Jerry Coyne over at WEIT asks “Are there too many atheist meetings?“
So let me expand on my initial short answer a little bit, I did comment at WEIT, but it’s probably worth a post on its own.
There is a wide variety of meetings for sceptics, atheists and rational folks out there now, from TAM to Skepticon to Atheist conferences like the one we just had in Dublin.
We need more. The GAC in Melbourne in 2010 sold out within days if not hours, the TAM events are sellouts as well. But I do see one problem here, and that is that these meetings have become too expensive.
The Melbourne GAC was AUD 300.-, TAM Sydney was around AUD 450.-, that is too much. The guys in Dublin broke even with a ticket price of 140.-EUR, approx. 200.-AUD, and without government support. That has to be the way to go forward, especially for next year’s Melbourne 2012 GAC, where 5000 tickets will be sold, and this time there will be government subsidy.
We need more conferences, events and opportunities for people to meet like-minded folks, to get a chance to listen to the bigwigs, and to just feel welcome and safe among fellow sceptics and nonbelievers.
I do have a couple of suggestions though. One I told you already, organisers, do your utmost to keep prices down so that these events don’t become affordable just for a financial elite, but instead for everyone.
Second, give local talent an opportunity to appear on the big stage, invite younger atheists and sceptics, local bloggers and activists, onto the panel discussions, let them give speeches, point the media to them when guests for interviews are sought. The movement is bigger than the 4 horsemen, PZ Myers, Randi and Bill Maher.
Finally, Jerry Coyne seems a bit hazy on why we need to have these meetings in the first place :
But to me the speakers and talks have often seemed repetitive: the same crew of jet-set skeptics giving the same talks. And how much is there to say about a movement whose members are united, after all, by only one thing: disbelief in divine beings and a respect for reason and evidence. What more is there to say?
I think that the members of the movement are united in much more than just a lack of belief in gods, but be that as it may. I can only speak for myself of course, but I went to the 3 meetings I have been so far not so much because of the speakers, but more for the social networking aspect, the getting to know people, the making of friends (by now that’s also the re-meeting of friends), the hanging out with like-minded people, the planning world dominion over 7 pints part. Atheism should be fun, after all we laugh at the celestial dictator that the believers posit to be watching over our every move.