Global Atheist Convention canceled

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lpetrich
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Global Atheist Convention canceled

Post by lpetrich » Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:13 pm

What Can We Learn from the Cancellation of the Global Atheist Convention? – Friendly Atheist
On paper, the 2018 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Australia should have been a huge success. Scheduled to take place this coming February, the guests included keynote speakers Salman Rushdie and Richard Dawkins, along with an assortment of science writers, comedians, activists, and ex-preachers.
In 2010, a previous convention there had around 2500 attendees, and in 2012, 4000 attendees.

So the organizers tried to top their 2012 convention. They decided to go ahead after getting some big-name speakers, a good organization team, and government funding, courtesy of the Melbourne Convention Bureau.

But early ticket sales were disappointing. So they decided to cancel rather than continue.
Here’s the thing: For those of us in the U.S. who weren’t planning on making the trek to Australia, we’ve seen a similar decline in attendance for some huge atheist-themed events over the past few years, and it’s reasonable to jump to those same conclusions.
The Reason Rally, a big US event approximately comparable to that GAC, had fewer people attending in 2016 than in 2012. This was despite religious "Nones" increasing from 14% in 2004 to 24% in 2016.

Hemant Mehta has these theories:
1) The novelty has worn off.
2) We no longer have a shared goal.
3) The most well-known speakers become lightning rods.
4) These conferences can be a financial drain.
5) We’re suffering from atheist oversaturation.
6) Bad conference experiences ruin them for everyone.
7) Many organizers and attendees are dealing with “activist fatigue.”
8) We’re victims of our own success.
HM notes about (2) that the Skepticon conference's content has changed over the years, from atheism and criticism of religion to a broader range of topics, like ex-Muslims' concerns, copying with losing a loved one, mental-health issues, making allies, how to lobby, and even how to do podcasts.

About (3), various prominent "New Atheists" have caused a lot of controversy with certain of their statements.
... Sam Harris gets frequent criticism for what is seen by some as anti-Muslim bigotry (hi, Ben Affleck) despite his insistence that he’s only criticizing ideas inherent in Islam. He’s also been slammed for inviting people with bad ideas on his popular podcast. (I should point out that Harris rarely talks about atheism as a stand-alone topic anymore.) But inviting Harris also means inviting controversy.

Inviting a prominent feminist or “social justice warrior” will surely lead to online harassment of both the speakers and organizers as well as those attempting to discredit the entire event. I was told the Global Atheist Convention received more pushback for inviting one well-known feminist than they did for inviting Dawkins (though both remained in their lineup until the event was canceled); it’s unclear, though, if anyone actually refused to buy tickets because of her inclusion. Even Rushdie has his critics.
About (7), activist burnout may explain why the United States has had bursts of progressive activism interspersed with relatively conservative periods, as Arthurs Schlesinger I and II have described. It may be hard to sustain activist mass movements for long, especially if they seem to have succeeded in some way. The first wave of US feminism burned out after the US women got the vote in 1920, and it did not revive until the 1960's.

HM concludes by describing what he'd like to see in a convention, like having some theme that interests a lot of people, some theme like activism or entertainment.

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Jobar
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Post by Jobar » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:07 am

I've often said that we unbelievers haven't the carrot of heaven, or the stick of hell, which encourage us to join together for our common good.

We have no shared fantasies. Shared goals, yes- but those goals tend to involve getting the religious off our backs. Once we manage that, why keep on meeting and talking about our unbelief?

If everyone were atheists, no one would talk about it. The more atheists there are, the less we need to discuss it. I think that explains the decline of atheist discussion boards, too.

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lpetrich
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Post by lpetrich » Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:48 pm

We still have a way to go on that, however.

But a next step is the likes of the Sunday Assembly and The Oasis:
Sunday Assembly – Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More
The Oasis Network | Communities of reason and compassion, celebrating the human experience.

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