Welcome back freethought fans. Day one of the Freedom From Religion National Convention was a really moving and exciting day. But all of that was just a warm up for day two.
Today’s festivities started out with the traditional NonPrayer Breakfast. Sadly we decided to sleep and instead opt for the free breakfast at the Governor’s Club Lounge that our “deluxe” room entitled us to. I did make it for the presentation of the Thomas Jefferson Student Activist Award. This year award was presented to Indiana student Eric Workman.
When the presentation started and Eric walked up to receive his award I thought it was going be boring and I started to get up to leave; however, when he did speak, I was blown away. This brave young man stood up to his entire high school, the school board, all of his peers and even the community, as a whole. There was going to be a Christian prayer at his graduation and he objected to it. He called the ACLU and was the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the school district. It was hell for him and his family. In the end, he won. However, that wasn’t the end of the matter. At his graduation where spoke as valedictorian, he took on the issue and gave a direct affirmation of state and church separation – despite protests from the audience. Talk about bravery.
Later in the morning I attended a presentation by FFRF staff attorneys Rebecca Markert and Patrick Elliot. The amount cases they take on each year is truly astounding. The heart of FFRF is, of course, writing letters and filing lawsuits against those who would try to bring religion into where it does not belong. Their success rate in protecting the constitutional separation of state and church was both enlightening and inspiring.
My wife and I went outside to the framer’s market around the state capitol. It was beautiful fall day. I felt very lucky to be at the steps of the state capitol attending a conference on freedom while purchasing food from local growers and bakers. Afterwards we had a spot of lunch at the hotel and then went back to the conference for the afternoon activities, which would prove to be the best yet.
Julia Sweeney stole the day with her intelligence, charm and wit. We were treated to a reading from her up-and-coming book which she is writing. Some of it was so funny that we literally were crying from laughing so hard. After having seen Letting go of God, her amazing tale of atheist discovery, I can honestly say that Sweeney is one of the best spokespersons for rational thought. Here is someone who was a believer and did everything she could to believe. But the more she tried, the farther removed she became. But, what separates her from others is that she has the unique ability to take a very serious subject and reduce it to a laughable, yet poignant soliloquy. He approach and delivery are both deceptively effective. They work where sometimes harder logic fails. Julia Sweeney solidifies herself as one of our best storytellers.
Next we had Madison cartoonist Mike Konopacki. His presentation was slower and dryer that we would have liked. However, he did acknowledge that after Julia Sweeney, he was going to be a bit of a “downer.” Konopacki basically took Christianity to task with images showing all of the bloodshed that it was responsible for. He created a pamphlet with his artwork juxtaposed against passages in the bible that Christians had used to justify their insidious defamation of humanity
The second Emperor Has No Clothes Award was given to Cenk Uygur. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali the night before, Cenk is a maverick who has made a stand to expose religion for what it is. He delivered a riveting, humorous, tirade against the inconsistencies and offensive nonsense of all major religions. He also went on to point out that all of the horrors currently committed by the faithful demands a response and challenged everyone present to fight the religious with logic, reason, and truth whenever the opportunity presents itself. For example, the bible clearly states that you should never eat shellfish. So, whenever you get the chance, you should ask a Christian or a Jew if they really don’t eat shrimp and what issue their god has with eating shrimp.
Cenk is the host of The Young Turks, the largest on-line news show in the world. Even though is audience is huge, he was able communicate at a level that everyone could relate to. A very powerful and intellectually motivated speaker, he really empowered the audience.
That’s it for now.