Times Have Changed

Get Salman Rushdie and Richard Dawkins to headline the Global Atheist Convention

and it gets cancelled for lack of interest.

I guess the PZ Myers endorsement wasn’t enough.  They should have probably tried to get Sargon of Akkad to speak.

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21 Responses to Times Have Changed

  1. TFBW says:

    They should have probably tried to get Sargon of Akkad to speak.

    He would probably have attracted more ticket sales, but it would also have attracted the ire of the A+ atheists, who would then have flash-mobbed the venue with dire warnings about how he’s a Nazi and had it shut down that way. Damned either way, really.

  2. Dhay says:

    Why did the AFA announce the GAC if it wasn’t sure it would go ahead?

    The Convention Committee secured Victorian government funding, a great program of speakers and the same venue that housed the successful 2010 and 2012 conventions. With those elements, the AFA proceeded with the Convention. However, ticket sales have been substantially below expectations and below the levels for previous conventions, so, unfortunately, the Convention cannot proceed.

    http://atheistconvention.org.au/

  3. pennywit says:

    I’m somewhat glad the atheist political/social movement is fading. If I wanted to attended nonreligious-themed events, I’d become a Unitarian. And I really didn’t like the idea that people were trying to define Atheism (note the capital letter) as a group that stands for anything other than the prospect that a) there’s no god, b) people have a right not to believe in a god, and c) it’s wrong to use legal or social pressure to intimidate a person into religious practice.

  4. Crude says:

    Sargon of Akkad

    I’d attend.

  5. Regual Llegna says:

    “and it gets cancelled for lack of interest.”

    – What happen?
    Answer: The trend is finally over: hipsters, minorities groups and “pagans” are no more only true atheists remain (a selective minority).

    – Why was not free?
    Answer: Basically: Money… Money… Money… Money… Money…(continuous ad infinitum)

    – Why only show cities in the trailer?
    Answer: *on hold*

    “Dhay says:
    Why did the AFA announce the GAC if it wasn’t sure it would go ahead?
    The Convention Committee secured Victorian government funding…”

    – HOLD IT! Why does the government fund this convention?

  6. TFBW says:

    So the Global Atheist Convention has basically closed down after two successful conventions (2010 and 2012). All is not lost for 2018, however, because The Atheist Conference will be in New York in July 2018, kicking off its first event. Speakers will include such noteworthy luminaries as Hemant Mehta, David Silverman, and Aron Ra. After that, the list gets a bit obscure, although if you’re into the YouTube skeptosphere, you will recognise a couple of names like Steve Shives and Kristi Winters who are feminists first and foremost, and thus the sworn enemies of Sargon of Akkad.

    Sorry, Crude: nothing to see here, I think.

    Anyhow, the thing positively reeks of A+, Social Justice, Feminism, etc. The code of conduct page uses all the progressive buzzwords, prohibiting “harassment related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age” and even “religion”, although that’s qualified by the obvious caveat that “TAC recognizes that criticism of religion is common at its convention.” It has to be harassment before it’s a problem, and I’m sure they have a Science-powered harass-o-meter to detect it objectively.

    But wait — what’s this? On their “about” page, under “what our conference is and is not,” they say the following.

    The purpose of The Atheist Conference is to unite the atheist community on our common goals by repairing recent divisions. If the atheist community continues to splinter into smaller and smaller factions who are each unwilling to work with or even be associated with the other, the common goals that atheists have will never be achieved. If we are at each other’s throats bickering over the most mundane and trivial disagreements when the vast majority of us agree on the vast majority of issues, the future of atheist and secular representation in culture and politics is dead in the water. The increased polarization in the atheist community mirrors the increasing polarization in our national political discourse.

    Wow — they want to mend the divide in atheism, but they recognise that the divide mirrors the broadening national political divide? They’ve got their work cut out for them trying to mend that. So why all the left-leaning feminism and Social Justice? They explain as follows.

    The Atheist Conference is not an Alt-Right or Alt-left, or a conservative or a liberal rally. Although it is undeniable that there is a political element to atheist activism, we are not pushing a particular partisan political angle. Our individual speakers each hold a variety of views on a variety of political topics, but we are united on the core issues above. It’s not even a religion bashing conference. There will be some religion bashing of course, but the general theme is educating and uniting the fragmented atheist community, motivating atheists to be open about who they are, and to get involved politically.

    No, wait — that’s not an explanation at all. They’re pretending that they have a diversity of viewpoints. Well, I’m pretty sure I can guess how the matter will be resolved: atheism will once again become united as soon as all the anti-SJWs and anti-Feminists come to their senses and renounce their wicked ways. And if they don’t, then they’re garbage humans and the Movement is better off without them.

