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5th World Atheist Conference
A Report on the Fifth World Atheist Conference
The three-day World Atheist Conference held at Vijayawada was a historic one.
It was another milestone in the onward march of atheism worldwide.
THEME: "ATHEISM AND SOCIAL PROGRESS"
Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, India, January 7-9, 2005
Gora, the founder of the first known Atheist Centre in the world, conceived the idea of the global conference
of the atheists and it culminated in the organization of the First World Atheist Conference at Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, India in December 1972.
After his first World tour for promotion of atheism, he convened this first historic conference. After his demise in 1975,
under the able guidance of Mrs. Saraswathi Gora, the co-founder of the Atheist Centre, the Second World Atheist Conference
was convened in 1980. The Third World Atheist Conference was held at Helsinki, Finland in 1983 with the cooperation of the Finnish Freethinkers Association.
The Fourth World Atheist Conference was again convened at Atheist Centre, Vijayawada in 1996 which was
presided over by Sir Hermann Bondi, President of the British Humanist Association and former Master,
Churchill College, Cambridge, U.K. Between 1980 and 1996 Atheist Centre also convened four International Conferences
at Vijayawada - Gora’s 10th Death Anniversary in 1985; in 1990 the Golden Jubilee International Conference of the Atheist Centre,
50+ International Conference of the Atheist Centre in December 1990; Gora's 90th Birth Anniversary and Saraswathi Gora’s 80th anniversary International Conference in 1992.
These international Conferences were meeting points of the atheists, humanists, rationalists, freethinkers and social change workers from all over the world.
Day ONE: January 7, 2005
On January 7-9, 2005 the Fifth World Atheist Conference was held at the Siddhartha Auditorium
in which 1500 people from India and abroad participated enthusiastically.
|Dr. Demos Gora Welcome Dance
On January 7, the Conference began at 11 am with the impressive welcome dance of Dr. (Ms.) Demos Gora.
As all generations was together in the Conference, five-year-old Master Sanketh, the fifth generation of Gora,
extended hearty welcome to all the participants in chaste English. Dr. Vijayam, one of the three convenors
of the Conference, explained the purpose of the Conference.
Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India, sent his message of greetings for the success of the Conference.
The dais was full to the brim with the national and international dignitaries. Mr. Roy Brown, President of the
International Humanist and Ethical Union, (IHEU), (Switzerland), and Mr. Levi Fragell, Former President of the IHEU (Norway),
waved the bundle of flags of various participating countries of the Conference, symbolizing the inauguration of the Conference.
The 93-year and energetic Mrs. Saraswathi Gora gave her keynote address highlighting the onward march of atheism.
She said atheism is a way of life and an alternative to theistic way. She expressed firm conviction that the world is marching towards
a post-religious society.
|Dignatories on dais
Ms. Azam Kamaguian from Iran, released the Conference Souvenir which is 200 pages containing articles, anthology,
writings of Gora, previous World Atheist Conference reports and advertisements of well wishers. It was edited by
Dr. Vijayam, Vikas Gora, Mr. Niyanta, Ms. Sumathi, Mr. Sadik and Mr Rahat Gora.
Ms. Bobbie Kirkhart, President, Atheist International (USA), inaugurated the Gora Mobile Photo Exhibition,
reflecting the saga of atheism. Dr. Kranthi explained the significance of the exhibition.
Mr. Levi Fragell delivered his Presidential Address. He underlined the need to promote atheism as the alternative to theism.
He pointed out that it was the belief in god that was an obstacle to ethical, social, human and artistic development.
Prof. R.V.R. Chandrasekahara Rao, former Vice-Chancellor of the Ambedkar Open University and former Professor of Political Science
at the University of Hyderabad, highlighted the significance of atheism and secularism in the onward march of society.
Dr. Samaram, a Convenor of the Conference, proposed a vote of thanks for the inaugural Function. The representatives of the press,
electronic media, various TV Channels were present in large numbers, which enabled wider dissemination of the Conference deliberations.
An extensive photo and literature exhibition on atheism and social progress the world over was organized in an extensive manner.
All the dignitaries and participants visited the exhibition before the inaugural function of the Conference. It reflected the life
and work of Gora and the secular social work activities of Atheist Centre, the atheist, humanist, freethinker and social change activities
in various continents.
Session 1: THEME: ATHEISM AND HUMANISM - AN OVERVIEW
The First session of the Conference in the afternoon on "Atheism and Humanism - an Overview" was presided over by Ms. Bobbie Kirkhart,
President, Atheist International (USA).
Mr. Jagadananda, Secretary, CYSD, Bhubaneswar, Dr. Volker Mueller, President, the German Humanist and Freethinker Association;
Mr. Rene Hartmann, IBKA, German Atheist Organisation; Mr. Stephan Gunnarson, former editor, Humanisten, Sweden; Mr. Aswin Kara, Palampur, Gujarat;
Mr. Veeramani, President, D.K., Tamilnadu; Mr. Dick Clifford, Australia and others spoke.
