You all have been doing a wonderful job supplying me with candidates for this series. I can’t thank you enough. I am pretty sure I’m going to have more candidates than I know what to do with after this year’s Skepticon and meet hordes of them in real life.
1. Deanna Joy Lyons
Many of us want to free people from religion. A common objection from the religious regarding this objective is that we don’t have anything to replace it with. While we don’t need a dogmatic structure to fill the void of religion, it is true that taking something away from someone that they’ve built their entire lives around can create a cold and lonely situation.
Even with support and advice, all the baggage of religion takes a while to jettison, such as the fear of hell or the fatally flawed epistemology that faith burdens us with. When I listen to Deanna’s podcast, Living After Faith I am struck by how lucky I am. I’ve never been religious. My family is not terribly religious. I simply was dealt a better hand than most people were.
So I’m very grateful that Deanna along with her husband Rich(a former pastor) have teamed up with Recovering from Religion to help the deconverted deal with these issues. They can assist folks in a way that someone like me couldn’t, lacking the perspective and understanding needed to do so.
From time to time she is also a guest on Ask an Atheist, which makes me super jealous.
2. Wildwood Claire
I’ve only recently been getting into Youtube atheists. One that stands out is geologist Wildwood Claire. With an unassuming, down to earth approach, she tears apart creationists and apologists. This is good of course, but hardly special. Most skeptics cut their teeth on the Hovind brothers’ arguments. But not only does she take on anti-science from the religious angle, but she also confronts the over-selling of science. In this video about Terrorbirds, she points out that a lot of the people speculating on the appearance of these animals are filling in the gaps with their imagination and just guessing wildly. Because of the bankruptcy of the anti-science crowd, it’s easy to forget that we have to be skeptical of scientists too, and Claire does an excellent job of reminding us of that.
The skeptic community tends to have a prejudice against rural folks, in particular Southerners as being stupid or less informed. I’m from southern Missouri and spent some time hitchhiking through the deep south, and I know that a lot of that stereotype is unfounded, even if election results for the GOP appear to reinforce it. That makes seeing someone as charming, intelligent and witty as Claire defy those stereotypes very refreshing.
3. Dan Marshall
I friend a lot of people on Facebook. I’m pretty open about adding people, but I do have standards that have to be maintained. When I see someone posting sexist, racist, ableist or homophobic shit, I call them out on it. That was one of my first interactions with Dan. He referred to the Tea Partiers with a term that was more insulting to the neurodivergent than it was to the Tea Party. With most interactions like this the corrected person will scoff or chide me for being too sensitive or “politically correct.”.
Not so this time. Dan emailed me to apologize and then wrote a blog post that further demonstrated that he understood why his language was problematic. As skeptics we complain about how people tend to refuse to examine their beliefs and actions. The flip side to that however, is when people have the courage to admit their mistakes and become better people. Skeptics are very good at pointing out how we can fool ourselves and rationalize things away. I would love to see more of them follow Dan’s lead and apply that line of thinking to their own behavior.
I’m really glad that incident happened because it turns out Dan is a pretty awesome guy. In addition to being a good person, he is also an anti-theist musician. If you’re in the Portland area and make music, get in contact with him because he is interested in finding collaborators. To get an idea of what his style is like, check out a Fool for Brains and Mindfuck.
4. The Skepticon Team
Skepticon could have been something that withered away and died when the original organizers moved on and graduated college. But it didn’t play out that way. The heathens at MSU recognized the educational value of this conference and the emotional impact it has had on the area.
The former is easy to understand when you’re talking about a conference with scientists and historians scheduled as speakers. But the latter can’t be emphasized enough. If you live on the coastlines you might not get this, but it’s bad here in the Midwest. There are churches everywhere, and often times the first thing you hear out of someone’s mouth when you first meet them is something about Jesus. Even if you aren’t upset by such a strong religious presence, it still means that we are put in a position of having to bite our tongue on the topic of religion while the religious have no such social constraint. Skepticon gives us a safe space where we can speak our minds freely without having to worry about losing our jobs, alienating family or losing our friends.
This isn’t be on the billboard, but attending Skepticon is a liberating experience.
A gigantic conference does not happen without hard workers. This year the volunteer team has been working with fearless leader Jeff Markus and preparing to outshine the results from previous years by a wide margin. This year sees an expansion in workshops, speaker line-ups, the inclusion of childcare, the addition of a solid anti-harassment policy and even a livestream for those of you who can’t travel to the venue. if you want to find out more about these people, check out Friendly Atheist since they have taken over Hemant’s blog for today in a (mostly)bloodless coup.
Here’s the deal though. All that prep work, all that running around securing speakers, all the sponsorships from local businesses–it all still hinges on you. Skepticon is a free conference, but it has considerable costs to put together. Every effort is made to keep those costs low, but the Skepticon team hasn’t made its fundraising goals. They need your help to keep this event alive. I’ve donated. I ask that you do as well. I know that times are tough, but even a few dollars will help.
This event is one of the best things our movement has going for it. Let’s do our part to save it.
That’s all for this week. If you have someone you’d like me to mention, just send an email telling me who they are, what they do and how to contact them to geekysteven at gmail.
I write a lot of jokes. Some of them are in this book.
I also host the podcast of the Skepchick events team, Some Assembly Required, and cohost the WWJTD Podcast.
You can also follow me on Facebook or that bird thing.