Live From The American Atheist Conference – Day 1

I arrived at the conference around 11:30am and the first thing I did was find Surly Amy and say hello.  She’s such a sweetheart.  I finally got to meet her dude Surly Johnny!  I didn’t want to go into the conference room and interrupt the talk so I chatted with Darrel Ray for a bit, then I saw Amanda Kief, who I met last year at the Midwest Humanist Conference.  I also said hello to PZ Myers and we chatted briefly.

The first speaker up was Edwin Kagin.  His speech was titled Our Legal Philosophy and Activity.  He is the legal advisor for the American Atheists and has won several important cases that have upheld non-believers’ rights to freedom to not have religion forced upon them by local, state, and federal government.   In speaking about the difference between Intelligent design and evolution he said, “The opposite to evolution is ignorance.”

Greta Christina was up next.  Her talk was called Why Are Atheists so Angry and she listed many of the reasons she is angry, all having to do with the social injustices and human rights abuses that religions around the world have caused.  I recorded her talk and will upload it as soon as I can get a decent internet connection.

The next speaker was Eddie Tabash who gave a talk called Taking Atheism To The General Public: The Time Is Now.  He began by talking about our political responsibilities as atheists and how we need to vote for candidates who support separation of church and state, even if we disagree with them on unrelated issues.  He spoke about how we need to stem the influence that the religious right currently has on our society in the U.S. or we could well become a theocracy.  He said that American Atheists are a beacon of light against religion and theocracy.

He is realistic of what it will take to get to the point where the influence of religion on our society is no longer dominant, calling his plan a 100 year plan.  He called on us to use the same never-ending patience that zealous religious people do when we in try to let people know that there is no heaven or hell and that this life is what we need to focus on.  He said that we need to show sympathy for those who still believe and also support those new non-believers who are grieving over the lose of the comfort of their faith.

During the Q & A Mr. Tabash answered the a question that is currently being hotly debated within the atheists community; that of if we should use ridicule and satire against religious ideas. He believes that they are a tool and that we, as atheists, need to decide when to use them based on our audience and the situation, but that we must use all tools in our arsenal.

The final speaker of the day was Matthew Chapman who, besides being a great grandson of Charles Darwin, is also the director of the movie The Ledge.  He gave some of his personal history traveling around the U.S., especially in the south, where he saw rampant discrimination against non-believers.  The movie is about a young man who is an atheists and who has an affair with a minister’s wife.  The movie will be screened here tonight.  It was one of the few movies at the last Sundance Film Festival that was bought while it was still being screened there.

He spoke of religious strife and observed that religion is stupid on the front end and violent on the back end.

I chatted with Greta Christina briefly about how much I enjoyed her talk.  I also asked if I could talk to her later about trying to get an article I’ve written about the moral aspects of polyamory published on alternet.org where she’s regularly published.  She said that she’d be happy to talk to me.

They are starting the costume ball now.  Expect pictures!

Off to corner Greta!

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