In the Cultural evening of the first day, Vasavya Nrutya Vihar of Atheist Centre presented a dance ballet on "Peace and Progress" - Parinama Shravanthi.
Dr. Demos Gora played the lead role in it. The collective effort of all the dancers made it a beautiful symphony of ideas.
Day TWO: January 8, 2005
THEME: YOUTH, WOMEN, SOCIAL REFORM & SECULAR SOCIAL WORK
The morning session of the Second Day proceedings was presided over by Dr. Volker Mueller of Germany. The resource persons included
Dr Innaiah, Convenor, FARA; Ms. Silvana Uhlrich, Germany; Mr. Babu Gogineni, Executive Secretary, IHEU, London; Mr. Kuruvilla, Kerala Yukthivadi Sangham, Thiruvananthapuram;
Mr. Vikas Gora from Atheist Centre; Mrs. Hemalata Lavanam, Secretary, Samskar of Atheist Centre; and others.OUTLOOK AND SOCIAL PROGRESS
The afternoon session was presided over by Mr. K. Veeramani, the veteran atheist and President of the Dravdar Kazhgam, Tamilnadu.
In his speech titled The Need for Atheist Outlook, he narrated the saga of atheism and social progress. Mr. Lars Gule, Secretary General, Norwegian Humanist Association, Oslo;
Dr. G. Samaram, a known Medical Science writer, spoke on Religion is a neurosis - The exploitation of the weak-minds by religion. Mr. Ravi Prakash, a well known T.V. commentator
and producer of popular Channel "TV-9" spoke on Electronic media and atheism. Dr. Frank Zindler, Editor, American Atheist Press, USA spoke on
Sending God to the Ranks of the Unemployed: What Science is doing to Religion. Ten year old street child Sonia Rani from Humanist Thoughts and Practice, Kurkskhetra, Haryana spoke on
We Street Children on the way of Manavatavad.
Mr. Durai Chandrasekaram, Deputy General Secretary, Dravidar Kazkam, Tamilnad spoke on The benefits of Periyar Thoughts. Mr.Balvider Singh Baranala
and Harbajan Singh, Bhinder, from Taksheel Society, Punjab on Challenges to Rationalist, Humanists and atheists. Mr. Soumya Dutta, New Delhi spoke on
Education is the key - An Agenda for Atheists and Rationalists in India. Mr. Sudhansu Sekhar Dhada from Orissa spoke on
Rationalism should be introduced as a Course of study in the curriculum. Ms. Dhyan Vermulean from the Humanist Alliance from Holland spoke on
The Humanist Education. Mr. G. Narayana from Mumbai, Mr. Krishan Kurup, Vadidra, Gujarat; Mr. Girish Sundhiaya, Palampur, Gujarat; Mr. Satish Bahadur,
Rationalist Society, Haryana; Mr. U. Kalanathan, General Secretary, FIRA, Kerala; Mr. Lalith V. Azad, and Mr. Jawahar Mehta, and Mr. Krishnan from Mumbai;
and many others from India and abroad shared their thoughts.
|Mr. Roy Brown's Address
In the evening, a cultural programme was presented by the Tribal children of Arthik Samata Mandal of Atheist Centre from the remote areas of the State.
The audience was spell bound to see the Kollatam (stick dance), human pyramids by drummers; songs and dances on human integration and equality transcending
the narrow boundaries of caste, religion, nation and colour.
Programme Exposing the socalled Miracles
It was followed by a two-hour demonstrative programme exposing Superstitions and blind beliefs. It was conducted by Mr. B. Premanad and Prof. Narendra Nayak
and leaders of the Anti-Miracle campaign. They were ably assisted by a team of youngsters and the audience with their active participation.
Ms. Azam Kamguian from Iran chaired the session.
Day THREE: January 9, 2005
Morning Session: THEME: ATHEISM AND HUMANISM AS A WAY OF LIFE
On the final day of the Conference, the morning session was held on the theme, "Atheism and humanism as a way of life".
In this session a number of resource persons participated. They included Mr Lavanam, Atheist Centre; Mrs Mythri, Editor,
Nasthika Margam, Atheist Telugu Monthly; Mrs. Rashmi Samaram, Secretary, Vasavya Mahila Mandali;
Ramachandra CST Voltaire and Prof. Dhaneswar Sahu from Orissa; Ms. Tina Hoffman, Ms. Esther and Ms. Silvana from Germany;
Ms. Dina Rookledge, Former Chair, British Humanist Association, UK; Mrs Malathi, New Delhi;
Mr. Ramchandra Rahi, General Secretary, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, New Delhi; Prof. Umesh Patri from Bhuvaneswar, Orissa;
Mr. N. Nandhivarman, Dravida Peravai, Pondicherry; Mr. A. Vanthiathevan, Secretary, MDMK, Pondicherry;
Mr. B. Barnala, Punjab Rationalist Association; Mr. M.T. Seth, Principal, Ludhiana, Punjab;
Mr. V. Nehru, Rationalist Forum, Maduarai, Tamilnad; Mr. Hari Subrahmanyam, Arthik Samata Mandal;
Mr. Girish Girme, Andh Shraddha Nirmulan Samithi, Pune; Prof. Suman Oake, Andh Shraddha Nirmulan Samithi, Pune;
Mr. M. Subba Rao, Rationalist Voice, Hyderabad spoke.
