Well, I'm just home from the GAC and about to fall into bed.  I hit the ground running on Thursday and didn't stop until I was on the plane coming home on Tuesday.  It was madness - but good madness.

I will post soon about my experiences.  In fact, I've been asked to write an article about the Convention for an American journal.  The deadline is Monday so I'd love to get some input from those of you who attended. E.g.

What did you like best?

What did you like least?

Do you think the Convention will be a flash in the pan, or will it have long-term impact?

Where do you think we should go from here?

When do you think we should have the next Convention - next  year, or is that too soon?

What would you change, if anything?

What was more valuable - listening to the various speakers or getting to meet and mix with other atheists?

You don't have to answer these questions specifically - just give me your impressions.


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I had a great time! I'll answer your questions specifically, if that's okay. It'll help jog my memory about different aspects of the convention.

What did you like best?
I really enjoyed the different perspectives and different approaches of the speakers. Many of them challenged my existing stance on atheism. Phillip Adams made sense when he said that it is possible to work with moderate religious people to achieve social justice. Taslima Nasrin nearly had me in tears at the horror of what she went through, and continues to go through, with her exile. I really enjoyed all of the comedians.

As someone recovering from religion I really connected with Dan Barker's talk. I think there is a very different mindset between those of us who were religious and 'saw the light' of atheism compared to those who have always been atheists. It was great to hear from people from both camps.

And I thought it was very interesting that Professor Dawkins, who is regarded as being so nasty to religious people, was so incredibly polite to the self-confessed Christian who asked the question about DNA in his Q&A session. While half of the attendees booed her for professing her belief (or for asking such a basic question) he politely asked everyone to be quiet so he could hear the rest of her question. He didn't take her to task for her religious declaration, he didn't refer to it at all, he simply and politely answered her question. It's telling that the journalists who slammed speakers for being rude to religious folk left that interaction out of their reports.

I really appreciated the fact that they had so many women speaking. Many women come to atheism in a different way from men. As one speaker (embarrassingly I can't remember who) pointed out, many women become feminists first and that leads them to atheism because of the horrible attitude towards women in religions. Talking about the role of women in religion and atheism adds yet another perspective into the mix.

I could go on and on about everything I liked about the convention! I'll probably add more points as they come to me over the week.

What did you like least?

Well, this is a tough one. I understand the enthusiastic audience responses to the speakers, I understand how hyper people were at being at a huge atheist gathering, but sometimes the crowd participation seemed a wee bit Nuremberg Rally-ish to my fiance and me (however, we're pretty restrained by nature so others may feel differently). Some of the insults thrown at religious people seemed like cheap shots, unworthy of the intellect of the speakers responsible.

Do you think the Convention will be a flash in the pan, or will it have long-term impact?

I think it will have long-term impact. I imagine some of the ideas raised will not have occurred to all attendees before. I hadn't considered it possible to remove the tax-free status of churches, for instance, but I'll certainly be doing all I can to achieve it from now on! The fact that the organisers have shown it is possible to organise so many atheists for a single event shows great promise for future campaigns in Australia.

Where do you think we should go from here?
More conventions! More public talks! We should agitate to have more secular, atheist and humanist issues brought up in the media so people who cannot attend gatherings hear about the issues.

When do you think we should have the next Convention - next year, or is that too soon?

I'd certainly go to another convention next year! It should be held in a city other than Melbourne so we can spread the joy around the country state by state.

What would you change, if anything?
Better signage at the lunch. It was impossible to read signs to see where the merchandise queue was, where the signings were taking place and where the special dietary needs table was. Signs should be higher than head-height so they can be seen over crowds. Seriously, that is my only quibble about the weekend and it's a pretty minor one!

What was more valuable - listening to the various speakers or getting to meet and mix with other atheists?
Listening to the speakers was more valuable to me, but that's because I'm a social recluse and very shy in person. I ended up hanging out with my fiance the entire time and only spoke to a handful of people other than that. Next time I promise to have more courage to talk to people!

Good luck with your journal article, Chrys. You'll have to post a link here when it's published so we can read it!
Thanks, Stephen!
Best: Presentations from high profile overseas guests.

Least: Questions which wasted time and were really statements. Also, would have liked better layout for stalls - especially books as this was too crowded.

Flash - No, its impact will continue but of course will be added to by subsequent events. It was a very important step.

Where do we go? Onwards and upwards. consider all sorts of possibilities to build on this success.

When. Probably in 2 years or so.

Changes: These should be carefully considered. A simple repeat of this very successful formula may not be appropriate. We may have moved on.

What most valuable: Hearing speakers. But if I was Australian I would have been more interested in making contacts. (I am a NZer).

An awesome experience. We can do a lot to build on it. Already contacts are being forged and used via twitter and the internet as a result.

Let's not forget Copenhagen in a few months.
Question: I know everything got recorded. Are there going to be transcripts ?
I noticed two cameras, but I don't know whether they were positioned properly.
Well I had a fabulous time. I attended all sessions plus the dinner where I got pissed. The food was worth the $100 it cost. I met and had a talk with Philup Adams. PZ Myers, Robyn Williams and, of course our AFA President David Nichols. I got photographed with Jesus and Satan.

I did not have a chance to have an audience with Prof. Richard Dawkins. The queue for his book signing was miles long.

I have come home more Atheist than ever. I am disgusted with the media coverage from "Stinkrags" like the "Herald Sun" and the way Richard Dawkins was misquoted in many papers. It is one reason I never read newspapers. The journalists seem to be deaf, blind and illiterate and can't keep their biases to themsleves.

I just downloaded the debate between Dan Brown and George Cardinal "Go To Hell" Pell. I think Dan Brown did "His Eminence" like a dinner. Pell seems to be disliked by many Roman Catholics. He is an excellent advertisment for Atheism.
Hey all! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to add my own reminiscenses of the Convention. I decided that it was best to wait until the article for Secular Nation magazine (the official journal of Atheist Alliance International) was published so that you could all read that.

Tom Melchiorre, editor in chief of Secular Nation has kindly given me permission to reprint it as a blog, which I've put up on the Sunshine Coast Atheists website.

You can read it here: Atheist in Wonderland

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