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6th World Atheist Conference
A Report on the Sixth World Atheist Conference
"Atheism can be necessary in three spheres: the international, the regional and the personal. It is obvious to all that the clear light of atheism
is needed in the international scene - not just as a contrast to religion, but also because of its values. Atheism can lead to equality of treatment,
to the practice of human rights, the consideration of individuals and groups of people in widely different situations, tolerance of differences,
and freedom of speech for religion and to criticize religion, a broad global separation of religion and state." Stated Mr. Jim Herrick,
former Editor, Humanist from U.K., in his Presidential Address at the Sixth World Atheist Conference at Vijayawada, India on January 5, 2007.
THEME: "The Necessity of Atheism"
Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, India, January 5-7, 2007
Atheist Centre, organized the three-day Sixth World Atheist Conference from January 5-7 at the spacious Siddhartha Auditorium,
Vijayawada, India. It was yet another milestone in the onward march of atheism, humanism and rationalism. 600 Atheists,
freethinkers, humanists, rationalists and social change workers from different continents participated in the Conference.
The earlier World Atheist Conferences were held in 1972, 1980, 1983, 1996 and 2005. The conference had attracted likeminded
people from all over the world including Norway, Germany, USA, U.K., Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, New Zealand and many more
from all over India.
Dr. Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, Chennai in his inaugural address stated : "Vast majority of Indian population is suppressed and denied social equality due to their unquestioning faith in God and blindly accepting the unjust and discriminatory religious traditions. Enlightened thinking should replace blind faith. Instead of depending upon scriptural authority or the sayings of ‘divine’ personalities for judging and dealing with men and matters, people should be guided by empirical evidence and reason.
He further stated, human mind should no more be shackled by unproved and un-provable tradition; it should be free to expand and explore. We aspire to establish a new world in which the dignity of every individual is honoured; where every section of the society has equal rights, equal status and equal opportunities at all levels in all walks of life. Highlighting on Periyar E.V.Ramasamy’s atheist approach to better the condition of humanity, Mr. Veeramani said that Periyar was a confirmed and uncompromising atheist."
The inaugural function began with a welcome dance of Dr. Demos Gora, a post-graduate in Medicine, on the significance of atheism and humanism. Dr. Vijayam highlighted the theme of the conference, "the Necessity of Atheism."
Mrs. Hemalatha Lavanam welcomed the gathering by stating that Gora’s philosophy of atheism teaches truth, non-violence, self-respect and equality of all. Atheism believes in "One World - One Family"
Mrs. J. Mythri in her introductory remarks said that India is not only a land of religion, but also of atheism, humanism, rationalism and free-thought.
Charvakas, Lokayatas, Buddha and many others have shown the direction in which the world should proceed on the right path. In the modern period
Robert Green Ingersoll, Charles Bradlaugh, P.B. Shelley, Joseph Lewis, Bertrand Russell, Periyar EV Ramaswami, M.N. Roy, Abraham T. Kovoor,
Gora and Saraswathi Gora and many others had shown the alternative to theism.
Levi Fragell’s Message:
Mr. Levi Fragell, Former President of the IHEU in his message stated, " Gora maintained that the absurdity of theism is an hindrance for individual
and social development. His atheism is a positive contribution to life and society." Looking at his own experience, Mr. Levi Fragell further stated:
" The 20th Century witnessed two world wars, invention of the nuclear bomb, production and usage of biological and chemical weapons and suppression
of the so-called third world as militant imperialists. And still religious leaders and politicians tell us that what the world needs today is more religion."
Ms. Sonja Eggerickx, President IHEU, Belgium unveiled the international flags to mark the inauguration of the conference. In the Chief Guest’s Address she
stated that, even though Atheists and Humanists are a minority, their assertion makes them a majority. There is a greater need to focus on addressing
superstitions through proper education. Women education is the need of the hour and hope for the future. Atheists and Humanists in India are doing
yeoman service by way of addressing the plight of dalits and working through secular social work.
Gora’s First Book in Telugu on "Atheism" which was written in 1940 was translated into English and released by Jim Herrick and Mr. Lavanam.
