Are there too many atheist meetings?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick and grumpy, but I’ve noticed the huge spate of atheist meetings, both past and upcoming, and it’s seemed to me that there are just too many.  I know this is a sign of a successful and burgeoning movement of disbelief throughout the world, and I recognize that they give us greater visibility, and I understand that they serve as a useful venue for people to make connections as well as listen to their atheist “heroes.”  But to me the speakers and talks have often seemed repetitive: the same crew of jet-set skeptics giving the same talks.  And how much is there to say about a movement whose members are united, after all, by only one thing: disbelief in divine beings and a respect for reason and evidence. What more is there to say?

I’ve been to just one of these meetings so far: the Atheist Alliance International meetings in Burbank, California in October, 2009.  I greatly enjoyed that: I got to meet fellow “bloggers” like Brother Blackford and P. Z., relished the talks of people like Dan Dennett, Carolyn Porco, and Lawrence Krauss, whom I’d never before seen speak in person, and was put into stitches by a Mr. Deity skit and Bill Maher’s hilarious (and straight) reading of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.

Still, a few things bothered me, most notably the air of self-congratulation (which I excused on the grounds of enthusiastic people finding like-minded folks for the first time), the “fanboyness” directed at some of the famous atheists (they hardly let poor Richard alone, and I’m not sure he liked that!), and the lameness of quite a few of the talks.  Again, how much new can you say about atheism? And though I had a great time, this conference sated my appetite for a long while, and I’ve refused several invitations since. (I will, however, be at the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s meeting this October).

And now atheist conventions seem to be everywhere.  Amazing Meetings, Skepticons, Dragoncons, various local and atheist skeptic groups, etc.  And, sadly, the lineup of speakers is always depressingly familiar.  Worried that I was being too grumpy about this, I discussed the issue with Grania Spingies, the Secretary of Atheist Ireland and the one responsible for a great deal of the organizing for the just-ended World Atheist Convention in Dublin (kudos, Grania!).  She agreed with me on some points, disagreed on others, and wrote me an email about it that I thought deserved posting on its own. I do so with her permission:

Some of the negatives:

- you tend to see many of the same speakers every time
- some of the most popular speakers are showing signs of conference-fatigue for all their obvious professionalism and generosity with their time.
- some (not all) conferences are pricey & therefore exclude a lot of people.
- topics tend to be similar.
- some talks can be predictable in content thanks to previous talks being on YouTube (one of the reasons why the Dublin Conference opted for panel discussions instead)
- encourages fanboi-ism which is embarrassing to watch (and probably really irritating and embarrassing to be the target of) – see this article [note: article is blatantly dishonest as only a tiny percentage of mostly younger attendees did this at the conference; but it gives critics something to sneer at.]
- to an extent, a noticeable percentage of the people attending the conferences are the same each time as well – at least as far as the European ones go. Europeans probably don’t travel to Australia or the States as much though, again mostly due to costs and time involved in traveling.

Some of the positives:
- the extended online community of Gnu atheists gets a chance to meet in real life
- outside of the talks, the after-hours socialising is tremendous fun and often exceeds the amount of time listening to talks
- new friendships are made, conversation is hilarious, always interesting and fueled with beverages of choice.
- new networks are formed (useful for groups lobbying for secular reforms in their respective countries & states)
- you do get to hear some world-class speakers or make contacts that you might not otherwise have the opportunity to e.g. in Copenhagen I heard Victor Stenger, A.C. Grayling and Rebecca Goldstein give talks, I also met people like Paula Kirby; in Dublin I met Maryam Namazie & Aron-Ra.
- the conferences are also somewhat like a themed holiday – on one level it is pure enjoyment of something that I normally can’t do with my non-atheist friends.
- for many people it is the only time they are surrounded by people who will not be offended by their honest thoughts on certain subjects, and it is a very positive experience.

Having said all that, even though I think most people enjoy the non-event parts of the conference as much if not more than the scheduled talks; I can’t see them making the effort to get together across seas and borders if there wasn’t the carrot of hearing famous people give talks.

