I had wanted to attend an atheist conference for a while, but most were outside of my price range, distance range, and approval from my family. This time all three conditions aligned and with the approval of my incredible my wife I was off to the Pennsylvania Atheist/Humanist Conference in Philadelphia, PA. The event was coordinated by the PAnonbeleivers, Brian Fields, Margaret Downey, and a host of volunteers. Thank you to all.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I checked in, then went up to the bar, I then met the first of many atheists that I have come to know and love, Dan Fincke, of the blog Camels with Hammers. Dan is an awesome man and one of the friendliest people I have ever met. By chance, he was drinking with a long time blog “idol” J.T. Eberhard of the What Would J.T. Do blog. There he was sitting in his teemo hat, I was laughing to myself. How could this get any better? The first 30 minutes of the conference and I have met two guys whose writing and opinions I respect greatly.
The first night of the conference had a Friggatriskadaekaphobia party, where superstitions would be cast out forever (wishful thinking). Walking under a ladder to join the party in the room, you were greeted with tables referencing different superstitions. Around the room, histories of different superstitions, why is a horseshoe lucky? Why is it good luck to kiss the Blarney Stone? And there was a chance to tempt fate, a raffle to smash a fairy (piñata) into dust, smash a mirror for seven years bad luck, throwing your horoscopes in the trash where they belong. Doctors and nurses were on hand with black cats to cure you of your superstitions. I recognized so many people and could hardly wait to hear them speak the next day.
Saturday, totally unaware of what to expect, then came the first speaker, James Croft. Wow! Just wow! Who was this Brit? A humanist who spoke so passionately, if this was the start, it could only get better. Next, J.T. speaking about being a firebrand atheist, having a hard time finding the medium between being a firebrand and Phil Plait’s “Don’t be a Dick”. J.T.s talk was why I became a fan of his blog, despite this, I am still struggling with being a firebrand and not a dick.
The second part of the morning was even more impressive, David Tamayo, a Hispanic American, and president of Hispanic American Freethinkers, touched me with such a great story of his change to atheism. He talked of HAFREE and the talks they give to the Hispanic youth in the high schools in Virginia; I said to myself, I must get them to speak at my school. I have not yet contacted David, but I will be doing so shortly.
Little that I knew that a speaker would have my eyeballs sweating (those are not tears), as Tracy Lockwood shared her story of growing up in a Christian cult in upstate New York. Oh the things people will do in the name of religion. So sad, but it is these type of stories that must be told for change to happen.
Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, spoke about the importance of being an atheist, not agnostic, not humanist, not any combination of those. I am an atheist and will say it proudly and loudly.
After Silverman, something interesting happened, I was getting tired and told myself, I’ll just listen to the next speaker for five minutes, if no good, I’ll go take a nap. For the love of the FSM, none of the speakers sucked! I was exhausted. But oh it was so worth it.
The night ended with the comedy of Jamy Ian Swiss, Steven Hill, Dave DeLuca, and a wonderful musical performance by Shelley Segal.
Sunday, came the authors I had been dying to see and meet. Jerrry DeWitt, author of Hope after Faith, spoke like no one I have ever heard. I had seen evangelical preachers on television praising the lord, but Jerry, was speaking to atheism. He had the audience laughing one minute, the next thing you know, you were sitting almost crying. It is not hard to see how this man could have been such a power influence in the church.
Amanda Kneif, author of The Citizen Lobbyist, spoke to Faith Based Initiatives by the federal and state governments. You have no idea how much of our tax payer monies are going to churches without any oversight. Really, it is a disgusting display of how the religious are helping head towards a theocracy.
Overall, my experience was fantastic, met so many wonderful people. Confirmed my feelings about bloggers, I am glad I’m such a good judge of character. I can hardly wait to see some of these people again. It also reignited the fire to join the Beltway Atheists again, and become more of an activist.
Thanks to all at the conference, organizers, speakers, and volunteers.