Project42 Freethinkers Conference Has Come and Gone.
It’s over. Sigh. The Project 42 Freethinkers Conference has come to a glorious end and it was… well… glorious. The speakers were marvelous, the quality — high, the feeling of being amongst my own–priceless. I hated to leave. My family finally had to drag me out kicking and screaming and ban me from returning. Sigh. Everyone’s against me. Why God? Why?
Allow me to do a brief rundown. The first speaker was Richard Carrier, a Ph.D in Greco-Roman history.
His talk was on “How the Jews Kept Failing to Predict Doomsday and Caused Christianity Instead.” a view of Jewish apocalypticism and how trying to fulfill failed prophecy led to the rise of several versions of Jesus. This was fascinating, and I certainly will have to grab a few of his books for study. I believe it will help in thew future.
After this we had Robert Price, a skeptical theologian and expert on the Bible.
Although his talk was very good, my need to pay rigid attention to his prose kept me from taking many notes. He definitely didn’t speak down to his audience and I liked that. He is a great wordsmith, but I think he may have lost a few people with his complex structure and vocabulary. Let me tell you people, I would give my left testicle for half the knowledge this man has in his head. Wow!
Third, we had Brother Richard, a former associate pastor of a scandalous megachurch who lost his faith and now is a leader in the Atheist Nexus community.
His story was mostly about how he got to where he is including belonging to a church involved with massive sex scandals and death threats for leaving. This touched me as I went through a similar but quicker theological debridement, painful but oh so necessary.
After lunch, the infamous PZ Myers to the stage to lay out the foundations of evolution of cooperation, or why it is not always, or even mostly “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” For those of you who have never heard him, PZ is a great instructional speaker. Soft spoken and clear, he has a way of relating dense subject matter in a way that few others could. I invariably find his talks full of new and wonderful information. I’d love to move to Morris, MN and take a few classes.
I had to go up and talk to him, of course.
The last speaker was none other than Michael Shermer. He had a great talk on his new book “The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies– We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.” Shermer is a marvelous and funny speaker and knows how to relate to an audience. I have to read some of his books. Yes, I am ashamed to say that I have not. Again, I rail against how I have wasted my life. But this is fascinating stuff.
The evening finished with a debate between August Berkshire, the president of the Minnesota Atheists and his pastor friend, Ron Johnson. Now I may be a bit biased here, but Mr. Berkshire pretty much mopped the floor with his buddy. Although I admire Pastor Johnson for the courage it would take to stand up in front of a group of atheists to defend his position, his arguments were very soft, fuzzy and weak. Berkshire had great arguments for evolution and morality, but Johnson’s counters were always evasive beatings around the bush, a bit of a desperate struggle to maintain hold on a slipping faith. He was honest to himself though and refused to say things he didn’t believe.
Personally, our carpool was unanimous in our prediction that he would soon be joining our ranks.
And that was it. I didn’t have time to stay for today’s panel discussion which will be happening… right about now. Sigh. Overall, I loved it and would happily go to one of these events every month. I feel invigorated in my skepticism and, in addition, have a list of about ten books.
Now if I only had time to read.
PS. My current reading list has been drastically affected by my responsibilities. Those dastardly things I can’t say no to. This week I was selected to be the Parliamentarian (Expert on parliamentary procedure) for the North Dakota AFL-CIO convention so I have been madly reading through Robert’s Rules of Order, Robert’s Rules of Order for Dummies, Parliamentary Procedure at a Glance trying to make sense of the mass of dense. Wish me luck.