You know who you are.
I’ll be speaking at a few upcoming conferences in case you’re interested/able to attend!
The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 (Las Vegas, NV)
July 14th – 17th
I’ll be live-blogging the conference on this site for those who can’t make it! (And you can always follow the #TAM9 hashtag on Twitter.)
I’m certain nothing controversial will happen all weekend.
Secular Student Alliance conference (Columbus, OH)
July 29th – 31th
(Relatively inexpensive, not sold-out, come!)
Lots of students. Lots of people who want you to succeed. Lots of pressure to keep everyone awake when I talk.
In other words, exactly like my day job.
Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference (Omaha, NE)
August 12th – 14th
(Price unknown, not sold-out!)
There aren’t a lot of big atheist conferences in the Midwest so I’m excited to be a part of this!
I’ll be more excited when I can find Nebraska on a map.
Alright. I’m done plagiarizing off of Jen’s post. Apparently, we do conferences as a team.
Vjack had an interesting rant recently about why anyone should care about seeing speakers who are famous for just “being atheists.” He’s right: It’s not like we’re any more “atheist” than anyone else.
[cue heavy sarcasm] Oh look, TAM is coming to Vegas! Just look at all the atheist celebrities! You can see Richard Dawkins, the man who has repeatedly been dubbed our leader! And what’s this? There will be atheist bloggers (gasp) there like Rebecca Watson and Jen McCreight featured alongside legitimate scientists like Elizabeth Loftus and Carol Tavris. Think of all the autographs you could get! [end sarcasm]
… Why the fuck would I want to go sit in a crowd and listen to atheist bloggers whose only claim to fame is that they are…wait for it…atheist bloggers? Conferences like this hold no appeal for me whatsoever. And a big part of the reason involves the hero worship I see.
(I’m in the mix of blogger-speakers he mentions, too.)
Well, I think he’s makes a good point about a couple things. The hero worship, for one. When we put any one person on so high a pedestal, it might be devastating when you realize you both disagree about something really important to you.
He’s also right that we tend to see the same names over and over at these conferences. I’d love to see that change because I think there are other atheists who have really important things to say… but they don’t get the same requests as others do. The responsibility for changing that, though, is mostly on conference organizers. I’m proud to say that the Secular Student Alliance (the group I’ve worked most directly with over the years) always gives the mic to up-and-coming student leaders, and they’re some of the most inspiring people you will ever see. They’re the ones I look forward to hearing the most.
But some people are more popular (for whatever reasons) and they bring in more bodies/donations/media interest, so organizers tend to go with them.
… what is with the damn bloggers thinking that they have something so important to say that it deserves a conference? If you give a fuck what an atheist blogger thinks, read his or her blog! And the groveling as if you are in the presence of greatness? You might as well go to church! They welcome that sort of thing there.
I think it’s less about our perceived self-importance than conference organizers wanting speakers who (obviously) have opinions about atheist issues, know how to articulate them, and are easy (and cheap!) to bring in. We rally the base, so to speak.
Why should anyone go out of their way to hear an atheist blogger speak? I’ll offer a few reasons:
1) It’s a chance to meet someone you read all the time in the flesh. It’s why I get excited when my favorite bloggers/authors come to town — I want them to know how their writing influenced me or changed me, and it’s something I just can’t accomplish in an email. Or maybe I just want to get drinks and talk to them outside the confines of a website. Swap ideas. Share stories. Learn from them. With certain bloggers, you feel like you know them well already, so it’s like meeting an old friend.
2) There are things I can talk about in person that I can’t meaningfully express in a posting. If you hear me talk, it’s not just a blog post I’m reading out loud. There are ideas I’d like to toss out there to see what sticks and changes I’d like to see college atheist groups make. It’s easier to do all that in a talk.
3) It’s less about the bloggers/speakers and more about the people in the audience. It’s nice to know there are other people in your community who care about the same issues and you tend to meet more of them when a popular atheist is in town. Once the speaker leaves, you still have contact with those other people and that’s how local change begins and how communities form.