Life stances and religious views of Icelanders

The survey results indicate that secular philosophies of life are rapidly gaining ground in Iceland. The status of the Icelandic Evangelical Lutheran state church has probably never been weaker and fewer and fewer Icelanders are in favor of government involvement in religion or belief. The complete results of the survey are posted (in Icelandic) at the bottom of this page.

Lesa

Blasphemy Law Abolished in Iceland!

Dómkirkjan og AlþingiIceland’s parliament agreed today to abolish the blasphemy provision of the Criminal Code. The Pirate Party’s parliamentarians submitted the proposal in January, which received broad support from all other political parties in Parliament and the matter was unanimously supported by the committee examining the proposal. Icelanders have now taken an important step in guaranteeing human rights and joined other nations which respect freedom of speech and expression.

There was also extensive support for the bill among the various organizations consulted by Parliament: in addition to Sidmennt (The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association), the bishop of Iceland, the Icelandic priesthood, the Association of Publishers, PEN Iceland, IMMI (The International Modern Media Institute) an Icelandic based international organization of information and freedom of expression and an atheist group called Vantrú.

The bill is a response to criticism by various international institutions such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe which specifically concluded that countries should abolish the blasphemy provisions in their laws.
Sidmennt has always focused attention on abolishing the blasphemy provision in the Icelandic Criminal Code and has sent parliamentarians memoranda about this in our annual letter to them with suggestions about important issues which promote human rights.

Sidmennt’s comments to Parliament on this bill included the following:

“Often, countries where there is a lack of democracy and freedom are criticized for punishing people for blasphemy even with death sentences. When those countries are criticized, their spokespeople frequently point out, correctly, that similar laws are in force in “Western” democracies. Therefore, it sends a vital message to the rest of the world if Iceland has repealed its blasphemy law. Nations which maintain blasphemy laws with serious consequences should not be able to point to Iceland and say that it has the same kind of law.”

Sidmennt celebrates the fact that parliamentarians from all parties have supported broadening human rights. It should be noted that there are provisions in the Icelandic Criminal Code against hate speech so that protection against that is still guaranteed.

Submitted by Hope Knutsson

News Summary in English about Siðmennt  – June 18, 2015

logo-no-back-faviconSiðmennt is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015 and has hosted several conferences on ethical topics and will continue to throughout the year. We are organizing a gala cultural event/concert/party in early October.

In February, at our Annual General Meeting, Hope Knútsson, one of the founders of Siðmennt, who had been president of Siðmennt for the past 19 years stepped down from that office and Jóhann Björnsson was elected as president for the next 2 years. Jóhann is a philosopher and teacher and is the educational director of our civil confirmation program. Hope continues as a member of the board and coordinator of the civil confirmation program.

Over the past 2 years, Siðmennt has quadrupled in size and now has close to 1300 members. We are dealing with many more projects than before. We have trained more celebrants this spring to meet the fast-growing demand for secular, alternative ceremonies at all of life’s transition points. We now have 25 celebrants. The number of ceremonies conducted by Siðmennt celebrants has increased by 45% just in the last year.

For the first time in our 25 year history, the board has hired a full time staff member, a managing director, Bjarni Jónsson (who had been vice president for the past 5 years) and he will start working September 1st. At the same time, Siðmennt will open an office for the first time, rented from the Icelandic Human Rights Center and in the same building as several other human rights organizations.

Siðmennt started a Facebook page for its members and there is very active discussion and debate there on a daily basis.

Siðmennt will participate for the first time in August in the annual Reykjavik Gay Pride parade which attracts over 80,000 people, which is 25% of the population of Iceland.

Siðmennt continues to provide secular services, to work for separation of church and state, and to be a strong voice for ethical and Humanist issues in Icelandic society.

Hope Knútsson

Sidmennt hosts important conference about dying with dignity

Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015. Many events are scheduled throughout the year. The past year and a half has seen Sidmennt’s membership grow spectacularly from 300 to just under 1200 after the organization was granted equal legal and funding status with religions in May 2013.

Líknardauði_2015_Viðar-Guðmundsson

On January 29th, Sidmennt held an important conference about dying with dignity – euthanasia. In our 25 year history this was likely the most important and relevant meeting on an ethical subject which we have ever hosted. It was very well attended and received enormous media attention during this entire week with almost every talk and call-in show on radio, TV, and news broadcasts devoting air time to it, and articles appeared in every newspaper. The goal of our conference was to open up discussion in Icelandic society on this hitherto taboo topic. People at the conference were very moved and appreciative. The event was video recorded and will be posted on the Net.

First a Siðmennt board member and philosopher discussed the views of a variety of philosophers on the subject. Then 2 women shared their very personal experiences. One woman’s husband who had incurable brain cancer chose to travel to Switzerland and with the help of the Dignitas organization there, ended his life with the support of his family. The other woman, from Holland, told the story of her father’s assisted suicide over a decade ago. He also had incurable brain cancer and was one of the first people to benefit from the euthanasia law there which had just been passed in 2002.

The Sidmennt board members are proud of opening up discussion about this very important and controversial ethical subject. We feel that we have done something valuable for Icelandic society.

Hope Knutsson

President of Sidmennt