I’ve been booked for a different conference or convention or similar function almost every month for the last few years, and sometimes a couple in the same month. Of the bigger, better ones repeated annually, I’d say the most ‘posh’ would be the American Humanist Association, particularly regarding their elegant banquets and choice of lavish hotels. I’ve attended two of their national conventions, (in New Orleans and San Diego) but they never invited me to speak. That’s how posh they are! Not far behind is American Atheists. Their conventions seem to have the most peripheral activities going on outside the formal scheduled events. Skepticon is a ‘must do’ at least in that it is free and informal and favored by college kids. Apostacon is probably the most fun one, or at least the silliest; because it’s hosted by devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and everything they do tends to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, meeting the big stars may require an additional ticket. It’s not like the Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas. I’ve never been invited to speak there either, but when I went anyway, the leading skeptics’ conference had all their celebrities hanging out in the hallway. The bacon and donut party was fun too.
That’s the run-down of heathen gatherings, divided into humanists, atheists, skeptics, and pastafarians. I’ve been to a couple secular conferences too, but they were at the state level rather than national, global, or world events. I’ve also been to those as well, but they’re usually not annual, or not hosted by the same group every year.
To my experience, the best of the international infidel conventions overall is Imagine No Religion in Canada. I’ve been to that one twice, and was so involved in the event that I didn’t take time to get out and see the surrounding area; which is too bad because British Columbia is among the most beautiful parts of this whole continent. On the coast, there’s a majestic mountain range on one side and a lush archipelago on the other.
INR seems the best organized of all these events, with everyone reporting a positive experience, whether from the stage or in the audience; but then you have to consider who is in the audience. There were respected scientists, politicians, and even a couple of TV personalities in attendance. So this is where I want to give my best performance.
Our suite was a fully-equipped apartment; it was the biggest and nicest room we’ve ever had. That’s something when you consider how many hotels I’ve seen so far. We were also hardly ever there. There were special luncheons, and a dinner just for the speakers to meet each other, but we were also urged to be available to the patrons and to mingle with them.
This event is a more intimate gathering than most. At the same time, it is also a more comfortable atmosphere, with very good presentations covering the breadth of the irreligious perspective. There wasn’t anything that wasn’t interesting, and much of it was inspirational. It’s not specifically a promotion of atheism, or humanism, or skepticism. It’s not all about activism, and it’s not just a promotion of science either; its all of that, the full range of topics relative to the theme of the title. It’s a warm and intellectual meeting of the minds. Speakers come from diverse backgrounds all over the world, and the audience does too. I met attendees there who came from New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore and Japan. That’s quite a ways to go for a conference, but as I said, this is about the best gathering of its kind.