Could we hold the ultimate atheist conference?!

Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, best known for having sold his soul on eBay, has opened discussion on the topic of having a MAJOR atheist/nontheist/secularist/humanist/freethinker conference in 2010. The conference would bring people from across the continent together to meet, network, exchange ideas, establish new directions and concerns for secular activism, and show Washington, the nation, and the world how many nontheists there are in the US (with a few from places like Canada, too) and that they are going to continue to stand up for church-state separation, the status of nonbelievers, science, and reason.

I REALLY like this idea. The idea, essentially, is for major secular organizations (e.g., Center For Inquiry, Secular Students Alliance, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Secular Coalition for America, American Atheists, American Atheist Alliance, Rational Response Squad, etc.—I would also had the Freethought Association of Canada and the Humanist Association of Canada) as well as smaller ones to come together to co-run a mega conference. This could be HUGE. If all of these organizations cooperated to put on a big conference, say in Washington DC, many thousands of people would definitely go. Given the unprecedented amount of major media coverage that atheism is receiving and the abundance of secularist/nontheist/atheist/skeptic/humanist/freethinker blogs that are tearing up the information super highway, this event would receive extensive coverage at all levels of media.

I can see it now. Thousands and thousands and thousands of people marching on Washington; every known major secularist and atheist personality in attendance (e.g., Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, the beautiful Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Victor Stenger, Ibn Warraq, Paul Kurtz, Ellen Johnson, Dan Barker, PZ Myers, Michael Shermer, Barbara Forrest, Greg Epstein, Hemant Mehta, Bobby Henderson), people from the entertainment industry (e.g., George Carlin, David Usher, Tool, Phillip Pullman, Bill Maher, Lewis Black, Julia Sweeney, Greydon Square, Kathy Griffin, Jodie Foster, David Cronenberg, Pat Condell, David Cross), secular members of religious communities like Christopher Hedges, Tarek Fatah, and Farzana Hassan, and the few politicians and media figures that are admitedly nontheistic, or at minimum are strongly in favour of church-state separation, reason, and the understanding of nontheism.

An impact anywhere near the type of magnitude that this event could reach would certainly leave a lasting impact. And what a great way to bring nontheists and secularists from across the continent together. I attended at CFI conference at the headquarters in Amherst, NY this past summer, and it was great. The type of mega-conference being discussed here and by Hemant would take secular/nontheist activism to unprecedented heights!

8 Responses to “Could we hold the ultimate atheist conference?!”
  1. Misanthropic Scott says:

    I think it’s a great idea. We could call it ‘A Day of Reason’. Why wait so long though?

  2. ronbrown says:

    I think Hemant mentions the reason on his post. I can’t remember it though.

  3. ozatheist says:

    I think Hemant was worried about how long it would take to organise. However I think 2010, gives them plenty of time, without being too far away. I also suggested they consider holding it every 2 years but in different cities, or even countries.

  4. Del says:

    “A Day of Reason”?

    I suppose that one can practice Reason within the claustrophobic confines of Logical Positivism… but you won’t get very far.

    If you want Reason, I recommend that you follow the examples of Aristotle and Aquinas. Question your dogma (whether you are Christian or Atheist), and ponder the proposition, “Whether God Exists?”

    Many philosophers have used Reason to convincingly prove that God must exist. Those philosophers who deny God’s existence do so with an irrational wave of the hand. “Since God is dead,…” begins Satre.

    The “Ultimate Atheist Conference” would have to look a lot like a Pentecostal Revival, confirming each other’s faith.

  5. ronbrown says:


    I think that you might not have the notion of atheism that we have. Atheism doesn’t necessarily mean the belief that god does not exist. This is one type of atheism, often called strong or positive atheism. The more prevalent branch of atheism that does not require any faith, and which I subscribe to, is called agnostic atheism (or soft or weak atheism). This stance is simply a stance of lack of belief rather than belief against. Rather than saying “God doesn’t exist” (a positive atheistic statement), the agnostic atheist says “I do not believe in a God”. The difference is subtle but very important. Consider this: Do you believe that there are martians that invented and control human cognition? Neither do I? Do you know for certain that this is not the case? I certainly don’t. I don’t have proof against it. However, there is no sufficient evidence and thus no sufficient reason for me to believe in this proposition. Thus, I disregard the proposition and don’t take it into account. This is the agnostic martian-cognitionist stance. The strong/positive stance would flat out say that it’s not true.

    There is one dogma involved in the position I endorse, that I’m aware of at least: the rational course is to have beliefs and confidence in one’s beliefs that correspond to the evidence for the beliefs. This reasoning can even be flipped on itself. Do we know that reason gets us the truth or the best info? No, but this is not simply limit of human reason, it’s a limit of human cognition as whole. We don’t have objective perception and infinite cognitive capacity. Our perception and reasoning isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got and we have found ways to use it and refine it that have produced desirable and supportive outcomes (e.g., accurate predictions, successful planning and action, etc).

  6. I think it would be great, so long as it was not a religious bashing session or an atheist group therapy session about the so-called persecution of atheists.

  7. Kellym78 says:

    Hey – just found this post in technorati. The reason why we need to wait so long is because planning an event of this magnitude takes years to plan. First, we have to get the orgs to agree to it as for some it would mean giving up their individual convention. Then, booking a location, speakers, etc…2010 might be too soon and we’ve talked about 2011 or 2012. 😦

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] RonBrown made me aware of a post by the Friendly Atheist that chronicled Atheist Alliance International’s president Margaret Downey’s call for a “Unity Convention in 2010.” His blog is weighing in on the pros and cons. […]

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