Having fun at the Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference

What a day yesterday.  I began the day by sneakily photo-bombing Mr. Deity.  Like a ninja.

Pillow fort…clowning around…yup, I’m a child.

The talk went well.  It was a new talk so there were, of course, bumps(the compy they used for media mangled my powerpoint, for instance…”Macs just work” my ass).  I was also made to follow Greta Christina who, as usual, got an exuberant standing ovation.  Seriously, when she took pauses you could hear a pin drop in the (carpeted) room because everybody was holding their breath.  I was honestly watching from the back of the room and just wanted to hide rather than follow her.  This is going to have to go on my speaker page when I get back: will not, under any circumstances, even if the world is crumbling, follow Greta Christina on stage.  She really is that damn good.

But overall I was pleased with how the new talk went.  Somebody asked me to run for president during the Q&A.  It was far and away the angriest talk I’d ever given.  Here’s an excerpt:

Some of them in positions of power and leadership hate us.  Their ideology is that religion (theirs) is the MOST important thing on the planet, so anything that does not support it (us) needs to be opposed or eliminated.

A corollary is that religion and god’s protection is good for America, so the unreligious are also unpatriotic.  We need to be opposed or eliminated for the good of the country.  They are frightened of us.  They hate us. Not all of them – Mother Theresa didn’t hate us, and a lot of moderate Christians don’t hate us.  But you are wrong if you don’t think a substantial number in positions of power  hate us, OR, a substantial number in positions of power are perfectly willing to pander to those who DO hate us, so the effect is the same.

Michelle Bachmann hates us.
Rich Perry hates us.
Sarah Palin hates us.
Rich Santorum hates us.
Jim Boehner hates us.
The Tea Party Faithful hate us.
The Catholic League hates us.
Focus on the Family hates us.

The list goes on and on and on.

I have Christian friends who wouldn’t knowingly do anything to hurt me and I want to be fair to them.  But, the ones I just mentioned and lots more would take every right imaginable away from me.  They’d take every right imaginable away from you.  If you don’t think the Michelle Bachmann’s of this world would have us in chains if left unchecked then you haven’t been listening.

Why?  Not because they are evil, but because if what they believe about the operation of the universe is true, then we are truly monsters.  We are not mere murderers – a murderer can only kill a person once.  We are the ones who can shove multiple people into a literal hell where they will suffer through being killed over and over and over again in a pit of fire.  With our minds, we bring children to this fate.  If what they believe about the universe is true, who among us could possibly blame them for doing anything and everything to save those children?  To stop us?  This is not a fantasy to them.  It is not a hope – it is the way they really perceive reality.  If what they believe is true, then their compassion dictates they do no different.  The real scary thing is that these people are acting rationally within the context of what they believe.

This is the corrupting power inaccurate facts can have upon good intentions and even upon reason itself.  Sadly, many of us would say it was somehow improper to openly say, at every opportunity, that the facts upon which they base their worldview are wrong.  Many of us would say it is offensive to openly despise faith and religion which so frequently tell us that unreason is a virtue to be applauded.

It is not funny.  It is not sad.  It is sinister in the most complete sense, and more of us need to start treating it that way.  People die because of bad facts and irrationality.

People stood up and clapped at the end, so that’s good.

Afterward I beat the shit out of god (just another day, y’know).

Here’s me with the Wonder Triplets, having the time of our lives as always:

We later adjourned to Greta’s room for some chill time, which the three of us do not get often enough.  We had some delicious dark chocolate courtesy of Greta and ordered some positively rancid Italian food.  When ordering, we promised a $10 tip if they drew a dinosaur on the bag.

They delivered. /pun

Today we get to watch Sam Singleton tear it up, as he is wont to do.  This has been a great weekend.  The organizers (including the SSA affiliate at UNO, w00t!) have done a phenomenal job.

Gonna close with three quotes that are getting retweeted like mad on the #mhft hashtag:

“People often whisper about religion, so when atheists discuss it w an everyday voice, theists think we’re screaming” ~ Greta Christina

“Religious people treat their conclusions as more important than the methods used to reach them. Call them out on it.” ~ Me

“Atheists are not angry because there’s something wrong with us. Atheists are angry because there’s something right with us.” ~ Greta Christina

Truth.  Religion is dangerous, and I was glad to hear a series of talks going after it fiercely and without apology.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • John Eberhard


  • Eric RoM

    Just one teensy: I know that you said this is a new talk, but, FOR ME, the phrase “inaccurate facts” really grates. YMMV.

    IMO, if they are inaccurate, they are _not_ facts, they are lies or, at best/most generous, mistakes.

    Just trying to help with the polishing process.

  • Daniel

    “But, the ones I just mentioned and lots more would take every right imaginable away from me. ”

    you have to be as delusional as the christians who believe obama is the anti-christ.

  • Michaelyn

    “Atheists are not angry because there’s something wrong with us. Atheists are angry because there’s something right with us.” ~ Greta Christina

    Seriously. I still get chills thinking about this talk. Greta is amazing.

  • Scott

    You guys were awesome! Thanks for coming out!

  • Jennifer K

    I really enjoyed your talk on Saturday. Thank you so much for coming to Omaha!

  • Nikki Gillespie

    Your new talk was very nice JT. It was a little weird to see you do something without humor but it shows that you can be diverse with your content. I have to say seeing the Wonder Triplets together is always a treat. :) You guys always seem to have a blast together. As always JT, you kick ass and keep it up! :D

  • Brad Ericson

    JT, I was the one who suggested you think about running for political office. The presidency would obviously be nice, but if we are really going to change things, we have to think politically. If not you, then who? We need to identify individuals like you who are articulate and can express themselves without apology. Of course it will be tough sledding to begin with, but we have to start. Since we now represent ~20% of the population, we are close to being able to do this. But it won’t happen without long term planning. Eberhard in 2020!

  • Bernie Devlin

    It is great to have the humanist, atheist conferences in the Midwest – Des Moines last year had the largest attendance for the American Atheists meetings. MidWest non-theists are isolated from the coasts and we are the numbers that the atheists movement needs – we are easy to get – keep moving the national conferences away from the coasts – and come out into the real parts of the country, Great conference – thanks to everyone.