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Athiest Alliance International Conference Sept. 2007
Posted: 20 August 2007 02:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Hi, I’m Peg from Wichita, KS and am new to the Sam Harris forum though I have been getting his e-mail updates for some time.  I will be at the convention and would be really glad to meet some people and have someone to sit with.  Let me know if I could join you.  Thanks!  -Peg

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Posted: 01 September 2007 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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I’m all set for the conference too.  I missed the chance to book at the hotel so I’ll be staying off site, but shall arrive in time for the Friday reception and welcome ceremony through Saturday and the Awards Banquet.  Don’t know if I’ll make any of the Sunday talks.  I’ll probably be all thunked out by then anyway smile

I’ll be on the lookout for Peg (Hi, Peg) and Sandy as well as Switch, although I don’t suppose that will be on your name tag.  (Sorry Byron missed the chance to attend :()  My name tag will read Susan Rasmussen, ‘cause that’s my name.

Looking forward to it!

Susan

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Posted: 02 September 2007 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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I am booked at the hotel and will be looking for a number of you on a list I will take with me.  I will call the hotel before I leave to determine my check in time and where to line up for the registration table.  All we can do is look for name tags to get together.  I’m getting tons of stuff on the conference and will take it with me when I land at my daughter’s house earlier in the week.  what would be nice is for us to write the highlights of the conference and send them here, if the moderators will allow it.

Today on CSPAN 2 Christopher Hitchens will be discussing his book and if you have not read it, watch him talk about it.  Hitchens will be on at 9 AM Pacific time and their website lists the times for everyone.

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Posted: 17 September 2007 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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I will be checking in on Friday and out on Sunday after the last meeting.  I received the list of security restrictions and am pleased they are trying to protect us from whoever decides we are the “bad guys.”  I will be at the banquet but maybe we can meet for breakfast or lunch or whatever is on our schedule.  What a weekend! 

I’m the old one wearing denim.  Please realize that demin is what the desert rats wear at all times.  We have been through a summer of 3-digit degrees and I may freeze to death in Virginia.  I’m the old blue lady.

I’m staying with my daughter from Sunday until Friday when I get to the convention.  I will try to pick up my emails at her house and will check in here before I leave Maryland.

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Posted: 01 October 2007 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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So, lets’ hear the highlights! Who did you all meet and get to talk to?

The Rational Response Squad talks about their experience at this link.

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Bill Maher’s New Rule About Religious Tests for Office

Sam explains the difference between the belief in Elvis and belief in Jesus

Support the Separation of Church & State!
Freedom From Religion Foundation

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Posted: 02 October 2007 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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I had a totally positive reaction to the convention speakers and the ability to meet personally many of them before and during the 3 days.  The facilities were too small for the number of people attending and the amplification was terrible.  I was glad I had read the books of the speakers before I attended so I could follow what they were saying.

I enjoyed Sam’s comments and his ability to answer questions from the audience. He and Richard Dawkins were featured Friday night and were wonderful.  Dawkins tends to mumble and I missed much of his statements. Sam was clear as a bell! 

I was particulary interested in Eddie Tabash’s talk on “Threat of the Religious Right” because my interest is always political.  I got to talk to him on Sunday about many of his comments and this is why I love to attend these conventions. 

I saw an attempt to try to celebrate many seasonal activities but without God.  I even saw an attempt to baptize/name some darling 2 year old twins.  I felt like we were doing this for the media as much as for the audience who cannot give up these celebrations so desperately required by the religious people.  PBS had sent cameras and that offended me as I do not believe that individuals require ceremony to establish themselves as humans. 

Never having believed in any God, I enjoy my independence from a collective society.  There is even an attempt to estabalish a wedding ceremony to be done under an Atheist label.  I shrugged that off quickly.  But I’m old and set in my ways and for 50 years have lived outside the box of any conformed religious doctrine.  We studied the bible as a historical document and discovered for ourselves the absurdity of the whole thing. 

Saturday afternoon we were treated to a lovely young Somalian woman who told her story of running from her country and finding freedom for her own choices in America.  Her name is Ayann Hirsi Ali and I was saddened by the microphone that often cut out when she spoke.  I will order her book “Infidel” to learn more about her.  Her Muslim leaders have issued a Fatwa against her for leaving Islam.  It was the reason for the high security we all had to pass to hear her speak.  Well worth the inconvenience!!!

