Monday, April 1, 2013

Why I Come To Atheist Conventions

This was my second American Atheists Convention[1][2].  My first was last year right after the Reason Rally[3], which was also my first atheist convention in general).  I've been to two more since, last year's Midwest Freethought Conference[4] (now called Apostacon[5][6][7]) and Skepticon 5[8][9].  I've enjoyed the conference so far, but I don't come to these things for the speakers.  Even with my social anxiety and lack of people skills, my reason for coming to these things is to meet other atheists.

It's not that I have a problem with having speakers at these things.  I enjoyed seeing some of them.  David Silverman[10][11][12], Greta Christina[13][14], JT Eberhard[15][16], Matt Dillahunty[17][18], and Katherine Stewart[19][20] all gave good talks that I'm glad I didn't miss.  Jay Jay French[21][22] , Pete Stark[23], and Keith Lowell Jensen[24][25][26] were highlights as well.  But, at these things, I'm usually not interested in more than half the speakers.  Even with some of the people who I really like (Christina Rad[27][28][29], Hector Avalos[30], Hemant Mehta[31][32]), I'm not that interested in their talks.  Then there's the ones I wanted to see but missed due to a mix of time and exhaustion (Edwina Rogers[33], Richard Carrier[34], Dale McGowan[35][36], Jerry DeWitt[37][38], Cara Santa Maria,[39][40] Seth Andrews[41][42], Ophelia Benson[43][44], Edwin Kagin[45], Teresa MacBain[46][47], and the Panels on Women in Atheism and Atheism vs Humanism).

Despite that impressive list of speakers, I do have some issues with the focus on them.  I've noticed, what seems to me at least, too much focus on the stage.  I'm guilty of it myself.  At the Reason Rally, I was so focused on the stage that I forgot to go see the protesters, something I had really looked forward to doing that day.  By focusing on the stage so much, I completely missed out on meeting some of the more than 20,000 other atheists there.  It was caused by a mix of excitement about the event and the weather, but it still happened.

Coming to these things is definitely worth it.  I just need to not forget that the real magic of it isn't on the schedule or on the stage.  It's in the hotel lobbies and at the bars.  It's when organizers for local groups meet and share ideas.

The speakers can sometimes have some interesting things to say or get people motivated to action, but they can also often be merely preaching to the choir and unnecessary.  I would love to see speaker lists that are less packed, with more room for actually socializing with the other atheists.  But without that, I'll keep on ignoring half the lineup on stage and mingling as best as this awkward geek with social anxiety is capable.

2.  #AACon13
6.  @Apostacon
9.  @RealSkepticon
12.  @MrAtheistPants
14.  @GretaChristina
16.  @jteberhard
18.  @Matt_Dillahunty
20.  @kathsstewart
22.  @jayjayfrench
25.  @keithlowell
29.  @ZOMGitsCriss
32.  @hemantmehta
36.  @MemingOfLife
38.  @jerry_dewitt
40.  @CaraSantaMaria
42.  @ThinkingAtheist
44.  @OpheliaBenson
47.  @Teresamacbain


  1. It was interesting to read about the American Atheist 50 year anniversary held in Austin, Texas. There was mocking, jeering, ridiculing. Even David Silverman, the president of American Atheist wore a costume dishonering Jesus. What was suprisingly missing from this great and momentous event were the great speeches showing how science and reason have disproven God, congratulatory slaps on the back for the great strides they have made, medals and plaques given out for the most rebellious against God and for those who teach children to rebel against God.

    It was nothing more than a fizzle at the end of 50 years. I suppose it is similar to the fizzle at the end of an atheist's life when he meets Jesus.

    1. Wow, Dave, you really need to learn something about atheism before you go around making comments as accusatory and silly as this one. Remember, most atheists were once religious people and we are quite familiar with your religion, your bible (both factually and mythologically) and your arguments. You obviously don't know anything at all about atheism based on the wildly off-the-mark comments above about proving negatives and such. Please, man, for your own sake, get a clue before you look like an idiot again!

  2. Jesus should be disrespected, as religion is undeserving of respect. Those speeches don't happen because the burden of proof lies with the people making the claim. And your threat of "meeting Jesus" is hollow without definitive proof.