Comparing Secular Conferences

I’ve been booked for a different conference or convention or similar function almost every month for the last few years, and sometimes a couple in the same month.  Of the bigger, better ones repeated annually, I’d say the most ‘posh’ would be the American Humanist Association, particularly regarding their elegant banquets and choice of lavish hotels.  I’ve attended two of their national conventions, (in New Orleans and San Diego) but they never invited me to speak.  That’s how posh they are!  Not far behind is American Atheists. Their conventions seem to have the most peripheral activities going on outside the formal scheduled events.  Skepticon is a ‘must do’ at least in that it is free and informal and favored by college kids.  Apostacon is probably the most fun one, or at least the silliest; because it’s hosted by devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and everything they do tends to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, meeting the big stars may require an additional ticket.  It’s not like the Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas.  I’ve never been invited to speak there either, but when I went anyway, the leading skeptics’ conference had all their celebrities hanging out in the hallway. The bacon and donut party was fun too.

That’s the run-down of heathen gatherings, divided into humanists, atheists, skeptics, and pastafarians.  I’ve been to a couple secular conferences too, but they were at the state level rather than national, global, or world events. I’ve also been to those as well, but they’re usually not annual, or not hosted by the same group every year.

To my experience, the best of the international infidel conventions overall is Imagine No Religion in Canada.  I’ve been to that one twice, and was so involved in the event that I didn’t take time to get out and see the surrounding area; which is too bad because British Columbia is among the most beautiful parts of this whole continent. On the coast, there’s a majestic mountain range on one side and a lush archipelago on the other.

INR seems the best organized of all these events, with everyone reporting a positive experience, whether from the stage or in the audience; but then you have to consider who is in the audience.  There were respected scientists, politicians, and even a couple of TV personalities in attendance.  So this is where I want to give my best performance.

Bill Ligertwood, the event coordinator knows how to provide for attendees, and he knows how to take care of the speakers.  We were met at the airport by a huge stretch Limo, and that was just the beginning.

VancouverLimoOur suite was a fully-equipped apartment; it was the biggest and nicest room we’ve ever had.  That’s something when you consider how many hotels I’ve seen so far.  We were also hardly ever there.  There were special luncheons, and a dinner just for the speakers to meet each other, but we were also urged to be available to the patrons and to mingle with them.

This event is a more intimate gathering than most. At the same time, it is also a more comfortable atmosphere, with very good presentations covering the breadth of the irreligious perspective.  There wasn’t anything that wasn’t interesting, and much of it was inspirational.  It’s not specifically a promotion of atheism, or humanism, or skepticism. It’s not all about activism, and it’s not just a promotion of science either; its all of that, the full range of topics relative to the theme of the title. It’s a warm and intellectual meeting of the minds. Speakers come from diverse backgrounds all over the world, and the audience does too. I met attendees there who came from New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore and Japan. That’s quite a ways to go for a conference, but as I said, this is about the best gathering of its kind.


Someone I don’t know tweeted this to me:

Hello my friend Aron. What is your opinion about this short conversation between a Christian & a scientist: ?

Not even an hour later, that person (called Bieber) posted “still waiting”, as if I must be aware of the tweet, but that am perhaps intimidated or otherwise hesitant to respond.  I guess they think I live on Twitter and that I don’t do or see anything else. I rarely even check it, because Twitter is NOT the place to have a discussion.  But I replied:

Me: That conversation was copied wrong. They labeled ‘a Muslim’ as though he was ‘a scientist’, and said things no scientist would say.

Bieber: OK. Lets say: he is a Muslim. What is scientifically wrong with what he said if there is any thing wrong?! :-)

Me: No scientist should say that *any* prophesy is “100% accurate”, much less “all” of them.
Not only can no alleged prophesy be verified to be correct; a lot of them have been proven wrong, including some Islamic prophesies.
For example, I remember when Muslims argued with P.Z. Myers about embryology, and the Qur’an was wrong.
Hamza Tzortsis later argued with me about isostasy, and the Qur’an turned out to be wrong then too.
Your alleged scientist found coincidental numbers in an unrelated verse and merely imagined a correlation interpreted as prophesy.
Your citation pretends that no one would have believe we’d land on the moon, yet Muslims believed that Muhammad rode a flying horse.
You asked me what’s wrong with it. Now that I’ve answered, let me ask you, what’s right with it?

I only addressed a tiny portion of this absurd conversation that would never take place between any Christian and any scientist, but I’d like to see hows others would address the rest of it.

My take on the Abrahamic triad

This is just my opinion, but when I listen to Muslims explaining their religion to each other, I get the impression that Islam is hateful and violent, but that it’s also pretty stupid; “full of shit”, as my dad would say -because none of it can be justified or shown to be true, and what little they do know can’t really imply what they say it does.

