking at a small conference on the study of non-religion and secularity last week. Sociologists and anthropologists have done a great deal of research on different forms of belief. But unbelief, or at least a life untouched in any serious sense by organised religion, is only just coming into scope for this kind of social scientific inquiry.
Copson had a varied intellectual and social experience when he was growing up, but he says: “What didn’t feature in any way in my account was religion. What’s not in any sense contributed to making me what I am is religion, and I think that story is increasingly typical of non-religious people.”
So it was quite a shock to him to move to south London and discover a place where a great many of the social services were provided with or through religious bodies.