Big Week for Atheists in Oxford

February 13, 2010

In a couple of weeks there are two events in Oxford that will be of interest to anyone of an atheist bent or anyone interested in discussions on that kind of thing. First of all, the AHS national convention is one the 27th. The AHS is the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Student Societies (that’s why we shortened it to AHS), which the Humanist Society at the University of Edinburgh helped found back in… 2008, I think. This isn’t open to the general public but if you’re a member of a society that’s part of the AHS, see if you can get along to represent your society. Alternatively if you’re a student of our kind of mindset, get in touch with them via this facebook event. Maybe you might be interested in starting a society at your own university? In any case, it’s always great to meet people from around the country of a similar mindset, and these events are always good fun.

Now the other thing, which seems to be linked to the first, is Think Week. This is a week of free events from the 22nd to the 28th February (apparently that’s called ‘6th Week Hilary’ – weirdos) organised by several non-theistic groups; the Oxford Atheists, Oxford SecSoc (yes they have two), Oxford Skeptics in the Pub, Oxford Humanists and an interesting one called Sea of Faith, which according to the website seeks to “explore and promote religious faith as a human creation.” Cool.

Their week of events looks immense. There are discussions on everything from faith schools to science to poetry and choir recitals to stand up comedy, and Britain’s Best MP Dr Evan Harris will also be making an appearance. You can get in touch with them via this facebook event, or by the website.

So see if you can get along, it promises to be a week you can’t afford to miss.

Telegraph lies again (shock, horror)

April 26, 2009

I know, 2 posts in an hour, tut tut, but this one’s only short.

The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) got some coverage in yesterday’s Torygraph. This is the national group which we helped found in order to share resources and ideas between student groups at universities around the UK.

Now the article deals with an idea we’ve had to try and get atheist activism into schools. That, of course, is where a lot of indoctrination takes place. So as well as springing up some new groups at universities, we’re trying to get some societies started in schools. I’m not sure exactly how effective this is going to be, personally, merely because of the nature of societies at school. At uni they’re very independent, they can get funding, lots of students live in the same area, and of course there’s a bigger catchment group; there’s something like 25,000 students at the UoE, the same can’t be said for any school I know of.

I know, for example, that at my school there weren’t many societies and those that there were were pretty much run by the school. We had 2 charity groups, the SVP and the Friday Club, as well as all the sports teams, a Language Club, an RPG club that folded after a while, a chess club, a computer gaming club, but all of them were run by a member of staff, or at least a sixth former. I think it’ll be much more difficult to get an atheist society running, especially in faith schools where it’d be most useful.

Anywho back to the article. It’s main mistake is that we’re not attacking Religious Education in schools, certainly not in the way the article suggests. I (and I think I speak for many atheists when I say this) don’t have a problem with RE. I hope students learn about lots of religions, in fact as a literature student, being familiar with the Bible is a huge bonus, it’s in everything! What we are opposed to is preaching to students, one sided teaching about religion, moral issues being seen as a purely religious thing, obligatory collective worship, etc.

We’re also not really persuading people to believe in God or using children to attack Christianity. We’re not going into a school, brainwashing a few kids into atheism and then saying “here you go, here’s your society”. They’re coming to us!

Here’s the press release from the AHS with more details.

The AHS Launch

February 24, 2009

I fully intended to write this as soon as I got back from London, but one thing and another have stacked up and I’m doing this to take a break from essaying. It’s a relief to write my own opinion on something I care about instead of just the opinion that will get me marks on something boring.

So on Thursday, Andre and I travelled down to London to represent the Humanist Society at the official launch of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies at Conway Hall, home of the Ethical Society. The AHS is the umbrella union we were talking about creating a year ago in order to share ideas and resources with all the other irreligious societies around the UK. We held the inaugural conference in David Hume Tower over the summer, and Stuart and Greg attended the second conference in Leeds. It was a superb venue, and one that the AHS will be able to use again for other big events in the future.

The launch itself was attended by such prominent figures such as Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, Polly Toynbee and Maryam Namazie. I already had Dawkins sign my copy of Unweaving the Rainbow at the Edinburgh Science Festival last year, but that’s who most of the others were really excited about. Instead I got a nice message in my copy of AC Grayling’s Against All Gods.

Each of the speakers gave really supportive messages of the idea for the AHS and encouraged us to work as an ideas factory for the movement as a whole. Dawkins also spoke about how evangelical religious organisations did not belong on university campuses as they poisoned minds and disrupted education. Perhaps more importantly, he said that the AHS would be well place to apply for funding from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Apparently this was a particularly difficult charity to set up, and at one point he needed to clarify to the government what benefits science and reason bring to society, as opposed to religious groups which have no problem.

In any case it was good to finally meet the people I’ve been corresponding with over the internet for some time. We’re thinking the next conference should be in Warwick, but we’ll see. Keep your eyes peeled for media coverage (although a lot of it has already passed – we got a 2 page spread in the Independent and a fair bit of coverage on BBC Radio). More information at:

Be prepared for another post soon as I’ll crave procrastination and this is at least mildly useful.