A Few Conference Highlights

While there were many fantastic speakers at the World Humanist Congress, this was the first time that most of my personal highlights took place outside the lecture halls and breakaway sessions.

(Lobbying Congress on behalf of the rights of the non-religious and church/state separation makes for some entertaining stories.)

Some of the more memorable moments from the weekend:

  • Some guy came up to the Secular Student Alliance booth I was sitting at… I looked up and saw Philip Pullman, the man who wrote His Dark Materials trilogy (which includes The Golden Compass)!

    AHH!

  • img_4215cropped.JPG

    I spoke to him about whether the second and third movies are coming out. He said it wasn’t likely, adding that the little girl who played the main character in The Golden Compass was getting older by the day. He disagreed with the notion that the movie “bombed” — it didn’t made a lot in the US (~$70m) but it made a considerable amount overseas (~300m). He seemed angry at the movie studio for not going through with the trilogy. I would be, too, I guess.

  • I met my Congresswoman, Judy Biggert (and not just her staff members). She’s a Republican. That said, she agreed with the Secular Coalition for America on the two issues I was there to lobby for — stopping proselytizing by military chaplains as well as not re-authorizing the DC voucher program — so all was well:

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  • Barack Obama wasn’t able to meet with us (he’s apparently “busy” or something…). But that didn’t stop me from ogling and petting and bowing down to the plaque just outside his office.

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  • When I looked across the hall from Senator Obama’s office, I saw a sign about gay marriage sitting in the office window of some (presumably Republican) senator:

    img_4269.JPG
  • One job I had was to run a panel discussion on the topic: “What are the best ways to get people to value scientific and critical inquiry, naturalism, democracy, secularism, and human based ethics?”

    Rapper Greydon Square couldn’t make it because he was being detained elsewhere… however, (left to right in the pic below) Jeff Nall, Kelly O’Connor, Matt Cherry, and Greg Epstein were fantastic in answering the questions.

    As you can see from the pre-panel pictures below (courtesy of Rebecca), I was trying to be very serious while the panelists kept it real.

    panel2.jpg

    panel.jpg

There were some great presentations made, too, and I’ll write about a couple of these soon enough.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 benjdm

    For crying out loud, stop idolizing Obama. He’s the best Presidential candidate by far, but he is still anti-gay marriage, anti-impeachment (giving no support to Kucinich’s recent attempt to hold GW accountable), accepts anti-vaccination woo, etc. He’s more electable than any candidate I would actually like but that’s all.

  • http://shockandblog.blogspot.com/ Jason

    The reason the other two HDM movies aren’t being made is because Golden Compass bombed big time at the box office. It’s got nothing to do with the aging of the actress.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Jason — I should also mention that he didn’t think the movie bombed at all — it made over $300,000,000 overseas, which is not too shabby. I edited the posting to indicate this.

  • http://purduenontheists.com Jennifurret

    For the chart, can we say, “correlation, not causation”?

    And that’s pretty awesome that you got to meet Pullman. I love the trilogy, it would be a blast to talk to him (though honestly I didn’t care for the movie).

  • Richard Wade

    That chart, if it’s trying to imply a causal relationship between same sex marriages and “out-of-wedlock” births is the silliest thing I’ve seen since, well since I saw all those good luck charms in Obama’s hands, about three hours ago. How the hell do same sex marriages produce out-of-wedlock births? Or is it implying the opposite causal relationship? What is it trying to say?

  • Jen

    You look so happy in most of the pictures, but then when you hit the panel, someone ran over your tiny atheist puppy. Don’t be sad, Panel-Hemant- one day the government will be firmly separate from church.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Well, at least the movie introduced the books to more people.

    Pullman’s experience is just a high profile example of someone’s career being affected negatively by being out of the atheist closet.

  • David Crespo

    The chart is supposed to indicate an overall decline in what social conservatives call the quality of social morality. Out-of-wedlock births are simply a working definition of this elusive quality. Allowing gay marriage clearly means your society is on the fast track to filthy, filthy things like freedom and equality.

    And come on, benjdm, you know Obama can’t actually admit he loves t3h g4ys in front of actual Americans.

    That would be like admitting he’s only been going to church for the past twenty years so he could credibly claim faith when running for president. Well, I guess it is possible Obama genuinely believes in god. Kind of disappointing.

    I really hope he’s what liberals probably always hope their politicians are: only pretending mild social conservatism to get the votes.

  • benjdm

    And come on, benjdm, you know Obama can’t actually admit he loves t3h g4ys in front of actual Americans.

    I do NOT claim to know what people think more than what they say they think. It annoys me to no end when others tell me that I really don’t believe what I believe. By application of the Golden Rule, I don’t do that to others.

    As far as that chart, Dispatches from the Culture Wars looked at some of the statistics from those countries:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/05/santorums_lies_about_samesex_m.php

  • stogoe

    For the chart, can we say, “correlation, not causation”?

    And, AND, they’re deliberately counting secular, heterosexual civil unions as ‘not married’. See, if you don’t kneel before Zod in their specific church, your children are bastards.

  • Ron in Houston

    Wow, a Republican who doesn’t have their lips permanently attached to he Evangelical rear end. No way that would happen down in Texas.

  • Stephen

    See, if you don’t kneel before Zod in their specific church, your children are bastards.

    Nice. Getting a Superman 2 quote into the post. Classic.

    Agree with the crappy chart. It is definitely a “correlation”. It also looks like a steady rise was occuring BEFORE any legislation was in effect. Probably just more births because there is a healthier and larger population to propagate further.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    The increase of out-of-wedlock births is obviously an effect of the decrease in the number of pirates, which has been shown to be the cause of many other problems in our world.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    obviously an effect of the decrease in the number of pirates

    *jumps out of the shadows*

    Heresy! We ninja are not amused.

    *shurikens a pirate*

    *hides*

  • David Crespo

    But benjdm, Obama is a politician. I can’t help but feel the normal rules of “I believe”/”I don’t believe” don’t exactly apply to him. You’re saying you don’t find it odd that there is only one (maybe two?) openly non-religious member of Congress? They’re politicians. What they say is not quite as strongly tied to what they actually believe as it is with the rest of us.

  • benjdm

    I can’t help but feel the normal rules of “I believe”/”I don’t believe” don’t exactly apply to him.

    When we’re talking about policies and laws – the jobs of politicians – how can they not?

  • Milena

    But benjdm, Obama is a politician. I can’t help but feel the normal rules of “I believe”/”I don’t believe” don’t exactly apply to him.

    That still doesn’t mean we can just assume that Obama’s not religious, or that he believes the opposite of his policies. Like it or not, his word is the best indication of his belief system. Besides, if he was just paying lip service to church-going America, would he really need to carry all that crap in his pockets?

  • David Crespo

    The pocket charms were the “well crap, maybe he really does believe it.” Still, you know McCain’s probably not as conservative as he acted during the primaries, and Obama might not be as “progressive” economically (at least I hope not). I wish he was more liberal socially than he acts. He can’t show it, even if he was, because much of even the Democrat base is too old socially conservative. His primary concern is getting elected on a platform that generally reflects his own personal views, but is not necessarily a perfect portrayal.

  • Siamang

    And, AND, they’re deliberately counting secular, heterosexual civil unions as ‘not married’. See, if you don’t kneel before Zod in their specific church, your children are bastards.

    Stogoe, do you have a cite for this? Something tells me that information will come in mighty handy before november’s ballot in California.


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