Reflections on the Lake of Fire at the End of the World: Eschaton 2012
Posted on December 3, 2012 at 10:58 am by Dr. Jim
WAHHHH! IT’S OVER!
But I get to go home and see my Mary! HORRAY!
I wrote this sitting on the plane coming back from Eschaton 2012. I’m at Chili’s Grill at the Calgary Airport now, waiting for my connection.S0, some reflections on the event and I’m posting a few pictures from my PowerPoint presentation just for laughs and giggles.
The first job is to thank everyone associated with Eschaton and CFI Ottawa, it was great time, and I met some very interesting and intelligent folk. Particular mention must be made of Marlowe Filippov, Seanna Watson and Evan Frank. Also very grateful to Ania Bula driving me to the airport at 5:45 am.
It was quite an honour to be on the bill as Eugenie Scott and the closet cat-lover PZ Myers. Myers did not attend my presentation, which is just as well, as I made this in his honour:
There were a number of good sessions. Mine was the first of the day and ran at the same time as Eugenie Scott’s so we didn’t get much of an audience. Steven Tomlins spoke right before me on Saturday morning. Steve is PhD candidate at the U of Ottawa and he did a very good job explaining Religious Studies to the crowd. His own research is on atheist communities and so I feel very well ethnologized. I also owe Steven an apology because I got all muddled and paranoid that my PowerPoint presentation would not work, while another fellow was worried about the projector switching off (we had a hassle getting it to talk to my Mac). He went to adjust the machine while Steven was talking, and I touched the mac to make sure hadn’t died and on went my looping introduction… Very bad form.
Steven and I were also on a panel with an ex-Anglican minister, Eric MacDonald who is now an activist for assisted suicide, and Vickie Garrison, a mother of many who escaped the evangelical Christian “Quiverful” movement and now helps other women do the same. The panel was labeled “Scholarship vs. Faith” but none of us really had a clear idea of what we should be doing. Anyway, Steven and I raised a hackle or two and we had some disagreements with Eric MacDonald and some audience members about what religion really is. Poor Vickie was kind left out of the picture.
I felt kind of bad for Vicky. Here she was, a recovering victim of grotesque patriarchal privilege and she gets put on a panel with 3 guys who get into an debate about how to conceptualize religion and she really doesn’t have a horse in the race. Her own presentation about the Quiverful movement and the work she does was fascinating, and it really did open my eyes about how abusive that whole movement is: the wrecked health of these women who have to keep pushing out the babies, the shame if they don’t push out enough babies, (think of the LAUNDRY cause by various pushing outs of babies)! the homeschooling chores, and, of course, the poverty. Vicky left when she realized the effect of this on her kids.
I’m sorry to have missed Ian Cromwell’s (Crommunist Manifesto) presentation on “Discussing race and racism in the zombie apocalypse” but I did see him on a panel on Godless Ethics and Godless Communities with Chris DiCarlo (cdicarlo.com, author of How to be a Really Good Pain in the Ass), Udo Schuklenk, and Hank Fox.
There was a session on Islam that was pretty good. Anila Ashgar from McGill University surveyed some of her research into teaching Evolution in Muslim communities. I thought this was really interesting. As in Christianity, there is a debate as whether Islam is compatible with Evolution. She showed a list of over sixty institutions in predominantly Muslim countries in which Evolution is taught as the ONLY explanation for speciation, although in very many cases there is also a recognition of Allah’s role in creating the system. In some instances textbooks include Qur’an passages that are interpreted in a way to show that evolution is an Islamic principle. It was a great presentation that really undermined the Western atheist stereotype of Islam as utter opposed to science and education. Heina Badabhoy (one of the Skepchic bloggers) is an ex-Muslin and her story of her leaving the faith and her family’s reactions was fascinating.
I had a nice little chat with Eugenie Scott who is one of the most pleasant people on the planet. Had a little chat with PZ Myers about his coming to Lethbridge. Hopefully schedules etc. will work out. His own keynote address at the Ottawa Museum of Nature (which is a fantastic place) was fun: “Chance in Evolution” and educational.
It was nice to meet Veronica Abbas who blogs at Canadian Atheist.ca and to hear about her attempt to get the Scarborough city council to drop its “invitiation” to recite the Lord’s Prayer before meetings. I also met Dan Mayo, her lawyer, who does that kind of thing. They are seeking an injunction and the decision should be made sometime in January.
I also met Jack Laughlin from the University of Sudbury, another Religious Studies geek, and we drank way too much at the reception, which we closed down ca. 1:00 AM. We then found a bar, which we closed down about 2 hours later. Basically Jack was haranguing a fellow from Toronto on the nature of religion. I forget this fellow’s name but he was cheery enough.
All in all, it was a great time. Very glad I went.
All the talks I believe will be up on the Internets at some point, I think. “Atheist TV” filmed them all.