Continuing on with Saturday's speakers...
Ashley Paramore from the Secular Student Alliance did a great job educating us on how to better connect with campus groups. As it turns out, not only do they enjoy pizza (preferably free) they might also be a bit tired of lectures (who knew?) and there are other events that might be more to their liking. In all seriousness, the ACA has worked with campus groups at UT, Austin and many of the things that Ashley said (which should almost be common sense but, sadly, are not) will be helpful to our group and to many others that want to help support campus secular groups. I won't be advocating the exact model that Campus Crusade for Christ uses, but there are good lessons to be learned there.
Lewis Marshall, President of the Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics at Stanford University spoke about freethought activism and working with interfaith groups. (There were some unfortunate audio problems during his talk and I missed part of it.)
Keith Lowell Jensen offered highlights from his stand-up comedy routine. Legitimately entertaining and funny, he's been doing atheist-themed comedy for a while. He was kind enough to give me one of his CD's and I planned to listen to it on the flight home, but I couldn't find the CD-drawer on my iPod, so I'm going to rip the audio off later and listen to it tomorrow...or at least before the next scheduled rapture.
David Eller, Assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver gave the first of two talks (I want his agent...or maybe any agent) for the weekend. He's the author of several books and the latest is Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across Culture and History.
The first talk covered some of the content of the book, focusing on religious violence and cultural perceptions of violence. It's not a talk I can fairly summarize, but I definitely enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to spending more time talking to David in the future. He said a number of things that made me reconsider the way I look at things and that's something that I really appreciate.
There was a dinner break at this point and I did a few interviews with local news stations. As it turns out, I was on one station for about 3 seconds and...they pretty much gave me the last word. That's great and fairly unheard of! It's almost enough to make me move to California. I had spent a few moments during my talk mentioning how religious figures always seem to get the last word on every atheist news story and no one had ever given me the last word on a religious story. I'll have to change my talk, but I'm glad to do so!
As dinner was wrapping up, Brian Dalton (Mr. Deity) appeared, as if by magic and almost precisely timed with the countdown to the rapture (SPOILER: nothing happened). Some of the speakers got together to pose for various rapture photos:
Brian and I had traded a couple of e-mails about possibly getting him on one or both of the shows, but we'd never actually met. After a quick introduction and a renewed commitment to keep the conversations going, he set up his laptop and proceeded to entertain us so that we wouldn't have time to be depressed about the fact that people weren't actually being raptured.
The previous night, I'd mentioned to Donna that I'd been to California many times, but I'd never experienced an earthquake and that I'd love, just once, to get a taste of a tiny earthquake. Nothing terribly damaging, just a little shake.
Well Mr. Deity sure knows how to deliver. A little over halfway through his talk, the earth moved. The Bay area experienced a minor earthquake (3.6) and after I turned and gave Donna a thumbs-up, I just couldn't resist shouting "Is that all you've got!?"
After watching several clips from Mr. Deity and hearing him talk about the absurdity of claiming a Christian basis for the United States while the values we hold sacred are usually the antithesis of the values proclaimed in the Bible, it was time to party like it was the end of the world.