My wife Lynnea joined me on the final day of the convention, having a day pass for her participation in the live Godless Bitches broadcast in the evening. We had to get there by 9:00 in order to catch Jerry DeWitt‘s Easter Sermon, because Jerry rocks.
The first thing Jerry did was “call” Brother Sam Singleton, who popped up in a video, and berated Jerry for “waking him up” on a Sunday.
- Sam Singleton likes your photo.
- Sam Singleton: Goddamn atheists
- Russell Glasser: You pre-recorded your half, right?
- Sam Singleton: Brother Sam does not kiss and tell.
Then Jerry got down to the heart of his talk, telling about a time when Richard Dawkins heard him speak, and told him that he really enjoyed his “preacher act.” Jerry, a minister for over 25 years, took (good natured) umbrage. He said, “What Dawkins doesn’t know is, THIS is the real me. The calm, reasonable guy you usually see… THAT’S the act.”
And then Jerry treated us all to the most amazing sermon we ever heard. He strode back and forth on the stage. He waved his arms. He shouted and he smiled. He said, “If God is a myth, what else do we have? If there is no eternal life, what do we have?” Then he told us what we have… boy did he tell us. We have relationships. We have connections. We have our partnership with and support for each other. And there was an awful lot of that support in the room.
Hemant “Friendly Atheist” Mehta did his talk next, noting: “I want to thank Dave Silverman for letting me speak, and curse Dave Silverman for making me follow Jerry DeWitt.” Then he expanded on Jerry’s theme more, speaking of building communities, and emphasizing the importance of bringing young people into the movement. Simply coming out as an atheist, says Hemant, is the most important thing you can do to model behavior for the next generation.
A.C. Grayling came up, with what was billed as the keynote speech for Sunday. Now, I don’t really know if the guy with a doctorate in philosophy was the smartest person in the room, but I swear that melodic British accent that he shares with Richard Dawkins would make it sound like it was unlocking the deepest secrets of life, even if he was just reading his bloody grocery list.
And he was, in fact, expounding a fair bit on the meaning of life (“It’s what you make it,” he said… but then again, so did an Iguana in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe) as well as morality (“Under no circumstances should you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, because they might not like it!”) and the history of atheism in general.
As I was periodically checking the #aacon13 hashtag on my phone, I caught this gem from @markdemonbreun:
I really needed a break at this point, so I went out and ran into Dave Silverman. Both Lynnea and our local atheist friend Deb wanted a picture with Dave. I asked Dave to make his famous Reddit Face for Lynnea, but he misunderstood me. Lynnea got a nice, friendly smile, while Deb — with no idea what was going on — was treated to a top notch “Who the hell are you?” look. So Deb is the one who gets her picture posted! (with permission)
Oh, and our new buddies at the nearby Compass 120 table gave some of us Austinites free shirts!
Lynnea and I caught up with the atheist art show, featuring many excellent sketches of famous scientists and prominent atheists. Also, by happy coincidence, I found that one of the paintings was along the same theme as the t-shirt I was wearing. Behold: Russell’s Teapot in stereo!
After bouncing around a bit, I found Matt, Beth, and JT Eberhard hanging out together. They were just about to hit the hotel’s fajita buffet, and Lynnea and I got to tag along. I have had my butt soundly kicked by JT at Street Fighter in the past, during Lousy Canuck’s game-a-thon fundraiser, but this is the first time I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting him. We shared some quality time together.
…And you know what I just realized? Sunday was a really big day. I thought I could finish recapping the convention in three posts, but I think it’s time to accept that it will take a fourth (plus a fifth wrap-up post about community issues).
Next time, I’ll recap individual speeches by David Tamayo, Edwin Kagan, Ophelia Benson, Cristina Rad, Teresa MacBain, and a very special live episode of Godless Bitches. Woot!