American Atheists Convention 2013 recap: Sunday evening

Wrapping this up at last….

After lunch on Sunday, Lynnea and I returned to hear David Tamayo speak about promoting atheism among the Hispanic community. Hispanics are natural atheist allies, says David, but it’s tough to promote minority communities leaving religious infrastructures. Tamayo suggested that confronting women’s issues more is a key to unlocking this demographic, since Hispanic families tend to be somewhat matriarchal.

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Ophelia Benson did a very moving talk on the oppression of women by religions around the world. She highlighted the case of Maryam Namazie, who responded to attacks on female “immodesty” by creating her own secular nude calendar. Brave as that was, Ophelia also relayed several other stories from the middle east in which women have been viciously attacked, imperiled, and killed.

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Edwin Kagin, in addition to being AA’s legal director, is the founder of Camp Quest. This already makes me extremely grateful to him, as my son has spent two great years at Camp Quest Texas and is now signed up for a third. Edwin was there mainly to debunk myths about religion in American politics. Christians continue to claim that the nation was founded on Christianity, yet there is nothing in the Bible whatsoever about Democracy.

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He touched on the ten commandments monuments around the country, and supplied one of Twitter’s favorite lines of the day. To paraphrase: “Fundamentalists say that the laws of this country are based on the ten commandments, but they don’t even understand their own source material. Those huge monuments they put everywhere are clearly violations of the second commandment, which is against graven images. But when I ask them to tell me about the second commandment, they start babbling about guns!”

Cristina Rad, the Romanian blogger / vlogger better known to the YouTube community as “ZOMGitsCriss,” had some words of her own to say about feminism, sexism, harassment, and the MRA movement. This may have come as a surprise to her less attentive followers, who may have caught a previous video in which she declared that feminism sucks and she doesn’t want to be bothered by it. So the first thing she did was apologize for that video. The next thing she did, in the context of discussing real harassment that happens both on and offline, was to take a video by an anti-feminist vlogger called “Girl Writes What” and deconstruct it. She added on some remarks later about chivalry, otherwise known as “socially accepted sexism.” The end result is to continue portraying women as helpless and in constant need of assistance.

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As the day drew to a close, Teresa MacBain showed up. Teresa has only been publicly self-identified as an atheist for a year and some change now, but her coming out event at last year’s AA Convention (caught here on video) was the stuff of legends. With frequent references to Jerry DeWitt’s earlier statements about community and support, Teresa fondly recounted what a warm welcome and a caring community she had received as she gave up her old life and many of her friends when she resigned as a pastor.

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Finally the convention came to an end. Dave Silverman came back on stage to tell us that the important work was being done by not so much by the speakers and organizers on stage, but also by the members of the audience who continue to speak up for our community and culture in our daily lives. And, okay, incidentally, who support groups like American Atheists financially. 😉

Thing is, Dave closed out the ceremony so abruptly that he almost forgot to announce the live episode of Godless Bitches that was just about to air. Before the crowd could dispersed, he was reminded, and he hastily switched his mic back on and bellowed that the show was coming up in ten minutes. The Atheist Community of Austin’s Beth, Tracie, Jen, and Lynnea assembled on stage to prepare for their show.

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Naturally, some of the audience had places to go and planes to catch, but the audience still had a pretty good turnout, filling up about a pretty sizable proportion of the conference room. With no one in charge as the convention had officially ended, Matt grabbed a mic and introduced the show. After they all introduced themselves, Beth announced that they were mostly aiming for a question and answer format. Many people were new to the show, and GB most likely picked up a pretty good new audience that evening.

The questions were extremely varied. The show’s topics ranged from general atheist issues and skepticism, to hilariously condescending emails they had received in the past (“This is how NOT to email somebody you appreciate!” said Jen) to questions from fairly new atheist activists about the scope and value of harassment policies, to the need to raise awareness about women’s rights as a tool for recruiting people away from fundamentalist oppression.

Vyckie Garrison, a former member of the “Quiverfull” movement who had once been a GB guest, received some recognition. She took the microphone and fielded one of the audience questions, and was later asked to come up for a photo op with the rest of them.

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By the time the show ended, the applause died down, some more shirts had been sold, and the goods packed up, the evening was full of hugging, handshakes, and dinner plans. The crowd dispersed and we went home, looking forward to the next time we could hang out with all our new friends.


  1. Callinectes says

    I keep checking the Podbean site for this. I’m missing GB awesomeness!

    I need to have it on while I play Halo or I lose.