Wednesday 20 August 2014

Irreverent Impressions of a World Humanist Congress - An Essay on an Emotional Journey

by Antz Lewis

Introducing an Unexpected Befuddlement

My husband and I attended the World Humanist Congress in Oxford UK last weekend. It was the first time we had attended anything like this as a couple and we were very excited about what lay in store for us.  
We did not know what to expect as we boarded the train to Oxford in beautiful summer sunshine.  We had never before felt such a thrill passing through Slough Station which we will probably never feel again, especially in Slough Station! The very air hung heavy with potential portentous new beginnings for both of us!
Neither Rick nor I expected the roller coaster ride that was the WHC in Oxford.  The sun shone. We wore our shorts most of the time!  And ominously on the ‘Lords’ day Hurricane Bertha deluged Oxford.  
The weather mirrored our journey at the Congress.  We entered like ‘vestal virgins’ full of hope and wander and returned wiser, just as thrilled but with overwhelming feelings of frustration, confusion and befuddlement.  Our emotions swilled around us mis-understood and in turmoil.  We both agreed the weekend had brought us both closer together in a wonderful unexpected way.  But each of us felt a deep sense of being adrift, cast aside, of a huge missed opportunity.  We were both utterly stumped why we felt these ephemeral rumblings of anger and flutterings of missed opportunity.  What the F**k!  Was it us?  Was it them? What on earth was going on?  Was humanism for us?  
How could a weekend we had so looked forward to and which had delivered on our expectations in many different ways leave us feeling so bereft, so divorced as if we had missed out on something?  We were both left with an elusive underlying, almost grieving emotion of a great opportunity missed, which we could not pin down or name.  We talked for quite sometime when we got home to no conclusion or satisfaction.  I became frustrated and annoyed with my inability to name the cause of our unsettled feelings.
As light relief we caught up on our Big Brother viewing.  We went to bed delighted that both the ‘Essex geezer’ Winston and the scouser Mark had been evicted. The next day Rick went off to work and I got up soon after, determined to get to the bottom of “What went wrong for us at the WHC”!