We spent wasted time waiting in line from the elevator to entering the various meeting rooms.  But it did give us time to discuss with others our thoughts on the reason for this convention.  I liked that part of it.  The dinner banquet was wonderful and our table had some good conversation that I enjoyed.  I discovered the brilliance of Daniel Dennett and will try to read his writings if I’m able to understand their meaning. 

I had hoped that more stress on individual freedoms would have been found but instead I saw this desire to live as groups only without a God.  Our American public schools train the children to conform and it often squelches individual thoughts and actions.  This is not a God problem but a problem of individual training for the minds of the next generation.

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Posted: 02 October 2007 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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I watched some of the film that rab linked to and I have to admit I agree with Sam Harris on needing the label “Atheist” to describe a nonbeliever.  But America seems to trive on issuing labels on everyone.  We all need a category before we can enter into any discussion worth debate. 

I wear a gold dollar sign around my neck given to me sometime in the 1960s when we read the works of Ayn Rand and proudly declared ourselves as Capitalists.  Of course since that time we have seen the word “capitalist” become a another word for corruption.  My symbol still stands for a limited government, free trade and individual freedoms that is the natural right for all Americans. 

I cannot accept any label that gets beaten up by the public such as “Social Conservative” or “Liberal Socialist” or even “Atheist” when it is not an accurate definition of what we as individuals actually are! 

If we are to be Atheists we are going to need some heavy-duty P.R. and in America that will never be possible.  Let’s cut through the labels and stand up for our own individual actions that are as moral and decent as any other organized group.  When it comes to individual rights we stand heads above the groups formed as Christians/Catholics/Jews/Muslims and anyone else under these kinds of labels. 

We do not have to insult these organized religions to stand tall as individuals.  We do need to write about our high standards as individuals and simply win those who have never seen the good side of individual freedoms over a police state that follows the religious people around like a pit bull. 

I need no label that uses the word “Theist” in it even when preceded by the anti “A”  In this respect I admire Sam Harris for opening the debate on the use of the word.  It does bring a negative and almost offensive tone to those who do believe in God.  Let’s win them over with our intelligence and love of humanity instead of being on the attack.  We live in the same world with the religionists and they outnumber us 3 to 1.  These poor people were covered with bullshit from their childhood and need to be sold on individual freedoms over their fear of whatever God has been laid on them.  I have no need to convert them to my philosophy but I will not hand over my government to anyone who fears Satan and wants to use this terrorism in our schools.

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Posted: 02 October 2007 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Here’s a second observation of the conference for what it’s worth…

First off, I’m sorry to have missed meeting up with you, Sandy.  I sat down in the hotel lobby twice – Friday night after the speeches and again Saturday after the afternoon talks looking for a Sandy “with a limp” to walk by, but alas, our paths never crossed.  I didn’t return for the Saturday night banquet because 1) I had developed a headache from listening to eight hours of talks and 2) I had a red dot on my name tag and was scheduled to sit (again) in the auxiliary room.  I wasn’t too pleased to have taken the time and spent the money ($1,500) to turn up to be seated in the auxiliary room to watch Sam and Dawkins do there thing on a large screen TV.  I could have watched the video from home at no cost. 

Anyway, the Friday night talks were still worth the initial disappointment of being outside of the main room.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of Dawkins’ talk.  I remember thinking it was interesting enough at the time, but no main points have stuck in my mind.  Sam, on the other hand, was just too cool.  I’ve seen him in interview before, but he’s just so calm.  Nothing unnerves the guy.  During his speech, you could have heard a pin drop – everyone was caught up in what he had to say even if they didn’t like his message.  Afterwards, one lady stood up and said she really didn’t agree with his message and didn’t like what he had to say and he just answered, “You’re not the only one.”  I thought he chose his topic well, not just because it was a new way of looking at things, but because there’s nothing like a little controversy to catch some attention!

Since Sam was the main speaker I’d come to hear and since I wasn’t keen to watch the rest of the talks on TV, I almost skipped the whole rest of the convention and considered leaving right away the next morning, but when I got back to my hotel room, I read through the speakers’ biographies and decided I’d really like to hear what Hirsi Ali, Matthew Chapman (Darwin’s great-great-grandson) and Hitchens had to say. 

So I went back the following morning and decided to attend the one on parenting which was light and easy (in comparison to the subjects of the other sessions) and got a few suggestions for books to buy for kids … top two recommendations for any parents here interested were Virginia Hamilton’s, “In the Beginning:  Creation Stories from Around the World” which provides just what it says, including the Christian version, but with no special treatment, just lumped in together with all these other stories which gives a kid the idea that it’s just one of dozens of stories and no more special (or more true) than the others; and Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy which includes “The Golden Compass” (coming out this November(?) on film), “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass.”

