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7th World Atheist Conference
A Report on the Seventh World Atheist Conference
THEME: "March of Atheism"
Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, India, January 5-7, 2009
"Atheism is a global force. The
march towards a post religious society has begun. The bonds of religion are
loosened. People are getting out of the shackles of superstition. The spread of
education, awareness and enlightenment made people realize that they are the
masters. God is human imagination. The spread of science and scientific outlook
heralded the Modern era. Atheism is a way of life. It touches all aspects of
life. Theism is imaginary god-centered whereas as atheism is based of reality
and it is human-centered. Welfare of the human being is the measure of every
thing. Atheism is always progressive. It is not enough if religion and State is
separated. Religion and education must be separated. Religion and culture must
be separated", stated Mrs. Mythri, Chairperson of Atheist Centre in her welcome
address at the Seventh World Atheist Conference at Vijayawada on January 5,
Dr. Vijayam, Executive Director
of Atheist Centre elaborated on the theme of the Conference, ĎThe March of
Atheismí. He stated that, "Atheism and Humanism came to the fore with the dawn
of nation states and the demand for separation of state and the church. The
March of Atheism is clear and evident. The emergence of secular state and
constitutional guarantees for the freedom of conscience was a step further. But
it is not enough, if the constitutions guarantee freedom of religion. What we
need today is freedom from religion and its exploitation. The persecution of
atheism or discrimination of atheists in any form is incompatible with
democracy. Democracies must strengthen the secular ramparts we guard."
In his Presidential Address, Mr.
Levi Fragell, Former President IHEU & Norwegian Humanist Leader highlighted
that, "Indiaís philosophical and cultural background suggests stronger
potential for a radical humanism here than what can be found elsewhere. In fact
India has an agnostic and atheistic philosophical tradition, hundred and
thousands of years before other parts of the world. Stating that religions
exploit the masses through falsification of facts and claiming that they have
the truth thereby spread ignorance and blind faith through fear."
Dr. P.M. Bhargava, Former Vice
Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, Govt. of India and Founder Director,
CCMB, in his inaugural address stressed that "Future is important for those who
believe in science. But people who believe in religion like to cling on to the
past and defend their blind faith vehemently with emotion, wherein there is no
place for reason. Religious institutions have always hampered scientific
research. Taking the case of cloning and stem cell research, it received strong
opposition from the church. The scientific progress is dynamic and is not
static like that of religions which harp on age old belief systems. Hence there
is a great need to strengthen scientific outlook among the younger generations
and also to promote popular science."
A 200 page Conference Souvenir
containing articles written by eminent atheists, humanists, rationalists and
free thinkers was released by Mr. Jim Herrick, Editor, Humanist , U.K. Dr. K.
Veeramani, Chancellor, Periyar Maniammai University & President , Dravidar
Kazgham, Tamil Nadu released a book on Saraswathi Gora and her life, published
in Telugu. The inauguration session also included a welcome dance by Dr. Demos
Gora. The flags of the countries whose representatives were present in the
conference was unveiled as a mark of the beginning of the three day 7thWorld
Atheist Conference. The inaugural session concluded with Vote of Thanks by Mr.
In the afternoon session, Dr.
Veeramani highlighted that, "Periyarís movement to create social awareness and
to promote rationalism has created a generation of thinkers and rational human
beings. What is important is to challenge age old belief structures which are
detrimental to the society and those that dampen the secular fabric of the
society. God is only a human imagination. Religions exploit the ignorance of
the masses and cash on it. Education is the key and the spirit of inquiry can
be strengthened through investing in the future generations."
Mr. Sam Ayache from France shared
the French Free thought Movement. He stated that, "France is one of those
countries where there is a separation of religion and state. The 1905 Law of
the Separation between the Churches and State in France is still existent. This
law promotes secularism, which means the absolute freedom of conscience for all
citizens and the State has no right to interfere in the beliefs or the absence
of beliefs of the citizens. No public funding for religious purposes are used."
Atheist activists and social
change workers from across India shared their views on the necessity of atheism
and the importance of a post religious society, in the world wherein sectarian
differences and religious divide is turning violent and claiming the lives of
In order to encourage younger
generations, a unique programme was conducted with children who displayed on
play cards, the contribution of 70 eminent scientists, atheists, humanists,
rationalists and free thinkers. Children from the project areas of Arthik
Samata Mandal and Vasavya Mahila Mandali were involved in this lively and
enthusiastic programme of paying a tribute to the outstanding heroes worldwide
for their great contribution in the onward march of atheism, humanism and
The evening ended with Dr.
