1000 humanists from over 60 countries are assembling in Oxford today for the 2014 World Humanist Congress. This triennial gathering of members of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) unites men and women from across the globe who believe that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity alone, without religious beliefs.
Everyone has freedom of (and from) religion and belief, and the right to practice however they like, but it should never impact upon the freedom of others to live their lives how they wish. That the government is choosing to uphold this basic but vital principle is a fantastic victory for secularism, humanism and feminism, and another step towards a more equal and fair society.
Students have rights, their beliefs don't. If there is one message universities need to hear at the end of this academic year, it's this. For non-religious students on campuses across the UK, 2013-14 has been the most challenging year to date, with criticism of religion censored and religious rules enforced in lecture theatres. It has also seen the start of a significant fight-back.
What's needed isn't bestselling feminism, or even radical feminism, but an ethical humanism more radical than feminism. A movement that actually demands change of the existing cultures and tries to get every human to act towards it, rather than the sort of change that inspires people to buy a different brand of beauty product.
It is this debate that secularists, both religious and otherwise, are fighting for. The movement doesn't aim to destroy or dismantle religion, but to create a society where no one group is granted special privilege or power. A society which ensures that all beliefs are protected and welcomed equally. But this debate can only be had once you stop using "secularism" as a slur.
In a move beyond parody, London South Bank University's Student Union removed posters from its Atheists Society depicting a god on the grounds that they were offensive. The god in question was the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a deity invented as satire in protest against the teaching of Intelligent Design in Kansas; a god that, quite literally, nobody believes in.
Have you ever read something you think is so outrageously wrong you have to correct it? Well, that feeling overwhelmed me when I read fellow Huffington Post UK blogger Jack Fletcher's post entitled Feminism Is For Men Too. I'm now going to spend the next few hundred words explaining and defending why not agreeing with feminism is not the same as being a misogynist.
As Aurelius states if there is such a being that comprehends like us virtue and the good life then they will understand my conclusions. I will not live my life fearing an unjust celestial being that needs appeasing by frivolous tokens of submission to outrages gestures. My intention is to try and live a good life without such an entity.
I had always thought I could never be a great doctor because I felt too emotionally bound to my patients. It was impossible for me to hold back tears when feeling that gut wrenching empathy for families mourning the passing of their loved ones. Because it always seemed as if I were the only resident moved by these scenes, I reasoned that this was an unprofessional impulse.
The issue for me is what the purpose of the meeting is meant to be. If it is just a public relations exercise then it seems pointless. If on the other hand real concerns are being debated, for example where religious hatred is manifesting itself in society and people are stirring up violence, such dialogue may help people to appreciate what is happening in their community.
Scientism and materialism have led to a gradual drying up of poetry, myths and sacred narratives - and hence a thinning of meaning and flattening of emotion. I suspect, if the next three centuries are as rough as scientists tell us they will be, we will need stories, ones that give us hope and purpose even in the face of mass extinctions.
What would happen if the different faiths began automatically adding 'humanism' to their names, Islamic humanism, Buddhist, Judaic, Hindu, Christian humanism, for example - then explored what each meant. We'd probably end up with a rich dialogue based on a celebration of two great realities: our shared humanity and the richness of our different religious traditions.