Atheist, Humanist & Secular Student Societies Gets Press in London February 20, 2009

Atheist, Humanist & Secular Student Societies Gets Press in London

The Secular Student Alliance is a group I’ve worked with for years. We help create, maintain, and support atheist student groups across the country. Every now and then we get requests from student groups in other countries who would like our help. We do what we can, but it’s tough to give them the support they need.

That’s why I’m thrilled to hear about the launch of The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist & Secular Student Societies (AHS). It’s an umbrella group for secular student organizations in Great Britain. While their website says they formed last summer, they’re getting more attention now with an official launch.

Jerome Taylor wrote about the group in The Independent:

Dressed in a sharp suit and sporting a carefully trimmed goatie, 24-year-old Norman Ralph, the newly anointed president of AHS, explained why he feels it is time for Britain’s atheists to unite. “I firmly believe that the secular traditions of this country are being openly challenged on all sides,” he said. “But I also think there is a growing wave of British atheism sweeping the country and we need to ride that wave. Ever since 9/11 people are being challenged to pick a side. There is such a push at the moment to be politically accepting of religious views that those who don’t have a religion are, in fact, missing out. That is a message that I think will be popular to many people.”

Richard Dawkins is obviously thrilled about this and he’s here to help:

Considering his prominent involvement in the atheist bus campaign it was perhaps no surprise that Professor Dawkins attended the launch of AHS and announced that his charitable foundation would be willing to give support to students who wished to set up an atheist society at university.

That’s fantastic news. Jessica Shepherd wrote another article about the AHS in The Guardian.

I gotta say, I’m a bit jealous. The AHS currently has just over 10 affiliates listed on their website. That’s awesome and I hope the number shoots up quickly.

That said, the Secular Student Alliance has over 130 affiliates and nowhere near the type of media attention the AHS is already getting. We could definitely use more support to make atheist voices heard on campuses everywhere.

I wonder what it would take for us to get in the public spotlight. I would think the idea of over 130 atheist groups under one umbrella (in our religious culture) would draw attention from a number of reporters. but it’s not happening. Do you have any suggestions to change that?

While there’s no doubt we need atheist student group supporters across the world, I think the influence of religion is a far greater problem in America than it is in Europe.

Where’s the support for the American secular student groups?

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  • Ian

    You have to do something to get noticed. The SSA has always sort of acted as a behind the scenes supporter (from my POV), and enables the local groups to do things that are media worthy (like the Katrina disaster relief etc.)

    So perhaps the SSA can’t make headlines, but it can ensure it’s members do.

  • Yeah, I was at the launch (got my photo taken with the Dawkins). I’ll be writing it up later today 😀

  • Hemant,

    One way to get attention is to take all your people and work on something together. And here’s an opportunity right here. I and a growing cast of rationalist advocates from around the world are about to launch an international web-based independent media and advocacy organization for reason and humanism. We are building very strong ties with the Center For Inquiry, including having skype meetings with their directors, receiving a suggestion from one of their highest ranking directors that *they* pay to have one of us come and liveblog CFI World Congress in DC, and so on. We are also a matter of weeks away from a mass promotional campaign which will involve sending emails to many hundreds of bloggers, student groups and organizations around the world in order to solicit support and invite active membership in the organization. In the coming week, we will be drafting up an inaugural organizational structure that will include special positions focused on editing, site maintenance (as it stands, we have 2 main site people who have 12+ years of experience between them, and we just received an offer from a webmedia professional and entrepreneur to assist us on a non-profit basis), project coordination with other organizations, fundraising, promotions, and so on.

    Both you personally and the Secular Students Alliance are on our to-be-contacted list, but your current post motivated me to bring this to your attention that much sooner.

    We’re trying to organize some of the cat herd to establish a quality up-to-date independent news media and an online advocacy organization that brings together as many of the thousands of largely unconnected online advocates out there in order to create something that is far bigger, far more visible and far more productive than what we are currently creating in redundant isolation. The point is to put reason and humanism first to unify advocates online and offline, near and far. And we want *you* and every other advocate of reason and humanism on board.

  • Hi there. As part of the team that orchestrated the media coverage for the AHS Launch in London, here are a few lessons we learned:

    1) Make sure you get someone famous involved – it makes getting the reporter to stay on the lone long enough to hear what you have to say just that littler bit easier.

    2) Keep it focussed – make sure you are doing one thing and just keep shouting about it until someone listens.

    3) Get yourself in the blogs and on the web – we got most of our coverage from sources picking up our press releases from the web.

    The AHS has been in contact with the SSA and are hoping to formalise our relationship!

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