March 15, 2008

Warwick Atheists lose Best New Society Award

With the headline in the Boar shouting “I don’t believe it” when it came to the news that Warwick Atheists had won Best New Society Award two weeks ago, the famous catchphrase seems to have been proven correct. On the last day of term, the Union decided to revoke the Society’s award and the accompanying £100 they had won. At the centre of this decision and sudden acrimony between the society and the Union’s Welfare Officer, are the posters depicting religions being disposed of in a bin. Their inspiration might very well have come from the campaign to keep the No Platform Policy, who used a symbol of a person binning a swastika, but it seems that Atheist version led to a ‘number of complaints’.Boar Front Page Week 10

According to the Union, the Executive Committee of the Warwick Atheists Society was sent an e-mail regarding the posters that were put up around campus entitled ‘The Importance of Atheism’. The society’s executive was informed that these posters were in the process of being taken down, and that we would be in contact again once the issue had been dealt with in the appropriate manner. Indeed, Ed Callow was seen taking them down with much determination. The main image within the posters themselves was of an individual discarding the symbols of nine major global religions into a litter bin, with the tagline “It’s time to take out the trash” written at the bottom. The Union claims that they included a level of unnecessary and discriminatory language which included: “If you’re sick and tired of hearing “it’s my faith” used as a smokescreen for ridiculous viewpoints, come and take a look at what we have to say”.

The Union has also taken the decision to ban the reproduction of the image in any other publication or media. They have claimed that the “The bounds of the Equal Opportunities Appendix apply to reproductions of these posters in the same way as the posters themselves”.

According to sources close to the Warwick Atheists new Exec, the society is planning to to appeal the decision. Indeed, their main argument against revoking their award was that they were judged on their progress throughout the year, not afterwards. However, the Union takes a different view; ‘Even though this publicity went up after the distribution of awards, given that the criteria include ‘Commitment to Equal Opportunities’, ‘Good intersociety relations’ and ‘Contribution to the Union / wider University environment’, it was felt that this breach was serious enough to merit withdrawal of this honour for the 2007/2008 academic year.’

It seems that Warwick Atheists are not prepared to sit back and accept the Union’s judgment. On an unofficial blog called ‘ToolChronicles’, the ‘Chronicler’ – an anonymous ‘individual’ who according to the ‘webmaster’, doesn’t represent Warwick Atheists, highlighted the words ‘Fuck You Ed’, evidently referring to the Welfare Officer, and he/she defends Warwick Atheists position: “We’ve produced nothing as or more offensive than has been seen in the past, and it was merely a free expression of a valid viewpoint held by a great many people. Religion is mocked in every form of entertainment we have nowadays. We weren’t even doing that. This poster is not offensive to average people. A minority, an incorrectly outspoken minority at that, expressed that it offended their sensitive theistic values.”

The issue does raise questions about freedom of speech and sensitivity towards different religions. After the recent Referendum decision to now allow racists and fascists into the Union, the debate about information will not rest. Warwick students will now enjoy a rift between Mr Callow and Warwick Atheists. The ‘Chronicler’ stated “We’re taking it to appeal, and we’re going to fight it every step of the way. Bring it on, Callow.”

To visit the Warwick Atheists’ website click here.

To visit the blog Tool Chronicles, click here.

For the Students’ Union website, click here.

RaW News is not responsible for the content of these external websites.

Sam Shirley
Outgoing Head of News

- 13 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. A De Montfort

    An extremely interesting situation and one which is still developing.

    I wonder if the Union will take further action on this.

    15 Mar 2008, 19:50

  2. And so it begins.

    16 Mar 2008, 01:09

  3. Cai

    Given that there is a lot of misinformation and misattribution floating around, I must say first that I DO NOT SPEAK ON BEHALF OF THE SOCIETY HERE; MY VIEWS DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THOSE OF THE SOCEITY.

    However, it is certainly true that the society is not prepared to “sit back and accept the Union’s judgement”, which in this case is clearly in error. We are currently in the process of arranging meetings between the society’s exec and Ed Callow, and no doubt this matter will be dealt with soon. Despite how strongly various members and affiliates of the society feel about this issue, we are going to make sure that dealings with Ed Callow and the rest of the union and Socs Fed are approached in a strictly professional manner.

    As the designer of the Atheists’ poster in question, I can assure you that the similarity between it and the mentioned campaign poster containing the swastika is purely coincidental. Given their similarity, however, perhaps it is interesting to note that only one of these is causing controversy? The union clearly holds criticism of some ideologies as acceptable, and criticism of others as not.

