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.