To mark the outstanding contribution of Mrs. Saraswathi Gora towards the promotion of atheism as a way of life, Ms. Kristin Bryhni released
a Mobile Photo Exhibition.
Dr. Volker Mueller, President, Freethinkers Association, Germany, said: It is important to look at youth as the future and hence there is a
great need to focus on youth as harbingers of change. Dr. Bill Cooke, Editor, Open Society, New Zealand, and Center for Inquiry International,
said, "Atheism is necessary if we have the planet’s interest at heart. The necessity of atheism is apparent both for intellectual and for
moral reasons. The atheist places a high value on learning. And this does not confine us to book learning. The necessity of atheism lies in the
realization that we are along in the cosmos with nobody to rely on but one another and no other purpose in life but to help one another."
Mr. Babu Gogineni, International Representative, IHEU, highlighted that Atheist Centre has been doing a commendable work in the field of promoting
positive atheism as a way of life wherein critical thinking and questioning form the core. It is important that a secular alternative is required
for the present day society, which is engulfed with fundamentalism and commercialization of religion. Mr. Lavanam said that Atheism now is a widely
accepted word and people are moving ahead towards a post religious society. The youth should be the focus and critical thinking should be encouraged.
||Mr. Babu Gogineni
1) PROGRESS OF ATHEISM, HUMANISM, RATIONALISM AND FREETHINKING:
For Session on Progress of Atheism, Humanism and Rationalism an Overview, Dr. Volker Mueller from Germany was in the chair. He said that Atheism
is not abstract, but concrete and related to life situations. He also highlighted the contribution of Ludwig Feuerbach to atheism in Germany.
Mr. Dhaneswar Sahoo from Orissa stated that ‘to do good, and to be good,’ the imaginary god and religion were not necessary. Gora’s atheism is practical and is relevant to all age groups. Mrs. Rashmi Samaram, Ms. Nicole from Germany and others spoke in the session.
||Mr Narendra Naik's miracle exposure show
Dr. Narendra Naik, a well-known guru buster, along with his team, revealed as to how god men and god women fool people. He exposed the myth of miracles.
Bane of Witchcraft and Sorcery
While making a presentation on Witchcraft and Sorcery in Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Samaram said: "Banamati and Sorcery are claiming lives of scores of people all over India. In Europe more than six million people were tortured and murdered in the name of witchcraft and sorcery. Atheist Centre has been instrumental in investigating the claims along with the help of police and government personnel. Education to women and provision of health facilities and drinking water to rural areas will help in warding off blind beliefs. Belief in the supernatural at the root of the witchcraft and sorcery"
||Mr Narendra Naik's miracle exposure show
Dr. Rajendra Kankariya, President of the Andhra Shradha Nirmulam Samithi, Pune made a detailed presentation on Maharastra Eradication of Black Magic & Evil Practice Act 2005. Mr. GVK Aasaan from Periyar Thidal, Chennai mentioned that, The atheistic attitude of mastership is the manifestation of the feeling of freedom. Acceptance of atheism pulls down caste and religious barriers."
Necessity of Atheism
Bill Cooke, Editor, Open Society, New Zealand, in his forceful presentation said: Atheism is necessary if you have the planet’s interests at heart. The necessity of atheism is apparent both for intellectual and for moral reasons. There is an austere beauty and simplicity to atheism, which has been ignored, denied and sneered at, but not answered. The real argument for atheism is the moral argument. Morality is a social necessity and not divinely ordained. Gora and Saraswathi Gora’s life was a life of action, putting into practical effect the core realization of atheism.
2) THE NECESSITY OF SECULARISM:
Prof. A.N. Karia, Principal Law College, Gujarat highlighted the necessity of Secularism. He said: "State should not discriminate individuals based on caste, religion and ethnic differences. There is an urgent need to address the ‘religion- based violence.’
Dr. Selnes Kjartan, a Sociologist from Norwegian Humanist Association said: "The best way to fight the ills of religions is to fight the misery and imbalance in people’s material and social conditions. In the world of modernization it is obvious that a great process of secularization is taking place. In the Scandinavian countries, people are becoming post religious, and religion is losing its hold over human affairs, he added.