Narendra Naik, Leader Anti-Miracle Campaign revealing the tricks performed by
babas and godmen/women that fool the masses in the name of miracles.
Second Day, the 6th January:
The second day of the World
Atheist Conference covered various aspects related to atheism, humanism,
secular social work and the role of youth.
Mr. Roy Brown, Past President
IHEU, Switzerland in his Presidential Address for the session, highlighted
that, "Every religion claims to have a monopoly of truth and a monopoly of
virtue. One problem we have in confronting the certainties of religion is that
the transcendental really does exist. Donít look so surprised! It exists in our
imagination. Gods, fairies, unicorns, ghosts and angels may all be creatures of
the imagination but we have no certain logical way of demonstrating that they
are purelyimaginary. The best we can do is to point out in the light of our
new-found scientific knowledge the vanishingly small probability that the
supernatural world really exists. But while we offer only probability, religion
offers absolute certainty. We must recognise that the March of Atheism is not
an end in itself but a step on the way to understanding ourselves, the world,
and our place within it; a step on the road to caring for others as we care for
ourselves; and a step towards the ultimate goal of Humanism and enlightenment.
Dr. Ms. Chandana Chakravarthy,an
eminent scientist of CCMB, Hyderabad highlighted 14 differences between science
and religion. She highlighted that no questioning is possible in religion. One
needs to surrender and suspend ones critical thinking abilities. Science
promotes the right to question and that is how it has progressed. Godmen and
God women claim to have all the answers. Scientists accept between what they
know and what they donít. Science and religion cannot be put onto a same
platform. Religion has godmen. Science does not accept any high priest or
authority who cannot be questioned. Miracles are the essence of religion. In
science, magic is possible. No miracle has ever happened. All godmen are third
rate magicians. Religion is based on revelation. Truth was revealed to some
"chosen people" in the world. Religion is static and once it is found it cannot
be changed. Science evolves based on new knowledge. It is dynamic and changes
according to time and progresses by disproving. Religious truths represent the
opinion of the religious leaders and they never change according to the time.
In science, there is no absolute truth and it is just a consensus arrived at by
the knowledgeable people at that point of time. The knowledge stands to the test of time. All truths in science can be
repeated and verified and validated by time.
Ms. Kristine Mele, Secretary
General of the Norwegian Humanist Association, highlighted the importance of humanism
and the need to promote spirit of inquiry and questioning. She stated that in
Europe in particular, many people are shedding their religions and are moving
towards a post religious society and this is the key to its progress. She gave
examples of how religion, in particular Christianity has exploited the people,
claiming that it has the truth. However, people have started to believe in
themselves and it made the progress of humanism much quicker, in particular
Norway. She stated that humanism is a life stance wherein critical thinking and
scientific temper find prominence.
Ms. Nau Gora, Secretary, Arthik
Samata Mandal, highlighted the importance of Secular Social Work and how it
addresses the root causes of poverty with no sectarian, religious or parochial
considerations. She said that secular social work approach looks at citizen
driven development and not faith driven development. Hence, people are center
of the development process and not any divine power.
Mr. Innaiah, Director, Center for
Inquiry, Hyderabad maintained that, "Children are registered as religious
people, but they do not know what religion is and they do not know what
ignorance, superstitions and blind beliefs are. The parents are perpetuating
the young minds with religion. We need a society wherein child grows freely."
Giving an international picture
of Atheists in Germany, Dr. Walter Neussel, German Freethinker stated that in
Germany 1/3 rd of population are atheists are not members of any church or do
not belief in god. However the voice of the religious leaders has been very
aggressive. He stressed that in India, there is space for all people and
Mr. Eve Green, Former Editor,
Norwegian Freethinker highlighted the historical growth of humanism and the
challenges it faced from the religious authorities. He however harped that
humanism could withstand the stringent opposition from religious quarters and
has become an alternative life stance in major populations in Norway.
Dr. Indla Rama Subba
Reddy,eminent psychiatrist stated that, "psychiatry views religion as a
neurosis. Neurosis is a type of psychological disorder, where they do not have
mental confidence and hence depend on god and supernatural power. Religion acts
like a tonic and they are called neurotics. This acts like a boost and gives
confidence. To become a person atheist and rationalist, one needs lot of mental
energy and capacity. An atheist believes in human effort in dealing with
problems. He gave a historical overview of the psychiatry in the world and how it
challenged religion and other paranormal claims.
