2015-11 FreeFlo2015 Conference

November 8, 2015, Holiday Inn Orlando International Airport, Orlando, FL The common belief is that Skeptics, Free-Thinkers and Atheists aren’t well-known for having much of a community spirit. The notion that such rabid individualists would not only congregate, but would have a three-day conference attracting Humanists and non-believers from across the nation might seem oxymoronic to some and utterly terrifying to others. This was my second attendance of the Annual Conference of the Florida Humanist Association and I was wonderfully pleased with the wit and passion of the speakers and sociability of my fellow attendees.

DR. BO BENNETT – JEOPARDY GAME, JOKES & WEIRD PRACTICES CONFESSIONS

You can actually catch the audio from this session, to go with the photos at this link (the audio in the room for the jeopardy contestants was actually much better than the recording. ack). It was a very fun session in pop-culture “difficult to explain” beliefs. Particularly funny was Seth Andrew’s inability to give his correct answers in the form of a question.

Links to Dr. Bennett’s work:

DAVID TAMAYO – WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T WORK WITH US – HISPANIC AMERICAN FREETHINKERS

David’s talk was how we don’t talk to everyone the same way and that goes for how or if we talk about being a skeptic, humanist, atheist. He used members of own family as example of how we need to approach everyone based on their interest and openness towards the subject. But we do need to be vocal on some level as a part of helping our culture and community move past superstition and guilt.

DR. RYAN CRAGUN – HOW TO DEFEAT RELIGION IN 10 EASY STEPS

Dr. Cragun’s talk was entertaining and thought-provoking in as much as he wanted us to get past fantasies of eliminating or killing religion as much as defusing its power keep going centuries into this supposed technological age. It isn’t because people are stupid but that religion fills a need for hope when it looks like this life has nothing else to offer. Dr. Cragan contend that in cultures that do a better job of addressing the basic needs of their people religion tends to have less of a grip. And those promoting religion know this and consciously or unconsciously, play a part in not fixing that problem. He also shared another of his 10-steps, which was most fitting, given the approaching holidays. His notion was not to ignore Christmas, but to do was the ruling Christians did centuries ago when they appropriated they local pagan holidays in their religious calendar. It’s not about taking Christ out of Christmas (given the likelihood that the celebration is a complete fabrication) and make the season about things we can all enjoy: family, friends, warmth, affection, love and memories to the coming year.

SARAH MOREHEAD – HOW RELIGION USES COERCIVE PERSUASION

One thing that I suddenly realized during Sarah Morehead’s presentation was that all of the speakers today had formerly been religionists and not were from the “never believed in your silly myths” old atheist guard. For some that might be a huge red-flag, that the presenters were going to have an ax to grind from years of bitterness and petty self-centered obsession. Or maybe it might mean that, having swam as deeply in the world of Faith as they have, they might have some understanding of how thoroughly one can define oneself by this culture of faith and how difficult it can be to turn ones back on all of that. Raised a devote Christian, Morehead’s talk centered on realizing the similarities one might find between what used to be called “brain-washing” political regimes (a la North Korea, or the old Soviet system) and conservative Christian culture. Morehead’s point is that what might have been thought to be the practice of the closed-off cults was also a very real part of traditional Christian practice. Depending on one’s position on Faith, the idea was to realize that in such cultures one would not be able to define themselves in any way except in connection to the Bible, for example. For those to whom the Bible is the center of Truth to be completely defined by the book is the goal. Others see it as a part of a coercive practice that damages those who find themselves unable to limit themselves to the world depicted in this ancient book.

DAVE CHURVIS – OPENING MINDS, CHANGING HEARTS

Dave Churvis decided against his planned presentation just before going on. Churvis decided to highlight something that was being communicated that day over and over, that it’s not enough to be “right” in conversations. Just as important was recognizing the emotional needs of having others to identify with when going through this process of choosing a life not dictated by ancient dogma. He decided to share the following emotional video by a young woman named Abby Fletcher, talking about how it impacted her to discover that there were other people in the world like her…

MATT DILLAHUNTY – WHY BOTHER DEBATING

So after listening to speaker after speaker talk about the best way to talk to or interact with others, and that direct confrontation tends to not be a very effective to convert someone to non-faith, Matt Dillahunty came on to talk about why it is important to have the conversation and call the religionist on their stuff. Dillahunty began by noting that his approach was based on a life-time that looked like it was going to lead him to full-time Christian ministry. But, as with the other speakers, he didn’t have an ax to grind as much as having the need to do the right thing and not give Christians a pass when their beliefs are being pushed into the larger culture. The most interesting example was his interaction and debate with the preacher from Mexico who wasn’t used to having anyone counter or call him on his beliefs. Without personal attacks or name-calling, Dillahunty proposed that a good debate was a good way to really think through ones own positions and beliefs.

TAKE-AWAYS

It’s complicated. Poorly thought out arguments and personal attacks don’t do anyone any good. But staying silent and letting the ignorant continue to believe that everyone is like them doesn’t do any good either. We have to decide how and where we choose to speak up and do it by just being good people who do the right thing because that can be its own reward and it just feels damn good. Also, we’re not alone in our journeys through this life, even if there isn’t an invisible snoop watching us from above.

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