Rick and Antz 

Irreverent Impressions of Congress Day 1
The World Humanists packed into the historic Sheldonian Theatre for the first session.  After a warm welcome by the President of the BHA the expectant crowd was entertained by a whimsical performance from a string quartet called Classy Cool who sang a medley of amusing opera and folk music.  
Anthony C Grayling then started the first plenary session.  Rick and I sat entranced watching one of the modern worlds’ great thinkers give us a masterclass on humanism and the basis of what freedom of thought and expression is all about, and its legitimate limits.  We loved Anthony’s  use of language, humour and the obvious erudition of someone who had spent a lifetime having deep thoughts about important existential matters. The warmth in the Sheldonian Theatre was palpable and indeed had everyone fanning themselves in the stuffy heat.  The questions were learned, wise, good and constructive. All as expected from such a Friday morning audience of left liberals, academics and thinkers of a certain age.  The conclusion was that self censorship was the greatest threat to ‘better free speech’.
We left the Sheldonian for lunch thrilled excited and enthralled with our heads firmly floating amidst the white fluffy clouds drifting overhead and our emotions flowing existentially amidst the lofty spires along Queens Lane.  We stared in wander into each others eyes and fell in love some more.   
The random seating at lunch thudded us back to reality when we failed miserably to connect with the assortment of attendees at our table.  The stodgy food helped to ballast us violently back to earth with a bump and a grind.  The word awkward comes to mind if you were kind - a little bit rude would be a better description.
Anyway, undeterred - people are people and so are humanists in all their glorious complexity after all!  We decided to give humanists the benefit of the doubt as off we skipped to the Marquee for the next very different session.   The debate between Peter Atkins the scientist and the philosopher Stephen Law was hugely entertaining.  Peter shrugged a lot whilst defending the superior process of evidence based science.   Stephen smiled a lot and at times proved Peters’s point that philosophy wasted much effort solving invented ‘silly problems’.  However, they both conceded that philosophy did have a huge role in the modern world in the moral and ethical area.  I concluded that Philosophers are the vanguard of science exploring the weird edges of thinking by asking lots of stupid questions which occasionally trigger new areas for science to explore!  There was a lot of friendly banter followed by some great questions.  We learnt a lot especially about the gaps in our knowledge!  We left the session with our brains swelling with ‘new’ concepts such as Hume’s Induction Problem. We clearly needed to buy their books which Peter and Stephen shamelessly plugged during the debate!  This was great to witness, humanists are human after all, and we all need to earn our keep…
Rick and I were thrilled with our first two sessions.  Over tea we talked to others who attended other parallel session who reported similar exciting experiences.  This was going to be an amazing weekend.  We could not stop smiling at each other.  We headed back to the Sheldonian for the plenary session which began with the Oslo Humanist Choir singing a song with funny lyrics that sounded like ‘Daddy da da de Daddy die dee dum dee doe dee die’ which had everyone smiling and feeling the warmth.
The last session of the day was a panel discussion which suffered from low energy caused in large part by vigorous, rather boring consensus amongst the European panel members. Rather ironically, during the discussion it was pointed out that Humanism needed to learn from older non western traditions.  The session really only came alive with impatient questions from the floor by delegates from India and Africa.  I found myself wondering why these delegates were not on the panel!  The Chair Samira forgot the UN guys name who then got even by hogging the stage talking interminable UN speak which no one understood. We were glad to escape into the Oxford sunshine at the end of the session.
We headed to Browns Restaurant for dinner.  We agreed over a bottle of wine and some fine food that the day had been nothing short of marvellous.  We had also noticed the gaps - the lack of corporate presence or visibility and the genteel worthy left liberal bias.  Where were the hard talking libertarians continuing the free market tradition of John Stuart Mills for instance?  Why did the Economist not have a stand? Where was the Apple sponsorship? Weren’t these organisations humanist to their core? We had witnessed some questions which displayed antagonism to the private sector, to capitalism.  Our overall first impression was that the Congress was like a cross between a left leaning party political convention and an academic conference, which clearly reflected the membership. It got me worried that as a right liberal conservative did I belong in Humanism? 
The first day ended with a wonderful drinks party at the Ashmolian Museum where the bubbly flowed freely and in limitless quantity.  We continued to party till 11pm with 70 Galha gays and lesbian humanists at the Jolly Farmers Gay Pub. I had a chance to shake the rain soaked hand of one of my gay activist heroes Peter Tatchell who had braved the torrent to join the Gaytheist throng.
So our first day at a Humanist event ended in a bit of an alcoholic blur.  It had been a marvellous first day which had exceeded both our expectations where we had met many wonderful friendly people and some ‘oddballs’ but humanists are just people after all!  It was nothing short of thrilling connecting with so many like minded humans. We slept well and soundly.
 Stephen Law and Peter Atkins