Mr. Kiran Nanavathi from Gujarat
stated the importance in promoting secularism so as to avoid any religious and
caste wars. He highlighted the need for integrating secularism with education
so as to create further awareness among the masses.
The afternoon session was focused
on Youth, Atheism and Humanism. Ms. Barbara Blustfrom Germany highlighted how
atheists and humanists were challenged in the Christian dominant Germany.
However the progress of atheism, she stated, was because of the growing
distrust among people on the religious extremism and religious claims of truth.
She gave her personal story of how she became and atheist.
Ms. Nichole and Mr. Martin from
the Freethinkers Association of Germany, highlighted the importance of youth
exchange programs, so that people from across the borders can experience
cultural difference and appreciate them. It also helps youth to have a wider
perspective towards life. They made a presentation of the youth exchange program
between Atheist Centre and Freethinkers Association, Germany and the learnings.
Mr. Gurender Azad from Tarksheel Society, Punjab maintained the importance of
atheism and humanism in giving a positive life stance.
Mr. Vikas Gora stressed on the
need to invest in educating youth on secularism. He stated youth are a
potential force in any society and highly vocal. Their energy should be
constructively utilized. He gave examples of why most of the terrorists are
from younger generation and how religions are exploiting youth. Hence, there is a great need to invest in
educating youth on peace, secularism and critical thinking, so that they could
be harbingers of constructive change in the society.
Mr. Ravindranath, Science Trust,
Kerala highlighted the importance of organ donation and in particular eye
donation which need to encouraged through secular social work so that the lives
of many of the blind can be changed.
Many other youth leaders spoke of
the necessity to invest in youth and also how youth can be channeled towards
strengthening a post religious society.
The evening cultural programme
was performed by Dr. Demos Goraon the theme of "March of Atheism". Atheist
songs in classical style which were written by Gora were sung by Ms. Annapurna.
Magician Vikram demonstrated the trick behind the psychic surgery.
Day three: January 7:
The final day of the Conference,
culminated in participants sharing their views on the importance of atheism and
its relevance. People shared their personal stories of how they became atheists
and the relevance of atheism in the testing time when religions have been
promoting violence, fundamentalism and ignorance among the masses.
"There is a great need to strengthen secular
values in the society so as to build bondages of friendship between religions.
They have always fought to declare that their faith is greater than the other.
The younger generation needs to be exposed to scientific temper and critical
thinking which will make them to think and act rationally. Millions have been
killed in the name of religion and persecuted for being questioned and this
shows the intolerance of religions towards questioning. Hence the only
alternative is to promote atheism and humanism where there is scope to question
and freedom to inquire", stated Mr. Aswin Karia, who was the President of the
morning session, Principal, Law College, Palanpur, Gujarat.
Mr. Babu Gogineni, Executive
Director, IHEU highlighted the need to realize the Art. 51 A (h) of the Indian
Constitution which maintains that it is the Fundamental Duty of every citizen
of India to promote humanism, spirit of inquiry and reform. He lauded the Indian Constitution for being
secular, but there is a need to move from word to action.
Mr. Rawat Vidhyabhushan, New
Delhi, highlighted the need to address the rights of the poor and the
marginalized sections of the community, who are always exploited by the
religions. Humanism in action addresses the root causes of the problems and
encourages people to take responsibility for resolving their concerns and not
to be fatalistic. He further highlighted the need to strengthen secular
organizations, so that a ripple effect can take place at the grassroots level
for promoting humanism and atheism as a rational life stance.
Mr. Bernd, Freethinker, Germany
maintained that many scientists swing between being rational in their
laboratories and being irrational outside it. This he calls a fickle behavior.
He suggests scientists to be good examples to the people and act rationally all
Dr. KSS Sundar, Project Director,
Samskar, Varni, Nizamabad shared as to how humanism in action through secular
social work is helping the lives of scores of people in rural communities. He
highlighted the importance of investing in young minds and to make them
rational citizens of the world.
Mr. Lavanamof Atheist Centre who
is the President for the session, stated that a post religious society is the
only alternative as the religious wars and hatred can never help in promoting
peace. In a post religious society, human beings have the recognition and god
Mr. V. Nehru, The Rationalistís
Forum, Tamil Nadu, highlighted the importance of utilizing the electronic media
such as internet for promoting scientific temper. However, religions are using
them to promote ignorance and blind beliefs. Government money is spent on
government media channels to spread ignorance through programs supporting
godmen and claims of having paranormal powers. This need to be challenged and atheists
and humanists should further spread scientific temper and rationality through
media and internet.
