Oxford University students have been involved in the creation of a new nationwide secular society. The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies was launched on Monday.
The launch, in central London, was by Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor A.C. Grayling and Polly Toynbee.
AHS was co-founded by two Oxford Secular Society’s alumni. Ex-presidents Alex Gibson and Chloë Clifford-Frith. They were assisted by students from ten other universities across the UK.
Norman Ralph, President of AHS, said, “Humanity should take responsibility for its flaws, and also take credit for its successes, not abscond responsibility to an imaginary father figure. We’re about celebrating, learning and making the most of the one life we have.”
AHS intends to support established and newly formed atheist, humanist and secular groups and make sure their needs are being addressed on a national and international level.
It aims to promote non-religious points of view in universities and increase the dialogue between religious and non-religious student groups. On a wider scale, it hopes to broaden the public’s appreciation of science.
A.C. Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College praised the launch of AHS. He said, “it is great to know that the AHS will be standing up against religious privilege and discrimination.”
Professor Richard Dawkins, supported the founding of AHS to support, “beliefs that are unsupported, bigoted or demand special privileges should always be challenged. No opinion should be protected from criticism simply by the virtue of being religiously held.”
Several students have expressed support for the establishment of AHS.
George Lewis, a St John’s first-year said, “If atheists think that they need an organisation, why shouldn’t they? There’s already a system for Christian Union’s to work together across Universities, so I’m sure that it’s fine for a secularist equivalent to be established.”
Katy McDermott, a Worcester student said, “It’s a good idea to make sure everyone’s views are considered but as a Christian I would appreciate it if atheists and humanists would be more co-operative with Christian views.”
Others criticised AHS. Michael O’Sullivan, a first-year, condemned AHS as unnecessary. He said, “Do you really think that atheists and secularists need a ‘voice’ in an already overtly secular western society today…”
He added, “I thought that the whole definition of atheism was simply a belief in nothing rather than something. What is the need to institutionalize it, other than to interfere with and make increasingly difficult the lives of those who have a faith and who believe in an underlying objective morality?”