I'm back! As you may know, I've spent the last three days in Springfield, Missouri, having a blast at Skepticon IV. The convention was a weekend of great talks that ran the gamut: atheism, skepticism, sex, politics, feminism, math, science. There was no overarching theme at all, and I think it was better for being eclectic: since there was very little overlap, each and every talk offered something new and different.
Best of all, I got to get together with some of my atheist blogger friends whom I've had the privilege of meeting before, as well as a whole bunch of awesome people I formerly only knew as pixels on a screen (or not at all). You know who you are, and I love you all. It's glorious to witness and be part of the exuberance, the energy, the vitality of this movement. This was my first Skepticon, but I can guarantee it won't be the last.
On the other hand, this happened:
This is Gelato Mio, an ice cream franchise in Springfield. They placed this handwritten sign in the window during the convention, which, if you can't read it, says, "Skepticon Is Not Welcomed To My Christian Business." (This picture has been passed around a lot on Twitter, and I don't know who originally took it, but would be happy to give proper credit if anyone does know.)
I'm not sure what motivated this - whether some Skepticon attendees were being unruly, although in that case the proper response would be to ban unruly people, not all Skepticon attendees - or whether it was just out-and-out bigotry. Given that the Christian ownership of the store was deemed relevant, I'm guessing the latter. Making it even more absurd, this was one of the businesses that specifically advertised to Skepticon in fliers given out at the convention. Did they not realize who we were until they actually met us?
After a flood of outraged reviews on Yelp, the store issued an apology. It was their loss in any case: another restaurant in town, the excellent Farmers' Gastropub, had their single best night ever thanks to the massive atheist bloggers' and students' meetup that took place there. (We were personally told this by the head chef when some friends and I went back for brunch on Sunday.)
But as inconsequential as this one incident is, it shows that anti-atheist bigotry is an active force in America. Our existence is still viewed as an affront by thin-skinned believers who'd like to exclude and punish us. Given the growing size and vigor of this movement, they're not going to succeed, but it's important that we not forget what we're up against.
I have to sort through the several hundred pictures I took, but I'll post a full recap of the weekend as soon as I've done that. Stay tuned!
Postscript: During the weekend, I was dragooned into signing up for Twitter. Follow me and say hi at @DaylightAtheism!