FSI conference 2013

fsi-glass-squareI heard today that the secular humanist NPO that I’m chair of (the Free Society Institute, or FSI) has been awarded a substantial grant by the International Humanist and Ethical Union and HIVOS to host a conference later this year (or perhaps early 2014). So I’m in the early stages of planning. The event will most likely be in Johannesburg, simply because I can guarantee more substantial media coverage there, and because it’s easier to get to (I’ll be trying to persuade an international speaker or two to make the trip).

While I’m probably familiar with 90% of South Africans who are interested in these issues, and who might be interested in participating, please feel free to make suggestions for local speakers on this form. I can’t give any details about dates and venue yet, but want to make sure that anyone I don’t already know about gets ample time to bubble to the surface.

Also note that the proposal that got me the grant involves a conference on a Saturday, and a workshop on scientific reasoning and skepticism on the Sunday (ideally for schoolkids). So, you can put names forward for either component (or both).

Why a secular society?

A secular student organisation (re)launched at my university (Cape Town) on Monday this week. Calling themselves the UCT Student FSI, they have partnered with the non-profit that I started here in South Africa, theĀ Free Society Institute. I was invited to give the launch address, an invitation that I was very happy to accept. The quality – especially of the first video – is rather poor, but for those of you who’d like to watch/listen, two videos can be found below (the talk, and the question-and-answer session that followed it). If you’d like to view the slides, you can do so here.

Moral clarity and the threat of the NILC

Today’s edition of the Mail and Guardian carries a disturbing article about the growing influence of religious groups – in particular Ray McCauley’s National Interfaith Leadership Council – on South Africa’s Government. Ever since the unlikely figure of Jacob Zuma launched the Moral Regeneration Movement, thinking South Africans should have been concerned about how much influence organised religion would continue to have on policy in this country. Now that danger seems set to increase, with talk of revisiting laws legalising abortion and same-sex marriage. I’ve sent a letter in response via the Free Society Institute – if you are as concerned as I am, please also protest this incursion of nonsense into a domain which really doesn’t need more confusion.