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Cornwell, Dawkins and Faircloth in Seattle

Well, Bellevue, anyway. Close enough.

I want to thank you, my darlings. I have no idea how many of you made it – I only ran in to one of you (hello!), but the crowd was astounding. I got there just after two, and atheists had filled a very large high school. We can haz horde! Next time there’s an event like this, I’m going to have to have t-shirts or something so we can find each other. Who wants to design an ETEV viking ship logo?

The reason I’d like to do this is because while it’s awesome to see folks like Cornwell and Dawkins and Faircloth, it’s far more awesome meeting you. I love my readers. I love seeing my readers. I love hearing you talk about yourselves (not me, please, I talk about me enough). So I just want to put that up front: I can’t wait to meet more of you.

And I’m thrilled we packed that gym with atheists. Lots of diverse atheists: younger, older, men and women, transgender and cis, LGBQ and straight, and it wasn’t a sea of lily white. The faces in that crowd could trace their ancestry all over the world. Greta’s right: we’re making progress.

I also got to preach the good news of the Kindle Fire to a very wonderful couple. Hee.

So, those of you who weren’t there probably want to know what went on. You’ll know all about it soon enough – the whole event was recorded. I’ll post it here when it’s live. For now, we’ll do some photos and highlights.

Jerry DeWitt opened. He was a Pentecostal preacher until a few months ago, and Daniel was right – he’s great at turning that rhetorical skill to good use for atheism. Seattle-area atheists seemed a bit taken aback by the idea of shouting “Amen!” at things, but certainly enjoyed the Southern-style revival rhythm. Also, he’s got a fine sense of humor, and I hope I get to see him again when he’s the headliner. Book! Book! Book! I’d like to see him waving his own books around someday. But he waved around other peoples’ books, and talked about being in darkness until he found the Clergy Project and made it out.

Jerry DeWitt

Elisabeth Cornwell certainly earned my respect. She’s the driving force behind the Out Campaign, which now has reached Afghanistan. She’s executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, had a major hand in getting the Clergy Project going and continuing, and we probably didn’t have time to go in to everything else she does. She talked about the Clergy Project, and introduced us to Teresa MacBain, who just came out as an atheist a few days ago.

Teresa MacBain

She told us the RDF is about to launch a new website, with many new features, one of which will allow local and national groups to announce their events. And she told us that the president of Campus Crusade for Christ said that the internet is one of the most dangerous things facing Christianity today. Elisabeth said, “I want to make sure that we make that statement true. Expand the movement!”

Elisabeth Cornwell

There are many excellent reasons for expanding the movement. That one’s the very tasty icing. Hee.

Sean Faircloth, Director of Strategy and Policy for RDF, spoke out about the outrages that result from laws that allow religious daycares and parents avoid the laws that secular daycares and parents must follow. He has a good term for faith-healing: “faith-harming.” He went through his 10 Point Vision of a Secular America, and talked about how important it is that we get involved in the political process. I hadn’t known this, but my home state of Arizona, red state extraordinaire, has a lobbyist for secular values. If they can, we can.

Sean Faircloth

He’s also a lot of fun.

Sean Faircloth has a bit o' fun

Richard Dawkins gave an excellent talk on “intelligent design.” He made the case for intelligently designing our morals, and our future.

Richard Dawkins

Pretty much the whole point of his lecture was this: “We need to salvage the idea of intelligent design as something that could guide us in framing our morals and framing other aspects that could make our lives better.”
We do need to do that. We need to start using our intelligence to come up with better morals, better solutions to our problems, better ways to take care of this planet and each other. Religion won’t help. Religion too often digs in its heels and holds us back. We can be so much better than religion.

There was a banner hanging in the auditorium, which I doubt had been put up for us but seemed appropriate anyway:

Richard Dawkins and banner

“We’re taking over,” it said. Richard pointed it out.

Dawkins pointing out banner

We’re growing in numbers. We’re finding our voices. We’re uniting with others who believe that the secular principles this country was founded on are vital for its continued existence. And we can make the world a better place.

