It was the first formally “humanist” gathering I had ever attended. And it was interesting to note the tension and difficulty that many humanists feel around the word “atheist”. I get it, to a degree… it seems an empty, vacuous term, negative, failing to promote the great positivity of the humanist values that most atheists share, and which might prove a more comforting and somehow familiar draw for those considering jacking-in their religion. Still, I can’t help but feel that the word has too bad a rap in humanist circles, and that many are far too keen to hide it under the table cloth, for the sake of politeness and a lets-not-rock-the-boat attitude. Yet, every humanist I met said they were an atheist and, really, the primary reason they were gathered in Oxford was to better form an effective counterbalance to religion, and to protest the oppression and suffocation of civil liberties that organised religion is responsible for. It feels to me that atheism - the simple statement that one lives happily and meaningfully without gods - remains the first and most important message of humanism… and so it seems strange to be reluctant to call a spade a spade, although the broader, political objectives of humanism are of course valuable and important (general freedom of speech, the woman’s right to choose, LGBT rights, etc).