My Talk at the 2010 Secular Student Alliance Conference August 23, 2010

My Talk at the 2010 Secular Student Alliance Conference

The video of my talk from the recent Secular Student Alliance conference is now up on YouTube!

I had planned to talk about my confrontations with a Religious Right group last year, but as I say in the beginning of the video, I decided to discard that and focus on how it can be useful to reach out to those who disagree with us:

I’m not saying I always reach out to Christians as I should, but in a lot of cases, it’s not that hard to do and we don’t do enough of it in the atheist blogosphere. I know I’ve been trying to do more of it lately. I have found that, more often than not, It helps clarify the story in a way you don’t see in a lot of news outlets.

A few notes:

  • The comedian I show at the beginning of the video is Hari Kondabolu.
  • The whole saga with Laurie is all over the place, but many of the links are here.
  • Yep, I have the ShamWow dude as my desktop background.
  • The full interview with Richard Cohen on The Rachel Maddow Show is here and here.
  • The Whetu Abraham story is here and here.
  • My interview with Pastor Terry Jones, the man behind “International Burn A Koran Day,” is here.
  • My posting about the Marin Foundation and their “I’m Sorry” signs is here. (I still have not received responses to the interview questions I sent Andrew Marin.)

Your feedback on the talk is always appreciated!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Hitch

    Class talk. Yes, engaging, dialogue is good. I like to think of it as building bridges with a spine.

  • Ron in Houston

    Your talk was wonderful, but you speak really, really fast and it sounds almost pressured. Try taking a breath from time to time.

  • EL

    I’m an atheist married to a devout Catholic. As we’ve each grown in our respective beliefs, the subject of religion has become a source of friction between us – especially recently. Your talk, along with others posted recently (such as “Don’t Be a Dick”), has opened my eyes to my own prejudices and contributions to my marital strife. I think if I spent less time demonizing my wife (and her religion) and more time trying to understand her as an individual, a lot of our problems would go away.

    Thank you for taking the time to advance beyond the fighting. It’s setting a great example.

  • Kai

    Great talk! I don’t think you were too fast, and you are a good enunciator.

  • Richard Wade

    Excellent work, Hemant. I have so much to learn from you.

  • I think the talk was great. It said what needed to be said, and what I believe is one of the reasons that you are so popular. You’re not a firebrand; instead, you are “friendly.” While I appreciate what PZ does, I think your method will be more effective in the long run, and I hope more like-minded people adopt it.

  • Your talk was wonderful, but you speak really, really fast and it sounds almost pressured. Try taking a breath from time to time.

    Ron — I had 20 minutes to pack in a 40 minute speech… I debated cutting some of it, but I chose to keep it all in and just speak faster 🙂

  • Hey! Just wanted to let you, and everyone, know that I have not forgotten about responding yet. Due to my wife’s recent medical problems, my travel schedule and moving apartments all in the in the last month I have not been able to devote the time needed to thoroughly answer your questions. I promise they are a huge priority on my current to-do list. Thanks for hanging in there with me on this. I’m really looking forward to engaging on them soon. And yes Hemant, you’re a great dude and I loved hanging out recently – thanks for reaching out. Much love!

  • Ron in Houston


    I thought you were maybe one of those sort of speakers who gets a bit nervous and then talks really, really fast without realizing it.

    Having listened to your other talks online, it now makes sense. Trying to cover that much material in a little time means you’d speak fast.

    Anyway, you were really entertaining and a very fun speaker.

  • Vanessa

    Great advice, Hemant!

  • Mike R

    Thanks Hemant! I just came across your blog tonight and I feel like I’ve come home. I have shied away from reading athiest sources due to the negativity that always seemed inherent. I guess I just didn’t look hard enough!
    I like your willingness to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I wholeheartedly agree with your viewpoint of there being too many people who jump on the bad news bandwagon. As a cynic, I immediately think about what isn’t being said in a news story. The current scandal of the “ground zero mosque” is a prime example of misrepresentation and ignorance.

    Thanks again.

  • Sunny Long

    Hemant, thank you for being you. The world is a brighter place for it. At age 71 I have time to do reach out and do my good deeds now. So that by the time new neighbors, new acquaintances learn I’m not a believer, they simply can’t believe it! All of which I find so funny, and energizing.

  • TXatheist

    Ron in Houston,
    having grown up in Illinois and lived in Texas for 14 years Hemant isn’t speaking fast, everyone down here speaks real slow. 🙂

    Hemant, well done.

  • Great approach, and I’m glad your work is so…not sure if “supportive” is the right word, but they have your back in the appropriate manner.

    Great job in having a discussion with your opposition. I still have a lot of anger when talking about religious, atheist and other issues, but that doesn’t bridge the gap and encourage understanding between people of differing beliefs.

  • Kai

    So, I went and saw Hari Kondabolu last night and he was really hilarious. His humor does get pretty dark sometimes, on the level of Bill Hicks or Lenny Bruce, but I think that’s the kind of thing that atheists embrace in general. He tries to push your buttons, and sometimes you’re laughing and sometimes you’re questioning your own opinions. Good stuff.

    On a side note, he mentioned he’s Hindu. I guess that goes to show that we’re all atheist about most gods, but atheists just go one step further. 😉

  • Great presentation. I’m looking forward to seeing your appearance in Virginia.

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