Every convention has its socializing element. Every convention gives its attendees free time to talk and discuss and argue and laugh. When the convention is an atheist convention, when its attendees are inherently thinkers and talkers, and have a deep appreciation of the joy and value of each moment, the socializing element should not be minimized.
Hence you have day 2 being recapped on day 3. It was my intention to post at the end of each day, but the day didn’t end, again, until the wee morning hours, so here we go.
What a breath of fresh air to begin the morning’s session with Jamila Bey. Jamila (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgdfHVwK884) gave us her experience of atheism in the African-American community (I know, Jamila, there is no ONE African-American experience!) with passion and clarity. The social importance of the religious network in anyone’s life is not to be minimized; in the African-American woman’s life, it’s almost paramount. Jamila seems to be made entirely of self-confidence and humor, but she has faced her share of resistance and criticism from the people she loves the most.
Jamila’s talk was followed by a diversity panel that was enlightening and informative. The atheist movement by its nature is broad and inclusive, so when we have a diversity panel, we have a diversity panel! It was interesting to hear perspective from other ethnicities and cultures.
We heard from comedian Paul Provenza, reading from his book “Satiristas”, and from Troy Conrad again, who was a scream. Irreverent, thought-provoking, and interactive, both of these guys are worth Youtubing.
Then came the big guns. PZ Myers (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/) spoke to us about what else? SCIENCE.
We heard from Professor Hector Avalos, who is a Religious Studies professor at Iowa State University. If you’ve seen the movie “Expelled” by Ben Stein, you’ll be familiar with his subject.
Finally, on Saturday we heard from two psychiatrists with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. They shared with us the physiological and psychological effects of religious thinking and freethought.
Sunday started with JT Eberhard from the Secular Student Alliance giving us a report of student organizations and their phenomenal, exponential growth. JT is such a voice for inspiration and motivation in the movement, and it’s my hope to have him visit the MTSU campus when we get the SSA going there.
Next was Lawrence Krauss, a quantum physicist who gave us little talk about Richard Feynman and his work. We heard also from Matt Dillahunty, who hosts the podcast for the Austin Community of Atheists. I got to join him for a meal or two, and found a little connection – his fiance is the former leader of the secular group at ETSU, and we chatted a bit about the student group there.
Finally, after an international symposium regarding the atheist movement, we listened to a military panel tell about the environment in the services for atheists. I will leave to your imagination what their responses were.
There’s a basic outline of what we did – I’ll try to blog in more detail about specific speeches and conversations I had with other attendees. Tonight’s agenda includes more debate and beer, not necessarily in that order.
Thanks for reading!