[quote author=“Noggin”]It’s all….......... oh okay. It’s true. **hangs head in shame**
For pete’s sake, you are such a guy :?. Let it be known across the land that I’ve now had to swear to Noggin that I’ll make him buy me a chai latte and a piece of cherry pie next time there’s a gathering, just so he can get this ‘need to pay’ thing out of his system. It was pretty funny that he dashed off to the atm with the truck still in line, though :D. Fortunately no other atheists were desperate to leave the parking garage at the very same moment, so I just sat in my Rubicon, shaking my head and giggling. Men are such goofballs sometimes.
Okay. . . on to a report. This was my first convention—or the first centered on anything other than beads or sci-fi, I should say—and my impressions were mixed, more involving the crowd itself, not the speakers.
There were lots of smiles and greetings between strangers, plenty of sweet, friendly folk there, but I could not help but be aware of those who were either loud by way of mouth, or loud by way of slogans emblazoned on chests, hats or whatever. For example, rather than God pins, there were some wearing one with a big red slash across the word God. Then there were those who felt they needed to sum up what they presumed was the whole room’s uniform political leanings with some (again loud) derogatory political outburst. . . in spite of the fact that I sensed a range of positions held by the attendees. I must say I found myself embarrassed for those who felt they needed to try so hard. I realize slogans on pins and shirts are designed to relay an important point, but I guess I don’t have that slogan-shrieking, bra-burning impulse, or something. Besides, we get into that “Hey, you’re preaching to the choir, dude” problem :D. At one point I made myself laugh realizing that the blatant ones would be the atheist equivalent of the first nudists to whip out and wave around their private parts on a nude beach—they’re manic about announcing themselves, wanting to be the most blatant atheist they can possibly be, apparently. Sheesh.
Adding to that, I do not find folk songs that diss religion particularly clever, much less entertaining. Honestly? That aspect was completely lame and even more cringe-inspiring than the pins, t-shirts and outbursts, because they came from the organizers themselves. Then again, I wasn’t cut out for Jesus conventions or political rallies, either, so maybe I’m just equally unsuited to all team-centric functions. I think I was expecting more emphasis on positives, possibilities, and the opportunity to just enjoy each other in a setting that is virtually guaranteed to not offend our sensibilities. A sort of sunny vacation from the foggy theist landscape, if you will. I encountered a lot of warmth in one-on-one chats (and only a couple letches, thankfully—less than in church, I must say), especially when discussing our lives outside this issue of religion. I imagine the same is true of Christian conventioneers—some will just enjoy the people, while others will be mouthing off, thrusting a fist in the air or shouting amen at every opportunity. Bombastic people show up pretty much anywhere, I’m here to testify , although they by no means held a candle to their Christian counterparts at the average mega-church Sunday service.
Listening to reason-based chat, whether it was in the audience or up at the podium, I was reminded why—at least in my opinion—groups founded on a lack of religion will always operate with far less fanfare, hyped-up enthusiasm, manipulation and cunning than do the groups who fight daily to maintain faith in the supernatural, or those whose goal it is to seduce others into myth belief. The freethinker group has already effectively ‘achieved’ its goal, at least at the personal level—they’re already at their destination, free thought, while the believers are always reaching towards theirs: the miraculous afterlife. They’ve been taught to crave the brass ring, whatever they imagine that to be, and the attainment of the ring lies beyond this world. They’re drawn to the charisma of those who promise they can lead them to it, while those in the faith-free community don’t get similarly worked up over other-worldly prizes. We’re rather content with the prizes we can have right here on Earth, no miracles needed. Except the miracle of getting people to stop warring over whose deity rules the roost, and what it demands from us.
My favorite part of the weekend (aside from sharing fries and non-stop yakking with the just-as-wonderful-as you’d-imagine Noggin :D) was listening to Julia Sweeney’s candid monologue. She emerged from her childhood, dazed and bewildered, from the same goofy upbringing I did—Catholicism—where the Bible is presented piecemeal, and you’re left with your Christian friends (of many various stripes) to fill in the enormous plotholes that the nuns and priests are unable or unwilling to expound upon in any useful way (just like frankr, basically). The Church is the absolute Queen of the Cherrypickers, leaving all burning questions (pun intended) to faith, and Julia reminded me of that so vividly. I related very much to the crooked path she followed towards clearing her mind of all that contradictory muck over a period of years. It was a great one-woman show.
She mentioned her exploration of Buddhism, too, how it became sadly clear to her that the premises in many branches of that practice are as self-punishing as the OT-based religions are. We seem determined to assume the worst of ourselves—north, south, east or west in the world—and to do it in tightly organized, ritualistic groups. Julia made any number of scathingly accurate observations about faith that I’ll have to get to in another post.
Sam’s presentation was a pleasure, as expected, and he had to deal with a loooooong line of signature-seekers and admirers afterwards. What Noggin failed to mention to you is that once we had approached him at the table, and I introduced us by our forum names, he immediately looked up at Mike and said he definitely knew the name Noggin . It was cool to hear that, and to know that he peeks in from time to time. Sam very graciously signed our books (paraphrasing: “So, that’s two g’s in Noggin, right?”, asked Sam, as he scribbled—heehee :D) and then he shook our hands.
Afterwards, I spent some time bending Noggin’s ear before finally releasing him to his long drive home. I stayed in the City, since I was attending the next day.
For those who were interested in getting a recording of the speeches, I saw no sound technicians of any sort there. It was relatively low-tech overall, even casual. There was no special stage lighting, either. You might try calling or emailing the Freedom From Religion offices, though, since they would certainly know if recordings exist. Phone numbers and emails are on the site referenced in the first post. Julia also had a new DVD (or CD? I forget) available there for the first time.