Highlights from Skepticon 4

Highlights from Skepticon 4 November 21, 2011

Skepticon 4.  Wow.  Fucking wow.  Katie Hartman, Rob Lehr, Blythe Clutter, Ryan Culbertson-Faegre, Jeffrey Markus, Cody Works, Lauren Lane, and all the other organizers and volunteers put together something very special.  It is not only those who attended who owe them a debt of gratitude, but everybody in this movement.


1.  The audience

Excited. Passionate. One of the volunteers counted 15 empty seats at peak, which put attendance at that time at 1,135 non-believers stretching equally across so many demographics, including the young.  I loved getting to meet the people who drive this movement.  I loved getting hugs from everybody.  Amy from St. Louis gave phenomenal hugs!

This was the crowd filing in 40 minutes before the talk.  It looked just like this 15 minutes before the opening talk.  We filled up the main conference hotel and the back up hotel.  The energy was fantastic.  I wish we could keep that energy all year.

This event belongs to all of us.  We are all equal at Skepticon.  It wouldn’t be what it is without the people traveling to it and validating all our efforts.  I am so grateful to the Skepticon attendees.

1.  Greta Christina

I’ve seen her Atheists and Anger talk 2874087272374 times. I will still never miss it.  She gets better every time I hear her speak and man, did she ever bring the house down this weekend.  Greta  is such a good person you can’t help but feel good when she kicks ass.

I’ve become good friends with Greta and Jen over the last year, and getting to have the wonder triplets together in the same place is always a treat.  (If you’re an organizer and want to book all three of us, we’ll do our best to make it easy on you :D)

1.  Hemant Mehta

My mother and brother hate math like Catholic priests hate eye witnesses.  They were going to go do something else during Hemants talk on critical thinking in math education before I told them I wouldn’t miss the talk for the world having seen Hemant rock the crowd at the SSA Annual Convention with it over the Summer.  They stayed and laughed throughout.  Hemant had converted them by the end of the talk.

Hemant once wrote that he’d always be in the audience for one of my talks if he could.  The feeling is mutual, and I’ll even take it a step further: I never want to follow this guy on stage.

1.  Sam Singleton

Sam wrote a brand-new show he debuted at Skepticon this year that everybody agrees was the most fun-filled hour of the weekend.  Sam commands the crowd’s attention with the same inescapable presence as Greta, but in a completely different and refreshing way.  Like Greta, Sam is a man of the people – a real class act.  I meet some speakers in this movement who have a “Don’t you know who I am?” attitude, and then I meet some people of great influence who would almost be shocked if you apprised them of their fame.  Sam embodies the latter category (as does Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Ed Brayton, David Fitzgerald, Jen McCreight, Hemant, and others).  These are the types of people I always tried to bring to Skepticon and I’m glad the new team is keeping on with that.

His new show, “Revival”, had a music section.  Sam invited me a few months ago to lead the music section and I had a blast!

1.  Seeing my family and friends

I have the most wonderful family in the world.  I love my mother, father, and brother more than I can ever describe and, due to living so far away and being on the road so much speaking, I seldom get to see them.

In September of this year my brother, who had never seen me speak, made the journey to Atlanta with another close friend of ours to see my talk at Dragon*Con.  That meant the world to me.  The feeling was similar getting to share with him this project that I helped get going.

My parents would be proud of me if I elected to shine shoes for a living, but I do enjoy being in an environment where I feel I’ve earned their pride.

Then there was the homecoming.  I got to see all my old friends and catch up with them.  I have so many people in that town pulling for me, and I was happy to get to tell them how the last year has treated me and to hear about their upcoming projects.

1.  Dr. David Burger

Dr. Dave, as he is affectionately known in Springfield, co-founded the MSU Church of the FSM and led the organization before I did.  He is the most capable and inventive leader you’ve never heard of.  Frankly, he’s the reason all of us who made Skepticon happen, and who continue to make Skepticon happen, are where we are.  He started all of it.  The man’s a legend and it’s always good to see him.

1.  Speaking to people after my talk

This time was special.  This time I was surrounded by people who had just learned they weren’t alone in the world – some who were realizing for the first time that being sick is not their fault.

It was beautiful beyond words.

1.  Stopping in Indiana

On the way to Skepticon we stopped at a gas station in Indiana.  The Jesus in this place was thicker than bullshit in a creation museum.  We found chick tracts on all the arcade games which Cambridge liberated for her growing collection.

At this gas station, Mike purchased a bag of T.G.I. Friday’s cheese sticks (they were like gourmet cheetos).  In describing the snacky goodness inside, the back of the bag used the phrase “…with a surprisingly great taste!”

“Why is it a surprise?” we collectively wondered.

So what were your favorite parts?  Which speakers moved you?

Thanks for such a good time, everybody.  I’ll never forget this event.  Let’s do it again in a year, eh?

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