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Posted: 02 October 2007 09:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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Upon leaving that session, Margaret Downey (the conference organizer) stopped me in the hall to present me with an orange ticket as a “free pass” to attend the afternoon talks in the main ballroom since I had spent the night before in the auxiliary room. So I took a seat near the back of the room and didn’t budge for the next 5 or so hours in fear of losing my seat. 

To make this already getting long report short, my main impressions of the afternoon talks were that I have a far greater appreciation of the fight you non-religious Americans are battling to keep the religious fundamentalists from taking over your country.  Very unsettling, even for me as a Canadian sitting north of the border on the edges of the fight.  Eddie Tabash’s talk on the Threat of the religious Right was the most unsettling.  Eugenie Scott’s recap of the trials over having Creationism and then (again) Intelligent Design taught in schools provided a glimmer of hope, but you guys have a LOT of work to do hang on to your country.  One of Matthew Chapman’s ideas as to why the States is so far off track in comparison to other industrialized nations – Western Europe and Canada mainly – is that you guys don’t have socialized medicine.  His though is that the needy will look for some outside help (even if it’s from an imaginary friend) if they are not adequately taken care of by their government.

It was interesting to hear the story of Ayann Hirsi Ali’s journey away from Islam.  Don’t know how she goes about her days with the Fatwa hanging over her head.  Brave woman.

As for Christopher Hitchens, he really wasn’t my cup of tea.  He’s obviously intelligent and can be quite witty, but he just strikes me as a very arrogant and unpleasant person.  Reminded me of the Chef Ramsay character on Hell’s Kitchen.  He comes across as a bully, which I suppose is a great way to be when fighting muslim extremists, but I don’t see the need to be so aggressive and grand stand when answering simple questions from your supposedly fellow atheists.  He turned me off, literally.

The overall impression of the convention was that there was plenty of IQ in the room, both on the part of the speakers and the audience, but that the EQ was running on empty in some cases.  And just on a practical note, they need to find a larger venue for the next convention because to separate your guests into three classes, some seated in the ballroom, some seated in a room down the hall, and still others bussed to another hotel for the awards’ banquet, just ain’t the way to go. 

One parting thought …

With Sam’s suggestion that we shouldn’t be labeling ourselves as atheists and Tabash’s thought that we shouldn’t worry so much about what a candidate says concerning their belief in God during their election campaign because they could still be for separation of church and state, my own experience of working with believers for the common good came to mind on my way home.  Two years ago, I was a member on our school board’s parents’ committee which was consulted on removing religion from the curriculum in Quebec.  We were 22 parents on the committee and all 22 voted in favor of removing religion from the curriculum, but not even the majority of parents were non-believers.  The believers voted to have it removed because they weren’t happy with how it was being taught.  So in the end, you have believers and non-believers, working together with each their own reasons to turn in a unanimous vote to rid Quebec schools of religion.

And that’s my story (short novel) and I’m sticking to it.

Sorry I didn’t hook up with any posters here.  (Was anybody else there besides Sandy and me?)  It would have been fun to put a face with the names … 

Susan

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Posted: 03 October 2007 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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I’m so glad you found Eddie Tahash as stimulating as I did.  I got to tell him in person on Sunday morning.  He is very accustomed to speaking in person and making his words short and precise. 

The venue “Crown Plaza” was absolutely a disaster but more people showed up than had been planned and many stayed at the Embassy Suites making the convention over booked.  I was able to attend most of the presentations, including the Banquet, because I had my reservations in sometime in early June. 

I am aware of the unrest within many Atheist Organizations on the actions in the Bush Administration and people are simply looking for a change in our American Government.  Bush did more for the Atheists coming out of the closet than any other thing on this planet. 

I’m not offended by people who believe in any God but I want them out of the decision-making in our government.  All Americans must force the return to the separation of church and state as quickly as possible.  Tabash made this very clear. 

I always enjoy having a meal with others attending these conventions.  I often pick up wonderful opinions from others socially as much as I enjoy the speakers.  My moving around from room to room and then having along wait just for the elevator put a strain on my hip but my being old did not help matters.  I had a good supply of pain pills and everything worked out well.  I spoke to one of the technical people about the speakers/microphones and he absolutely was aware of the problems.  But, it will be part of the planning for next year.

