Humanist Society Spring Program

Yesterday was the Refresher’s Fair, where each society sets up a stall, tells people what they do, and hope to attract new members. Thursdays are my stupid timetable days where I have classes at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, with one hour gaps between each of them, so I was darting in and out all day really. It was great to see so many societies in action; the tango soc gave a few demonstrations throughout the day, and there were quite a lot of societies there that I didn’t really know very much about, like Capoeira (a type of Brazilian martial art), and the Revelation Rock Gospel Choir, which we were sitting right opposite. The PhilSoc stall was also quite interesting, being made up of a woman knitting, a man drinking cans of Strongbow at midday, and a very scary teddy bear with a strange affinity for a bottle of Bitter and Twisted. They did have some flyers at some point as well, or so I’m told.

The fair was held in the Chaplaincy and Potterow, and all the societies were just placed in alphabetical order, rather than in categories like when it was at the Pleasance in September. This meant we weren’t very close to any of the religious societies, which is a shame because we didn’t have nearly as many ‘inter-faith’ (I use inverted commas there because Humanism really isn’t a faith, but a better term has yet to be coined) discussions as we did in September’s Fresher’s Fair and Chaplaincy Fair, which were very interesting.

I’m also quite disappointed at the lack of inter-faith events at the university. Although we only fairly recently had the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Week, very few of the events then were particularly suitable for a humanist audience, so most of us largely steered clear, and the Edinburgh University Student Festival has a grand total of zero religious events. The Jewish and Islamic Societies don’t seem to be doing anything anymore (indeed
the Islamic Society didn’t even have a stall at the Fair – they didn’t at the Chaplaincy Fair either but that was during Ramadan), and the Catholic Union’s events and meetings are separated away from everyone else in their own little Chaplaincy in George Square, which isn’t exactly very social, in my opinion.

Anyway I think I should probably get to the point. We had a decent number of ‘religious apologists’ as Dawkins would probably call them, who didn’t necessarily believe in any particular deity, but thought our society was just god bashing all the time. It’s simply not true. Although a lot of our own events do have religion as their focus, we’ve also been attempting to host talks on other topics of interest to humanists such as language separating us from other animals (we have a large number of linguists among us), with limited success, and we have our regular Humanist Blood Drive coming up on the 1st February (to which anyone is welcome), as well as a panel discussion on Humanist Ethics in the 21st Century. We’re also collaborating much more closely with the Humanist Society of Scotland and the Humanist Academy, as well as the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

But that aside, it should be noted that if any local religious church, association or society, inside or outside the university, attempts to spread their illogical and irrational doctrines to others, then we’ll be there to challenge it. We wouldn’t be very good humanists if we weren’t, and we encourage those same religious societies to do the same. We have a series of 3 documentaries coming up later in the semester entitled “God’s Warriors”, by CNN, each focusing on Christianity, Judaism and Islam, respectively. We intend to invite moderates from each of these three religions along for our discussion afterwards, to tell us where the documentaries have gone wrong, but seeing as the societies are so inactive, we may be forced to go outside the university and seek experts there.


4 Responses to Humanist Society Spring Program

  1. Clare says:

    Aha! Roger corrected me when I used the expression ‘inter-faith’ yesterday and proposed instead ‘inter-belief’. I agree though that there’s been a disappointing lack of opportunity for interaction with the religious societies at the university.

  2. grammarking says:

    Excellent! I’ll use that in future. Now we should try and spread the term around so it becomes the norm.

  3. I am disappointed that you are disappointed about the lack of events for Humanists during Inter-Faith Week. I hope you appreciate that Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association and Inter-Faith Week directs a large amount of its energies toward those of religious communities to encourage dialogue, understanding and co-operation. You will hopefully be pleased to hear that there was a roundtable event during IFW that had Humanist particpation along with Christians, Jews, Buddhist and Bahai’s.

    We have excellent relations with the Humanist Society of Scotland and have partnered on events in the Festival. For the 18 years of our existence events have been open to all and we openly welcome dialogue and friendship with Humanists and any ‘Belief’.

    On the matter of the University I am confident that Di Williams and her team at the Chaplaincy Centre are very keen indeed to support the development of inter-faith engagement and encounter, please contact her. EIFA can also be called upon to support this.

    On a final note, EIFA have a boardgame – ‘The Diversity Game’ which equally includes Humanism along with the world’s religions. Perhaps you and others could host a game session at the Chaplaincy Centre or New College or anywhere in the University. We will happily lend you the box.

    Happy to hear from you anytime and available to work with you.

    May Peace Prevail on Earth

    Victor Spence
    General Secretary of The Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association
    Secretary to the Conference of Edinburgh’s Religious Leaders

  4. grammarking says:

    The main thrust of my post was not a criticism of EIFW and I do appreciate that the IFW is largely directed towards religious communities. I was mainly referring to the lack of events at the University, but my apologies if you feel what I said was undue.

    Although I know the Diversity Game was open to me as a Humanist, I’m fairly sure the roundtable event that you speak of was not. You’ll have to forgive me because I don’t have a copy of the leaflet in front of me, but from what I remember that particular event was by invitation only, which leaves it inaccessible to me as a non-invited person, but I am glad that there was humanist representation present. I also felt that the topic (I believe it was something like ‘to what extent should religion seek to impose its views on society?’) is rather 1-dimensional for a humanist; the answer is that it shouldn’t at all. I would be interested in any information about the outcome of that discussion, if it’s available.

    I will gladly pass your suggestion about the Diversity Game to the rest of the Student Humanist Society during our meeting tomorrow, and if we add it to our already large list of events this semester, I’m sure we’ll be in touch. Thanks for the offer. Similarly if you or anyone else at EIFA are interested in any of our events, you can find details on our website,

    Thanks for your comment.

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