Mr. BN Sahu, Engineer, Orissa,
feels that there is a possibility of a global government so that discrimination
will wither and people will start thinking as universal citizens.Democracy will surely help in realizing their
process and atheists and humanists have a major role to strengthen this
Many things have already been
disproved like rebirth and other claims of the paranormal. We have to be united
and fight against caste system and discrimination against women which is
promoted by religions. Women should be equal partners in progress. We need to
move from god-centred to human-centred universe, said Mr. Raghunath, Latur, Maharastra.
Many other prominent atheists and rationalists from across India shared their
views and the concerns about the growing fundamentalism and its impact on the
society and its peace and tranquility.
The Valedictory Function was
presided by Dr. Vijayam who stated how atheism has progressed inspite of
stringent opposition. Religion becomes irrelevant as the science and technology
have progressed and unraveling the marvels of nature which was for long
worshipped. The spirit of inquiry and critical thinking need to be integrated
into the education system.
Mr. Jim Herrick, an eminent
humanist writer was the Chief Guest of the Valedictory Function. He highlighted
the historical growth of atheism and humanism internationally. Religions, he
said are responsible for creating hatred among human beings as each one claims
to have the truth. However, they do not allow human beings to question, but
only promote blind beliefs. Blessed are those who do not question is the motto
of religions. For ages, atheism and humanism have a strong rooting in India
with Charvakas and Lokayats, right from the 6th Century BC. The 19th Century,
he stated witnessed the pace in the march of atheism for many prominent figures
such as Charles Bradlaugh, Robert Ingersoll have educated the masses on
scientific temper and the spirit of inquiry. He stressed that no religion is
suddenly rejected by any people; it is rather gradually outgrown. With the
development of science and technology, many developments have revealed that
sciences questions and uses a process to find answers, whereas religions do not
question, but claim the answers based on age old texts. He brought to the fore
the need to address fundamentalism and extremism, which are claiming innocent
lives of millions of people.
The conference ended with a Conference Declaration which captured the voices of all
the participants. It was read out by Mr. Vikas Gora.
7thWorld Atheist Conference 2009: Conference Declaration
We, the Atheists, Humanists,
Rationalists and Freethinkers from around the world, gathering in Vijayawada,
for the 7thWorld Atheist Conference, January 5-7, 2009, are concerned about the
growing fundamentalism, religious obscurantism, marginalization of communities
and the negative impact of human activity on the environment and development,
and collectively raise our voice for addressing them.
The participants declare that:
- We affirm atheism and humanism as an
alternative life stance (a way of life). There is no doubt that our values come
from atheism and humanism.
- We recognize that critical thinking,
scientific temper and free inquiry are essential for thought and development in
- We uphold gender equality, an aspect
still denied by several religions and the rights of children and minorities.
- We demand that legislations be based on
common concerns, rather than religious beliefs, and we demand the separation of
religion from politics, the state, the law and education.
- We stand for a secular state.
- We want miracle claims to be challenged
and investigated as they militate against the modern scientific temper and
- We recognize the importance of promoting
secular values, so as to enhance tolerance, peace and harmony in society.
- We are concerned by the prospects for
world environment and climate change and demand special attention to address
- We deplore violence in the name of god or religion.
- We are committed to promote democracy and human development.
Wide media coverage:
The World Atheist Conference
received wide attention in the electronic and print media. The All India Radio,
Vijayawada broadcasted a curtain raiser
on the progress of atheism world wide and on the significance of the Worldwide.
Dr. Vijayam, convener of the World Atheist Conferencde was interviewed for 20
minutes in the prime time. All India Radio also broadcast a radio review of the
three day proceedings of the Conference which was presented by Mrs. Nau Gora,
Secretary Arthik Samatama Mandal. The print media covered daily about the
proceedings. In addition to the Telugu press, the Hindu, the largest circulated
English daily in South India, not only highlighted the proceedings, but also a
half a page report "Taking home a slice of Vijayawada", stating that "besides
emerging richer by experience gained in brainstorming sessions of the World
Atheist Conference in the city, the offshore humanist delegates will carry home
the essence of Vijayawada".
Thus through press and the media,
the World Atheist Conference could reach wider circle of people. The Arch at
the entrance of the Siddhartha Auditorium, the venue of the Conference in the
heart of Vijayawada, welcomed the participants to the Seventh World Atheist
Conference on the "March of Atheism" with the message stating that"Atheism is a positive way of life", and
"Positive atheism for a positive future."