I don’t know if Conferences are necessary, Gnus have a very well-developed internet network already between websites, blogs, and Facebook. However, I think humans still feel that relationships are that much more “real” if they happen in the flesh, so to speak. Cyberspace still isn’t quite a good enough substitute yet. And we do want community! A great many friendships are struck up inside the internet atheist community. It’s probably a side-effect of the reaction a lot of people must get when they go public about their atheism; and if you can’t get it in your real-world neighbourhood, then you will look for it wherever you can find it.

Smaller more localised groups already meet without needing famous speakers as bait. However, I can’t see people ever traveling long distances to go to meetings without something happening at the end to justify the time & trouble (& cost). Although we got a lot of positive feedback about the panel format we used at the Dublin WAC and as a result a lot of useful-in-the-real-world work is being done (fine legal minds working on Ireland’s blasphemy law, university academics working on lobbying the UN on the lack of non-religious schools in Ireland etc.);  it is true to say that a lot of people turned up at the Conference to see the big names and not because there was the potential for networking. Nevertheless, the networking is valuable and probably worth the price of  the event by itself.

I don’t know if there are too many conferences. There is roughly one per continent per year, so most will only go to one a year at most. On the other hand, if you get invited to every one it probably feels like too many.

Well, contra Grania, North American has far more than one per year—I’d guess between ten and twenty.  But never mind.  I agree by and large with what she said, and thought this might be a good occasion for readers to chime in to answer these questions.  Are there too many atheist meetings, or too few? What would you do to improve them? (I know that a common answer has been “include more women speakers,” and I completely agree with that. But that issue has been covered in extenso at other websites, so perhaps we can concentrate on other logistical issues.)  And maybe organizers of future atheist/humanist meetings might pay attention to what people say here, for it may be salutary.

128 Comments

  1. Diane G.
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    And IME, nearly every meeting speaker has a book to sell…or something. Call me cynical, but JAC’s post speaks for me.

    I have to agree with Douglas E @ # 15, too. Back in my party-hearty days I might have felt differently. Now I’d rather go birdwatching.

    But aside from my personal feelings, I’d say as long as there’s a market for meetings, why not have them? As long as there are some people want to speak and some who want to listen and many who want to socialize–go for it. We’re a big tent…

    • Posted June 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      Diane, I think you’re confusing cause and effect. The speakers are invited exactly because they have a book to sell.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 12, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

        I suppose you’re right. :- ) And I should add that I usually do buy their books; if I don’t already have them, that is. (Even sometimes when I do!)

  2. Someguy
    Posted June 12, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    What I find upsetting about the proliferation of these overpriced Atheist Meetings is that it seems like a dog & pony carnival show. The organizers have recognized a group of suckers who will pay outrageous amounts of cash to repeatedly hear the same material regurgitated by the same people time and time again, and they soak it to the suckers for high $$$ tickets.

    The Amazing Randy once made a career out of exposing charlatans who bilk idiots out of their cash, but now he bilks over-educated, but gullible Atheist suckers out of more Ticket Money to Attend Amazing Meetings, than the Charlatans he used to expose as shysters ever managed to extract from the hicks who went to have their palms read and the like.

    The only Amazing thing about TAM is that so many otherwise intelligent Atheists would shell out so much cash to attend the damn things all the time. Are they so starved for affection and affirmation in their disbelief that they need to have their NON-Beliefs buoyed up all the time by others.

    Randy once quoted someone else as saying that there is a sucker born every minute, and he himself said that intelligence is not a sufficient defense against being tricked. Going by what he has managed to swindle so many atheists into falling for time and again by charging multiple hundreds of dollars for a ticket to attend TAM I have to say he is sooo right in his observations of Suckers.

    You learn the obvious at TAM & other over- priced Atheist Meetings that gods do not exist, & when you attend the next and the next one you learn that they still do not exist, and for that wisdom you are reguired to fork out hundreds or even thousands of dollars once travel, and hotel expenser are included in with the hella-high-priced ticket costs that any other scam artist would be ashamed to charge their customers.

    Rock stars, and sporting events could only dream of swindling their fans out of that kind of cash for a ticket, but at least at those events you are receiving a fresh product, and not the same rehashed and reheated fact that “Yes Gods still do not exist” message that you hear at every one of the meetings.

    Get your checkbooks out you pathetic Suckers, the next TAM is on the near horizon, and there are people there who want to tell you how not to fall for swindlers. The irony is truly AMAZING!

