On Friday 2 December I went to London to attend two meetings held at the University College London (UCL) Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, on Unbelief and Atheism.
The meetings were sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, which automatically makes me distrustful of the speakers, since its purpose is promote supposed scientific study of religion.
The first part was an "SSNB Roundtable: Who Cares about Unbelief?" SSNB stands for "Scientific Study of Nonreligious Belief". The most coherent of the speakers to my way of thinking was Dr Judith Everington from University of Warwick. In the Q&A session at the end I tried to point out that even people with Religious beliefs also have a background Nonreligious Worldview. It is the factual knowledge they have of the real world, that they rely upon to conduct their everyday life. It is what they are left with if they lose their religion. So there is no great mystery about it.
The second part was the "NSRN Annual Lecture: Is Atheism a Religion?" A lecture, with three speakers. The third speaker, Prof Chris French from Goldsmiths College, London, gave the straight answer No! And was quite amusing, but the other two speakers I found illogical.
The first speaker Jonathan Lansman, from Queens University Belfast, thought the subject was absurd, but mainly because he could not find coherent definitions of Religion and Atheism. He maintained that they are like the concept of Weeds which has no scientific meaning in botany, despite being useful in Gardening. With this sort of vagueness I don't see how it is possible for him to think clearly about anything. He thought however that there were some "natural types" like Water that did have a definite meaning. This type of terminology made me wonder if he might be a Creationist, since they think of animal species in this way.
The second speaker Miguel Farias from Coventry University, seemed to favour the proposition, but his arguments I now only vaguely recall, and bore little relevance to my own experience.
I recognised and spoke to Norman Bacrac from Conway Hall and David Pollock from the Rationalist Association and BHA. Rupert Sheldrake was also pointed out to me in the audience but I didn't get into conversation with him.