IMage: Atheism UK

AC Grayling, the newly elected Honorary President of Atheism UK, will be giving a talk on ‘Proving Atheism’ at Conway Hall, London, on Tuesday 29th November 2022 at 19:30. Tickets can be purchased here, or by putting ‘Proving Atheism’ into Eventbrite.

Atheism UK, which is staging this event, was set up in 2009 by some activists who were frustrated by the failure of existing non-believer organisations to effectively challenge religious bodies, which enjoy many privileges in the UK. To be clear, most of us also belong to the National Secular Society and Humanists UK and consider them to do good work – just not rapidly enough! In fact, that was one reason, apart from his eminence, that we were so pleased when Grayling accepted the invitation to be our Honorary President: he is also an Honorary Associate of the NSS and a Vice President of HUK, and we are hoping for improved co-operation.

Our position is that, since we are all born without language, we cannot possibly be aware of any god at birth. The concept of god cannot be communicated to us before we can speak, and therefore, first, religions have to be taught and, second, we are all born atheists (without belief in a god). Atheism is our birthright. Unfortunately, it is often stolen from us later in life by those who wish to control us and surf on our incomes.

I am pondering what Grayling might be going to say for two reasons. Firstly, for many years he avoided describing himself publicly as ‘an atheist’. Many of us have been there. My own efforts at publishing books in this subject area some years ago went out under the pseudonym ‘Elliot George’. This is a reversal of George Eliot, the pen-name of Mary Evans.

Why were we historically shy about declaring our atheism? I suspect it was because nobody wants to rock the boat of society; no-one wants to identify themselves as a leper. And that is what it has been like throughout much of my life. I remember my mother advising me not to talk about religion or politics at the dinner table in order to keep the discourse congenial.

Not any more, though. Faithlessness is now mainstream. Several polls have recently revealed the UK to have a small majority of ‘nones’: people with no religious faith. The trajectory is towards normalising non-belief. Atheism is losing the taint of being a ‘dirty word’ – as it should.

The other reason I am wondering what Grayling might be going to say is because of the title of his talk. It contains the word ‘proving’. Can that be done for an absence of theism?

AC Grayling will be delivering the same presentation at the Darwin Day Celebration organised by Greater Manchester Humanists in association with Northern Atheists, on 10th February 2023 in the Friends’ Meeting House, 6 Mount St, Manchester, M2 5NS.

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