Even though Norway’s population is only slightly smaller than Singapore’s, the Human-Etisk Forbund, or the Norwegian Humanist Association, is one of the largest secular humanist associations in the world with over 80,000 members! They were founded in 1956, nine years before Singapore’s independence. Over the years, they grew rapidly and played host to the World Humanist Congress three times in 1962, 1986 and 2011.
On June 5, 2015, we spent an enlightening afternoon with HEF representatives at the The Public House. They shared with us their insights on and experiences on establishing and developing a thriving Humanist community in Norway. Our fellow Norwegian counterparts painted us a picture of a society much like ours, a nation that is mostly secular but has a strong tradition of religion and faith. We also shared with them our situation in Singapore, and the challenges we faced.
During the gathering, we learnt more about their history, how they were funded, their services, status of teachers and their aboriginal people (Sami), and the relationship between religion and politics in their home country. We also learnt that Norway has no capital punishment, and that church taxes exist. For example, Norwegian citizens’ tax funds are given to the Protestant Church until one registers as a member of another religious group, or as a member of the Humanist association.