Global Atheist Convention 2012 – Melbourne Australia
It is now Easter Sunday, and this year it’s a time to reflect on religion. According to many, on this day (or a Sunday like it) some 1900+ years ago, Jesus rose from his tomb to… to… well to impress us with the fact that he can rise from the dead, I guess. Now I could go on about how the books telling this story share no consistency between the 4 of them, that the book of Matthew (the earliest account of the death of Jesus) wasn’t written until some 30 years after the supposed event, or that the 1st Council of Nicaea (where it was decided whether or not Jesus was truly the son of God, and the New Testament was put together piecemeal by Constantine and his cronies) wasn’t held until 325AD. But instead of religion bashing, let’s talk about the Global Atheist Convention being held in my own fair city starting this coming Friday the 13th of April (wooo spooky).
People often joke that an atheist convention is just a bunch of people who get together with nothing to talk about. Of course that misses the point entirely, because atheism in and of itself is simply a standpoint on a single question; “Does God exist?” Given that the answer to this question con only be a “yes” or a “no”, this should hint that this question will probably not be addressed much over the 2+ days of the convention. Rather it will be, as the graphic above says, “A Celebration Of Reason”.
What does this mean exactly? And why celebrate “reason”?
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I often say something along the lines of “from bad ideas com bad actions”. Granted, religion has been a useful tool for many over the past 2000+ years; for the common folk as a way to answer questions about death; for the religious leaders as a way to control the people; for the political as a way to bring people together under one banner. But these times have passed, we are now moving into an age where information is king, and is available at the click of a mouse. “Reason” (A cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event) is a starting point for anyone who wishes to be free from the shackles of the untestable and unproven claims from religion. Next weekend, we celebrate reason, we discuss the future of the world, we discuss the political and social ramifications of religion on society, and we discuss ways to move forward. Religion has moved from a “useful” tool into the realm of a perpetuation of outdated and outmoded ideas. And it is used to justify a lot of bad actions.
Religion, and lack thereof, is simply a stepping-off point for many like-minded people to discuss topics without the fear of the supernatural clouding the ideas of objective reality. Of course, “objective reality” is a topic of debate for philosophers, and could be a book in itself, but it it undeniable that we all experience this world in the same way, at least at a basic living/breathing/loving/fearing/eating/sleeping kind of way. The reality we talk about is not that of “I believe it, so it is true to me.” This reality is the observable, testable, definable reality that affects all of us, whether we be Muslim, Christian, Hindu or atheist.
I’m sure there will be some religion-bashing at the convention. It’s inevitable when so many attendees have been scarred by abominable religious practices. For many, the road from belief to that of disbelief and skepticism has been a difficult one, marred with the loss of loved ones, loss of place in a religious society, and an apparent loss of identity. For some, religion has been the excuse for persecution against them and their kind, the excuse for tribalistic wars, the reason for the deaths of many. For others, religion stands as an insurmountable obstacle in the quest for equality among all human beings. And for others again, religion is used as a banner under which many groups garner support for their government or regime in order to create a united front.
In any case, the “reason” that I am talking about is in complete opposition of the many-headed dragon that is religion.
We are not expecting, nor hoping, to see an end to religion. There is simply no way that will happen in the foreseeable future. There are many who claim they would be lost without their faith, and in some cases the religion is so deeply entrenched in the culture that to remove it in one fell swoop could mean a complete re-think for those cultures, and this is not an easy task.
We are not expecting to change the world either. But change is a gradual thing, and planting seeds of doubt is the beginning of a journey of questioning, and that questioning, wherever it may lead, can only be a good thing. We’re not trying to make people atheists. We are trying to get people to ask questions, and given enough information, reason will prevail.
This “Celebration of Reason” is a call to questioning. It’s a call to be skeptical of spurious claims made by religious and political leaders. It’s a call to demand proof for claims made by the purveyors of “alternative” medicines. It’s a call for those who would harm others in the name of fanciful ideas to be brought forward and be held accountable.
Most of all, it is a call for people to think, and not just accept on faith the claims held before you.
I will be in attendance for all 3 days, and the Gala Dinner. If you are there and you see me, come say “hello” because I will be gathering voices from the attendees as well as from as many of the presenters and performers at the event as possible, with the intent to create a series of audio podcasts to release over the next few weeks.