Vapaa-ajattelijain Liitto ry

Uskonnottomien etu-, oikeusturva- ja kulttuurijärjestö

Freethinkers in Finland
Esa Ylikoski / 16.2.2020
We have worked together with Nordic humanist organizations (Denmark, Finland, Island, Norway, Sweden) and published together Nordic Humanist Manifest. We are members of Humanists International (HI) and European Humanist Federation (EHF).

The Union of Freethinkers of Finland (est. 1937) defend and promote human rights, equality as to religion or belief (new Law of Equality) and freedom of expression, religion and belief. Also we work for secular culture and ceremonies and we promote science based, rational and critical worldview and humanistic ethics.

There are still two state churches in Finland: Evangelical Lutheran with population 68,6 % and orthodox with about 1 % of Finns. About 28 % of population have no formal religious membership. In reality most Finnish people are quite secular and few people attend church services.

Our internet service LeaveChurch (www.eroakirkosta.fi) was used by 52 000 persons in the year 2019, and during the last ten years 735 000 persons have used it when leaving church membership. Membership rate of Church in Finland 31.12.2019 was 68,6 %. Rate of christening ceremony for babies was about 63 %. More than 60 % of new weddings were held without religious ceremony.

After citizen initiative and discussion the Parliament of Finland decided to approve new equal and gender neutral law of marriage in 2015, although the state churches and other churches opposed the proposal of the new law. Evangelical Lutheran Church is divided and quarreling in the question about marriage between male couples and female couples.

The religious oath for witness and justicers were rescinded in courts of Finland, and now there is only a non-religious, neutral oath or vow or affirmation. There is a religious oath still for state officials and ministers and in army. We try to change it, because having to choose publicly between religious and non-religious oath is not ok, if we think about right of personal privacy concerning religion or belief.

Religious education is no longer mentioned in the Law of early childhood education. Now we try to get this to the practice in everywhere in Finland. Same challenges we have in schools. We try to get religious ceremonies out off the annual program of schools.

If there still are those ceremonies during school day program, we also try to get better alternative program during them. The main line is not a nice alternative program during religious ceremony, but to stop the old tradition to arrange religious services during school day. European Court of Human Right has decided, that there is the right of personal privacy concerning religion or belief, but this is not yet in practice and truth in Finland, because in this unofficial curriculum.

Religions have each separate subject in school and we have also secular life stance knowledge education (or secular ethics) (elämänkatsomustieto, ET) for non-religious. We demand to strengthen ET in schools, and we also demand to open it for all pupils so that all families and students can choose between religion or ET in school. Basic demand is to get religion out off schools as a subject (first off maybe first 4 years).

Unfortunately there still exist in Finnish Crime Law the punishment of blasphemy. It’s a shame, also because it gives weapons to defend punishments also to rulers of countries which have much harder punishments for blasphemy than there are in Finland. We have made initiatives to change the law.

Separate changes are in general difficult to achieve, but connected to larger changes it could be realistic, I hope. That has been our tactic in some small reforms dealing with the equality and rights of non-religious people or stop certain privileges of Church. We have started together with Humanist Union to arrange non-confessional program at same time than church service before Parliament opening ceremony.

As to the work of our organization, co-operation between Humanist Union and Union of Freethinkers in Finland has been developed successfully, and we gave together some initiatives to parliament and government. Unfortunately our proposals for the program of new government could not be seen after election in the program of the new cabinet.

Young participants from Prometheus-camp youth organization Protu (www.protu.fi) arranges protu-camps for about 1000 young people this year in Finland.

The number of non-religious ceremonies have arranged by Pro-Ceremonies (www.pro-seremoniat.fi). Also some of our local organizations help families to get program to their non-religious ceremonies. Families arrange non-religious ceremonies of fests mostly on their own way. Ten local organizations of Freethinkers maintain their own graveyard.

We have worked together with Nordic humanist organizations (Denmark, Finland, Island, Norway, Sweden) and published together Nordic Humanist Manifest. We are members of Humanists International (HI) and European Humanist Federation (EHF). We have also co-operation with Rationalist International and other secular organization and persons.

Our Magazine, Vapaa Ajattelija (Free Thinker) promotes rationalism, humanism, secularism, atheism, free and critical thinking and science based worldview. Our website helps us all in the same work (http://vapaa-ajattelijat.fi/). We have activities, discussions, media service. Freethinkers of Finland have 20 local/areal organizations and about 1400 members.

Last year in May we had an activity seminar in Tampere for activists of 20 local or areal organizations of Freethinkers in Finland. Next June we have our 3 years National Congress in Jyväskylä. We have started to support atheist and ex-muslim refugees and immigrants in Finland and started discussion against radicalism in suburbs.

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