Okay, let me try to summarize, but nothing I say can even begin to do today justice.
I started the morning early with a cup of Starbucks and a talk by Shannon Cherry about media relations. There were three different talks going on at the same time and two were interesting to me (secular parenting just isn't relevant right now). The one I watched I had at least served as a press secretary before--before email!--so it was instructive as to how things have changed. I probably should've taken notes, but she said we could email for her power point (contact AT cherrycommunications DOT com, I think).
After that, I got immediately in line for the afternoon session, and boy am I glad I did! I had to sit in an overflow room last night and for dinner tonight, so I wanted to make sure I got in on the action at least once.
We some entertainment before the talks from Greydon Square. Atheist rap. Lots of fun! Great sense of humour. He was wearing a t-shirt that said "the black Carl Sagan". I'm just impressed someone his age even knows who Carl Sagan is! :)
Then the real fun began.
Our first talk was by Eddie Tabash who talked about the threat of the religious right in this country. He gave us a very grim list of all the cases that could be tossed out if the 1947 case about church-state separation was overturned by a Bush court. So grim was the list that he even had some Libertarians freaked out enough to consider voting for a Democrat!
Then was Eugenie Scott from NCSE (which I am also a member of) to talk about "creation science" and its various permutations, including good stuff about the Dover case.
Then Matthew Chapman got up to talk about his book 40 Days and 40 Nights based his own coverage of the Dover trial for Harper's magazine.
Then there was a short break for the bomb-sniffing dogs to come through since there were threats on the convention, they were wanding people as they went in, and mostly because the next speaker was Ayaan Hirsi Ali (the person who's name I couldn't recall the other day). She was wonderful. You couldn't help but both weep with laughter and pride all at once for her courage and her sense of humour. She really had the room at her mercy, and was overcome by the standing ovation.
Then came the bad boy himself. Christopher Hitchens. The man has no fear, particularly not of being rude or offensive! There was one poor soul who asked a totally incoherent question, and so you can just imagine for a second the reaction. :). But, like I said, I'd really like to have a chance to just sit down and talk to him one-on-one, because I seriously suspect that he could persuade me of things I don't agree with right now. The more I hear him, the more I find him nudging my position as it is. It's a little scary! I also realize that while I probably would call myself a rationalist (because of my scientific bent) if I couldn't use the term atheist, there is, nonetheless a really strong current of antitheism to my position, even going back 20 years.
So, wow. And we weren't done yet. There was a little cocktail party while they set up for dinner, and then the awards banquet. The food was good. The lemon cake for dessert was surprisingly good. The awards were generally boring, as most are, but then Daniel Dennett was given an award by Richard Dawkins, and his speech was also really provocative. He suggested there really were "good" reasons for believing in god... Or rather, believing in belief in god. Most of them seem pretty shallow to an atheist, but they have a lot to do with fear, and social concensus and such. Truthfully, though, if someone believes for any of these reasons, the best I can do is pity them.
There is a little bit more to do tomorrow, and then the thing is over. I'm staying all day Sunday although activities only go to noon. I don't know what I'll do, but maybe just sleep and get ready for the long Monday ahead of me.
Anyway, I leave you with...