Atheist federation launched

News image
A national student body of atheists and secularists will be formally launched today.

The organisation - the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) – was established to counter the "prejudice and discrimination" atheists groups claim to have experienced across the country when establishing atheist groups.

Norman Ralph, president of the federation as well as Leeds Atheist Society (LAS), told it would help new groups overcome the obstacles faced when he established his local organisation.

"We've been undergoing what I would call prejudicial treatment for three years – since we've been in existence," he said.

"[LAS] took a year to set up because of the blocks put on us by the Christian and Islamic groups. They said we would cause racial and religious hatred by existing, and that our goals were negative by definition and shouldn't be accepted.

"Since then we've had constant issues with trying to get events organised because they say the content might cause offence to some members of the student union. When we put banner or posters up they get defaced."

The national federation, which will be launched in central London today with addresses of support from prominent atheists Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor A C Grayling and Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.

It will aim to provide a network, resources and a joint platform for the various student atheist societies.

"I am honoured to be present at the birth of this new movement," Ms Toynbee said.

"We need to oppose zealotry and fanaticism of all sorts by promoting the positive and liberating case for believing that life on earth is precious because the here and now is all there is and that our destiny is in our own hands."

Prof Dawkins added: "Why is belief in a higher power an indication of greater moral fortitude, character and acumen? The AHS says publicly that it isn't; on the contrary, beliefs that are unsupported, bigoted or demand special privileges should always be challenged.

"No opinion should be protected from criticism simply by virtue of being religiously held."

The launch comes at a time of unparalleled activity for secular groups in Britain. A recent campaign to put atheist adverts on bendy-buses in London became so successful it was expanded across the country.

An attempt to have Advertising Standards ban the advert was rejected by the watchdog, but religious groups responded by launching their own series of adverts.

There have also been calls for Radio 4 to reconsider its Thought for the Day slot on the Today programme, which is always delivered by a religious figure.
© Adfero Ltd
19 February 2009 01:00 GMT

More National News

News image
Turkey bombs Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, reports claim
Turkish fighter jets have bombed Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq, reports clai...
21 May 2010 17:00 GMT
News image
July 7th coroner to investigate role of police and MI5
The coroner charged with conducting the inquest into the deaths of 52 people killed i...
21 May 2010 16:00 GMT
News image
US Senate approves bill to overhaul Wall Street regulations
The US Senate has passed a bill allowing the most significant reforms to the country'...
21 May 2010 15:00 GMT
News image
North Korea says peninsula entering 'phase of war'
North Korea has warned a western-backed report blaming it for the sinking of a South ...
21 May 2010 14:00 GMT

Most Read Today

Content updated: 25/04/2019 21:02


Tell Us Your View

Seen or know something you want to tell us about? Get in touch with us here.