    • Posted June 12, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      Translation: “I, Someguy, don’t enjoy the content and the networking, and I don’t see anything of interest, and I don’t want to go… therefore, anyone thinking differently from me is a pathetic sucker.”

      Paint-by-numbers trolling. Yawn.

      Next…

    • Simon
      Posted June 12, 2011 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      Translation:

      -Atheist and humanist thought is confined to simply repeating “there is no god”. Riiight.
      -Don’t support organizations that share your goals. Never mind that their Form 990 is public information and anyone can see the “rock star” salaries being paid. Hint, they’re anything but.
      -Stay home
      -Do nothing

      PS “Amazing Randy”?…possible troll here.

      • Someguy
        Posted June 12, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        I am not trolling at all, but rather engaging in Free-thought! I am an Atheist who unlike many other Atheists am not so very needy of having my disbelief bolstered by the presence of others who will confirm that I am right not to believe in the existence of gods & willing to be bled like a sheep for the privilege of being told what I already know about the existence of gods.

        It is easy for those of you who are needy to dismiss those like myself who express concern over the commercialization of non-belief sideshows as trolls, because that conveniently sidetracks any legitimate criticism we may put forward, but it is dishonest and cowardly of you to do so. I am not trolling but merely saying what some others have hinted at for some time regarding these money-grabbing atheist carny acts.

        I recognize the commercialization opportunity being capitalized upon by Randy, and the SGU entertainment promoters and their like who have tapped into a heretofore untapped vein of punters with gold & platinum credit cards burning a hole in their pockets, but the willing victims have not yet realized that they are having their DEEPLY plundered by people they trust.

        If is said that a fool and his money are soon parted, but it is hoped that after having repeatedly parted with so much in exchange for absolutely so little NEW information, an intelligent person might finally recognize the scam as a money grabbing shell-game, but again, Randy had it right about Intelligence not being an antidote to being tricked.

        Line up suckers, line up & disgorge your overripe wallets into the bank accounts of those who have your number, line up to be fleeced, and then line up again to be told & sold the same sweet NOTHINGS again at the next sheep shearing event.

        • Theo Bromine
          Posted June 12, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

          Someguy: There are more motivations to get together with like-minded people beyond just having one’s beliefs bolstered. One reason that religion has been so successful for so long is that it provides a ready-built community that people can hook up with, not only to share the fun, but also to get support in times of need. Finding an alternative to that ranges from difficult to impossible. Local meetings are a good place to start, but it’s a challenge to get the word out. Larger meetings with lots of publicity have a collateral benefit of bringing people and organizations together who otherwise might not even have known about one another’s proximate existence.

          Perhaps I am naive, but it is my understanding that many (if not most) of the speakers at these events are not getting rich off of their speaking gigs. Those who have a dayjob with the atheist/skeptic/freethought organizations are paid only modest salaries. Those who have “regular” dayjobs often put in unpaid time and their own personal resources without any financial compensation. In the course of setting up meetings for the fledgling CFI Ottawa, I have contacted a number of potential speakers who only ask that they be reimbursed for their cost of travel and accommodation, but do not charge any additional fees.

          • Someguy
            Posted June 12, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

            There may indeed be good and worthwhile reasons to attend a gathering of Atheists, but to be preyed upon by money leeching vultures charge these prices http://tinyurl.com/atheist-gouge and who in the next breath will warn you to not be taken in by shysters trying to sell you bunk products or services which deliver nothing, such as magic wristbands, and non-medicinal homeopathic medicines is just beyond the ironic pale.

            Randy used to make a living out of trickery when he was a magician, and now makes his living doing essentially the same thing to people who are distracted by all the hand waving misdirection into exorbitantly paying through the nose, over and over again for the same empty product. Poof, he makes large sums of money disappear from your bank account, and appear in his pocket just like magic.

            This whole business of capitalizing on the gullibility of lonely, trusting, unsure of their position atheists and plundering their wallets so deeply for overpriced tickets is shameless and unseemly.

            Up to $800 dollars to attend the events including the must see pinnacle of Atheist enlightenment known as Rebecca Watsons Variety Show.

            Where are the clowns and dancing bears I wonder, oh wait a minute I know exactly where the clowns are. They are the audience who paid $800+ lodging+travel to attend the dog & pony show.

