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Humanists and Non-Religious in Defence

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The Humanist and Non-Religious in Defence (HAND) network exists primarily to articulate the non-religious view in the UK Ministry of Defence in support of both non-religious and humanist service personnel and defence civil servants.[1] The HAND senior champion is RAF Air Vice-Marshal Richard Maddison OBE. By ensuring their voice is heard and their belief needs met, their work directly contributes towards the moral component of fighting power, which in turn underpins our combat effectiveness. Over time, there has been a dramatic decline in the proportion of people who identify with Christianity along with a substantial increase in those with no religious affiliation, and a steady increase in those belonging to non-Christian faiths.[2] In light of these changing demographics in wider society, including the predominantly non-religious perspective of the Armed Forces’ primary recruiting base - young people, the non-religious case strengthens day-by-day. To ensure they as an organisation continue to appropriately represent the breadth of the society we exist to defend, helping UK Defence change and modernise is not only morally right, but it is of strategic importance if they are to continue to remain in touch with current and future generations. HAND's 2021-2022 strategy aimed to support defence in its transformation towards a more representative organisation whilst concurrently enhancing the lived experience for our serving personnel, civil servants, veterans and all the unsung family members who support us in the background.

The 2021-2022 strategy set out to achieve three core aims:

1. Raise the profile of HAND.

2. Grow and nurture our membership base.

3. Deliver positive and modern change.

HAND Strategy Aim 1 - Raise the profile of non-religious perspectives and humanism across the MOD. In many respects, they are speaking for the unrepresented majority – particularly among younger members of Defence – and they should know that their thoughts and beliefs have a place and are welcome.

HAND Strategy Aim 2 - Grow and nurture our membership base which in turn will contribute to their credibility and gravitas in the eyes of senior MOD leadership and the Defence Board. In reinforcing the strength of the organisation, they counter views that represent a niche of the Defence community and that their views, suggestions and concerns are valid, widely felt and need to be addressed.

HAND Strategy Aim 3 - Deliver positive and modern change. There are is a desire to consider change by some of the senior leadership in Defence, such as in the provision of pastoral support, but they know that the easiest thing to do is to maintain the status quo. HAND continues to engage widely and with conviction that the changes they want are justified and will lead to an improved Defence. Areas such as non-religious pastoral provision and support for celebrants are important test cases of a change in Defence.

HAND aims to provide support and assistance to like-minded personnel across Defence, and to help deliver change to improve it for the next generation. These ambitions are shared with the Co-Chairs Royal Navy Officer Charlie Jones and British Army Officer Neil Weddell who, along with all the members of the committee, will continue to volunteer in their spare time, to help turn HAND’s 2021-3023 strategy into a reality.


  1. Ministry of Defence (2022) National statistics UK armed forces biannual diversity statistics: 1 April 2022 Published 30 June 2022. Website: [Accessed 13/08/2022]
  2. BSA (2019) NatCen. Social Research that works for society. British Social Attitudes 36. Website: [Accessed: 13/08/2022].

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