More reports from the Freethought Festival! I live-tweeted most of the sessions–strangely, gaining followers instead of losing them–so you’ll get mostly tweets with notes. (Brianne is doing her own set of summaries, starting here.)
This was the last session of the conference. Lots of people were not happy about leaving, though everyone got a bit cheerier when the organizers announced that there would be a Freethought Festival in April of 2013 as well. Now if they can just get better weather for the next one. I’m sad when State Street is a dour, gloomy place.
“Breaking the Cycle of Religion”
- Phil Ferguson starting the final morning with props. Diet Coke, Mentos, and worried looks on the organizers’ faces.
- Put your money where your heart is. Donate to a local student group to change the future earlier.
- Pastor to Phil: Questions still after confirmation classes? Eh, just go through with it for your parents.
- The generational data on “nones” is very encouraging, both numerically and in specific endorsed positions.
- Capture the imaginations and attentions of young people with fun science. Make science easily available. Encourage questions always.
- Make sure kids are exposed to lots of mythologies. SG-1 is a lovely way to put them all on par.
- Use humor about religion to undercut its mystery and authority.
- “Anything fundamentalists don’t like? Give it to your kids. It has to be good.”
- Phil is now sharing LEGO porn.
“Parenting Beyond Belief”
@MemingOfLife now showing pictures of his son that the kid don’t know he uses.
- Realized even a liberal religious education was bad when his son shrugged off a question with an incurious “God wants it that way.”
- Found ways to talk about kid’s religious thoughts without suppressing the *thinking* parts. Permission to create & change convictions.
- Don’t be afraid to share opinions with kids from fear of indoctrination. Just let them know that other people have different opinions.
- RT @devianttouch “Tell me the ideas you have!” wonderful. Will say the same to the 4 year old in my life.
- Kids must hear that there are no unthinkable thoughts or unaskable questions. They get too much of the opposite message.
- “How does Santa get around the world in one night.” “Well, some people say it isn’t a literal night.”
- Eldest was terribly relieved to (eventually) have it confirmed that Santa is parents.
#spoiler The world made sense again.
- If we impose worldviews on kids, we deprive them of the satisfaction of building their own. And the strength of a reasoned view.
- We’re filling in the missing populations in the freethought movement. Now we have to create the programs to support them. Child care!
“The Unstoppable Growth of Secular Student Organizations”
- SSA has a very narrow focus on students, which
@lyzmaytweet feels is one of its major strengths.
- Religious identity in school is very durable. Religions know this. We need to give students options.
- “We’re organizing at a bus stop.” Organizing students involves lots of ongoing training.
- Campus groups have access to facilities for events most other groups would die for, but very few financial resources.
- Attrition (dying groups) has been a big problem, but it is decreasing. Currently about 10% annually.
- Student groups are responsible for a big chunk of the explosion in freethought conferences.
- Students very involved in lots of service projects, interfaith dialog, national events and programs.
- SSA memberships are free to students and growing amazingly.
- SSA launching alumni program. Can’t lose all that training when people move out of schools.
- SSA supported by individual memberships and donations.
- $250,000 matching challenge running until the end of the year or until goal met.
- A little comparison between Cru and the SSA.
“Ingersoll’s Voice, Adler’s Vision: Humanism Beyond the Reason Rally”
@FutureTemple talking in a few minutes. I don’t know how he copes. He seems so shy. [This is a lie of the first order.]
- Secular movement is so exciting precisely because there are so many thing to be accomplished.
- We need more than just a decrease in religiosity. Our political influence is not keeping up with our numbers.
- There are many more of us than there have been in the past, but we’re losing on social and political fronts.
- “The ‘nones’ are an opportunity, not an achievement.” They still need to be converted to secular values, beyond basic secularism.
- There are values that underlie secularism and humanism, but the right own the language of values and human engagement.
- Values largely underlie political decisions. We need to emphasize our positive values, what we *do* believe in.
- Laying out Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory.
- Appealing to our enemies’ values in showing how they, themselves, don’t meet their own standards in the actions we oppose.
- “It may not work, but it will at least piss off the fundamentalists.”
- Adler felt that meeting for the consideration of shared principles has a huge, energy-generating value. More conventions anyone?
- Ethical Culture School had a social impact far beyond their small numbers. Meeting supported and energized values.
- Religious are more civically engaged, but engagement is correlated with engagement in religious community, not with religious belief.
- Speaking to another’s moral concern doesn’t require sharing them or being dishonest, just understanding their language when we speak.
- If we want to abandon the interfaith label, *we* have to drive the efforts for justice to the point that we get to apply *our* labels.
“Diversity in the Atheist Community”
- That’s why I recognized Alix Jules. It was from the February ads with black freethinkers.
- Sooo hard to get the audience to say out loud that Alix is black.
- Even those beautiful AAH ads got pushback. “Those [historical, respected] people weren’t freethinkers.”
- “I went from being a Doubting Thomas to also being an Uncle Tom.” Coming out in a black community.
- Looking at the ‘nones’ statistics for the US, you do not see a picture of the African-American community.
- Religion sticks more in minority communities as a matter of racial identity, cultural isolation, stereotypes, education, hardship.
- So who are the AAs in the media? Sports and entertainment figures. Mostly explicitly anti-atheist.
- Also strong presence of civil rights pastors and megachurch pastors.
- How many colleges could be funded by megachurch collections?
- Education discrepancies. “Correlation isn’t causation, but what if we pretend it is.”
- If we want to undermine false hope, we need to provide real hope.
- Our communications do not target any but the white communities. Understandable, but it won’t work in minority groups.
- There are opportunities in prison outreach. We just have to make a meaningful difference in what we offer.
- Tokenism still a major problem in the conference scene.
- The issues that attract minority audiences are roughly the same as we’re already talking about, but priorities are different.
- Invite, but then also be welcoming. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘Hello.’” Remember names.
- Acknowledgement from the other speakers also goes a long way.
- Support your local minority groups. Does it make you uncomfortable? Oh, well. Making change is disruptive.
- Sometimes the minority speaking to minorities will simple be better received. But the majority is still needed in a supporting role.
- This. RT
@deviantouch: We must talk more about social justice to reach out to minority populations.
“Skepticism, Humanism and Atheism: A Natural Freethought Relationship”
- JREF’s mission is directly pointed at skepticism on “woo-woo”.
- JREF creating classroom materials promoting critical thinking based around the paranormal. Free for download. Meet science standards.
- 30% of TAM attendees do not identify as atheist or agnostic.
- Skepticism is a positive, constructive method for evaluating real-world, relevant issues.
- While various organizations divide the labor of promoting realty, but skepticism must underlie all our work.
- Atheism is no guarantee of skepticism in other matters.
- Humanism is application of skepticism to received morality. Still no guarantee of skepticism in other matters.
- RT @FutureTemple:
@DJGrothe pisses of all the libertarians in the audience by calling the invisible hand a “woo-woo” belief.=D
- “You’re very new at this. You may be mistaken. You’ve been wrong before.” — Ann Druyan on the whispering voice of skepticism
- “Focus more on our cultural competitors than on internecine squabbles.” More does not mean solely.
- Skepticism has benefits. We should celebrate them. “Intellectual self-defense.”
- There are moral components to the application of skepticism. Emphasize those.
- Skepticism is relevant to many communities if we do the work to make it so.
- “I came out when I was 14. I became a magician when I was 14. I joined a cult when I was 14. It was a busy year.”