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Why I Don’t Do Atheist Conventions

I don’t go to atheist conventions or conferences and I have three reasons for that. Two are practical and one is much less so. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad these conferences exist and I don’t want to discourage anyone from going to them. But I won’t be attending.

One reason why I don’t go to atheist conventions is that I have a family and I can’t leave them for a weekend while I go off to another state to do what I can do from home online (i.e. talk to other atheists). I like to spend my weekends with my wife and kids. For me, family comes first.

Second, there is the cost. Most conventions are at least $100 or more. Then there is plane tickets, hotel room costs, food, etc. I simply don’t have the money.

Now, I have said in the past that if a convention were nearby (i.e. Philadelphia), I would probably go at least for a day. That wouldn’t require me to leave my family for long and the cost would be reduced to the convention price which while still high, might be manageable. But over the last year or so, my attitude has changed. Now, I don’t think I would ever go to an atheist convention in my home city.

The reason is simple; there is too much drama at these things. It seems from reading various blogs that everyone is trying to have sex with the very people who aren’t interested in them. Too many people treat these things as parties and cliques and people like me who are happily married and just want to network and hear great speakers are just not cool enough anyway. I wasn’t cool in high school, and these conventions just seem like an extension of high school to me.

Some people are hyper-sensitive and others are not sensitive enough. But one thing is certain and that is that after the convention is over, someone will blog about how they felt slighted about something or that someone creeped them out. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people have every right to feel slighted or creeped out but I think I would rather have those issues addressed privately with the particular people involved.

There are many awkward atheists out there and I see many of them at meetings and meetups. In high school I was pretty awkward too. Being in the atheist community however, I have seen many atheists who are much more awkward than even I was. So I get that and those people are going to go to conventions and they are going to be awkward. I don’t want to offend anyone because I am not cool enough or because someone thinks I am hitting on them or that I am just creepy looking. I can’t control what other people think. But I would rather that person come to me and tell me what if anything I am doing that offends them rather than go home, feel creeped out, and blog about be behind my back. I can only imagine atheists who are much more awkward than I thinking the same thing.

For me, the point of even having conventions for atheists is to help us fight back against the religious, help us to develop our message, and give us things to think about philosophically and scientifically. I’m not interested in the drama. If these conventions are generating so much drama, then perhaps there are better ways to get the information.

Because of all these controversies, I just don’t feel welcome at these things. I would be too afraid that I would say the wrong thing to the wrong person or that someone would take something I said in a way other than intended or that I would look at someone in the wrong way. I feel much more comfortable watching the talks at home on youtube without the anxiety of high school all over again.

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  • thompjs

    Pretty understandable. I went to the Texas Freethought convention since I live in Houston. That was worth it since I could drive half an hour to it. It was sort of mandatory since that was the last public appearance of Christopher Hitchens.

    There were some good talks and I met some interesting people.
    I doubt that I would go to a lot of these, since the talks would end up being much the same.

  • J.Stark

    I think I love you….well your article! You ARE one of the cool kids. I know…. I’m afraid people WON’T talk to me at TAM this year because I have boobs and they will be all “well I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable or think I’m hitting on her.” I picture all the women that attend wondering why no male is even close to making direct eye contact with her. I think sadly of all the nice male friends I have made over the years at TAM (and I’m married and it’s ok as my husband gets women can have male friends, and lesbian friends, because those people might also find me interesting enough to befriend), and I worry this year….even though I am old and married and heck I sure could use me some Lean Cuisine meals, people that before would just be friendly will be nervous about being “correct”. Supposedly women at TAM got all freaky as men that they didn’t “like” just sat next to them to listen to the speakers. no, the men did not talk to them. But the women were “nervous” that men sat next to them they did not know and MIGHT talk to them. And they were “weird looking”. (have they been to a comic store recently, have they ever seen “Big Band Theory”, have they ever been to the campus of MIT?). “Weird looking” people at least deserve a seat. (and it’s not like the chairs aren’t packed…hey girl…maybe it was the ONLY empty seat!). Sorry, venting, but I get it. Why go if you are a man and you can NOT even TALK to any of the women for fear of ending up in a blog.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I’m anti-drama. I went to the Reason Rally because I had a place to stay for free and to publicly support godlessness. But going to a convention seems to be a big waste of time.

