I have said that the starting point for secular humanism is the rejection of religious belief, and that is where I shall start. I shall look fi rst, very briefl y, at the traditional classic arguments for the existence of a god. There is an enormous literature dealing with them, and what I have to say will be perfunctory and will not add anything new, but it is an integral part of my case for humanism and I need to say it. Many modern religious believers and many theologians tend to dismiss these traditional arguments. Of course, they say, no one now relies on them; it is accepted that religious belief cannot be based simply on rational argument, and has to be understood in quite different terms. I shall be looking later at these alternative readings of religious belief, and I shall suggest that no version of religious commitment deserves to be taken seriously or to be recognised as distinctively and identifi ably religious unless it involves at least some element of factual beliefs supported by reason and evidence. I am also inclined to think that such arguments play more of a role in the religious thinking of ordinary people than trendy theologians recognise. My mother, who became rather religious in the last years of her life, loved feeding the birds in her garden, and she used to look at them with admiration and say to me, ‘I know you don’t agree with me, but there must be something that started it all.’ Her remark is a sort of cross between what we shall now

consider under the labels of ‘the fi rst cause argument’ and ‘the argument from design’, and I suspect that ideas of this kind play a signifi cant part in the thinking of many believers.