Here’s one minor complaint, and it’s not just from this past weekend. Ever hear of the term “blogwhoring”? It’s when someone posts a comment on a popular blog, but they don’t say anything useful. They just plug their own blog in a shameless effort to get people to visit their site. I suppose the term applies in other instances as well.
Like conferences. During the Q & A portions of the panel discussions/speeches, there were a number of people who seemed to think it was a perfect time to plug their websites.
If Salman Rushdie is answering questions, you ask him something worthwhile. I guarantee he’s not going to go home and check out your site. Neither are the panelists in a panel discussion. And in the process of your blogwhoring, you just end up pissing off the audience.
Moving on… Rebecca had one criticism that I wanted to comment on:
The only conference lowlight I’ll mention is one that may apply overall to the humanist movement, though I’m not sure: it was a disturbing trend of kowtowing to religion. As an example, there was a teleconference with a Southern Baptist convention, during which time Greg [Epstein], the Humanist Chaplain of Harvard, referred to the planet Earth as “the Creation.” This was repeated in the conference pamphlet. The Creation? This came mere hours after one speaker criticized the way some people redefine “god” to mean “love” or “nature” — why use that language? It’s useless, and worse yet confusing.
The “kowtowing” word may be too strong– Greg would be the first to tell you he would never back down from “atheistic” ideals and everything he was doing (or allowing to happen) was secular. Still, Rebecca’s sentiment was shared by many people.
In fact, on Saturday morning, there was also a “benediction” to give homage to those who weren’t able to be there with us because of their passing. It was led by a (secular Jewish) Rabbi. There was also a poem that everyone was told to recite together. While there was no mention of God or the afterlife in any of this, it turned off a lot of students.
Some of that came from the “stench of religion” that Rebecca alluded to. One friend also said that she didn’t like being told to recite words along with the crowd. She hadn’t had a chance to read through them for herself beforehand to see whether or not she agreed with what was written. That mentality of going-along-with-the-crowd instead of thinking-about-what-you’re-doing is what drove her away from religion in the first place.
On the upside (and there are plenty of them), there were a number of students in attendance who had never before attended a conference like this. I’m looking forward to reading the review forms they filled out, but from what I heard, they appreciated the speakers and the “activist training” they received. The best parts of the weekend, though, might have just been the lunches and dinners, when students were able to socialize. While the planning stages of a lot of conferences include trying to have the best content possible, it may be worthwhile to just set aside time mid-conference so students can get to know each other better. The content went late into the night Friday and Saturday, so going out with a group afterwards was difficult since so many people needed sleep for the next day’s activities.
[tags]atheist, atheism, The New Humanism, Rebecca Watson, spazeboy, The Next Generation of Humanism, blogwhoring, Southern Baptist convention, Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain, Harvard, Creation, benediction, Rabbi[/tags]