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Non – Prophet Week: A Humanist’s Call to Arms

“To the question “Why me?” the universe barely bothers to murmur the reply “Why not?”

- Christopher Hitchens.

 

Last week the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Student Societies (The AHS) announced that the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust would be the charity of choice for this years Non – Prophet Week (20th – 26th October). We will be raising money for a specific project or two that the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust urgently needs funding for, which will allow the pupils to get the most out of their education. Selecting the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust as our charity this year means we can all be sure that we are making an active and practical difference. It allows us to give the greatest gift of all: a better education.

Just under a year ago, I sat at the British Humanist Association, during the AHS Training Day as the Regional Development Officer for the East Midlands, and I said there was little point in holding a bake sale if I was prepared to go further and do something that little bit extra, that would help improve and save the lives of people who live in countries where malaria is a real, everyday threat. I said, because it just came to me, that I would walk for a week around Nottingham University wearing high heels, because this was sure to be something that would spark a person’s interest. If you saw a man walking around in heels on your campus you would be determined to find out why, I am sure. That is what happened. My reply to those who asked was a simple one: “What is a week of suffering to me, compared to someone who contracts malaria?” Non – Prophet Week is about perspective.

This year, I want us all to try our best to beat whatever we raised last year. There were some brilliant ideas too: the president of Nottingham Universities AHS society, Richard Acton, wore a colander on his head. Well that’s no big deal, you say! It is when he wears a suit everywhere he goes. My predecessor, former AHS Secretary, Ruth Haydock ran an incredible 15K; the current President and Treasurer of the AHS held a 24-hour edit-a-thon on Wikipedia for all things atheist,  humanist and secular. Those are just a few incredibly creative examples. Remember to be creative; cake sales are common at university, so that may stagnate interest, or it may not… depends on the cakes!  All of us, from over 40 different societies across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland joined together and we all helped to raise great amounts, and save the lives of countless, nameless faces. This year we are taking a more practical approach. We are helping the lives of our fellow humans more directly, by choosing a specific project and raising money towards it. This is a subtle but key difference from last year. Where last year we raised money for nets to prevent mosquitos biting humans, and so saving a life indirectly, without that person ever knowing where that net came from, this year it will be the opposite. The Uganda Humanist Schools Trust will be able to inform their pupils of precisely who helped raise the money for  their new equipment. This is a small but necessary point to make. An education is something we are all fortunate enough to have. We were born into a country that could supply that education, in some cases pay for that education too. We are all humanists, and I absolutely believe that being a humanist means taking an active part in improving the lives of our fellow humans across the world. Humanism is after all, ‘for the one life we have’.

VICTORY

Last year, I was awarded a certificate of recognition from the glorious former AHS President Rory Fenton, for raising the most money for Non – Prophet Week. Can you beat your humble secretary this year? I hope so!

 

This year, I have a record to keep and you all have a record to beat. I want us all to be competitive, and to challenge ourselves either individually, or as a society in order to beat the total raised last year. To sacrifice a week actively taking part to help raise money for something that affects a persons life forever is a small sacrifice, but not I don’t think, an unreasonable one. Non – Prophet Week is about empathy, compassion, hope, joy and most of all, making a difference. We can make that difference. Non – Prophet Week is the very active part of humanism. We are all humanists… let’s prove it.

Join myself, Chris and Dan in helping make this year’s Non – Prophet Week the most successful yet and help us bring the gift of education to those who need it the very most.

 

If you have any questions about Non – Prophet Week please email Martin at:  secretary@ahsstudents.org.uk

 

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AHS Newsletter

3rd August 14

Fresher Fair Tips

Hopefully you’ve already started planning for the year ahead including your university’s fresher’s fair. This is one of the most important points in the year for attracting new members, so this week we thought we’d collate some of your freshers fair tips to share with everyone!

Make sure you’re friendly, enthusiastic and polite to anyone who approaches you – even if they’re a raving fundamentalist! Beware of getting too distracted by engaging in serious philosophical debate at your freshers’ fair – make sure to mention an upcoming event where you can discuss things in more detail, so you can get back to persuading people to sign up! – Chris Malburn

Avoiding heated and passionate discussion is a must for a Freshers Fair stall, not only is this sort of discussion unlikely to change anyone’s mind but its also really likely to scare people away from approaching your stall. Also be wary of spending too much time with one individual as people are unlikely stand around for twenty minutes while you finish your debate, especially if they’re a freebies to nab from a trade stall elsewhere!

The most common questions we get are variations on the theme of “so what do you guys actually do?” and “what’s the point of having an atheists’ society – Adam Carnall

This might seem like a really obvious point but it’s really easy to overlook preparing for questions in favour deciding what to actually put on your stall. It’s very easy to draw a blank to even the most simple questions that people may have about your society in the heat of the moment. This is guaranteed to make even the most passionate AHS society member look like they don’t know what they’re talking about! It’s worth ensuring that every person manning the stall has a response memorised to common questions such as:

  • What is atheism/Humanism/scepticism/secularism
  • Why should I join your society
  • What’s the point in having an atheist society, don’t you just sit around and talk about why you don’t believe in God?
  • Why do you have a pineapple on the stall?

If this is within your control, positioning can be important. if you’re placed right in the middle of the religious groups, potential members are much more likely to ignore you! – Sam Whitehall

Making it easy for potential members to find you stall starts with stall placement. Fresher stalls are often organised by student unions on the basis of the societies interests. Where you’d like for your stall to be placed can be tempered by a variety of factors such as which societies you have the best relations with and the politics of the society grouping however the main consideration should be where is the best placement to attract members. AHS societies often prefer to placed away from the religious societies and next to those societies which are likely to have similar goals and a significant membership overlap eg. LGBT, Feminist societies, amnesty, political societies.

We’ve only ever done one Freshers’ Week, but we found having a simple game or two to get people involved (draw them in!) worked really well. We had two: one was a lucky dip with a box of little bits of paper, with each having a name of a member of the House of Lords. If you got one of the 26 bishops in the Lords on your pick, you won a prize. (a couple of leaflets and BHA & NSS badges).

Our other one which was a bit more popular was the Jelly Bean Jar of the Gods (See attached photo). It was just a ‘guess the weight of the jar’ game, with 1gram = 1 god recorded by historians since the invention of writing. The closest guess won the jar etc. (we used 2870 as our number). That proved very popular so I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Other than that our most obvious thing was a selection of books on display with a sign saying “essential reading for the freethinker” (The God Delusion, god Is Not Great, Letters to a Young Contrarian, The Bible, etc.)

Something we didn’t do but might be good is to have a sign saying something like “ask/challenge an atheist”. Might be a good way to get people talking to you at first – Juhani Taylor

Having relevant items (including the customary pineapple) on the stall to catch the eye of students as they walk around is a must. But it’s also a good idea to ensure that you consider all the items that you put on your stall carefully and that you ensure that you can robustly explain their presence should you be questioned by a passing student. For example many students will be unaware of the pineapple incident of 2012 at Reading and so expect to have to explain the issues surrounding the pineapple if you include it on your stall.

Some societies however have found that items which they initially thought would be uncontroversial have landed them on the wrong side of staff members despite their student union policies allowing for such items to be shown – As was the case at Southbank earlier in the year.

So if you find yourself in trouble at your freshers’ fair this year, remember one golden rule:

KEEP CALM AND CALL CHRIS!


Re-Ratify your AHS society

Societies should have been contacted either by the new membership officer or their RDO with information about re-ratification via their email addresses.

If you have not yet recieved this information could you please contact Adam Carnall at membership@ahsstudents.org.uk

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