Right here. Right now. Let’s get started.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m very supportive of the Out Campaign. The one thing every atheist (at least those in countries where they won’t get murdered for it) can do is just be out. I try to denormalize religion by sprinkling conversation with fairly innocuous comments that make the religious folks in the crowd realize that they’re ridiculous beliefs are not sacrosanct. Eg. Someone says “Happy Easter”, I say “oh, I’m not a christian so I don’t celebrate Easter”.
    Someone comments on Christ’s resurrection or some ‘miracle’ in the news, I say “Hard to believe people still believe that nonsense in 2012 eh?”
    Etc.
    In doing so, I generally find that I’m surrounded by closet atheists or generally vanilla christians who really don’t believe in supernatural nonsense when pressed. Thankfully, I’m Canadian so the really wacky fundies are already marginalized up here.

    • Moira says

      I’m interested that you say you don’t celebrate Easter as you’re not a christian. A lot of people are still unaware that both Xmas and Easter were originally both pre-christian festivals. Indeed, Eastre (or similar)was Anglo Saxon godess of spring or fertility, hence eggs and bunnies (funny how the Xtians kept the original Pagan name). Winter festivals like Saturnalia (the Romans) or Yule (Scandinavia) were also pre-christian and celebrated the return of the sun after the winter solstice, and with the burning of logs etc and feasting on stores were as much about survival during the darkest period of the winter as about religion. Missletoe and decorated trees were originally pagan customs. It can get pretty dark and cold in northern Europe in the middle of winter even in these days of electric lights and central heating and all those twinkly lights in the middle of the cold and dark help cheer us up.

      So, despite being an atheist, I have no problem celebrating these festivals but I have my own reasons for doing so. If anyone calls me hypocritical I say well, it’s cold and dark in the winter and I’m just battoning down the hatches for a few days… so what? Same with Easter … it’s spring, the daffodils are out and the birdies are singing and I like chocolate. And finally, I tell them, mind your own damn business, I’ll celebrate what I like, when I like.

      Moira UK

  2. h. hanson says

    I would have loved to have gone but am held back by my dislike of crowds. Glad you had a nice time.

  3. says

    It’s great to see this kind of thing happening!

    …especially for someone who escaped the Bible Belt.

    But it’s also saddening – to see (hear of) so many people who have made the great leap to atheism, but find themselves there with no idea where anything that they formerly thought comes from “God” comes from.

    Morality, obviously. But what about Epistemology, the most important branch of philosophy? Knowledge, too, comes from somewhere – and you didn’t learn anything about that in religion land – nor from today’s university professors.

    I urge you to take a real, serious look at Ayn Rand’s work. Her fiction, if you want to, if you want a dramatization of the results of her philosophy vs the alternatives – a presentation that you can feel, rather than (have to) think about.

    (OTOH, if you’re like most people, you’ve been way turned off by even her name, by all the people out there who (don’t care to work to understand her, yet) like nothing more than to bad-mouth her.)

    But if you’re brave enough to get from religious to atheist, surely you’re brave enough to spend a little time studying the works of the woman who – after N thousand years – finally worked out a systematic philosophy that is *right*.

  4. Johnny says

    I was there, and what was most astonishing was the amount of people that had turned out. We arrived at 2:10, ten minutes after doors opened, and it was already packed. HUGE LINE. So many people. Being seattle and all, it was full of white college latte-drinking free thinkers, but there were also lots of others folks. I have to admit that I couldn’t say “AMEN” when prompted. Never done it, it just doesn’t feel right. Herding cats after all, right? Even when young and raised Catholic, they never had us saying AMEN like that, so the whole concept just went over my head. The speakers were great, but they all had something in common–they all looked tired. They all, however did absolutely great. I was interested in seeing Mr Faircloth. His speech was awesome. All in all it was a very nice afternoon, and it really felt grassroots, being in a school gymnasium and all. I do have to admit that sitting on bleachers for 2hours made my butt hurt. But all is good if it’s to hear Richard Dawkins.

    I thought there’d be a Q&A, so I was bit disappointed that it all ended so quickly, but there you go.