Irreverent Impressions of Congress Day 2
Saturday breakfast was a quiet affair.  A few cups of welcome strong coffee and an unexpected bright Oxford sun helped revive us.  We wore our shorts and matching rainbow trainers - sensible work wear for busy world humanists attending a global Congress!
There was standing room only for the first session chaired by Nick Ross in the Sheldonian Theatre.  The humanistic warmth was again palpable as the assembled crowd fluttered their fans in an excited buzz of anticipation.  During the session the panel of three modest brave young activists received individual spontaneous and sustained standing ovations from the Congress floor.  Special powerful moving moments of tremendous solidarity.  Rick and I struggled to maintain our composure as we exhausted our stock of kleenex hankies.
Asif the young Bangladeshi who had spent 10 months in a Bangladeshi prison and had been regularly assaulted in Dhaka refused to condemn his assailants. Instead, he tried to explain to us how they were just ignorant and did not know any better! Awesome modesty and wisdom.  He said the motivation that kept him going was to ‘break the cycle of silence’.  Gulalai, standing tall amid the Islamic patriarchy in Pakistan recounted her efforts to empower her fellow young women folk. She gave us a spell binding stream of consciousness about her philosophy and motivation which could be published as a manifesto for women’s emancipation in Islamic communities.  She was fully supported by her Dad who was in the audience and had also spent time in jail.  This admirable good father stood up to rapturous applause.  Then there was Agnes, a young women’s rights activist from Uganda who particularly touched my heart.  She made some very powerful points about how the crusading religions knew how to use hard power and their great wealth to deliver ‘human needs’ to spread their godly doctrines. She turned the theme of the Congress around saying that in Uganda there was freedom of thought and expression but ‘No Freedom After Speech’.  
I sat entranced, listening to these young voices of reason from countries where doing so took courage and commitment and I felt truly humbled. These young souls moved me at a very deep level. I find even writing this I am getting pretty emotional again.  A treasured profound experience, that still has me thinking embarrassingly about what my own contribution might be in the future…… so much hate in the world…. so much to do… and against such powerful, well funded forces.
We grabbed another extra strong coffee from the italian cafe on the corner opposite the Exam Rooms before heading to our next session on Threats to Freedom in the Digital Age.  The session was a tad negative and focussed on the recognised threats from the IT revolution.  I suppose the hint was in the title!  The assumption of both speakers appeared to be that the revolution was now historic instead of just getting started! Today’s global young technology entrepreneurs are busy creating the next disruptive technologies that will put Apple, Google, and perhaps even our Nation States out of business -  well before regulators get a chance to catch up!  I expected an exciting session talking about future threats to freedom such as drones, 3D printing, nano technology, genetics etc.  Instead, we got a session focussed on existing Rumsfeldian ‘Known Knowns’  which ignored the enormous potential and opportunities presented by the new technologies.  Rick did not look happy!  I passed him a couple of slips of paper apologising about the session.  He grimaced as there was no escape for us given that we were sitting at the front under the noses of the ‘expert’ presenters. 
Lunch turned out to be the required antidote.  The food continued to provide suitable stodgy ballast to keep us grounded.  But today we connected enjoyably with our fellow diners - including two of our new Galha Friends from the previous nights revelry.  The little bakewell tartlets and camp repartee went down a treat!
For the third time in the congress we sat entranced, listening to Peter Tatchell provide us with an enthralling exposition of why he has dedicated almost his whole life to human rights.  Dame Joan Bakewell’s obvious affection for Peter helped create an intimate and at times emotional response from Peter.  In 40 years he had been involved with over 3000 campaigns and had endured over 300 assaults. He had permanent eye injuries and brain damage from his beatings by Russian and Zimbabwean thugs .  He recounted how he had started his direct activism at the age of 11 in Melbourne Australia. How the civil rights movement in the US had been his inspiration. How avoiding the Vietnam draft as a conscientious objector was his motivation for fleeing to the UK at the age of 19.  Peter kept emphasising throughout that his direct actions were a collective effort and that the credit was not his alone. 
He gave us insights into his private life but for such a well known public figure it was clear that Peter was a very private man.  He shared with us that trekking especially along perilous mountain precipices and ridges was one of his passions, which regretfully he has had to curtail due to his injuries.   What a wonderful metaphor for the way he his lived his life, precariously on the edge, fighting for the rights of others on the margins of society, at great personal risk.  
The session ended with a spontaneous standing ovation.  Peter was clearly surprised at the warmth and unanimity of the response but as the sustained applause continued you could see him dropping his guard and melting - just a little - into the adoration, but only for the fleetest of moments.  It was a privilege to have listened to one of today’s global icons for humans rights.  I wanted to run up and hug him but felt that such a cheeky gesture would not be welcomed by such a private driven man  Anyway, he was mobbed afterwards by people wanting to take his picture!  I came away musing naughtily that perhaps it was ‘hard to hug a humanist’!
Rick and I then decided to have a break from being ‘World Humanists’.  We jogged round the Oxford’s playing fields in the sun chatting breathlessly about the congress and the impact it was having on both of us.  We had a short siesta and freshen up before attending the brilliant Gala Dinner which passed in another alcoholic blur of fun.  There was constant seat shifting as the conversation flowed as freely as the wine between the assorted mix of amazing humanists from Farnham UK, Berlin, France, and Norway at ‘our’ table.  After a quick night cap in the Marquee Humanist Bar we retired to another night of deep contemplative sleep.
Asif, Gulalai and Agnes

