At the Gateway to Reason secular speakers conference in St. Louis, the whole weekend starting Friday 8/31/15, I was just blown away not only by the diversity and talent of the speakers, the incredible Washington University campus…
…the terrific restaurant district north of the campus that seems to extend for blocks in all directions, but especially by the atmosphere of positive feelings of the speakers and attendees as an emerging group, a growing movement of secular humanists, nonbelievers, skeptics, atheists, freethinkers, agnostics…a whole burgeoning community of Unbelieving Scum!
Twenty-four speakers in 2-1/2 intense days (12 hours on Saturday!) full of information, new data, new perspectives…and despite each talk often featuring the very real evils of religion at home and abroad, the enthusiasm for the continued formidable growth of this movement to fashion a different world than the one dominated by religion we live in, was more than palpable.
Attendance was well over 250, pushing 300 or more with a nearly full auditorium for the most well known speakers.
And this is the first conference ever organized by the Gateway to Reason group, under the leadership and apparently tireless energy and organizational skills of Conference Organizer Thomas True.
A BIG shoutout and hats off to him for a killer 3 days of all things secular!! Thank you, Tom.
Diversity and inclusion was as much a theme as skepticism and the promotion of freethought over the mythology, absurdity and repressions of religion.
Of the 24 speakers, 5 were women, 3 people of color, a few lifelong atheists, many former Xians, even a former Muslim with a whole host of nationalities represented. Besides also featuring a gay speaker or two, the event was prominently advertised as LGBTQ friendly as well. Lastly, the speaker’s ages ranged from the 20’s to the 60’s. How’s that for diversity?
It is no longer just an old white guys movement anymore.
Two recurrent themes underlay many of the presentations:
Firstly, the success of changing religious peoples minds due to the inevitable, eventual effect of new and correct information, and a second corollary theme which recognizes the immediate access to that knowledge which dispels religious myths and thinking is mediated predominantly by the Internet and through the near ubiquitous and constant use of personal web devices: smartphones, tablets, notebooks and laptops.
It is changing the world, and faster than ever as we speak…and Information does Kill Religion.
The New Instant Information Age juggernaut rumbles on.
Many of the speakers made examples of that very point that I harp on all the time: that we are effective in providing the straight story to religionists as eventually so many of them just drop the ridiculous lies they were indoctrinated into and coerced into dare not leaving.
It works, its working, fantastically really, and the Instant Information Age is providing the real deal to religious people 24/7. It is almost impossible to escape completely into a Xian cocoon in today’s world. Ya gotta come out sometime and when you do its a bombardment of contrary info, everywhere.
The entire Gateway to Reason meeting was one more example of the growing power of information in disabling religious claims and its grip on humanity.
In somewhat of a contrast, one of the last speakers Hemant Mehta, suggested that we need to emulate some of the things churches do well in order to do even better, that religion should be gone already and that the churches are doing many things that work for them that we might adopt. I had to disagree with most of his points on that and I hope to cover them soon properly in a later blog.
One was they have better messengers than us non-believers.
As I said I couldn’t disagree more.
Hemant himself along with the other 23 presenters at Gateway are all examples of the excellent deliverers of the secular message we have rocking today. I’d stack them up against the majority of preachers, priests, or ministers out there. The churches got nothing on us, whatever tricks, gimmicks and sometimes scams they use to draw in the faithful. Hemant has done a fantastic job in a short time coming out of nowhere in less than ten years since the publication of his first book “I Sold My Soul on ebay” in 2007 and starting his highly successful and informative blog Freindly Atheist. If you wanna know whats happening in the secular world, follow Hemant’s blog.
He’s one of the better messengers we got making this movement happen as quickly as it is.
And their few truly charismatic megachurch pastors that get all the press? Like Rick Warren, TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, and others?
I’ll put our secular top tier of speakers up against those charlatans any day:
Richard Dawkins, Neil De Grasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Dan Dennet. Hell, even Bill Maher, Bill Nye, Ricky Gervais and others who are more in the entertainment field are dynamite proponents of secular thinking and values.
We have fantastic messengers, and at all levels. We already got them beat. And ours dont use tricks and scams and outright lies to con the believing masses.
And we got a phenomenal and growing sense of community which was demonstrably evident at Gateway all weekend. More than one speaker was amazed that this small regional meeting had such solid attendance and enthusiasm. Gateway was not a national annual meeting, such as from one of the established national secular groups like American Atheists, or Skepticon, or the recent Imagine No Religion Meeting in BC Canada that usually have a pretty good offering of the top tier speakers.
So a couple of the speakers this weekend asked the Gateway crowd if this was their first big meeting? And each time in the neighborhood of 2/3 of the audience raised their hands. Wow. First big meeting in the St. Louis area. Hell, I drove 6 hours to be there and I know more than a few others that made the trip down from the Chicago area. (Chicagoland has yet to host a big secular meeting…more on that later.)
This movement is still so new and growing and with meetings like this and the rapidly forming and growing local meetups all over the country, we are building a sense of community for non-believers that rivals anything the churches offer with their phony promise of an afterlife, and silly rituals. We dont need them, nor to emulate them.
Religion is still around because it has had a 5,000 year headstart. Xiansanity itself has had nearly 2 millenia to infuse itself into every nook and cranny of Western culture and our mindset. We are not going to eradicate that level of entrenchment in a few short years. But damn, are we making progress!
And the churches spend billions in promotion, not to mention the heinous practice of child indoctrination that keeps all religions afloat. The New Enlightenment movement has had but a decade since the publication of Sam Harris’ “End of Faith” in 2004 and the subsequent debuts of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and so many others we now take for granted working away effectively like Hemant in the secular sphere.
Give US a few more decades, much less a millenia or two and see what the world looks like!
We are doing just fine without copying the churches one bit.
end religion now