BBC - Humanist and secularist Durham students take on reason
The last decade has seen religious observance continuing to decline in the UK, especially amongst young people. At the same time, chart-topping books by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have raised the profile of non-religious beliefs systems.
Despite this increased publicity, many people perceive non-religious stances such as Humanism as purely negative in nature, offering no alternative to the communities provided by the religious groups it criticises.
Durham University Humanist and Secularist Society (DUHSS) has been holding a series of events (collectively dubbed 'Reason Week') to dispel this impression and raise money for charity in the process. A relatively new society, DUHSS has existed in various forms for a little over a year, providing a community and a platform to explore topical issues in religion, politics and science. Although targeted primarily at the non-religious, students of all convictions are made welcome and a diversity of opinions is always evident at the regular 'think and drink' discussions held in some of the quieter student bars during term time.
Although most humanists are also secularists the two terms are not synonymous. Humanism is an aesthetic philosophy which affirms the value of reason and views ethics as emerging from shared human values and experiences rather than a divine law-giver. Secularism is a political position advocating the separation of church and state.
Reason Week has been its biggest event yet, with seven days of evening events ranging from charity fiUlm evenings to talks by prominent Humanist figures such as the philosopher A C Graylin... This is believed to be the first time in the UK that a non-religious student group have gone head-to-head with one of the Christian weeks which are regularly organised on student campuses.