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.