Monday, May 11, 2009

Coverage of atheist initiatives in press depressingly familiar - AHS

source: highlights comments
Coverage of atheist initiatives in press depressingly familiar
Sunday, April 26th, 2009 | AHS

The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies - main website.

The AHS will be seeking corrections from the Sunday Telegraph (see below) after the paper misrepresented the AHS’ new schools initiative, which encompasses fostering interfaith events, scientific and religious educational activities and charity work, as a cause for anxiety among parents and militant.

The AHS is disappointed that the paper chose to twist information as far as possible to create a negative, sensationalist message out of a positive development for educational provision in schools.

The article, which is topped by a photograph of Richard Dawkins, appearing to smile darkly to himself, has the subheading ‘Atheists are targeting schools in a campaign designed to challenge Christian societies, collective worship and religious education.’

The AHS does not and would never seek to challenge religious education in the manner that article goes on to suggest. The AHS strongly believes in the importance of a balanced, impartial and full religious education and would support the introduction of a national RE curriculum to ensure standards are met. This is not made clear.

The AHS feels that the tone maintained throughout the article was intended to induce a knee-jerk, reactionary response from its readers, presenting schools as a battlefield with both Christianity and atheism victims of simple polarisation as ‘fundamentalist doctrine’ versus atheists as “increasingly militant in their desperate attempts to stamp out faith.” - a quote chosen from the Christian Institute which as an organisation believes that homosexuality can be cured and as such is unlikely to represent most Christians.

Both the AHS and Camp Quest – the UK’s first summer camp for children who don’t believe in a god – have been selectively misrepresented with references to our educational (and interfaith – AHS) goals removed. In brief, here is a summary of the purpose of helping students found their own atheist, humanist and secularist groups:

* To teach students how to debate and create dialogue between school faith groups.
* Provide the school with fun and educational events and activities, including two student-led courses: ‘Perspectives’ in which a speaker from a faith group gives a talk followed by Q&A, and our ‘One Life’ course, which considers moral and ethical issues without god. Many events will also support the scientific curriculum.
* Encourage charity volunteering.
* Give students the experience of running a group and managing events.
* Show students that it’s ok not to believe in god and encourage critical thinking.
* Bring out issues concerning religious privilege in schools such as collective worship and incomplete or biased religious education.

An AHS spokesperson said ‘this article is quite typical of the coverage that atheism gets in the press - regardless of what we do, no matter how public spirited, charitable or helpful. The AHS hopes that by drawing attention to this we can set aside caricatures of both sides and encourage more meaningful debate to take place in the public sphere.’

The AHS has already been approached by a number of schools who would like to take part in their first schools conference in June at Warwick University. If you would like to get involved, please contact

Find out more:

The Telegraph article reproduced in full:-

Atheists target UK schools

Atheists are targeting schools in a campaign designed to challenge Christian societies, collective worship and religious education.

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