What Did Lawrence And I Open With For #AtheistCon?

Welcome everyone to the Second Coming of the Global Atheist Convention! It’s a return that even Jesus hasn’t managed yet!

It’s a pleasure to be part of with the largest gathering of free thinkers who all think the same thing… actually, we all think different things, that’s what makes us human. But we are all here because each of us has come to question the existence of god and what it means to be an atheist. To talk about why we promote reason, science, compassion & humanism to help make the world a better place.

To make the world a better place you don’t need god. But two MCs. Well, at least for this weekend’s Celebration of Reason. This is Kylie Sturgess. Science educator, skeptical wonderwoman and blogger extraordinaire. Have I got this right?

Um, no, I’m really a former Religious Education teacher and Token Skeptic podcaster and writer! This is Lawrence Leung, documentary-maker and geeky sceptic from the ABC TV series “Unbelievable”. You questioned UFOs, ghosts, psychic powers in your series – but curiously, Lawrence – why not God or religion…?

I do believe in miracles. I am a young Asian Guy who can actually grow facial hair… yes, it’s unbelievable.

It is 2012 with all these so-called Mayan superstitions about the end of the world being nigh, and people might think that we shouldn’t laugh about it. But let’s laugh, because this is not only the Global Atheist Convention for the second time – it’s a bigger venue, more attendees, the most diverse range of people on the stage than any other atheist or science convention history…

[Not just old men with white beards.]

… but we can also laugh because this Convention is being held at the same time as the Melbourne Comedy festival. In the spirit of this season of laugher in Melbourne, one of the great things about celebrating atheism during this time is that (as Stephen Fry has said) not only does comedy make us laugh, but it makes us think! We can “laugh” about the absurdity of having Australia’s first openly atheist female prime minister – but “think” about how she isn’t joining us at this event, and how her party has plenty of work to do when it comes to promoting secularism in this country.

We can laugh together and “rejoice” in the fact that there is a growing number of people identifying as atheists both now and as future voters – but “think” about how we still fight for ethics classes to be taught to young people who don’t want nor need religious education classes.

We can laugh together and “smile” about the fact that feminism and atheism are greater allies than ever, not only at this convention but in efforts online and world wide – and “think” about the efforts of everyone to allow women to have the right to make up their own mind about their reproductive choices without the church dictating what happens to their bodies.

We can “laugh” about the debate over religion question on the National Census, but “think” about writing No Religion instead of Jedi.. again.

All of these reasons that we have to celebrate as atheists shouldn’t stop us from also recognising how it’s been a long journey and a long fight to get where we are now. A journey just to be on a stage with the chance to say this, let alone feel safe to think it.  We are back, not just for a SECOND time – but we should be determined to continue to make a global effort to take the examples from this event and make it more than just a weekend of celebrating reason.

As Christopher Hitchens wrote in his letter to the American Atheists Convention – with sentiments that he may have repeated if he could have joined us – on today, his birthday:

Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

Christopher Hitchens was a man who affirmed atheism as a good for us all. So let us do good without god – at the Global Atheist Convention in 2012.

Although the recent Reason Rally in the USA may have pipped the post when it comes to numbers of people attending, this is still the biggest global event for atheism – indoors, out of the rain (alternatively: inside Jeff’s Shed), and it most likely won’t be repeated with the line up that we have for you.

The Global Atheist Convention supports science and reason with the likes of Eugenie Scott, Lawrence Krauss, PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins.

We promote philosophy with insights from the minds of Leslie Cannold, Daniel Dennett, Marion Maddox, Peter Singer, AC Grayling, Dan Barker, Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

We promote the place of atheists in the political arena with Colleen Hartland, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Fiona Patten, Derek Guille, Dick Gross, Tanya Smith and Geoffrey Robertson.

We even have the premiere of the short film “Parrot” from filmmakers Craig Foster and Emma McKenna.

We will be seeing all of these people demonstrate their passion for critical thinking, as activists on the forefront of social change. We can promise that you will be inspired – as you too are a part of the change that needs to be made for the good of society at large, not just an atheist minority.

But that’s not all – as this is the Global Atheist Convention during the time of the Melbourne Comedy Festival after all! And what’s a convention without entertainment? We have Jim Jeffries, Stella Young and Mr Ben Elton. For those lucky people attending the Saturday night dinner, you will be treated with music, magic and comedy by Simon Taylor, Catherine Devney, Shelley Segal, Tom Ballard and Mr Deity.

However tonight is your introduction to the whole show – so let’s celebrate with a night that will make you laugh and think – and here to tell us more is the great… Mikey Robbins!!!

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