    Business as usual, in other words.

  7. Dhay says:

    While I realise that the Convention’s motto, “reason to hope”, probably has multiple meanings, I am left wondering whether there is now no reason to hope.

  8. Dhay says:

    TFBW > The Atheist Conference will be in New York in July 2018, kicking off its first event. Speakers will include …

    Conspicuously absent are any of the Four Three Dinosaurs of the New Atheist Apocalypse.

    They seem to be wiped out rather than fearsome Horsemen destroyers. Has the asteroid struck?

  9. Regual Llegna says:

    “…the common goals that atheists have will never be achieved. ….”

    HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA! “COMMON GOALS” EVEN THEY PUT THE PLURAL HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA!

  10. Julian says:

    Those contradictory statements..

  11. TFBW says:

    In other Upcoming Atheist Event news, Dawkins and Krauss have an Australia and New Zealand “Science in the Soul” tour planned for May, 2018. Given the tepid response to the Global Atheist Convention, I wonder how well those tickets are going to sell. Better, probably, just on the basis that it’s shorter and cheaper. I get the feeling it might be their last such tour, though, assuming it goes ahead as planned.

  12. Dhay says:

    In a 03 November 2017 Atheism and the City blog post entitled “Is the Atheist Movement Dying?”, one of the organisers of The Atheist Conference wrote:

    As far as atheist conference attendance, it’s possible it could be dying. I’ve only gone to two, and both were this year. It seems that we might be past that heyday we hit roughly 5-10 years ago when ‘New Atheism’ exploded and became an international thing. The original four horsemen have largely moved on to other things, and one of them died. Two of the remaining three have since become controversial in atheist circles from certain views they hold, and have alienated many in the movement.

    http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2017/11/is-atheist-movement-dying.html

    Then it talks about the current lack of charismatic leaders, maybe it’s best if atheists have various factions with different agendas, and the danger of ideological purity and splintering.

  13. Dhay says:

    In his 22 November 2017 long (5,000+ words) blog post entitled “What Can We Learn from the Cancellation of the Global Atheist Convention?” Hemant Mehta tries to give reasons and draw lesson from the cancellation.

    It’s an interesting read, providing a window on how Mehta views and spins the failure of multiple conventions, the difficulties in staging them, and the reasons for their failure.

    Yes, spins:

    As someone who has been involved in organized atheism for more than a decade, I’m much more interested right now in getting candidates I like elected at all levels — and pushing for them to make the right policy decisions — than trying to convince other people, including harmless believers, to let go of God.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/11/22/what-can-we-learn-from-the-cancellation-of-the-global-atheist-convention/

    When you compare that ‘live and let live’ sentiment with Mehta’s virulently anti-Christian (not just anti-Conservative or anti-Republican) blog posts, you know he’s spinning wildly.

    It could be sort of true, I suppose: I imagine very few Christians will have the stomach to read more than one or two Mehta posts at most; he can claim he’s not pushing anti-Christian propaganda at “harmless believers”, only at his rabble.

  14. TFBW says:

    Yeah, I just read that article Dhay linked. I wouldn’t call it interesting, though — at least, not interesting enough for its length. It provides a good overview of the general decline in Atheist conferences since we passed Peak New Atheism five years ago or thereabouts, so there’s that. Mehta also expresses the opinion that they have been victims of their own success. I agree, but not for the same reasons. At Peak New Atheism, post-2012 Reason Rally, the most politically active participants decided it was time to ramp up the game with Atheism+. That, in my view, brought about the beginning of the end, because there was a prevailing assumption that Reason would bring them to unity on political matters, just as it had done for their lack of belief in God. Boy, where they wrong.

    I think that Mehta is still operating under the misconception that all people of Reason share his politics, broadly speaking — that there are no Trump-supporting atheists, for example. Mehta makes passing reference to differences between atheists, but none of his major points single it out as an issue. Contrast this with the blurb I quoted from GAC earlier, which talks about “polarization” in the atheist community (and the rest of society). Mehta mentions the fact that Mythcon lost money due to increased security costs, for example, but somehow neglects to mention that those costs went up as the direct result of targeted disruption by a rival group of atheists over the political leanings of certain invited speakers.

    It’s called “infighting”, Mehta. You have a problem with infighting, and you mention it nowhere. You did not have an infighting problem at the 2012 Reason Rally. You do have it now. I don’t think that your mediocre analysis and tepid suggestions will do anything to address that reality.

  15. Dhay says:

    When these events do go ahead, and even when it’s headline figures like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris talking, they can be rather disappointing: the comments on Sam Harris’ FaceBook page regarding the 02 November 2017 Vancouver event showed the attendees were, er, underwhelmed:

    http://www.facebook.com/Samharrisorg/posts/10156136353751015

    And Matt Dillahunty, the moderator, came in for particularly marked criticism.