  • Pingback: Tensions Are High | emilyhasbooks

  • http://twitter.com/emilyhasbooks Emily Dietle

    Staks, I was quite surprised at this post, so I’ve responded here: http://emilyhasbooks.com/tensions-are-high/

  • GeekGoddess

    I haven’t been to any atheists conventions, and I’m not I terested in dong so, but I’ve been to about a dozen skeptic conventions, as well as local skeptics grous.

    I keep wondering if these bloggers are going to the same meetings I am. I’ve not been groped or cornered. I’ve not been propositioned. I’ve heard some stupid comments but I didnt fill with righteous indignation because of them. The skeptics meetings have a much higher percentage of womuch at them than any of my business-related conventions, but I not bothered at those, either.

  • Mzdameanor

    I love conventions. It wasn’t until I went to a convention that I felt that I had connected with the movement. I met great people, had great conversations, and never had a problem with cliques or not being cool enough. I may be a woman, but I am on no one’s “cool” list. There are lots of groups hosting regional conventions, making them easier to get to and less expensive. The speakers in our movement are varied and wonderful. But it is the opportunity to talk to other “regular” folks face-to-face, engage about what we are all doing, discuss strategy, and just be 100% nontheistic and not have to worry about offending anyone (some people have that luxury all the time, others of us do not). Both in my home atheist group and at conferences I have experienced the awkward come-on by a guy who I wasn’t interested in. It happens outside atheist conferences too. But I have also met fantastic people I wouldn’t have otherwise connected with. I feel sad that people would deprive themselves. and Staks you would not be free to meet folks who follow your blog and writings.

    • dangeroustalk

      That was one of the great things about the Reason Rally. I loved talking to other atheists so much, that I missed most of the speeches. But there was also some fear on my part that to this day, I fear talking about. I love my local events and meetups, but I am not into the cliques which seem to dominate these conventions. Maybe these cliques aren’t as prominent as they appear. I don’t know. I’m just going on what I read in the blogosphere and I don’t like it. I am however open to changing my mind on the subject.

  • http://twitter.com/1AngryAtheist The Angry Atheist

    Not to be overly critical cause if you don’t want to go to a convention there is nothing wrong with that but you shouldn’t expect your perception to become everyone’s reality.
    I was uncomfortable in HS too. Since then I have realized there are times when what people say about me means jack shit and it is given to consideration it deserves. I happen to enjoy atheist/skeptical conventions/meet-ups I’ve met a lot of people that I’ve only known on the internet and it turns out we can be friends in both worlds.
    The level of discomfort or drama you have in your life is totally dictated by you. People can only drag you into stupid drama if you allow them to.
    People are people everywhere you go there is no more drama at an atheist convention than there is at ANY public gathering. We atheists just aren’t that special or different when it comes to social interaction. Sorry if this offends anyone but the truth only hurts if you deserve it.

    • dangeroustalk

      The difference is that local meetups don’t get talked about in the blogosphere to the extent that conventions are. Believe it or not, people can be dragged into drama. Maybe the drama that is reported in the blogosphere isn’t as prominent as it seems. If that’s the case, I wish more people would speak up about that. All I tend to hear about is the drama and that discourages me from wanting to attend.

  • mikespeir

    I feel pretty much the same way.

  • Bethanne774

    Who wrote this? Your writing sucks.

    • dangeroustalk

      Thanks. That was helpful and constructive. ;-) I guess you are just illustrating my point.

  • skm9

    I don’t care for the conventions either. I’ve been to a few to support the movement and hear speakers, but they have all been disappointing in the number and quality of attendees. I’m glad they’re there for those that enjoy them, but I’d just as soon watch the speakers on youtube later. The ridiculous overreaction and overreactions the the overreaction of sexual offers is just one more reason.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    The American Humanist Association is having their annual conference in New Orleans next month, so I thought about going to check it out. I’m roughly two hours away, and like what you said, I thought I might just spend a day there since I really can’t get away for much more than that. They want $349 just to get into the conference, and there weren’t more than a couple topics on any given day that were of interest. Needless to say, I won’t be going.

    • dangeroustalk

      That’s funny because I was just telling my wife that if there was one convention I would love to go to, that would be the one because of all the great guests that will be there. But it is too expensive and too far away for me. The trip would probably cost close to $1000 so it is completely out of the question. But I would like to see Marshall Brain, Cenk Uyger, and George Takei among others. I just hope their speeches go online at some point.

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