            • Theo Bromine
              Posted June 12, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

              Ok, up to $800 for the most expensive late registration, but for a more typical advance booking, the cost would be about $500. It’s a 4 day conference – $125/day for speaker sessions and workshops, with some meals included doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me. By comparison, professional conferences cost 2-3x as much.

              But sure, show me the evidence that folks like SGU and Randi are making exorbitant profits off the backs of poor skeptics and atheists, telling them that they are morally obligated to spend their money in that way.

        • Simon
          Posted June 12, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

          Says Someguy:

          I am an Atheist who unlike many other Atheists am not so very needy of having my disbelief bolstered by the presence of others who will confirm that I am right not to believe in the existence of gods

          If that is the case, then why are you reading this blog? Surely all the reinforcement of unbelief via Jerry’s blog post and commenters must be soooo tedious for you.

          • Someguy
            Posted June 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            Simon, I am doing you and the others here a public service by throwing a bucket of ice-water into your faces in hopes of waking you up to the reality that you are being suckered into plopping down up to $800 for full tickets to an entertainment event, and potentially a further $1000 dollars to sit at a table with Randy or Dawkins to have a bite to eat.

            Dawkins is a nice enough guy, and Randy too, but I would not pay either of them any money to sit down with me for lunch, nor would I expect them to pay me for the honor. I might buy either of them lunch if I was in the mood for lunch and they happened to be to hand, but I do not worship or idolize these guys or anyone for that matter, and I just think it’s silly to pay either of them $1000 dollars just to be near them.

            Everything I want to know from Dawkins, I can get from reading his books, and watching his videos, and I do not care to know what he smells like, or if he slurps when he eats soup or whatever the $1000 lunch date with him may reveal. They are money grubbing shysters for charging people $1000 dollars to sit with them for lunch, after charging UP TO $800.00 for the show.

            It is shamefully excessive greed, but if as Randy says there are suckers willing to pay to be fooled then why shouldn’t he be the one who relieves them of their excessive money.

            I am attempting to open eyes and save you/others the expense and embarrassment of wasting perhaps in excess of $2000 dollars once travel and lodging is included to attend one overpriced atheist variety show after the next, so do try to be a little more grateful of my efforts.

            I am not charging you for this advice, and that is why I am not spell-checking or proofing the comments for errors at all as you may have noticed. I will however for the Low, Low Introductory special Atheist discounted Price of three easy payments of $49.95 charged to your credit card, send you an electronically corrected copy of my commentary suitable for framing after printing on your very own printer paper so act quickly befor the price goes up, just like at TAM.

            • Simon
              Posted June 12, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

              When someone pays $1000 for the lunch with Dawkins, Randi (with an “i”!), Penn&Teller, etc. at TAM this is basically a donation to JREF. That is why $900 is a tax deductible contribution and this is clearly stated on the receipt. The money goes to support the mission of JREF: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/about-the-foundation.html

              Are you saying people should not donate to JREF?

              There are many folks out there (myself included), that believe that JREF does important and valuable work and that it is worth supporting. If someone has the capacity to do it then more power to them.

              JREF is a charitable organization, and pretty much ALL charitable organizations raise funds in a similar fashion.

              • Someguy
                Posted June 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

                POerhaps then you might like to have them charge $15 hundred for the variety show, and $3 thousand for soup with Dawkins. That might be good. More money going to the vital work of enriching those who feel no compunction whatsoever with suckering the gullible out of large wads of their cash for questionable reasons.

                I guess it is not much worse than the religiously gullible sending in offerings to Peter Popoff or others, who may maintain their charitable status by sending a token amount to build a community well somewhere so by all means dig deep like sheep. Perhaps it’s as well for you to be fleeced in this way as be fleeced in other ways.

                As long as there are suckers, there will be people to take advantage of those suckers.
                To paraphrase James Randi, Intelligence is no guarantor that people can’t be fooled! I believe he also indicated that intelligent people are sometimes even easier to trick, and it sure looks to me like an awful lot of atheists are having their pockets picked by this Amazing sleight of hand & not only that but they are all dewy-eyed over the prospect of being fleeced all over again by the same bunch saying the same things all over again in a few months or a year at yet another Atheist fleecing event.