Mr. Anil Kumar, Kerala Rationalist Association harped on the need to realize the Article 51 A (h) of the Indian Constitution which clearly states that
It is the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to promote humanism, scientific temper, spirit of inquiry and reform.
Mrs. Vidya, former Member of Parliament, from Atheist Centre, in her presentation stated: "Atheists can mix freely and work with all the people." P.R. Muthukrishnan "In India the communal clashes take place not only in the name of religion, but also of caste."
Iringal Krishan, Secretary, Science Trust, Kerala stated that, "The politics and communal organization from various religions groom the segregation in the society by fundamentalism and terrorism. A session on e-learning and how to promote Secularism and scientific temper through Internet has been initiated by Finnish Freethinkers Mr. Pekka Elo, Mr. Juha Savolainen, Mr. Timo Airaksinen and Ms. Satu Honkala.
Mr. VB Rawat from New Delhihighlighted the importance of Atheism, and the need of secular social work to promote liberal values. Mrr. Kumaresan, from The Rationalists Forum, Tamilnad, said that Periyar E.V. Ramaswami was critical about all religions.
3) YOUTH - HUMANISM AND ATHEISM:
While presiding over the session on "Youth and Humanism and Atheism", Mr. Vikas Gora stated : "Science is based on facts and is not driven by emotions. In religions the emotional aspect is resulting in fanaticism and violence. For their spread, religious institutions have been dumping millions of dollars in Asia and Africa as the West is becoming post-religious. Youth should be encouraged towards critical thinking and given freedom to question and explore." Mr. Gurender Singh Azad from Tarksheel Society, Punjab stated: "Some people believe that atheism means anti god campaign. But, atheism is a healthy way of life which is positive and constructive. "
||Mr Vikas Gora
Dr. Deeksha, Vasavya Mahila Mandali, shared her experiences being an atheist parent. There is a strong urge for developing a strategy to percolate the atheism in its right sense to the future generations. Sharing her experiences in bringing her children in atheist way of life, Ms. Rajatha Gora reiterated: "Children should be encouraged to question. Parents should have patience to bring up their children as critical thinkers." Mr. V. Nehru, Rationalists’ Forum spoke on ‘Why Atheism is needed for Children". He said that religion is forced on children in the educational institutions and try to indoctrinate children.
Dr. Innaiah, Chairman, Center for Inquiry-India, said: "People created gods in their own image. The most unfortunate thing is that people started believing in their own creation as really existing. The myth should be exploded."
Mr. Barnala, from Tarksheel Society, Punjab said: "In the present day context god men and god women are thriving on the ignorance of the people and making millions."
Dr. Maru, a Convener of the World Conference, in her presentation on the relevance of medical science in alleviating human suffering, said: "Superstitions, belief in astrology, witchcraft and sorcery and health related misconceptions are very detrimental to the society.
Mr. Hari Subramanyam of Arthik Samata Mandal shared his practical experiences in promoting secular social work through voluntary effort. He harped on the necessity of social change and the need to initiate it from the masses. Village development is very important to address superstitious and blind faith practices.
Mr. Bharavi, a social activist from Hyderabad, said: it is important to recognize that every individual is unique. The marginalized people’s rights need to be realized. Religions exploit the poverty stricken communities and make them dependent; whereas atheism gives alternatives and makes individuals to think realistic and encourages putting forward their efforts. Prof. Sunanda Shet, who earned her doctorate on Gora, stated that atheistic way of life encompasses spirit of inquiry and reform. Gora and Saraswathi Gora have placed before society exemplary work with atheist perspective.
National knowledge Commission Vice-Chairman Dr. P.M. Bhargava delivers the Valedictory Address:
The eventful three day World Atheist Conference concluded with the Valedictory address by the Vice-Chairman of the National Knowledge Commission of Government of India on 7th January evening. Dr. Bhargava is an eminent humanist and a well-known scientist. He was the founder Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
||Mr PM Bhargava's address
Dr. Bhargava said: There is tremendous contradiction between science and religion. He opined that all scientific truths were testable but the same was not possible in the case of religion. "Future is important for those who believe in science. But people who believe in religion like to cling on to the past, he said lamenting that there was no knowledge-based society anywhere across the country. "A knowledge-based society requires people to commit themselves to scientific temper," he said.