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Posted: 03 October 2007 05:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Rasmussen - 03 October 2007 01:20 AM

So I went back the following morning and decided to attend the one on parenting which was light and easy (in comparison to the subjects of the other sessions) and got a few suggestions for books to buy for kids … Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy ...


I just started reading “The Golden Compass” and I suspect the only reason it’s considered childrens’/youth fiction is that the main character is a child. It doesn’t really read so far like a child’s book, not that it’s too adult or anything (yet, anyway—I only just started it, but several reviews I’ve read have said the same thing, and the reviews that said otherwise just about all made strictly doctrinaire religiously based complaints).

Side Note: I decided to try out eBooks, so since I was about to read “The Golden Compass” that’s the first one I bought (~$4.00). I’m liking the eBook schtick. I bought three other eBooks so I could try out the predominant formats, and I’ve found eReader is far better than the others IMO. The MS eBook reader is just really sorry, and Adobe’s isn’t much better (the market probably just hasn’t warranted much of their attention yet). On the other end of the spectrum Mobipocket’s eBook reader is fairly decent, but eReader offers good visual options (a full color pallet and about a dozen different textured backgrounds), and it’s library menu layout is much more efficient (the visual options are really the key though—two of the backgrounds are very paper-like, which makes a huge difference to me). There are several other options out there, but from what I can tell those four represent the large majority of what’s available. I’m finding it very convenient to have several books on board my laptop, and I’m really looking forward to when the reader device market takes off. It’ll be really nice to have a book-sized piece of technology that’ll also haul around a large personal library. I’m not ready to give up my traditional books just yet (not hardcovers anyway), but when the reader devices are more appealing (economically and functionally) I may be fairly quick to change my mind ... as long as I can make backups. If anyone wants to delve more into this I suggest creating a new topic, but that’s more or less all I have to say about it, personally.

Byron

[ Edited: 03 October 2007 06:04 AM by SkepticX]
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Posted: 03 October 2007 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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Here is how a Conservative Reporter covered the Convention.  How typical of a frightened religious nut to use the terrorism of Atheism for his mailing of this report.

Article about athiest conference on CNSnews

Religion Must Be Destroyed, Atheist Alliance Declares
by Matt Purple

03 Oct, 2007
(CNSNews.com)  - Science must ultimately destroy organized religion, according to some of the leading atheist writers and intellectuals who spoke at a recent atheist conference in Northern Virginia. God is a myth, and children must not be schooled in any faith, they said, at the ... 

Go to http://www.CNSNEWS.com/ViewCulture.asp?Page=/Culture/archive/200710/CUL20071003a.html to view the full story.

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Posted: 07 October 2007 04:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Tabash, after Harris, would have been the most interesting speaker for me as well. I saw a video of a talk he did on a cruise with Richard Dawkins and I was riveted. I have an interest in politics and religion and think, like all non-believers, that the two should not mix.

I notice the reporter that Sandy mentioned, and provided a link to his column, preferred Sam Harris over Dawkins. He mentioned that Dawkins got a standing ovation while Sam got light applause. Is that true? If so, I wonder if the fact that many attendees were wearing the red A on their shirts had something to do with it, considering Sam’s critique of the word atheist.

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Sam explains the difference between the belief in Elvis and belief in Jesus

Support the Separation of Church & State!
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Posted: 07 October 2007 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Rab.  I was not aware of a difference in applause after either spoke.  The men seem to be close friends and whether they actually disagree it would be in minor semantic ways.  Dawkins had a habit of throwing away his comments and the sound system was faulty.  Sam spoke directly into the mike and was clear.  I enjoyed them both but was stunned at Tabash’s comments as he was so simple and clear with his comments and he did not dance around as he was talking. 

Normally I could care less if anyone believes in anything.  My interest is to keep religious fears out of our government. The American voters have been raised to fear God and Satan and their ministers will tell them to vote for someone over another or they will not go to heaven.  Americans are sheep. 

The Bears are playing Green Bay and my television is calling me to watch.  See you guys tomorrow.  Go Packers!!!

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Posted: 08 October 2007 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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Hi members.  I was also able to attend the conference though was unable to meet up with any of these members.  I thought the conference was absolutely terrific but agree the venue needed much improvement.  That was because the AAI was not expecting nearly the response they received from those wishing to attend.  At the end, there were 600 on a waiting list wanting to attend, and many more who just gave up and didn’t even add their names to the list.
  I particularly enjoyed Eddie Tabash and he made it quite clear how desperately important it is to elect a candidate who will support supreme court justices who are staunch defenders of separation of church and state.  His point was we are 1 justice away from a theocracy.

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