15 April 2012
(I got to meet Sam Harris backstage!)
Wow! The 2012 Global Atheist Convention A Celebration of Reason, held in Melbourne 13 – 15 April, was simply amazing. Kudos to the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the organizing committee for putting together the largest atheist convention the world has ever seen in such a professional manner. The program was first class, culminating in a moving tribute to Christopher Hitchens – a video of classic Hitch moments – followed by speeches from Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss (self-described as Hitchens’ personal physicist), then the Closing Panel comprised the three remaining ‘Horsemen’ - Dawkins, Dennett, Harris – and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who would have been part of the original ‘Four Horsemen’ discussion a few years ago but for a last-minute change of plans). The four received a standing ovation when they walked on stage. I listened to their discussion – including Ayaan’s point that it’s racism that underpins the failure to prosecute for the crime of female genital mutilation in Islamic communities in the UK (wonder what would happen if it were little white girls that were being mutilated?) – marveling at being in a room of around 4,000 atheists listening to some of our best. There were many other excellent talks during the convention – I didn’t get to see all of them but particularly enjoyed ones I did see from Annie Laurie Gaylor, AC Grayling, Leslie Cannold and Geoffrey Robertson, as well as Stella Young's comedy on the opening night. A special mention for Jason Ball - he talked about the Freethought Student Alliance, which supports explicitly non-religious groups in high schools and universities in Australia. I wish it had been around when I was at university! The buzz in the plenary and in the foyer during the breaks – the feel of thousands of atheists having a great time – was awesome. It was a unique, exhilarating experience.
More personally, I was very pleased that my talk (I’ll add a video if I can!) was well-received on the Sunday morning and that the AAI table was subsequently overwhelmed with people wanting to support us! We sold out of all our merchandise and it was wonderful that people came up and gave me compliments on my talk, joined up as members and/or donated to AAI. Thank you everyone!