Mrs. Kodali Kamalamma and Dr. B. Sundara Rao, Gora Nasthika Mitra Mandali, Inkollu, Prakasam District;
Mrs. Ch. Vidya, Ex-M.P, Vijayawada; Mr. D. L. Pusekar, Vasco da Gama, Goa; Mr. Bhup Singh, Rationalist Association, Harayana;
Mr. Mithun Kumar, Bangalore; Mr. E.P. Menon, Bangalore; Mr. Habib K. Pathan, Dharwad, Karnataka; Mr. Balmiki Naik,
Rationalist Association, Rourkhela; Ms. Sthita Prajna, Bhubaneswar, Orissa; Mr. Arivikkurasu, General Secretary, DK, Tamilnad;
Mr. Annavi, Rationalist Forum, Tamilnad; Mr. Shariff Gora, AP; Md. Shukur, Orissa Rationalist Society;
Mr. P. Shivakkozhundhu, Engineer, Tamilnad; Mr. Aasan from Periyar Thidal, Chennia; Mr. Bapa Rao, Chirala;
Mr, Satyanarayana from Humanist Centre, Inkollu, AP; Mr. Durai Chandrasekharan, Advocate, Tamilnad; and many others participated in the deliberations.
Mr. Ramachandra Raju, District Superintendent of Police gave a presentation with slides on the problem of witchcraft and sorcery
and on the collective effort of Atheist Centre and the Government in Rangareddy District.
THE VALEDICTORY FUNCTION
In the afternoon of the 9th the afternoon Valedictory function was held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Mr. Levi Fragell, Norway, presided. Mr. Jim Herrick, Editor of the Humanist, London, UK was the Chief Guest.
He spoke on art, literature and atheism and humanism.
Mr. Volker Mueller from Germany; Mr. Rene Hartman, IBKA, Germany; Mr. Dick Clifford, President, South Australian Humanist Association, Australia;
Mr. Lars Gule, Secretary General, Norwegian Humanist Association, Oslo; Mr. Gunnarson, Editor, Humanistin , Sweden; Ms. Azam Kamguian, Iran;
Ms. Bobbie Kirkkhart, President Atheist International, USA; Ms. Jartan Selnes, Ms. Karen Anne Okstad and Ms. Norunn Koseberg, Kristin Bryhni
and Ms. Hanada Gule - they are from Norway; Dr. Harvey Tippitt, President, Atheists United, USA; Mr. Diana Rookledge and Mr. Oakasha from UK
and a number of Indian and foreign dignitaries shared their valuable thoughts in the Conference.
Mr. Jim Herrick, UK, presented the Conference Declaration. Mr. Roy Brown and Mr. Levi Fragell gave their concluding remarks of the Conference
Mrs. Saraswathi Gora, co-founder of Atheist Centre, honoured all the sixty foreign delegates with khadi shawl and also presented a memento.
Mrs. Saraswathi Gora thanked all the Indian and foreign delegates for their active participation in the Conference and expressed the view
that atheism is bound to grow the world over as an alternate way of life.
|Mrs. Saraswathi Gora's
IHEU CONTRIBUTION TO TSUNAMI RELIEF
The President of the IHEU handed over a cheque of 5000 Pounds towards the Tsunami Relief Work, which is being carried out by Arthik Samata Mandal of Atheist Centre.
Mrs. Nau Gora and Mr. Hari Subramanyam received the cheque and thanked IHEU and its member organizations who contributed for the same.
Dr. Vijayam, Dr. Samaram, and Dr. Maru - the convenors of the Conference - expressed their joy for the success of the conference.
They also thanked more than 200 volunteers who were at the helm of affairs for the success of the Conference and helped in
the smooth functioning of the various activities with clock-like precision.
Dr. Maru presented the vote of thanks, by way of thanking all the participants from India and abroad also the press,
electronic media, the management of the Siddhartha Auditorium and the number of donors who had generously contributed in cash
and kind for the success of the Conference. The Prakash Arts erected the Conference Gate at the main entrance and also the imposing the
backdrop banner of the Conference dais - with the impressive pictures of Gora, Robert Green Ingersoll, Charles Bradlaugh, Periyar E. V. Ramaswami
and Abraham T. Kovoor. The Prakash Arts did all this free of cost as a contribution to the Conference.
The All India Radio, Vijayawada, broadcast a special programme with the World Atheist Conference Report on the 10th January
in Telugu language a the prime time at 8.30 p.m. Mrs. Rajatha Gora presented the Radio Report. This was in addition to the coverage in
regular news bulletins. Similarly, all the T.V. Channels gave good coverage to the Conference proceedings and also telecast the resume
of the Conference. The daily newspapers - both in English and the regional languages - extensively covered the Conference proceedings
and also published special interviews with some of the participants. The Conference received national and international coverage.
|Mythri, Azam & Saraswathi Gora