Charlotte Music Festival Gives Proceeds to Dawkins Foundation… Complaints Ensue

***Update***: I made an error with the original posting. No band opted out of the festival; only sponsors did. The posting now reflects that. Sorry for any confusion

The Charlotte Pop Fest ’09 took place this weekend — it’s a music festival that featured the likes of The Smithereens, Jill Sobule, and several bands/singers I’ve never heard of.

But I’m interested because all the proceeds from the event went to a great cause:

This year Charlotte Pop Fest will celebrate the life of Charles Darwin and all proceeds from the event will benefit the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The year 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book The Origin of Species.

The organizer, James Deem, said he just wanted to raise awareness for science education.

“It’s just really important,” Deem said. “There’s not that many people raising money for science.”

But, of course, some people are offended by the prospect of science education and the idea that their personal sacred cows are challenged at RDFRS.

Deem says he’s lost a sponsor because of the event’s support of the Richard Dawkins Foundation and the money he lost forced him to cancel appearances by a couple of the bands.

Thorne stressed that the bands are there to play music, not give out a message about atheism or anything else.

Pop Festival attendee Debbie Aintrazi of Mint Hill hopes they don’t.

“If they start going around saying, ‘no, you shouldn’t believe in this, you shouldn’t believe in that’ — that’s when I [get upset],” she said. “I don’t believe in not believing.”

Of course, no one at the festival is telling people to stop having faith. And even the Dawkins Foundation wasn’t formed to convert people. Even if Dawkins would like to do that, that’s not the purpose of the Foundation. The Foundation wants current atheists to go public about it, and they want people to think for themselves instead of blindly accepting whatever some person in a church tells them to believe. The Foundation preaches education, not atheism. But if the former leads to the latter, so be it. That’s just a pleasant byproduct.

This is the press release issued by Deem:

It is with great regret that I have to announce that Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and Linus of Hollywood will not be performing at Charlotte Pop Fest this year.

A couple of weeks ago a sponsor, that had originally committed to supporting the event financially, abruptly decided they didn’t want to be associated with the Richard Dawkins Foundation…

The sponsors refused to give money because part of it was going toward science education and it’s namesake is a man who challenges people to question their beliefs.

Very disappointing.

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org Pedro Timóteo

    From the press release, I get the idea that it wasn’t the bands that quit, it was a sponsor.

  • BZ

    Same here. You should read a bit more carefully before tossing out blame, Hemant.

  • ScottieC

    Agreed. It sounds like one of the sponsors backed out for religious reasons, leaving the organizer no choice but to cut back on the number of bands they were inviting. I don’t think the bands are to blame here.

  • Gordon

    If the bands wanted to play for free I’m sure they would have been welcome to!

  • http://bornagainblog.wordpress.com justin

    If you bring Dawkins’ name up, there will be some flack. How could it be any other way?

    I think he might have picked the National Center for Science Education if he wanted to avoid any controversy. Or the James Randi Educational Foundation. Or any number of other, less provocatively titled organizations.

  • http://1minionsopinion.wordpress.com 1minion

    So they all assume a push for science education is atheist propaganda? Yeesh.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Thanks to Pedro and BZ for pointing out my error. I’ve fixed it and added an update to the top of the posting.

  • http://doubtingeventhomas.blogspot.com/ Doubting Foo

    I’m sure there are plenty of bands who would be willing to back this type of thing in the future. They Might Be Giants just released an album about science. Some bands wouldn’t mind the publicity, either. So, hopefully next year it will be even bigger.

  • Kaylya

    You know what?

    I don’t really think it’s the place for a generic music festival to support a more “extreme” charity, and I think the Dawkins foundation qualifies. It may be that the money was earmarked for perfectly wonderful minimally controversial educational programs, but there’s still the name behind the foundation and the rest of it’s mission, which does include promoting atheism. They should choose a more broadly based organization to support. A local museum (the “Charlotte Nature Museum” seems like a likely candidate) or one of the other science education charities mentioned would have been great.

    There’s a reason most broadly based events that want to support a charity chose something warm and fuzzy that 90% of people can get behind as at least not being something they definitely don’t want their money to go to. If you want to have an Atheist or Evolution music festival and support the Dawkins foundation, go right ahead, but it’s not an appropriate charity for something wanting to sell itself to a wide audience.

  • Kaylya

    I thought I’d check out what charity they supported last year.

    World Vision Sponsor a Child

    That makes me giggle. They went from explicitly Christian World Vision to explicitly Atheist Dawkins Foundation in one year?

    World Vision is a lot closer to that “warm and fuzzy” area than the Dawkins Foundation though, as while they are very much a Christian charity in terms of their values (and who they’ll take on as volunteers) they are also very much committed to global development with minimal proselytizing. I wouldn’t explicitly donate to them, at the same time I wouldn’t avoid an event because it might support them a little.

  • muggle

    I don’t know. Do they accept religious sponsors?

    Even if they don’t, how is this organization an Atheist? Because its founder is so openly Atheist? Seems the James Randi Educational Foundation suggested would have the same obstacle.

    But I have a bigger question. If this is non-profit and the proceeds go to charity, why not just lower the ticket prices to break even? I hate, hate, hate when they do that. A telethon or something that is promoted as being for a charity sure, but to have a general pop festival or something else that is of general interest and then to tack on the money goes to charity is so you can’t enjoy this music unless you support this cause so yes I guess I do disagree with those avoiding but I would even for a more benign purpose. You want to give to the people, do without the “proceeds”, break even and make the event more accessible to more people by lowering the ticket price.

  • http://andseg.blogspot.com/ Andrew

    Christians are afraid of scientific facts. eek.

  • Erik

    The last episode of Skepticality was all about this, prior to the event. http://www.skepticality.com/p_listentopast.php
    Kaylya, it answers your question about the organizer’s personal switch to atheism and learning more about science.

    Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics also did our first-ever information booth at the festival as part of our community outreach.
    http://charlotteatheists.com/


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