  16. Dhay says:

    TFBW > So the Global Atheist Convention has basically closed down after two successful conventions (2010 and 2012). All is not lost for 2018, however, because The Atheist Conference will be in New York in July 2018, kicking off its first event. Speakers will include such noteworthy luminaries as Hemant Mehta, David Silverman, and Aron Ra.

    No longer. In his 03 January 2018 blog post entitled “The Atheist Conference is looking a bit shaky” PZ Myers reports problems with that NYC conference, including:

    But now, who knows who is going to be speaking there? The speakers have been talking among themselves, comparing notes, and suddenly people have been dropping off the list. There has been some back room chatter, and even more are planning to abandon ship.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2018/01/03/the-atheist-conference-is-looking-a-bit-shaky/

    Indeed, Myers reports fatal problems: Myers’ last minute (or amended?) bottom line is:

    Jebus. Just as I posted this, The Atheist Conference announced that they were cancelling the whole thing.

    Another one bites the dust.

    I see Aron Ra is still on the latest linked list of speakers, but not David Silverman or Hemant Mehta, who were presumably on the earlier list TFBW quoted above. Presumably they are two of those whose withdrawals have triggered the Conference’s problems into terminal crisis.

    It’ll be interesting to see what Mehta has to say about it on his Friendly Atheist blog.

  17. Julian says:

    In his usual “friendly” fashion, I’m sure..

  18. Dhay says:

    Myers’ comments look interesting; k_machine commented that:

    In retrospect, it seems like the post 9/11 atheist movement was nothing but a movement designed to dehumanize Muslims as they were being invaded by the US

    To which Myers replied:

    That was a major driving force, I agree. One of the first atheist conferences I attended back in those early years was with Dawkins & Harris & Dennett, and that was all they talked about: those damn Muslims. Especially Harris.

    Sounds like what I would have expected. Myers continued:

    That was a conference that was also attended by Scott Atran, and he was the only one talking sense on the Muslim Question. He was also the only one with real first-hand experience in the Islamic world.

    Sam Harris likes to pose as an expert on Islam, but in his book The End of Faith, on Pp 30-31, there’s this priceless paragraph:

    Islam is a missionary religion: there is not likely to be an underlying doctrine of racism, or even nationalism, animating the militant Muslim world. Muslims can be both racist and nationalistic, of course, but it seems all but certain that if the West underwent a massive conversion to Islam—and, perforce, repudiated all Jewish interests in the Holy Land—the basis for Muslim “hatred” would simply disappear.

    It’s so stupid, so clueless, it’s hard to know where to begin: even back in 2005 when he wrote this there was plenty of Sunni on Shia violence and Shia on Sunni violence — how could he possibly miss it? And then there’s the followers of Sayyid Qutb, who attack — with bombs, not just words — both Shias and their own mainstream Sunni community: “The main tenet of Qutbist ideology is that the Muslim community (or the Muslim community outside of a vanguard fighting to reestablish it) has been extinct for a few centuries having reverted to Godless ignorance (Jahiliyya), and must be reconquered for Islam.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qutbism

    Harris there shows himself up as astonishingly naive and ignorant.

  19. TFBW says:

    Here’s a video by Noel Plum giving some commentary on the TAC meltdown, just before its cancellation. (Note: contains F-bombs.)

    The “Kilroy” event mentioned in this piece was billed as a “Free Speech” conference, not specifically atheism-themed, but populated largely with members of the YouTube skeptosphere. It’s falling apart largely due to incompetence on the part of the organisers. It hasn’t been officially cancelled yet, but people are starting to ask for refunds.

    I’m not seeing a cancellation notice on TAC’s website. In fact, I’m seeing nothing at all on the home page. It’s completely blank to look at, although the date is still visible if you do a “select all” on the page. Perhaps they’re still working on the cancellation notice at this time.

    2018 is looking like the year that atheist activism ceased to exist in any meaningful capacity. It will live on only as an adjunct to or component of actual value-and-belief systems like Social Justice, Feminism, Socialism, and whatnot.

  20. Dhay says:

    TFBW > I’m not seeing a cancellation notice on TAC’s website.

    I found this bit of archiving in Myers’ comments:

    Scott Simmons:
    The linked post has been removed and replaced with one saying just, “I have taken down my prior post on request of the board. We are ending TAC due to a serious managerial dispute. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

    For the record, the original post was:
    “Hello everyone, it has come to my attention that our founder has been sending inappropriate messages to other organizers in the atheist community. I couldn’t believe this at first, but I have now seen more than enough evidence that this is true. Our entire board is shell shocked. We apologize that 1. this happened and that 2. we are just now finding out about it.