Peter Tatchell

Irreverent Impressions of Congress Day 3 
Sunday breakfast was a wet affair as Hurricane Bertha had arrived!  We grabbed a couple of sturdy hotel umbrellas to protect ourselves from the deluge as we splashed off to the first session in the Exam Rooms wearing sensible shoes and warm jumpers. We were both relieved that Oxford was giving our World Humanist guests a real taste of a proper British summer.   Could this weekend get any better?
After the Gala splash the previous night, our Chair Alice Fuller kindly eased us gently into our first session about building humanist communities.  A practical concept we understood. The lofty subsidiary topic of building a 21st century enlightenment thankfully was not addressed by our three excellent speakers. Much to our un-enlightened relief!   
Alice explained how the rising numbers of the non-religious were not being catered for in the UK and elsewhere.  Often state funding is available for chaplains in prisons and care homes but the non religious often have little support.  What was clear was this represented both an enormous gap and challenge, but also an emerging huge opportunity of historic dimensions for humanism to mobilise for real lasting change!
Caroline an ex catholic chaplain from the US, provided us with her direct experience of the huge loss that ex-clergy experience when they lose their faith and have to leave their ministries and churches.  It was clear that by stepping outside the close religious communities in the US you were losing much more than just your belief in the divine - you were losing a way of life, often your family, your friends and your community. It reminded me very much of my own process of ‘coming out’ as a gay man. All those years of deprogramming yourself from parental expectations.  I felt for her and once again wanted to ‘hug a humanist’, except this time I think the hug would have been very welcome.  My heart cried a little inside, remembering how hard it can be especially for those isolated and alone.
Caroline outlined how they used the confidential website Rational Doubt ( to reach out to isolated clergy and described how some churches have humanist branches using their facilities. I found myself cynically interpreting this as just another ‘honey trap’ by the religious to keep the humanists close so they could work on them and get them back for God.  But then a little mischievous voice shouted back that ‘honey traps’ can work both ways - why be so defensive?  Get stuck in and provide a place for all the doubting Thomases in the attached church, who do not really believe in the God thing and win them back for humanity!
James a confident theatrical humanist chaplain in Louisiana, who hails originally from the UK, showed us what a well funded organised humanist community in Louisiana looks like!  From the pictures he showed us it looked suspiciously like a church but wearing the witche’s hat from Oz as a roof!  I was surprised to learn that humanism had started in the US over140 years ago by Felix Adler and frankly was gobsmacked to find that atheism was protected as a creed in this US State!  Reminding us that the States is such a melting pot of diverse and competing forces and ideas constantly on the boil.
Isabel the Head of Ceremonies for the BHA informed us that there were over 300 trained humanist ‘foot soldiers’ conducting over 8000 services.   She gave an impassioned account of how the ‘Absence of God is not the absence of the Sublime nor the Profound’, and that ‘Good works in non-mysterious ways’  by getting out there and helping real people in the real world, making a difference to the important moments in peoples lives.  She highlighted the excellent book ‘Funerals without God’ which was first published in 1987.  My own first contact with humanism was by attending humanist funerals. They impressed me with their authenticity compared to my previous experiences with ritual ladened catholic services, which hardly touched the deceased person’s real self.  
This excellent, thought provoking session probably unsettled me the most of all the sessions we attended.  We heard about real people, making real impact in the real world, showing ‘felt leadership’ to real lives.  In the Q&A we learnt that the Scottish Humanists earned over £250k pa from their celebrants - Isobel quickly countered that England did not earn that amount just yet!  I found my inner self in excited turmoil with many guilty questions.  How do we get involved?  Where on earth do we start, given that our nearest humanist group in Reading has just folded?  The huge paradox of growing numbers of the non religious but no commensurate increase in local humanism really really confused me.  Why was humanism not mobilising a lot more aggressively to grab this unique historic opportunity?  How much do we want to commit as a couple and as individuals to help?  The enormity of the opportunity was exciting but also frightful! So many questions and paradoxes!  We headed off in deep mental disarray to the Dawkins Plenary session to hear the high priest of atheism, who we hoped would provide us with all the answers to our growing befuddlements!
The Dawkin’s session started bizarrely with a surreal performance from a comedian impersonating a baby, horse and crow talking gibberish!  The Sheldonian was packed to the rafters with very excited World Humanists eager to listen to the one of the movements great thinkers and advocates.   Richard Dawkins did not disappoint.  He delivered a masterclass of his thinking and arguments against the ‘God Delusion’ and argued passionately the need for more rational debate and thinking about many issues.  Samira challenged him on his most recent Twitter controversy regarding the correct use of logic using date rape as an illustration.  He re-enforced his argument further using his own experience of abuse as a child too illustrate how even the most difficult emotive issues like paedophilia should not cloud our judgement into using irrational thinking.  He powerfully summarised that it was just in these types of hard emotive cases where the rational approach was needed the most.  
Richard has over 300k followers on Twitter and 1.3m subscribers on his ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation’ Facebook site.  This is a virtual reach that is far larger than the British Humanist Association with 75k followers on Facebook and 11000 members. The IHEU has 11000 followers on facebook!   Anyway, despite his very effective use of the internet he did lament how the web’s main impact recently has been to re-enforce the narrow and the irrational by inflating extremists’ perceptions of their own importance way beyond anything justified by how accepted or supported their views are in the real world.   
Richard recounted with obvious relish that the UK census had recorded a huge 20% or so drop in UK citizens identifying with a religion, I found myself shocked at the disconnect between these two sets of figures.  Did this not mean that there was a ‘dormant diaspora’ of the non aligned or non religious in the UK numbering 10s of millions?  Where was the equivalent rise in membership of the BHA, which looked paltry compared to the size of this latent diaspora?  Was the humanist movement missing an historic opportunity to become a mass movement to change the world irreversibly?  The internet gave humanists global reach for an organisation small in number, but did real change required ‘troops’ on the ground?
Most of the session was a ‘live’ repeat of Richard’s excellent media performances and webcasts so no need to repeat these any further in this account!  But the session was no less powerful or spell binding for it.   It was clear why Dawkins remains one of the most transformative thinkers of our time.  The Sheldonian Humanists sat in rapture. 
But Richard in the end had not helped us in our own particular individual befuddlements nor answered our burning questions.  We were disappointed to find he was not omnipotent after all! He was just another deep thinking humanist who had spent a lifetime having deep well articulated thoughts about important existential matters!  
Thus ended our exhilarating attendance at the World Humanist Congress.  We would have to head home to feed our hungry pussy cat, and resolve our befuddlement in comfort.  As we journeyed home along the Thames Valley the sun came out and Rick and I felt good with the world. Pleased with our very fulfilling attendance at the World Humanist Congress which had exceeded our expectations in many different ways.  It had brought us closer together in very welcome and unexpected ways. Now that would be telling!

