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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Claire Rayner: a friend to gay people, a friend to secular humanism

We’re sorry to hear today of the death of Claire Rayner. She was a friend to gay people and a friend to secular humanism.

Rayner died at the age of 79, and, she told relatives that she wanted her last words to be, “Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and bloody haunt him.”

Claire Rayner
She had intestinal surgery in May, and has been ill since then. She died in a hospital near her London home.

Rayner has praised our sister publication, Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine, and has often been in contact often with members of our parent organisation, the Pink Triangle Trust.

Of G&LH’s return as an online publication in 2008, Rayner said:

Great to see you’re back. This beats any other resurrection (Lazarus? Eat your heart out!) about which you may have read in the Bible – which of course, sensible atheists read from time to time so that they can stop believers in their tracks with apposite quotations. What with this and the emblazoned bendy buses all over London, I begin to think we may be getting somewhere – and the other indication is the growth of religious fundamentalism. It shows the religionists are running scared!

Here’s to happy godless future where people matter more than popes and their like. Every power to your elbows!

“In 1996,” says the BBC website, “she was awarded the OBE for ‘services to women’s issues and health issues’.

“She was involved with 50 charities, and was a member of the Prime Minister’s Commission on Nursing and the last government’s Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly.”

Rayner was also an honorary associate of the National Secular Society and a vice-president and former president (1999–2004) of the British Humanist Association.

On its website, the BHA quotes Rayner as having said, “I was a humanist without knowing it for many years before I found the Association – when I did, it was like finding a sort of home. Here were people with a range of views that matched mine, who shared my respect for life in all its forms and who, above all, did not in any way try to bully other people to follow their beliefs.”

Another quotation the BHA cites is: “You think for yourself, and work out your own morality . . . I’m fascinated by the idea of trying to find your own way through the world with your own maps rather than someone else’s . . . All I know is there is no God in my universe. I’ve looked and looked, and there ain’t no God there. But I don’t want to be a dogmatic atheist. I like mythology, and a life without stories doesn’t bear thinking about, just let us not have supernatural beings. What is natural is awe-full enough. We don’t need a First Cause.”

Rayner, agony aunt to many, friend to many more, will be missed in many sections of British society. You’ll find tributes today wherever you look, no doubt, and we think they’re well deserved.


Anonymous said...

I was privileged to meet Claire on several occasions, notably at a GALHA Conway Hall meeting and a lunch at which she was the guest-of-honour.

Here is her typically feisty assessment of the Pope:

"I have no language with which to adequately describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger, AKA the Pope. In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature. His views are so repellant and so disgusting to the rest of us that the only thing to do is to get rid of him."

Andy Armitage said...

Thanks for sharing that, Anon. Lovely quote. And I suspect it was a privilege indeed to meet the lady.