The origins of secularism & the NSS
In the spring of 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK enacted social distancing policies which meant most NSS staff, members and supporters had to stay at home.
During this period, NSS council member and historian Bob Forder produced a series of lectures to support, educate and entertain all those interested in secularism and the history of the NSS. By telling the stories of Thomas Paine, Annie Besant, Charles Bradlaugh and the other important figures who contributed to the development of secular thought in the UK, Bob gives a fascinating and personal view of the origins of secularism and the National Secular Society.
Special thanks to David Wildman for his video editing skills.
Bob Forder discussed the series on Episode 24 of the NSS podcast.
Posted: Thu, 30 Apr 2020 07:00
How did the secularist movement begin in Britain? And why should modern supporters of secularism care about its history?
In this week's episode, Emma Park speaks to Bob Forder, a member of the NSS Council and former history teacher, about the origins of secularism in Britain. Bob explains how the secularist movement was, from its early years, bound up with the story of the National Secular Society.
From its origins in local working-class associations, he argues, secularism has always been a socially progressive if not radical movement that has challenged the established hierarchy.
Issues like freedom of speech and of conscience, abolishing the blasphemy laws and providing scientific information about birth control have been at the heart of secularist campaigns, and supported by the NSS, for over 150 years. And, Bob argues, understanding the history of secularism can help reinforce its supporters' sense of purpose, and their shared identity, even today.
- The series is available as a playlist on YouTube
- The history of the National Secular Society
- The Fruits of Philosophy – an early pamphlet on contraception
- Peterloo's heroes represented the finest traditions of secular democracy
- Radicals, Rebels, and Revolutionaries of the 19th century – Bob Forder at Conway Hall
- Former NSS President Barbara Smoker dies at 96