                I have pretty much said what I wanted to say on this topic, so I will not bother you further with rehashing the same or similar points all over again. If I repeat the same stuff over again, I would have to send you an invoice which you would no doubt be eager enough to pay, but unlike the atheist leeches who take advantage of you, I am just to selfless to do so. Goodbye!

              • whyevolutionistrue
                Posted June 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

                Don’t let the door whack you on your way out. . .

              • Henry
                Posted June 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for fighting the good fight with Someguy Troll. Now that he has fled, we’ll never know if he was merely a troll or an immature guy who didn’t know how to correct himself once you and others pointed out his errors, but I’d rather remain curious.

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

                Don’t let the door whack you on your way out. . .

                Oh, let’s make an exception in this case…

  3. Chris Redmond
    Posted June 12, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I attended the convention in Dublin last weekend, and it was my first time at an atheist gathering. I absolutely loved it! As a couple of the posters have pointed out, it is very often the attendee’s first opportunity to meet some of their intellectual heroes (Dawkins and Myers in my case) and engage with like-minded fellow primates. I also thought there was a great variety of speakers and topics in Dublin, with interesting panel groups and a truly awesome keynote address by Maryam Namazie on Sunday afternoon. I met many lovely people and this “fanboyness”, I might add, should not be spoken of in a derisive manner. Very few “fanboys”, if any, acted over-enthusiastically, and the overwhelming majority were so respectful that they actually found it difficult to approach people like Richard Dawkins for fear of annoying him. It is a huge thrill for “fanboys” like me to get my photo taken with Richard or discuss the importation of Guinness and steady decline of the music industry with P.Z. Myers! This “fanboyness”, as I told Richard, should be taken as an enormous compliment and a testament to the amazing work carried out by people such as himself throughout the years.

    P.S., What a delightful man Dan Barker is.

  4. Frank Hamilton
    Posted June 12, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    No. There are not enough. There needs to be more.
    More people need to share their ideas so that these viewpoints don’t get crystalized and dormant.

  5. Posted June 12, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Dublin was my first atheist meeting and for me at least, it was the spur to actually do something (like post comments rather than lurk, for starters) and to add my own voice to the blogosphere…

    While it was great to see the more well-known atheists, it was equally great to hear all these other people I hadn’t come across before.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted June 13, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I’m late to the party and it is a long thread.

    Not to be constructive but at least supportive towards the community effort: I don’t think this is much of a problem. Too much offers tend to level out (since they tend to get diminishing monetary return and/or people willing to make the organizing effort).

    But yes, it is better to be proactive; I salute both Coyne and Grania for that attempt.

  7. Posted June 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Bringing like-minded people together with those inquisitive enough to consider using their own minds to look at what spirituality, religion and mysticism really is, well, it isn’t a bad thing. The fact that there are increasing numbers of these meetings just shows that as humanity evolves and educates itself, it is clearer and clearer to more and more people that belief in some supernatural phenomena needing to create the universe is not only unnecessary, but unfounded.

  8. Larry Cook
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been an atheist since I first figured out that I didn’t have to believe them, that my mind was my own, in other words, since I was about 13. I’m 58 now and I’ve never attended a conference or a meeting and probably never will, but I enjoy watching videos of atheist speakers. And it’s nice to know that there are conferences in case I ever feel the need to attend one. But I have no need for anyone to convince me that the religious are wrong, that religion is mostly a scam and that religion does more harm than good. To me it’s obvious. I have no need to convert anyone and I’m not sure anyone can be converted anyway.
    So, I’m glad you’re all out there and I sincerely hope reason prevails, but I have no reason to expect that it will.

  9. cooeerup
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    I have been an atheist for most of my life. I began questioning the importance of what I was being taught when my parents sent us off to Sunday school by our selves so they could have an extra hour or two in bed!

    I am 53 now, and up until the last few years was happily living my life, and happily leaving the religious folks to theirs.

    Then I saw Richard Dawkins on TV (I live in Australia), and heard him ask atheists to come out of the closet and to start speaking out against theism and to stand up for reason and science. My reaction to this was to question why he felt the need to say this on Australian television; why someone British was travelling the world calling atheists to action; and what on earth was going on outside my sphere of reference that I had been missing, had not heard about on the news, or read about in the papers that caused this obviously intelligent man to ask for such a thing.

