Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter at the Atheist National Convention

I want to apologize for the absence and delay in getting these up. It's been quite a long week, and I fell behind. I spent Easter Sunday at the American Atheist National Convention. What was my time like at the convention?


The event was held in the Hilton Hotel in Salt Lake City. The Hilton is, as expected, sleek, modern, and well decorated. It was held on the second floor of the hotel which featured several ball rooms/convention rooms that were used. They even included free coffee and drinks at various parts of the day, in your choice of paper or ceramic or glass cups.

Overall, gorgeous atmosphere all easily accessible.

The People:

There was a wide variety of people there. People of many races, sexual orientations, fashion trends, social groups, etc. Really, the only thing that united everyone was the atheist aspect. Even there, people were across a spectrum of how that affected their lives.

I met some really cool people I had enjoyed seeing on YouTube or in podcasts. There were a number of people who's brains I wanted to pick, including a podcaster I have been following for a couple years now. More on him later.

I made a few friends there, and had a wonderful time with the people. I hope to keep in touch with a few.

The Exhibits:

There were some really great exhibits. There were several art booths that featured hand crafted art of portraits from famous scientists to galaxies and plants. A few of the exhibits were devoted to a particular cause, like student associations, political action groups, etc. I really enjoyed a fair trade foods booth that had some really good chocolate and apricots that they were handing out as samples.

But my favorite booth of all of them was one that had very sarcastic merchandise. This booth had bumper stickers, decals, pins, DNA ties, etc. My favorite thing on that booth was something called Nunzilla. It's a windup toy that is a vicious looking nun, and when she's in use, sparks shoot out of her mouth. I need this in my life.

In addition to the room that had the exhibits, there was a separate room which had books. One side was a normal sort of traveling bookstore with books on religion, science, politics, etc. The second half of the room was a grab bag room. You purchased a little bag, and whatever you could fit into the bag, you could have. My friend Austin took full advantage of that and loaded the bag until it looked like it was going to burst.

The exhibits were fun, and I got some cards out of it so I can buy some nice merchandise pretty soon.

The Speakers:

This was sort of the core of the convention. There were constantly speakers talking on various things with only 10 to 15 minute breaks between them. The talks were held in the main convention room, which was really lovely and modern.

The first speakers I saw was a panel on LGBT issues in the atheist community. I have to admit, I was half asleep during this lecture due to it being really early in the morning after not sleeping long after a very long week. That being said, this was probably my least favorite talk during the convention. Sad, because I am a gay man. One man complained that there wasn't more gay representation at the convention, another woman stated that she wanted to see a total end to religion, a sentiment I do not and cannot share.

Two of the talks that really stuck out to me were the ones on how to come out as an atheist and one on the LDS Church.

The talk on coming out as an atheist was given by a woman who had her family unintentionally discover she was an atheist from pictures on Google. She had both positive and negative reactions from some family members, and it has strained her relationship with several of them permanently. She offered a lot of really good advice that was similar to how many come out as gay.

The other talk on the LDS Church was interesting to me, being an ex-Mormon. The man had to rush through his speech because of time constraints (They weren't very well organized with the speakers and a few were cut short). It's sad, because he had a lot of really good material I wanted to see, and felt a lot of people needed to see there.

The last speech I saw was by a podcaster I enjoy following. His speech was on Christian hijacking and rebranding of pop culture over the past 30 to 40 years. Everything from Christians stealing the image of pop and rock musicians and creating their own versions of these pop stars, to blatantly ripping off logos, movies, or other pop culture items and intentionally rebranding them as Christian. It was a very interesting topic and made me realize just how commercial a lot of modern Christianity has become. I will be doing a bit more research on that and maybe do a vlog on it sometime soon.

Overall Experience:

This was a very great day. I couldn't imagine a better way to have spent Easter Sunday than discussing religion with people who normally don't get heard in the religious dialogue except as people to be feared or mocked. You will find in life that atheists are just normal people who happen not to believe in God, and there are good and bad ones just like all other groups of people. I don't understand the why atheists are demonized so much, but it's an unfair thing as many know as much or more about religion than religious people and deserve to be heard.

I am now in the process of writing my very special blog. Monday, I went to the Church of Scientology. Stay tuned, that blog will be up very soon.

Until then, peace be with you!

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