The Atheist Conference is looking a bit shaky


In a year when the evangelical right is taking over the government, when Mike Pence is the vice president, you’d think the atheist movement would be riding high, motivated and furious. You’d think. After all, atheism was all the news after George W Bush and 9/11, right? But no. We’re in disarray. Last year, the Global Atheist Conference was cancelled for lack of registrations. The one conference that got a lot of attention was the Mythicist Milwaukee con that featured racist asshats, and most of the publicity was negative — and they lost money on the conference itself, and only got it back by pandering to the alt-right for donations after the fact. (Remember when the trolls would whine about SJWs “e-begging” to get support for medical care? It’s OK when your Nazi friends do it, I guess.)

And now another big atheist conference looks to be in trouble. The Atheist Conference is supposed to take place this summer in New York City, which is currently in melt-down mode. One early problem was that they didn’t seem to have a good purpose, claiming that they’re about uniting “the atheist community on our common goals by repairing recent divisions”, which is not a great premise since many of us are not interested in surrendering a commitment to social justice to make nicey-nice with regressive assholes; they also announced that they were “not an Alt-Right or Alt-left, or a conservative or a liberal rally”, which is confusing because they seemed to be announcing that they’re nothing and are trying to occupy an imaginary middle between contradictory extremes. At the same time, though, we were getting all these private messages that oh, yes, they were definitely a social justice conference. It made no sense.

Then we learned that they were making misleading claims to entice people to commit to the conference. Apparently, George Clooney agreed to appear there. At least, they didn’t say that publicly –it was more along the lines of a confidential whisper to prospective speakers, as a lure to further get them to waive any speaking fees. In my case, there was a nod to all the great names on the speaker’s list, and wouldn’t I like to join them, and they’d consider me, but would I be willing to cover my own travel expenses? We’ll get back to the board and let you know. It was weird. But I was considering going on my own anyway, because it did look like some excellent speakers, even if it didn’t include George Clooney.

But now, who knows who is going to be speaking there? The speakers have been talking among themselves, comparing notes, and suddenly people have been dropping off the list. There has been some back room chatter, and even more are planning to abandon ship.

And now the executive director of the conference has quit.

I think the whole thing is going to implode soon. At least, I wouldn’t recommend registering for it until they get their act together, which means they’re not going to have any money coming in, which means they’re going to fail hard — it’s a kind of self-perpetuating failure mode that you get locked into with these kinds of egregious errors at the onset of the project. It’s kind of a metaphor for the atheist movement in general, actually.


Jebus. Just as I posted this, The Atheist Conference announced that they were cancelling the whole thing.

Comments

  1. k_machine says

    In retrospect, it seems like the post 9/11 atheist movement was nothing but a movement designed to dehumanize Muslims as they were being invaded by the US

  2. says

    That was a major driving force, I agree. One of the first atheist conferences I attended back in those early years was with Dawkins & Harris & Dennett, and that was all they talked about: those damn Muslims. Especially Harris.

    That was a conference that was also attended by Scott Atran, and he was the only one talking sense on the Muslim Question. He was also the only one with real first-hand experience in the Islamic world.

  3. says

    First I heard of TAC was from Steve Shives talking it up. But with mentioning Lee Moore being involved.

    I suffered through a whole video of the two talking because of Steve. But Lee seems to be the same “unity” asshole from when the great rift was forming, just slightly better at acknowledging, vaguely, there’s a real problem with bigotry. Still, it mostly seemed to be an exercise in Steve missing Lee’s smarmy both-sidesism.

    I guess that’s all to say, I’m not at all surprised it’s falling apart and my first impression was that it likely to be a train wreck sooner than later.

  4. Owlmirror says

    they also announced that they were “not an Alt-Right or Alt-left, or a conservative or a liberal rally”, which is confusing because they seemed to be announcing that they’re nothing and are trying to occupy an imaginary middle between contradictory extremes.

    “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe . . .

    Just as I posted this, The Atheist Conference announced that they were cancelling the whole thing.

    . . . and dead armadillos.”
      — Jim Hightower

  5. robro says

    Jebus. Just as I posted this, The Atheist Conference announced that they were cancelling the whole thing.

    Damn, PZ, you nailed it. You’re a psychic. You should move to San Francisco, or better still Marin, sell bottled raw water, and hold conferences with that other great atheist psychic, Rebecca Watson, who correctly predicted that in 2017 there would be mudslides in California following heavy rains and some famous people would die.

  6. leerudolph says

    sell bottled raw water

    Actually, “raw water” is one commodity which it would be more ethical to sell bottled in homeopathically diluted form (assuming that the dilutions were done with, say, tapwater).

  7. Vivec says

    God, the atheists that go on and on about repairing those “deep rifts” can fucking bite me. I’m not going to sideline women and ethnic/racial minorities for the sake of what, commiserating with Crygon and Thunderfail?

  8. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Vivec:

    It’s like anything else. The only way to have unity in a movement is to remove everyone who is different — in thought, looks, education, outlook, not having a penis (or failing to worship penises), etc. What you have left is unity. Much the same way that the GOP has achieved unity. Though, after Bannon’s Breitbart Bomb, unity seems to be slipping away from God’s Own Party.

  9. Vivec says

    Yeah, I mean, I was already disinterested with atheist activism prior to these modern “deep rifts” forming, but if the only thing you have to entice me is “lel kek we can make fun of those triggered feminazis and religotards together while issuing long vocal fellatio to the alt-right” then I’m not going to touch “organized atheism” with a ten foot pole.

  10. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Vivec:

    Sorry. Thought I was agreeing with comment. My bad writing. Again.

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    k_machine @ 1

    In retrospect, it seems like the post 9/11 atheist movement was nothing but a movement designed to dehumanize Muslims as they were being invaded by the US.

    I realize this is anecdotal, but my recollection is that the New Atheism was a response to Dubbya’s snuggling with the Bible-humpers and the resurrection of Creationism as “Intelligent Design.” Islam was rarely talked about among the atheists I hung out with and every was more concerned what the Jesus-freaks in D.C. we’re going to do next.

  12. Dave Grain says

    May Harris and his islamophobic buddies be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels by Moo-ham-ed Himself (peas be upon Him).

  13. Scott Simmons says

    The linked post has been removed and replaced with one saying just, “I have taken down my prior post on request of the board. We are ending TAC due to a serious managerial dispute. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

    For the record, the original post was:
    “Hello everyone, it has come to my attention that our founder has been sending inappropriate messages to other organizers in the atheist community. I couldn’t believe this at first, but I have now seen more than enough evidence that this is true. Our entire board is shell shocked. We apologize that 1. this happened and that 2. we are just now finding out about it.

    We are currently in the process of winding down TAC. TAC is cancelled. We will be issuing refunds in the near future and are currently taking care of every aspect of the wind down process. I will be posting updates over the next week. My expected timetable for all of this to wrap up is within 1-2 weeks. I will let you all know if that timetable changes.”

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