    16 Mar 2008, 19:25

  4. Cai

    Speaking of misinformation and misattribution, Tool Chronicles is not the society’s “unofficial blog” as you stated in your list of external links, merely the personal blog of someone who takes an interest in the affairs of the society.

    You can read TC’s post about this misunderstanding here

    16 Mar 2008, 19:35

  5. This has been changed.

    It does help if you don’t refer to yourself in the plural.

    16 Mar 2008, 20:07

  6. Dan, the reason you use for not belonging to an Atheist Society is the reason that I have never really called myself an atheist. Although I have used it a couple of times in recent years to make a point, I also believe that we don’t have to define ourselves as being “un”-something. It doesn’t make sense, for instance, to have a “not stamp collecting” club.
    However, in this case (and I think it might be perhaps the only genuine case) such societies are needed. Too often religions get to have an ‘opinion’ and it’s through well constructed (University) societies that these opinions gain weight and voice. An atheist society can argue the opposition these views, if that is the case, in a similarly well constructed way.
    The grouping of atheists has been argued against by atheists simply because they share the idea that you do, and also they fear the brand of atheism being another ‘religion’ that stupid and scared religious types have labelled it in recent years. However, I think such groups will cease to be as soon as religions are swept away and are no longer mainstream. Until then, it’s a place to share ideas, have a laugh and meet new people and friends, surely?
    Nothing wrong with that. Basically it’s like the CU. And the Islamic Soc. And Buddhism Soc. And Hindu Soc. And Sikh Soc. And etc. Except without the shite.

    07 Apr 2008, 19:56

  7. (apols for typos and crap grammar. That’ll teach me to read through before I post…)

    07 Apr 2008, 19:58

  8. Socrates

    unnecessary and discriminatory language which included: “If you’re sick and tired of hearing “it’s my faith” used as a smokescreen for ridiculous viewpoints, come and take a look at what we have to say”.

    Nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. For example, would you judge the following to be unnecessary and discriminatory?

    If you’re sick and tired of hearing “it’s economic reality” used as a smokescreen for ridiculous viewpoints, come and take a look at what we have to say.

    That’s exactly the same type of argument, used in the same way, but acting against a different mindset (perhaps accountants, or politicians). Is it still discriminatory? Is it wrong to criticise sophistry and propose that there might be a more rational alternative? If so, pass me the hemlock.

    Perhaps this is an example of the same wrong-headed lack of intellectual skills that the atheists attack?

    10 Apr 2008, 13:21

  9. Aristotle

    Perhaps they would also ban the Philosophy Department, where such things are often debated, with much more radical propositions being defended?

    The atheists are simply saying:

    if you use “it’s my faith” in an argument, then the consequences could be terrible.

    Which might be formally equivalent to the Green Society saying:

    if you use a car, you will cause global warming.

    Lots of people use cars, lots of people use dumb quasi-theological arguments, and lots of other people wish to campaign against either of both of those positions. That’s what student societies do. The Greens encourage us to use less polluting transport, the atheists encourage us to use safer and more rational forms of argument.

    10 Apr 2008, 13:29

  10. Plato

    How many logical steps from “it’s my faith” to the suicide bomber?

    That is perhaps the most important question facing us today. It must be understood. The consequences of not exploring this problem will be terrible.

    Pass me the hemlock.

    10 Apr 2008, 13:32

  11. Kant

    How many logical steps from “it’s my faith” to the suicide bomber?

    A hop, a skip and a BANG!

    10 Apr 2008, 15:28

  12. Religion is a belief. A belief in a God or Gods.

    Atheism is a belief. A belief that there is/are no God(s). But is it a religion? I don’t know.

    Religious societies based on belief have societies at this university. Why should an idea based on a belief not have a society?

    Most people don’t believe in a God or Gods, but may not “believe” there is no God. Is this apathy or something? Or have they just not though about it. They may know they are not religious, but do they feel so strongly that they believe there is no God? These are the people who I would think of as the “non stamp collecting” club mentioned above.

    11 Apr 2008, 20:33

  13. Christian

    I only just became aware of this situation and am very disappointed to hear about what has happened. I’m a Christian and feel that the Atheist Soc’s award as best new society was well deserved. It has been great to see a number of their members attending Christian Union events to engage in intense but good-natured discussion. In turn, Christian Union members have been very much welcomed to Atheist Soc events.

    I saw the posters in question around campus, but was not offended by them. I think that they have as much of a right as anyone else to express their views. Whilst in one sense I am of course saddened by their rejection of belief in God, they should be entitled to that and to debate and discuss.

    The revoking of their award seems unfair anyway, even if the posters did offend some. Religious faith and expression is a choice and should be open to criticism and question – just as atheism or any other belief system should be.

    28 Apr 2008, 11:12

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