There has been a lot of writing about the “Global Atheist Convention – The Rise Of Atheism” since its completion on Sunday afternoon, so most things that can be said have already been said. There were some good reports in the online media and blogosphere, some great satire, and some reallystupid and unfounded criticisms from others, most of whom I doubt their attendance at the conference (as illustrated here). Unfortunately for me, the whole experience was so overwhelming that I failed to write about the conference quickly enough to be one of the first, and it’s still too early to sort the specific issues brought up during the conference as my brian is still working through it all.
There’s no reason for me to give a blow-by-blow breakdown of who spoke, and about what, because that also has been covered by the media and blogs.
So instead, by way of an introduction to my (future) blogs about the issues raised at the convention (there should be several), and for those that missed out, I’m just going to give some of my impressions from the convention as an organised event, and some of my highlights, not related to the content of the speakers’ presentations (as these will be addressed in future blogs).
The venue was the new Melbourne Convention Centre at the far west end of Jeff’s Shed, right behind the Polly Woodside. The building itself was a great place to hold this event, it easily accommodated us. The building itself was new enough that the obvious wear and tear that such high-traffic buildings endure was not yet evident.
With numbers as high as 2500 for the Sunday session, we were all able to get a decent seat, and to see from all vantage points. The food was ample and fresh, and the Saturday night dinner was well worth the dollars spent, even if just to mingle with the others at the conference.
The people were just great. I felt comfortable to just walk up to any person, introduce myself, and ask them what they thought of this or that, be it the food, or the last presenter. All demographics were covered in terms of age and sex, but I must admit it was a very “white” audience. I’m not sure why this is. Any ideas? I met some brilliant people, too, and I now follow a bunch of new Australian atheists/agnostics that I probably would have never discovered any other way. My twitter following jumped 70 people over the weekend.
I brushed shoulders briefly with celebrity, shook hands with Richard Dawkins (though he couldn’t get away from me quickly enough for his liking), spoke briefly with PZ Myers about the debacle that is Health Care Reform in the USA, and took photos of others, for others of the 2 Chasers boys that attended the dinner (Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel). My own photo ended up too dark, blurry and they were moving.
There was a good number of stalls there too, representing everyone from the AFA to the Australian Sex Party, each who had their own agendas around the ideas surrounding atheism and equality, fairness and anti-discrimination. Most of the books by the individual speakers were on sale in a stall too, and most of the keynote speakers did a book signing at some stage during the conference.
There was hardly any public displays of protest against what I would have thought would have prompted at least some organised reaction (one day there were 3 guys with signs and a table, and on day 3 a Creationist showed up with his wife and kids).
The absolute highlight for me of the entire conference was the amount of reason, rational thought and intelligence displayed by every person I met. I have never been surrounded by so many intelligent, thoughtful and reasonable people. Seldom have I met a better group of people. Obviously I didn’t speak with everyone, but those I did speak to were as critical of the messages presented by the speakers as they would be with any messages. I chatted well into the night on after each of the three sessions, and it was at these times that I felt as if we could all make a difference in the world. THIS is what I came for, and I was not disappointed.
Thank you to the organisers and fellow attendees for making this one weekend I will not forget in a hurry. Over the following weeks, I will be writing blogs which cover some of the topics raised at the convention, so stay tuned.
(Special shout-outs go to @rachel__joy, @zombiealan, @naehutch,
@happysinger, @purplefae, @ilikeportello, @amydedman,@SeandBlogonaut and @jinohchoi,
among so many more! Love you guys, wish we could hang out more! You are StarStuff of the most awesome kind.)
My first response to the convention is here: