Eschaton 2012 Open Thread and Beta Culture Post List

First: Wow. I had a fantastic time at Eschaton 2012 in Ottawa. Gushy thank-yous to the organizers and volunteers, especially Seanna, Evan and Ania. Kevin Smith, President and Chair of Center For Inquiry Canada, you and your entire organization totally rock. All of you give me hope. (Give me a shout for your next event, and I’ll be there before the echoes die away.)

Also, to my FTB co-bloggers PZ, Crommunist, Natalie and Ophelia, it was especially nice to meet you or see you again. Ian, you are absolutely outrageous in all the best ways and it was very cool to spend time with you. PZ, thank you for existing; everything else is gravy. Eugenie Scott, I know I made no impression at all on you in the minute or so we had together, but I was awed to meet you. Larry Moran, ditto, and thank you for your interesting thoughts. Chris DiCarlo and Mrs. DiCarlo (I’m ashamed to say I didn’t catch your name), I really enjoyed talking to you at the museum, and  wish we’d had more time. Lady DiCarlo, you gave me some things to think about, and those are the best kind of conversations.

Regarding things to think about: Natalie, PZ, Ania and Vyckie Garrison, and Ophelia who sat in briefly, I really enjoyed the Gender Issues panel. I’m a stodgy old white guy, but everything you said made sense; some of it was eye- and brain-opening.

All the rest of the people I got to visit with, or who asked me to autograph books, thankyouthankyouthankyou.  Don’t ever think I’m so big-time that I don’t treasure every request to sign a book. I really enjoyed the time we had together. Thank you for laughing in all the right places and none of the wrong ones, and especially for your encouraging words on Beta Culture.  (Also, encourage your friends to donate to CFI Canada. They’re doing some good stuff, and deserve support.)

Those of you reading this from other parts of the world, here’s something you don’t know about Ottawa: It is rated the second highest quality of living of any large city in the Americas, 14th highest in the world. It’s the second cleanest city in Canada, third cleanest in the world. For several years running, it’s been judged the best community in Canada in which to live. It’s also a damned friendly place. (Ottawans, as I said in my talk, I’m single, and already packed.)

To business:

This is an open comment thread. As I said at the conference, please chime in on Beta Culture. I would not only LIKE input, but I NEED it. If the thing is going to happen, it’s only going to be with input — and eventually, effort — from lots and lots of people. I hope to be talking about it a lot in the next year or so, and there should be a book coming out of all this in the not-too-distant future.  (Conference organizers, if you think your audience might be interested — just say when. I would love to come give a talk about it.)

Following is a list of Beta Culture posts, and posts somewhat related to the idea. Hopefully in a day or so, I’ll have a link to my talk, which was filmed by AtheismTV.

Beta Culture: A Place to Stand, and People to Stand With

First Person Revolutionary – Part 4

Beta Culture: Preliminary Musings

Beta Culture: The Heart and Soul of American Ideals

Beta Culture: Drowning Puppies So You Don’t Get Dogs

A Basic Motivation for Atheism Plus … and for Beta Culture

Beta Culture: Don’t Teach the Controversy

Wanted: Lessons in Strategic Thinking

A couple of Beta-Culture-associated posts about the Book of Good Living, a good idea that has not gone forward (either because the guy who came up with it hasn’t had the time to devote to it, or is a useless slug who should MAKE the time):

The Book of Good Living: Preface

The Book of Good Living: Moving Forward

  • neeroc

    I was very sorry to have missed your talk this morning, I look forward to watching the video.

  • lorenprice

    I am very glad to hear it was a success and am looking forward to hearing all of the stories. The Kamloops Centre For Rational Thought has recently raised the CFI Canada banner, so INR3 will be an official event as well. Hopefully we can establish an eastern and western conference every year.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    I loved your talk this morning, and I especially like the concept of a beta culture! I find that there’s often a hesitance in the atheist community to acknowledge that religions can do anything right, but the fact is that they’ve moved into that social support/community sphere and taken a strangle hold. They’ve had a lot more practice than we have at knowing what people need, and when they are at their weakest, and they fill it in ways that can make it very difficult for individuals and families to leave – regardless of where their inner thoughts may have led them.

    I think that we need to acknowledge that, and we need to come to terms with the reactionary-ism and hurt feelings that make us want to run away from anything even vaguely resembling religion. We have the power to pick and choose the parts that make sense and reject the fluff, and thereby build a stronger community of people who reject claims of the supernatural.

    We have families with young children who are struggling to find playdates that don’t raise blood pressures. We have kids from atheist families who feel like they have to hide or hold back a part of themselves from their peers. We have young adults who are struggling financially in a time when the school>career>marriage>retirement path looks more like a near-impossible to navigate squiggle. We have parents who, in the face of an emergency, may have no one to call to help them care for their children. And we have atheists approaching the end of their lives without a social group or a community to make sure that they are provided with meals and care. These are all currently the domain of the church and the state, and unless the atheist community gets out of this “young adult white male” funk we seem to be in, we will leave our members with the impossible choice of either doing without or biting their tongues as they walk back into the churches.

  • Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    One thing that strikes me is that we need community centres that welcome everyone, especially in the U.S., to take the place of the church-based community. We need to run children’s activities and pot-luck meals (perhaps Sunday morning?) and get people to know each other. Without something like that, the movement will fail. We can start by setting aside a room in CFI or Skeptical offices for drop-ins: a few books (read there or take one/leave one), a water cooler, and some comfy chairs. Add crackers & cheese, a clothing exchange box, a food-bank style box and you have a rudimentary draw to the public with charitable overtones. A free computer for students to use? A set of weights? Anything that you can add, donated by members, will bring new people in to find out that humanists are just people, too.

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  • godlesspoutine

    It was great to meet you! I will definitely read your articles on Beta culture (especially since I unfortunately missed your talk).

  • Crommunist

    Hey Hank. It was great meeting and hanging out with you. I hope we get a chance to cross paths again soon (maybe at CONvergence?)

    There were two standout issues that I think you’re going to have to grapple with in spreading Beta Culture. The first is how you’re going to distinguish it from humanism generally. I see a lot of overlap between what you think “Betas” would do and what many humanist groups are trying to do in terms of building cultural institutions among non-theists.

    The second one is more of a nitpick than it is a problem. You talked about how cultures are designed, and I don’t think that necessarily true (if it is even true at all). Cultures emerge as the collective actions of a group of people, rather than being created as a top-down code. So in that sense, I’m not sure how you would go about designing a culture, and how that would differ from simply building a shared identity and letting the culture emerge as a necessary consequence.

    At any rate I will continue to watch this development with interest. Hope to see you again soon!

  • dgrasett

    came home by the inland route – longer but prettier. Glad to see you are on line.
    Why not co-op the humanists. expand and assist them. a drop-in room is a good idea.
    Oh. I just looked at the byline. You aren’t home yet. Soon though.

  • AJ Milne

    Hopefully in a day or so, I’ll have a link to my talk, which was filmed by AtheismTV.

    That’s good, because… umm…

    Because I lost my notes…

    Yeah. That’s the ticket. The notes. Also, my dog ate them. Or, okay, I don’t have a dog… But my neighbour’s dog did… Or, obviously, since I was taking them on my phone, it snuck in, cracked the screen lock, erased them, and nefariously deleted them.

    Anyway, it totally wasn’t that I slept in both mornings of the conference or nothin’ despite setting an alarm for the Sunday after the first regrettable incident and then on that Sunday missed almost the whole of your talk as a result and just walked in as you were finishing. Nuh uh. Not me. No way. And, also, if I had slept in and missed almost the whole thing, I’m sure it would have been because of the icky virus that was kicking my ass all weekend, not in any way related to a few too many and a few hours too late the night before. Because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t really that many of either. Mostly.

    Anyway, à propos of none of this, I really liked the last several sentences of your talk, anyway. The part that, you know, is the only part I would have seen if I’d only just walked in, then. Which, of course, I totally didn’t. Also, I’m really glad there wasn’t a quiz.

    Also, it was great to meet all of you, including Hank, whose hand I did shake and who I then told I would then come to hear on time in the morning and then I totally did, honest.

    Seriously: I’ll be glad to see the video. And it was a pretty awesome conference. And I really was sick. And still kinda am, and it was bad timing and getting to be a bit of a drag, and listen, if everyone who went to Eschaton comes down with some Twelve Monkeys type thing and this, bizarrely enough, does bring on the eschaton–or just a really not very nice week for a lot of people–umm, any epidemiologists present looking for the index case can feel free to call me. I may just be able to point them in the right direction.

  • dgrasett

    I am not sure this is a good idea, but it has been bothering me for some time. About a month ago, my boss, probably thinking he was giving me a complement, said I was fashionable. Had he said I had style, I would not have niggled. But . . .
    Firstly, I believe that ‘fashion’ is created by people who hate women in order to sell things that are ugly, badly made and are guaranteed to become ‘unfashionable’ almost as soon as you have spent the money.
    Secondly, If, as most women do, you know what looks good on you, you can’t buy it unless it is in the stores. If you look good in blue – or pink – and green and brown are in ‘fashion’ this year – you are SOL.
    And that brings me to the concept that has been puzzling me.
    If the idea of no gods is not ‘in the stores’ – how can you buy it? I was born in 1941. For the first 20 years of my life [well, more, but that's the important time] the only pervasive idea was the concept of god. It was given a fine disregard in my home, but those early years are when a lot of ideas are formalized – set in concrete, as it were. And as I worked on the ideas, there was no one around to bounce them off of. I certainly didn’t come out, as it were. I needed my job to support my children. And that made the concept of no gods even harder.
    How can we formalize the idea that there are no gods. How can we make a friendly environment for the young who are still working on it.