Laced with subtle humour, Dr. Bhargava’s speech revolved around the factors that led to man’s belief in god. "The fear of unknown leads to the concepts of various kinds of god." Dr. Bhargava said that belief in god would actually dull one’s own motivation. People had this tendency to shift responsibilities on the shoulders on their respective gods and sit pretty waiting for a positive result. He attributed most of the "ignorance-driven sins" committed by the gullible to the clergymen of their respective faiths. The only way we can address the concerns is through scientific outlook and atheism, Dr. Bhargava reiterated.
Mr. Roy Brown, Former IHEU President, presides
Dr. Roy Brown, immediate past president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, (Switzerland), presided over the Valedictory function. He highlighted atheism and universal values. He said that all over the world we are seeing the deep divisions that exist between those who share our liberal and humanitarian values and those who seek a more authoritarian society. Harping on the freedom of inquiry, he said, we should promote respect above all for intellectual honesty and for the supremacy of reason and the scientific method in the search for knowledge. He further said: "citizens should be educated in their rights, freedoms and in our common principles and values."
Cultural programme on Secularism
On the 6th evening Dr. Demos Gora, Rajatha Gora and Vasavya Nrutya Vihar presented Samata Jyothi a Dance Drama to promote secularism. Children from Arthik Samata Mandal performed a drum and kollatam (stick) dance. The cultural programmes enthralled all.
The youth also made a power point presentation highlighting the quintessence of thought and action of eminent thinkers, activists and social reformers through the ages - Ancient to the modern. Thus, all generations had the opportunity to present their viewpoint and, also to exhibit their talent and commitment to the cause they champion.
Launching of Website:
In the Conference Dr. P.M. Bhargava, Vice-Chairman, the National Knowledge Commission, inaugurated the Website of Atheist Centre : www.atheistcentre.in
||Mr PM Bhargava inaugurating |
Atheist Centre's website
Extensive coverage of the Conference in the Media
The Sixth World Atheist Conference received wide attention and got extensive coverage in the Press, Radio, and on TV channels in the State and the nation. All India Radio not only broadcast a curtain raiser by Dr. Vijayam, but also a Radio Review of the Conference by Mrs. Sakala. The pre- and post-conference received wide attention in the international arena.
6TH WORLD ATHEIST CONFERENCE DECLARATION:
"At this time of momentous challenges and difficulties for our planet, this gathering of Atheists, Humanists and Rationalists from around India and the world understands that concerted efforts from all people of good will are needed to bring about real change. The problems of climate warming, population pressure, growing inequalities and the resurgence of religions and ethnic hatred respect no boundaries: all of us are affected.
Planetary problems require planetary solutions and these solutions must be based on our shared values common to all humanity:
Inspired and reinvigorated by meeting people of like mind from all corners of the Earth, each participant in this World Atheist Conference resolves to renew the efforts to create a better world."
- We affirm the worth, dignity and autonomy of every individual, and the right of everyone to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. We support democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and aim at the fullest possible development of every human being.
- We recognize our duty of care to all of humanity including future generations and our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world.
- We affirm the equality of men and women. All persons regardless of race, origin, caste, religion or belief, language, gender, sexual orientation or ability must have equal treatment before the law.
- We affirm the right of everyone to adopt and follow a religion or belief of their choosing. But the beliefs of any group must not be used to limit the rights of others.
- We uphold secularism, holding that the state must remain neutral in matters of religion and belief, favouring none and discriminating against none.
- We hold that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. We seek to create a fair society based on reason and compassion, in which every citizen is enabled to play their full part.
- We uphold both tolerance and freedom of expression.
- We affirm the right of everyone to open and comprehensive education.
- We reject intimidation, violence and incitement of violence in the furtherance of disputes, and hold that conflicts must be resolved through peaceful negotiation and by legal means.
- We uphold freedom of inquiry in every sphere of human life and the application of science in the service of human welfare.
The Conference conveners - Dr. Vijayam, Dr. Samaram, Dr Maru and Mr. Vikas Gora - thanked all for their unflinching cooperation in making the historic Conference a great success.