The same thing goes for Christians.  When I listen to Christians discussing their religion, I get the impression that they’re hateful too, but their violent reactions are culturally inhibited.  So they compensate for that with a staggering level of bewildering stupidity, coupled with dishonesty.  It sounds to me like pots and kettles accusing each other in the perfect example of the blind leading the blind.

But when I listen to those Jews who still believe in God and the Bible, and I hear them arguing aspects of their beliefs, it strikes me that the foundation of Abrahamic religion is utterly empty, devoid of any possible meaning or value.  I don’t want to say “who cares?”, because way too many people do.  That’s what confuses and alarms me!  How could anyone imagine that any of this is really true or really matters?

I mean, think about it this way:  If you listened to two grown men arguing about what Zeus really meant by what he supposedly said to Hera according to a confused mystic’s interpretation of man-made mythology, would you, could you manage to feign any interest in that discussion?

Christians Against Dinosaurs

At one point, I would have thought that Pat Robertson of the Trinity Broadcast Network was a perfect example of a mind befuddled by willful ignorance.  But Robertson publicly criticized Ken Ham of AnswersInGenesis for being “deaf, dumb, and blind”, because Ham doesn’t believe there was a Mesozoic era.  Ham believes that dinosaurs once lived with people just a few thousand years ago. But Ham in-turn also publicly criticized Kent Hovind of Creation Science Ministries for the same sort of unrealistic stupidity.  This was because Hovind believes dinosaurs are still alive today, and he’s not talking about birds!  So it seems that the only way to be even less reasonable or rational than Kent Hovind is if you’re such an extreme science denialist that you don’t believe dinosaurs ever existed at all.

Recently one young woman has gotten a lot of attention as the admin of an organization called CADministries or ‘Christians Against Dinosaurs’.  As unbelievable as it may seem, they profess that the concept of dinosaurs was invented by Sir Richard Owen back in the 1842, but that the first fossils of dinosaurs didn’t exist until 1854, and that every fossil ‘found’ since then was actually manufactured by paleontologists, using adhesive spackle and random bits of rocky rubble.  They say every dinosaur we ever heard of was created this way, and that each fossil is worth a million dollars to whatever paleontologist can sculpt one together.  Yes, we’re talking about yet another impossibly cohesive centuries-old secret global conspiracy at every level – allied against belief in the Bible god.

Now, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone could be that stupid, and I’ve debated Ray Comfort!  So I’m inclined to suspect that this whole organization is a joke, and that the admin is a poe.  But if she is, she’s persistent, and the joke isn’t funny.  She’s already been banned from Mumsnet, a website dedicated to parenting, because she complained that teaching children about dinosaurs is a lie that causes them to act like monsters.  Even warns about how CADministries is trying to impede or disrupt childrens’ education.

Remarkably, Kristen Auclair, the self-described admin of Christians Against Dinosaurs, has agreed to an hour-long live interview on a special episode of the Ra-Men podcast.  She will have a discussion with myself and Rachel Nanon Brown, who used to do the science segments when we were both on Dogma Debate.  I told Ms Auclair that I was a geoscience major, that I’ve been to fossil digs and worked in the paleo lab at the University of Texas, preparing and examining fossils I found myself. I told her my daughter worked in the Dallas Museum of Natural History, and that my former co-host, Rachel is a paleontologist working at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  So we all have direct hands-on experience to know that nothing Auclair says in any of her videos is even close to true.  I told her I wouldn’t try to convince the audience of that.  They already know.  So we’re going to prove it to her.

Tune in and see how we do.


Bosche – irreligious detective?

I haven’t seen this, because I haven’t turned on a TV since the turn of the century, but according to this ad that keeps popping up on every video I try to watch, we have a new leading good guy portrayed as an atheist.  That’s good, I guess.  It doesn’t happen very often.  I guess Hugh Laurie’s House M.D. must have done pretty well if they’re doing Bosch P.D. now.

50 Shades of Meh

Yeah, spoilers.

My wife just wrote a review of this movie, so I guess I will too. We only went to see it because some Bishop at the Catholic church urged people not to.  Prior to that, I asked my wife if I could pay her not to make me see it. I went into the theater, certain that I couldn’t possibly enjoy this film.  It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it still wasn’t any good.
The movie struck me as sort-of a remake of Pretty Woman, except that it wasn’t even THAT good. I didn’t like pretty woman either, because I don’t connect with the fantasy of a billionaire who buys a penniless woman lavish gifts for two hours until the movie ends.  Nor could I consider it ‘erotica’.  It’s too disproportionate.  He’s young and good-looking, but impossibly rich and powerful at the same time.  However she is plain and mousey, with no strength or passionate interests; she didn’t have any charm to her personality, and she frankly doesn’t have a good enough body for an erotic film.  Really gorgeous women can be captivating, even with no other attributes, but she just wasn’t that pretty.  Speaking personally there was nothing there to pique an interest, especially not the interests of a handsome physically-obsessed corporate tycoon.  Not a psychologically healthy one anyway.  So it was like watching a predator toying with his prey, except that somehow she was in control of him throughout the whole movie.  So there wasn’t really anything to like from either angle.