    We are currently in the process of winding down TAC. TAC is cancelled. We will be issuing refunds in the near future and are currently taking care of every aspect of the wind down process. I will be posting updates over the next week. My expected timetable for all of this to wrap up is within 1-2 weeks. I will let you all know if that timetable changes.”

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2018/01/03/the-atheist-conference-is-looking-a-bit-shaky/#comment-1932710

    That “linked post” and its replacement were on on FaceBook:
    https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheAtheistConf/posts/

  21. Dhay says:

    The “About” page of the The Atheist Conference website is not white-paging; it’s still showing, and it’s interesting; TFBW has already made some comments/quotations in the responses above, so I’ll just add a couple of my own:

    What is The Atheist Conference?

    … our aim is to unite, educate, and motivate the atheist community … to build a movement capable of affecting [sic — effecting?] change in our democracy. This conference is our show of strength.

    https://www.theatheistconference.com/about

    Or this cancelled conference is their show of weakness.

    Why have an Atheist Conference?

    … Asking someone directly on a questionnaire if they are an atheist often leads to atheists failing to acknowledge their identity, usually out of fear of the stigma surrounding the word. … It’s well known that many atheists are in the closet. Atheists continue to be among the most disliked group of people in the US. That’s why we have to fight the stigma so that atheists aren’t ashamed to openly express who they are.

    Except this is contradicted below, in the section where it’s made clear that The Atheist Conference is intended to be a charity fundraiser — presumably why the invited speakers were asked and expected to attend unpaid and entirely at their own expense — a charity fundraiser for smaller and less well funded atheist groups in the Bible Belt:

    New York City vs The Bible Belt

    Why have an atheist conference in New York City? … The answer is simple: New York City is where the atheists are. Atheists in the Bible Belt certainly need assistance, but they can’t do much of anything alone. The real atheist populations are clustered in big, blue cities. Now, most of the atheists in NYC are either apathetic atheists, or apatheists, or don’t quite understand that they actually are atheists. … We are in New York City because the demographic that needs to be rallied is the blue city liberal.

    Blue cities, big, blue cities, that’s where the atheists are, where the real atheist populations are clustered, they’re in blue cities. And on the author’s testimony “most of the atheists in [NYC, but presumably that stands as a synecdoche for all big (blue) cities] are either apathetic atheists, or apatheists, or don’t quite understand that they actually are atheists.”

    The “About” quotes “nones” as 25% of the population; I have recently seen 34% quoted; but are these “nones” atheists? When you see a large percentage of “nones” quoted, reflect that these “nones” are not the anti-Christian enthusiasts that New Atheists would love to claim as their own and muster behind politically Democratic issues: on the author’s testimony the “nones” mostly do not consider themselves atheists, and certainly not the atheist activists the author would like to mobilise as a political force.

    And that “mobilise as a political force” is the bottom line. It’s a bait-and-switch where indifferent “nones” who might be interested in finding out more about atheism, and where lukewarm atheists who might perhaps be sold a more active atheism, are in practice sold blue politics. They are not targeting atheists of whatever political leaning, they are targeting “the blue city liberal.” Blue. Liberal.

    As I read it, ‘The Atheist Conference’ was not intended as a vehicle for atheism, not as such, but as a means to reach then energise as activists against Donald Trump and against the Religious Right:

    … the Religious Right got Donald Trump elected President. We must stop the religious extremists from taking control of our society and that can only happen by destroying their mandate.

    Read the four sections of the “About” and see for yourself whether this was not planned to be, not an Atheist Conference but more of a Blue Party Conference — Atheist Chapter.

    Blue politics which they had planned to export from NYC to the Bible Belt using money raised by the Conference.

    Unfortunately for the organisers, there’s a problem they are themselves very aware of:

    The purpose of The Atheist Conference is to unite the atheist community on our common goals by repairing recent divisions. If the atheist community continues to splinter into smaller and smaller factions who are each unwilling to work with or even be associated with the other, the common goals that atheists have will never be achieved. If we are at each other’s throats bickering over the most mundane and trivial disagreements when the vast majority of us agree on the vast majority of issues, the future of atheist and secular representation in culture and politics is dead in the water. The increased polarization in the atheist community mirrors the increasing polarization in our national political discourse.

    Even those who are self-recognised atheists, especially those who are atheist activists, are famously divided in what they want in culture and politics; there’s been a spate of blog posts by the more vocal atheist activists over the last year or so saying so. They are polarised, fragmented, split. And the activists are blue; they have a primarily political agenda rather than a primarily (anti-)religious agenda.

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