Secularism 2016 Conference: Living Better Together


I’m currently on the 8:15 Virgin Train service from Manchester to London, typing this from my reserved table seat – proving I have more foresight than the current labour leader.

Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to attending the annual National Secular Society Conference on Saturday. The subtitle of the event is ‘Living Better Together’.

I spoke to the president of the NSS, Terry Sanderson, back in July who explained just what that means:


A number of fantastic guests have been confirmed to speak at the conference. I’ve interviewed a number of them on The Godless Spellchecker Podcast, so I thought I’d share some links for you to acquaint yourselves with these important voices if you haven’t already done so. I’ll also provide some info on the speakers who have not been on the show.

Maajid Nawaz – Liberal Muslim and Co-founder of The Quilliam Foundation:

Douglas Murray – Author and commentator. Vocal critic of Islamism:

Paul Rowe – Chief executive of the secular education charity ‘Educate Together’. Paul won ‘Secularist Of The Year back in March and you can hear his acceptance speech below:

Other Guests (Via the NSS)

Jacques Berlinerblau

Keynote speaker Jacques Berlinerblau wrote the internationally acclaimed How to Be Secular, a call to return to America’s long tradition of secularism and a passionate celebration of secularism’s role in promoting good social cohesion and protecting both freedom from and for religion

Jacques is Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has doctorates in Ancient Near Eastern languages and literature (from NYU) and theoretical sociology (from the New School for Social Research). He has published on a wide variety of scholarly subjects with special attention to heresy, atheism, secularism, Jewish-American literature and biblical literature.

Şafak Pavey

Safak Pavey is a diplomat, UN independent Human Rights expert, writer and parliamentarian. Safak is a leading Turkish opposition MP who represents Istanbul Province for the Republican People’s Party in the Turkish Parliament. In 2012 Pavey was honoured by the US Department of State with the International Women of Courage Award.

In 2014 Safak was awarded the National Secular Society’s “Secularist of the Year” prize for her work promoting human rights and defending secularism in Turkey. Safak is an honorary associate of the NSS.

Raheel Raza

Raheel is the author of Their Jihad – Not My Jihad and regularly appears in Canadian TV and print. She is an advocate for gender equality and an activist for women’s rights, as well as an interfaith activist and the first Muslim woman in Canada to lead mixed gender prayers. She is the President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow which works to secure “peace for all people”, oppose extremism and “advance among Muslims the principle of individual rights and freedoms”.

Tehmina Kazi

Tehmina Kazi is director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, an organisation which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of democracy and its contribution to a shared vision of citizenship. Her role includes fundraising, outreach, lobbying, advocacy, media work, policy and strategy development, workshop facilitation and event management.

Tehmina was previously a Project Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, where she worked on a ground-breaking inquiry into the Human Rights Act and its impact on public service delivery.

Deborah Lavin

Deborah Lavin is an independent historian. An active member of the Socialist History Society, she became fascinated with Charles Bradlaugh through a study of his conflicts with Karl Marx. She now often gives talks on different aspects of Bradlaugh’s career and last year spoke at Conway Hall on “Political skulduggery: What kept Charles Bradlaugh MP from taking his seat in Parliament?” as part of the Festival of Freedoms.

Deborah’s present talk is on “Charles Bradlaugh and the Early Years of the National Secular Society.” It will look more closely at Bradlaugh’s active years before he became an M.P., when he battled to create the National Secular Society; and weld it into a radical fighting force. It will look at the secularist and radical causes Bradlaugh and the early National Secular Society championed, including birth control, free secular education and an ethical foreign policy. It will also discuss Bradlaugh’s legacy and historical importance

I’ll do my best to report on the conference for as long as my phone battery holds out. In the meantime, please take a look at the current NSS campaigns and consider becoming a member.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.


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