    So I started investigating, and the more I investigated the more disturbed I became. I found the answers to my questions and agreed with Mr Dawkins. Even in Australia, a supposedly secular nation, a call to action for atheists to start speaking out was definately required.

    I work as an RN in a catholic hospital which made me a little apprehensive about offering an atheistic perspective when religion was discussed at work. I thought the biggest problem I would have would be reconciling my desire to no longer avoid such discussions with patients (which I only do if they bring the subject up). How wrong I was. I have been amazed by the number of patients, especially elderly patients, who quietly reveal their agreement even when the conversation started with them speaking about their supposed theistic beliefs. Most of the friction I have experienced has been from my fellow staff members.

    I have also engaged family and friends in discussion when the opportunity arose and was suprised at the varied belief sets they hold. Some lean towards theism, most deism, with a few who are where I was before I heard Dawkins speak. The theists seem to hold their belief sets mostly because of prior indoctrination that has instilled in them a fear of the finality of death, preferring to hang on to the idea that their “souls” will live on. I found this all quite amazing and interesting and decided to become more active.

    I have joined the Brisbane Atheists Meet Up group, but can only participate online thus far as I live too far away to attend physicl meetings and I post regularly on web sites I come across that I feel capable of contributing to.

    None of these activities have left me feeling satisfied however. I am concerned enough by the ongoing influence the religious have in politics, in schools, and in other spheres that their economic might facilitates that I want to be more of an activist.

    There is a group of religious young people that congregate in the main public area of our states capital, Brisbane, every Saturday evening. Their group named Operation513 (why I don’t know) gather to proselytise to the passing foot traffic. One of our Meet Up members has suggested our group start a Response Squad, to not only engage in conversation with these young people, but also present a rotating theme of subject matter to the public that uses humour and satire to get our message across. Some of his suggestions are: Yahweh’s rather unsettling interest in your genitals; Foreskins, appendixes, wisdom teeth and other “design” flaws; and “ever wondered why Adam and Eve have bellybuttons? The maybe atheism is for you!”

    I have expressed a desire to participate in this and will wait to see if my fellow cats can be herded for the cause. This type of activism, however, does not address the concerns I have about the influences the religious have as I stated earlier. It is for this reason I think large conferences are needed.

    Finally, you say, she is getting to the point! I have registered with the Atheist Foundation of Australia to be notified when tickets go on sale for the Global Atheist Convention next year, once again to be held in Melbourne – a plane trip away from me and my first conference. I am going for two reasons: 1. The Four Horsemen are booked to speak (I hope Hitch makes it), but secondly and most importantly for me I am hoping that national issues of significance for atheists will be addressed and strategies devised to combat the influence theism has in Australia.

    Having read the posts here of people who have attended more than one convention, expressing the view that so much is repeated, has left me feeling somewhat deflated. If the conference topics do not include a discussion of the concerns atheists have about the influence of thiesm in the goegraphical context of where the conference is being held I think it will be a wasted opportunity. Identifying national issues of significance and devising strategies to address them while atheists from all over the nation are gathered together seems like a good idea to me. This also lends credence to why I think these large conferences should continue, until all national theistic influence in the country where the conference is being held is irradicated.
    Once theistic influence becomes a thing of the past there will no longer be the need for these conferences, and there will also no longer be a need to include the word atheism in our vernacular. We can all just get along enjoying life with less wars, smarter kids, and better funding of scientific enquiry.

    Anyway, that’s my take on things. Thanks for listening. I hope I didn’t bore you too much!

  10. idoubtit
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I go to TAM for the people, the fun, and to learn something new about critical thinking, science-based medicine, proliferation of a paranormal culture and what we can do about it. I don’t go for the atheism. If the speakers are going to prattle on about a no god philosophy, I’m disinterested. So, I’m one who feels the skepticism-atheism themes should be distinct, at least for conference promotion. That will draw some different attendees and speakers dependent on the way it’s marketed.


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  3. [...] this month Jerry Coyne wrote a post that raised an interesting question — Are there too many atheist meetings?: I know this is a sign of a successful and burgeoning movement of disbelief throughout the world, [...]

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