If you’re not in England, and someone hears you mention Wimbledon, they’re likely to think you’re talking about the pinnacle of tennis matches. What else is that city known for on the global scale? The same sort of thing might happen if you’re nowhere near Indiana when you bring up Indianapolis. A lot of Europeans might expect that word to be followed by the number 500, because that city is internationally known only for formula one racing. This is how I think it will soon be whenever an atheist hears Kamloops mentioned outside of Canada; they must be talking about the international conference called ‘Imagine No Religion‘.
Bill Ligertwood of the Kamloops Centre For Rational Thought chose his own humble little home town to host an annual gathering of rational thinkers flown in from all over the world. There are no direct flights to this place; the airport is too small. But as remote as it is, the idea works and has worked for three years running. Consequently Kamloops is becoming something of an atheist Mecca.
The town itself is rather charming in the spring, and the Kamloops Coast Hotel and Convention Centre offers a perfect venue. It’s an intimate setting. The conference centre is an elegant dinner theater only big enough for a few hundred people. Fountains and flowing streams run all through the hotel interior. The lounge, dining rooms, the catering for all diets, all very nice. I’ve been to a lot of freethinking secular humanist skeptical atheist conventions over the last few years; this was organized as well as any of them.
I understand the line-up changes every year. The hosts of The Thinking Atheist and the Atheist Experience were there last year, along with Laurence Krauss and several others of that calibre. This year the line-up of a couple dozen speakers and performers included Victor Stenger, Dan Dennet, and Aruna Papp. Her personal and deeply-moving presentation brought a standing ovation with ‘not a dry eye in the house’.
Most of the attendees were Canadian, -albeit from all over the country- and there was a surprising number of conventioneers from the UK. Otherwise there wasn’t a lot of ethnic diversity this time around, I’m sorry to say, but gender and age groups were well-represented, and absolutely everyone seemed to be having a really good time. There was no apparent drama, no one with issues to be addressed or avoided. Just a couple hundred people who flew in happy to be there and sorry to leave.
One last thing, be sure to try the local specialty brew, an opaque black chocolate stout called ‘Back-Hand of God‘. Not only is the name amusingly ironic -given the customers in question, but the beer is actually quite good!