Just let me rule you, and I will be yours.

Yeah, it reminded me of that movie too.

Throwing money at a woman when you have an inexhaustible supply of it is, ironically a cheap fantasy. Otherwise I winced at everything he did wrong, which was almost everything he did.  Controlling her through monitoring and following her, creating dependance and being visibly jealous of anything that didn’t directly involve or revolve around him. I know people like that, and I’d rather I didn’t.
Ultimately the movie was not erotic and not fun or funny either.  And it’s strange that Catholics would object to it, because, (in a sense) it was the first time for both of them, as improbable as that is.  She was still a virgin in college?  He had never been photographed with a woman despite owning 15 prior sex slaves?  He was indomitable and in command, and their sex was portrayed as an uncomfortable experience resulting from some form of self-loathing. That’s what the Catholic clergy teaches, isn’t it?

Who stood with the prophet?

This is the conference I meant to attend, the one where they refunded my ticket after it was sold out. Organizers assured me it was just a problem with the computer system, and I believe that, since they never had an opportunity to look me up.

I still don’t know if I would have gotten in though, because another guy flew here from Florida, ticket in-hand and was denied entry at the door, because they recognized his name.  I don’t think that’s fair, but Damon Rosen is listed as an Islamiphobe on Loonwatch.  So I’m not surprised.  I don’t think I’m on any such list.

I’m still really pissed that I didn’t get to go.  As I am not on the mailing list of the reactionary redneck league, I had no idea that there would be such a massive protest of the event.

See that guy at 8 seconds in? The one who says “It’s THAT religion you need to fear“. Here’s where we saw him the first time, when he was protesting the Reason Rally in Washington DC.

I’ve seen him a number of other times too, all over the country.  How does he manage to travel everywhere, spreading hatred, and protesting reason wherever he goes?  So this time, he was in my neighborhood. Think of the video I could have made out of this!

The Muslims were even catching Hell from the Patriot Guard Riders.  I was IN the Patriot Guard Riders once upon a time! They’re a biker group formed to block the Westboro Baptist Church from ruining soldiers’ funerals.  When did they become a hate group?  So many confrontations for one venue!

Had I been able to get my ticket properly, I would have had notes or recordings of the event, and I would have been able to interview speakers or representatives on my podcast.  I might still be able to do that.  I’ve contacted organizers asking for a representative to be be on the show.  The purpose of which is to talk about the image of Islam in America. So we will talk about Charlie Hebdo, Damon Rosen, Raif Badawi, and probably any other relevant topic my audience suggests between now and then.

Event speakers say that Islam has a bad reputation because of the media.  While I agree that American news is often biased, sensationalist, inaccurate, deceptive, and unreliable, I still do not think they’re to blame for Islam’s ill-repute.  I have my own opinions of course.  I’m an antitheist, and I am not as sympathetic as some other liberals are. But neither am I a bigot.  I hate prejudice more than I hate religion.  So I don’t expect to contribute to the problem.

I don’t yet know who we’ll get on the show, and am still taking suggestions.  We might end up in a fight by the end, but that depends on my guest, and what he or she says.  I’ll be as generous as I can be.  At the very least, I will be fair.  When I interviewed Hamza Tzortzis on the Magic Sandwich Show, he told me that decapitation was the most humane way to deal with apostasy.  As soon as he said that, all civility was lost.  That’s why this time, I’m hoping to talk with a more reasonable person.


Stand with the Prophet?

Today in Garland Texas there was a Muslim conference to ‘Stand With the Prophet‘. If you know someone who attended this conference, I would like to talk to them.

I meant to go myself.  I bought a ticket online, and got a receipt for it, but there was some problem with the web page such that it timed-out while trying to produce proof of purchase. I had no ticket to show.  The company refunded me a day or so later, and I tried to purchase it again, but by then they were sold out. I wanted to go because there were some very controversial speakers, and I wanted to take notes, so that I wouldn’t have to rely on hearsay.  I would know first-hand what was really said.

I also wanted to talk to one of these people on my podcast, and I still do.  If anyone participating in this movement is willing to come onto my show, know that I don’t expect to agree with you on anything. But I don’t want to misrepresent anyone either, and I don’t want to be part of the problem.  If you’re taking action in attempt to fix things, and might actually make a difference, that’s what my show is all about, and I don’t have to agree with you.

This group claims that Islam has a bad reputation in this country, not because of absurd beliefs, repugnant practices, an unjust legal system, sexist oppression, or violent terrorism, but because of how all of that is portrayed in the media.  I doubt very much whether that is actually the case.  But I’d like to hear your argument none the less.  We’ll probably have an argument immediately after that too.  Just being realistic.  But that doesn’t mean that I won’t listen and give fair consideration to whatever you have to say.