Richard Dawkins

Resolving our Irreverent Befuddlement
Our weekend being ‘World Humanists’ at a Global Congress was a triumph which had exceeded both our expectations. The event organisation, entertainment, sessions and venues had all been varied and marvellous.  We had met so many warm wonderful friendly people and enjoyed the social events immensely.  Afterwards at home we felt a mix of emotions, of exhilaration, of delight but also of bewilderment and of befuddlement!  We really did struggle on our return home to understand our emotional confusion.  It was frustrating not to be able to easily resolve the confusions or understand their reasons.  I went for a long run on the Monday to clear my head and found on my return that I had resolved some of the reasons for our befuddlement which I would like to share.
First impressions - can be a little presumptuous but are unique and are as fleeting and fragile as a precious butterfly.  We’ll never have these first impressions about humanism again as we have joined the British Humanist Association so are now ‘card carrying’ humanists!  We share our first impressions here in a spirit of free inquiry and apologise if they are somewhat naive or expose our ignorance.   I have summarised our befuddlements into five overlapping paradoxes that we experienced over the weekend.  We would not presume to offer solutions but pose a lot of irreverent questions as much for ourselves as we try too decide how and where we might contribute to humanism!
First Contact with the Borg Collective - the humanist material on line is well structured with an emphasis on reason, targeted campaigns and careful use of terminology. This is understandable given the academic, activist, scientific, ethical and philosophical roots of humanism.  The emphasise on reason and rational argument pervades everything and I really do get that, as its the core of what humanism stands for - the use of reason in place of faith and the divine.  But its all just a bit too dry, too intellectual, too worthy, too cerebral, and too lofty - its just a little bit boring - too nice!   Does it speak to the average man on the street, the non committed or to the agnostic religious?   I found myself wanting much more heart, more inspiration, more emotion. Humanism has developed a strong set of core guiding principles using the language of reason and wisdom, but does it also need to engage the emotions by speaking to the heart?  Its almost as if this is the love that dare not speak its name!  
Does Humanism need to go further as Wole Soyinka called for in his speech at the Congress for a ‘new tactical language’ of ‘transformative aggression’ to confront the malevolent march of religious extremism?
Historic Opportunity - with the huge decline in religious affiliation that is underway in the west I found myself wondering why there had not been a commensurate increase in membership of humanist organisations across Europe and in the USA?  This represents a unique historic opportunity with a huge dormant diaspora of the non religious numbering 10s of millions.  The 11000 membership of the BHA is puny by comparison!  Why is this?  What are the barriers?  Is humanism too intellectual for the diaspora?  Is it too associated with ‘militant atheism’? Is it too worthy for its own good? Is it too virtual?  Why is humanism not aggressively mobilising locally and nationally  to convert the ‘latent diaspora’ into membership and securing the hard power and moneys that come by being a mass movement that can change the world permanently?  
Hug a Humanist - we met some wonderful people and we experienced some very special ‘moments of felt being’ in many of the sessions.  I will never forget Agnes from Uganda. We felt so much love during the Congress.  I think its the reason Rick and I found ourselves feeling closer during the weekend we were feeding off the obvious warmth and human love around us.  But overall it did not feel like an affectionate gathering and we found it ‘hard to hug a humanist’!  We experienced so many ‘un-hugged’ moments over the weekend.  Does humanism need to develop its own physical and verbal language. Wole Soyinka called for a ‘new tactical language’ of ‘transformative aggression’ to confront the malevolent march of religious extremism? The Freemasons have their silly handshakes!  The religious, their blessings and their salutations.  The army have their salutes.  Such rituals are important as they signal belonging, group acceptance and recognition.  Why not a double handed humanist handshake - a special humanist hug? Do humanist have to become more human with each other?!
