For many years, Defence Humanists and Humanists UK have campaigned in objection to the exclusion of humanists and other non-religious representatives at Remembrance ceremonies. In 2018, the argument was won and humanists were invited to participate in the National Service of Remembrance alongside religious groups.

The arguments that were made against having an inclusive remembrance ceremony were universally out of date, unrepresentative, and discriminatory.

We will continue to campaign to make the National Service of Remembrance and other ceremonies as open, inclusive and welcoming as can be.

Non-religious in the armed forces

The number of non-religious armed forces personnel has seen continual increase over the past decade. In addition, while Christianity remains the largest religious category that forces personnel identify with, significant proportions of that total probably identify themselves as such through perceived cultural or familial affiliation rather than because of their personal beliefs.

Internet polls on major army-related websites have noted that fewer than 20% of respondents identified themselves as having a strong affiliation to any religion. The 2018 British Social Attitude Survey indicates that in the general British population, 52% are non-religious.

The role of Defence Humanists

Defence Humanists was established to support the non-religious in the armed forces. Its growth is an indicator of the strength of feeling about this issue among non-religious service personnel. Although a new organisation relative to its religious counterparts, Defence Humanists now numbers over 500 members.

This is very likely an under-representation of its true potential but – even so – Defence Humanists at its current size outnumbers both Sikh and Jewish members of the Armed Forces – both of whom have enjoyed representation at the Cenotaph for many years prior to recognition of humanists in 2018.