Later this month, on Friday, 20 June, I’ll be speaking at a symposium on The Enlightenment and the Roots of Humanism. The event is being hosted by the Humanist Society of NSW to celebrate World Humanist Day.
Speakers include: Meredith Doig, president of the Rationalist Association of Australia; Emeritus Prof Frank Stilwell, professor of political economy at Sydney University; and Dr Ian Ellis-Jones, a lawyer and Unitarian minister.
You can see the program here.
My speech, “Christian nation? Nonsense on stilts! How Jeremy Bentham’s humanism shaped Australia” will rebut the oft-repeated claim that Australia is a ‘Christian’ nation. I will argue against the notion that our systems of government, law, and education are based on Christian principles, and that our values are ‘Judeo-Christian’.
Instead, while conceding that Christianity has been influential, I will suggest that the little-known (to most) Enlightenment philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, lays claim to a far greater influence. Indeed, it has been said that Australia is a ‘Benthamite’ society.
Bentham, an adamant atheist, humanist and the father of utilitarianism, never set foot in Australia, but took a keen interest in it.
It has been fascinating to discover the diverse ways in which this eccentric, brilliant thinker impacted the course of Australian history and the shape of its institutions, even well after his death and into the present day.
Bentham was a heavy-weight thinker, but he was also a bit weird and wonderful. I hope my speech will educate and inform, but also honor Bentham with a bit of ‘weird and wonderful’ as well.
If you are in Sydney (or can get there) I’d love to see you at the symposium. I’ll be there for the day, so there’ll be plenty of time to mix and mingle.
Here are the details again:
The Humanist Society of NSW presents a symposium on
and the Roots of Humanism
10am – 4pm, Friday, 20 June, 2014
(my speech around 11.45 am)
State Parliament House,
6 Macquarie Street, Sydney
(Hyde Park end of Macquarie Street)
Cost: $30 per person includes lunch and afternoon tea
RSVP: By 10th June to Affie Adagio on 0421 101 163