Hearts and Minds - extremists know how to mobilise using hate and fear to spread bigotry, prejudice and difference.  These powerful negative human emotions have evolved to help us survive in a hostile world.   But love has also evolved as the balancing antidote to hate and fear - its the powerful emotion that binds us together in common constructive causes.  For too long the religious have used love, wrapped up with conditions to believe in the divine, as a ‘honey trap’ to lure converts to their Godly causes. To such an extent that even when their faith is lost their ‘flock’ stay within the church!  But love does not come from the divine!  Is it not part of being human, of being alive, of being a human being?  Surely love is the core guiding value for everything humanism stands for?  Is not a deep love for our fellow man the underlying motivation for humanism?  Embracing love could provide humanism with the existential counter to the meaning of life if there are no Gods, and no after life.  Could ‘presenting love’ win over the weakly (or weekly!) religious with a focus on living a life full of love, without God?  Is now the time for humanism to appropriate love back from the Religious? To use it as a counterweight to the hate and fear that stalks todays world?  To use it as a ‘weapon’ against all haters. Is it about time this wonderful human emotion was placed central to humanism?  Humanism is winning the ‘mind campaign! Does humanism now need to follow up with a powerful sustained and continuous ‘Love Campaign’?
Diverse Hinterland -  the collapse of the Arab spring has shown that idealism and the internet can mobilise people to action, but that in the real world its feet on the ground, organisational prowess and hard power that win in the end.  It’s clear that religions are masters at wielding both soft and hard power.  They have experience developed over millennia, of meeting human needs which come with conditional love to lure both new converts, but also maintain their base congregations for their Godly causes.  With territory and critical mass comes wealth and political power.  But to do this, does humanism need to reach out from its left liberal academic core and powerful internet presence to build a more diverse base?  At present the Humanist Celebrants are the most successful and visible foot soldiers for humanism on the ground.  Does there need to be a broader based outreach campaign to spur the ‘dormant diaspora’ to ‘self organise’?   Where are the corporate sponsors?  Where are the libertarian thinkers?  Why should the Christian right be left to dominate thinking on the political right?  As more people join humanism in diverse ways there will be more disagreement, more dissent, is humanism ready to lead such a noisy broad coalition?  Does humanism want to secure its European and US hinterland or remain mainly web based? Is it ready to embrace a change in scale?   Does it want to become a wielder of hard power?
Thank You for Reading This Far!
With so many questions is it any wonder we felt befuddled?  Richard Dawkins did not answer any of them but we really did not expect him to!  What we do know is humanism is for us.  We are keen to engage. After attending the World Humanist Congress we want much more direct human connection with humanists in addition to our existing contacts via the internet! Perhaps our first step will be to organise something in our home town, in Windsor, to see if our local ‘dormant diaspora’ is interested, or even exists! 
I attended a friends 50th Birthday party after the Congress and spoke to someone who knows John Lennox a writer of books trying to counter the ‘atheist tide’. He lost no time rushing back to his house returning with a pile of books for me to take home to ‘undo the nonsense that Dawkins has written’!  His zeal and faith and annoyance with humanism was palpable.  Oh if only humanists did the same thing when you met them for the first time! Perhaps, I should cheekily return the favour and send him a copy of Richard Dawkins ‘The God Delusion’ to balance his generosity with my own?
Thanks for reading this essay to the end.  I hope it was not too presumptuous of us. But writing this essay has helped us gather our thoughts and discuss where we might contribute.  We certainly enjoyed our 3 days being World Humanists at a Global Congress!  Till we meet again good friends,
With Love and Hugs,  
Antz and Rick x

Official Photos from the World Humanist Congress:-

The New Humanism!