ON July 8 2005, during the
international conference in Paris on "Separation of Religion and
State", Barbara Smoker was honoured in the Sorbonne by the
International Humanist & Ethical Union with the presentation of a
"lifetime achievement" award for "Distinguished
Services to Humanism", embodied in an engraved silver plate on a
varnished wooden stand. After a felicitous build-up by the IHEU
president, Roy Brown, Barbara made a speech as follows.
"I understand it is
customary on such occasions for the recipient to acknowledge those who
helped to make the award possible - and my first acknowledgment must
be to the good nuns who indoctrinated me with such poppycock
that, once I realised I had been conned, I felt impelled to spend the
rest of my life decrying it and warning others against it.
acknowledgment is to writers in the humanist tradition, from ancient
times to the middle of the twentieth century, who helped to
crystallise my emergent ideas. Among those who were still writing and
lecturing in the late 1940s and early '5Os was the charismatic H J
Blackham; and whenever he was the advertised speaker at the quaintly
named Ethical Church in west London I took to making the journey there
hear him. Then I followed him
to Conway Hall - and those venues became my university.
"In 1952 Harold Blackham
co-founded IHEU; in 1963 he finalised the transformation of the
Ethical Union into the British Humanist Association; and in 1974 he
was honoured with the very same award with which I have been honoured
today. He was then 71; and as he is still quietly enjoying life, at
the age of 102, I am wondering if the award actually confers
"My third acknowledgment
is to the National Secular Society, whose members elected me as its
president some 35 years ago and put up with me in that office for the
next 25 years - an office that opened many doors to me.
"Finally, I would like
to thank those of you who selected me to receive this award - for
merely enjoying myself all these years and doing just what I wanted to
do. Thank you so much."
The 200 congress participants
then gave Barbara a standing ovation.
a short bio. and many of her articles and poems, including her two
most famous essays:-
I Am An Atheist' - that was broadcast eight times over
1985 and 1986
You Believe in God!' written in 1974 and published as a
leaflet by the NSS