My talk at ASU last night (poster below) was live-streamed, so although there was an overflow crowd, lot of other people apparently watched it on the livestream feed.
I thought it went well, and, surprisingly, there was virtually no hostility from the audience, either in their reactions when I said things like “we must loosen the hold of religion on the American mind” or during the Q&A period. No creationists came forth, either.
The book-signing, during which I had to draw many cats (they sold out of books, and virtually everyone knew the secret phrase, “Felis sylvestris catus“), also was heartening. Lots of people confessed to me that they were also nonbelievers but couldn’t “come out” in a place like North Carolina for fear of alienating their family, friends, or coworkers. If you were one of them, thanks for sharing, and if at some point you feel like going more public, I’d urge you to do so. I see the growth of atheism like a nuclear chain reaction: for every person who goes public, that inspires several others to do likewise. What I do know is that there are lot of closet atheists in Boone!
But reaction wasn’t uniformly positive. If you look on the ASU Facebook page, you’ll find an announcement of my talk with, as of 10 a.m. today, 72 comments. (A faculty member alerted me to this.)
This is what we’re up against, and I suspect most of these folks are either students at or alums of ASU. Note that all of these were posted before my talk!
And then there were comments bespeaking the worst sort of antintellectualism:
Don’t worry, Ms. Cobb, I’m leaving today. And, fortunately, the people I met at ASU were, unlike you, lovely and hospitable!
Yes, Mr. Long, that’s the way to oppose an idea: remark on the speaker’s appearance. Stay classy! But I have news for you: I resemble a monkey because I am closely related to them—and so are you. And, whether or not you want to believe it, both you and I are apes. Yes, apes!
There are of course positive comments on the thread, but so far not much reaction to the talk itself, which should be interesting. I welcome pushback because, as General George Patton said in the opening speech of the eponymous movie, “Every true American loves the sting of battle.” I prefer lecturing to an audience that includes some opponents!
Thanks very much to the friendly students and faculty of ASU I met, who ply their trade in one of the most beautiful locations in the U.S., and especially to Dr. Howie Neufeld, who took a lot of time out of his busy schedule to sponsor me and shepherd me around.