My Weekend at the World Humanist Congress, Oxford, UK

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Editor’s Note:  Catherine Dunphy, Clergy Project member and operations manager of this blog, shares her enthusiasm about her recent experience with humanists from around the world.
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By Catherine Dunphy
When I decided that I wanted to enter seminary and study to become a Roman Catholic Chaplain, like so many clergy, it was to do my part to help make the world a better place, to assist with social justice, to lend my voice and efforts to causes that strengthen human happiness and encourage peace.  Being a Christian and attending seminary forced me to confront the varied hypocrisies and ideologies that stymie human happiness and contribute to the deconstruction of peace by erecting artificial barriers.

This past weekend I had the privilege of seeing the values that I aspired to being lived and communicated, all the while staying cognizant of ideological baggage and being open to hearing divergent opinions.  The World Humanist Congress 2014 brought together humanists from across the world to discuss freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.  The conference was held at the University of Oxford, whose motto “Veritas Liberabit, Bonitas Regnabit”  (the truth will set you free, goodness will reign), could have been a secondary theme to the event.  Delegates and speakers came from every corner of the planet, with a common goal of strengthening thinking, reason, and respecting freedom of thought and expression.  Much was said regarding the various threats that exist in our world that we must be aware of in order to combat a back sliding of universal human rights.   When I was a chaplain student working in social justice causes, I could not have stated these values more clearly, more precisely, or more sincerely then was expressed last weekend in Oxford.
There were speakers such as Gualai Ismail (@Gualai_Ismail) founder of Aware Girls, author Taslima Nasreen (@taslimanasreen), Bangladeshi blogger, Asif Mohiuddin (@IAMAsifM) and so many more.  They all exhibited their individual strengths, while consistently echoing the values and goals of humanism.
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It was truly a privilege to speak at this Congress.  I also had an opportunity to connect with Richard Dawkins about his role in helping to found the Clergy Project, and to thank him publicly for his efforts, articulating just how large of an impact his efforts have had on my life and other members of the Project.
I must thank Andrew Copson, the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association for the tremendous job of operating this Congress, Sonja Eggericks, President of the IHEU for her leadership of the International Humanist and Ethical Union which represents the values of humanism on the world stage, and the tremendous humanists with whom I gratefully shared this weekend.
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Catherine Dunphy is the Associate Humanist Chaplain, at the University of Toronto, a  member of the Clergy Project, and its former acting Executive Director.  She was trained as a Roman Catholic Chaplain and is currently writing a book about the founding of the Clergy Project and her experience of losing her faith.
Photo Credits Catherine Dunphy & Ramon Casha, Malta

About Linda LaScola

Linda LaScola is co-author, with Daniel C. Dennett, of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind (2013) and “Preachers who are not Believers” (2010). She is an independent qualitative research consultant who works out of Washington, D.C. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the Catholic University of America and is a co-founder of the Clergy Project.

  • ripper

    Thanks for this Catherine. Must have been a great experience. I’m jealous. Maybe next year.

  • cadunphy280

    It was wonderful! The next Congress will be in 3 years 2017 in San Paulo Brazil!

  • Mary Johnson

    Wow–what a great experience. I heard Taslima Nasreen speak at the 2014 Women in Secularism Conference–she was so inspiring, so gracious, so tough. And isn’t it wonderful to find values that Christians often claim as their own expressed so clearly by Humanists?


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