benjamin alexander smith

Warwick Atheists

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By the end of 2006, the last remnants of my belief in anything that could be described as a higher power had faded away. As a hangover from my vaguely Christian upbringing, my beliefs were never very strong. At times in my life I believed in the Christian God. At times I went to church. But by the time I realised I’d stopped believing, I’d already been agnostic for a while.

Losing my faith, if it you can even call it that, wasn’t a life changing event. In retrospect, it was just the natural progression from accepting childhood indoctrination to asking questions about the world. As I went to university and studied physics I started asking the harder questions, and eventually I realised that nothing I’d describe as supernatural would ever stand up to intellectual scrutiny.

As my second year of university drew to a close I found myself reading books on the subject of religion. By June 2007, I was indignant enough about the growing religious right that I co-founded the Warwick Atheists society.

Best New Society 2007/2008

Through a lot of hard work by every member of the executive commitee, the Warwick Atheists society became a great success.

In the first 12 months, the society was promoted through a series of posters, events and and free film showings. Within a few months, membership had soared to around 80 members – including a few believers! The society organized a whole range of activies, and the gusto with which its membership approached these events was breathtaking.

Activities ranged from documentary screenings to an inter-faith debates, bowling to AIDS awareness fund-raisers, and drinking nights to member-led presentations. With each event, we aimed to make progress towards a number of goals that define the society to this day:

  • to provide a community for individuals united in the disbelief of a god or gods;
  • to facilitate discussion of morality, religion, faith and the reasoning behind our beliefs;
  • to organise events raising awareness of and challenging the negative connotations associated with atheism;
  • to promote reasoned and fair debates with faith groups and others interested in the subject; and
  • to abuse our self-defined morality by partying ridiculously hard!

Our hard work in the first year of the society’s life was recognised. The Warwick Atheists won the University of Warwick Students’ Union Societies Federation Best New Society award for 2007/2008.

Warwick Atheists society continues to thrive to this day. Though its members and executive board have changed, its vision and purpose remains the same. Long may it last.

Reflections

Blind faith and religious fervor doesn’t make me as angry now as it once did. Looking back, I think my time with the Warwick Atheists helped me out with that. If there’s one thing I learnt, it is that you’ll never change anybody’s mind. We believe what we believe, and no amount of reasoned debate will sway us.

That said, I’m very proud to have been a part of the society. We may never change anybody’s mind, but religion still plays a large (and often damaging) role in modern society. It should be fought at every step. Religious privilege still favours the faithful, and ancient belief systems continue to prop up everything from sexist and chauvinist behaviour through to misguided homophobia. Secularism is one of the tenets of modern society, and we should defend it with every breath we take.

From a personal development point of view, creating the Warwick Atheists society taught me a huge amount. I got hands-on experience in building and maintaining both a core executive team and a wider community; organized dozens of events; and learnt how to motivate a team without the help of either a carrot or a stick.

I’m proud to have been a founding member of the Warwick Atheists, and this project was more of a success than I ever dared hope.

Roles and Reposibilities

As one of three co-founders, I played a significant role in first few years of the society.

At various times I had responsibility for organizing events, socials and committee meetings; dealing with administrative tasks; and liaising with committee members to ensure that the society continued to function effectively.

  • 2007: Co-founder & Secretary
  • 2007-2008: Social Secretary
  • 2008-2009: Events Organizer

Project Information

  • Start date: 20 June 2007
  • End date: ongoing
  • Status: Complete

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