Friday, January 5, 2018

The Atheist Conference Is Dead

As some of you may have read, here or elsewhere, I was co-organizing an event this upcoming summer called The Atheist Conference, or TAC for short. It was supposed to be the first major atheist event held in New York City.

I was supposed to participate in two events there. The first was to moderate a debate between atheist Justin Schieber, and Christian David Wood on the existence of god. The second was to host a panel discussion called Make Atheism Great Again, about how atheists can respond better to the arguments for god, and improve their critical thinking skills. It was to be shared with Justin again and the Counter Apologist. It would have been a fucking awesome panel.

But none of this is going to happen now because the event has just been canceled. The reasons why are complicated, but it started out difficult enough. The atheist community has splintered into a million shards in recent years. There are the atheist feminists and the atheist anti-feminists, the social justice warrior atheists and the anti-social justice warrior atheists. The pro-PC atheists and the anti-PC atheists. There are pro-Trump atheists and anti pro-Trump atheists. Atheists are split over gamergate, elevatorgate, whether we should organize, or whether we should even call ourselves atheists at all. The divisions go on and on.

Early on we invited atheist YouTuber Steve Shives to speak at TAC on a panel about YouTube atheism. We gave him the ability to control who's on the panel, as he wouldn't participate on it with anyone who strongly disagreed with him. Naturally, he picked people whose ideology was very much in line with his own. And immediately we got slack by the anti-SJW wing of the atheist community who all told us that our speakers were very one sided in the pro-SJW direction.

There is no doubt about it that Shives's panel was very pro-SJW. No doubt. But it would have been moderated by Lee Moore, TAC's founder, and the plan was for him to be the sole voice of criticism against some of the shadier tactics Shives is guilty of. Also, Shives's panel was just one event at the conference. It wasn't all we were about. We weren't going to put on a social justice warrior conference. Social justice issues weren't going to be the focus of the conference. Trying to patch the atheist community's rifts to focus on getting us united on what we agree on was. There were going to be panels with secular politicians, speeches about critical thinking and the problems of group think, speeches about science, a comedy show with Mike Lee, and of course the debate between Schieber and Wood, which would have been our opening night special.

I have certainly been critical of various aspects of the SJW wing of the Left on my site and on Twitter. Several other organizers were as well, including John Kirbow. So we were going to balance the ideology out so it wasn't completely one-sided. But no one noticed. All they knew was that Steve Shives was going to be there, and so it was an all-out SJW con.

Then things got even worse. Bad management on the part of the main organizer left us with a very confusing message, confusing payment policy for the speakers, and a lack of clarity as to where our money was coming from and going to. The plan was to start a new model to not pay speaker fees so that the saved money would go into a program to help secular causes around the country called Godless Grants. But there were rumors swirling that TAC was pocketing the money, that we were really an LLC, and that different speakers were being told completely different stories. Some of this is true, although some of it is our bad communication. We were registered as an LLC initially but then changed to a non-profit. This was not finalized yet and was pending but any donations given would have been tax deductible as it retroactively applies once non-profit status is achieved. The Godless Grants program was real and would be functional once our non-profit status was finished and the conference was a success. But there were misleading statements told to various different speakers, including what celebrities we had booked. I had nothing to do with that, and I had no control what was being said to who. All I handled was my panel and the debate and I was upfront and honest to all the speakers on it.

But once all this happened, speakers started pulling out, and several big names in the atheist community like Seth Andrews and PZ Myers questioned the validity of our conference publicly. And that meant that the pro-SJW side of the atheist community were now against us. With the anti-SJW crowd against us, and the pro-SJW crowd against us, we stood no chance. The conference had to be canceled.

It all happened very quickly. I'm still in shock a little bit. Bad management, deception, inexperience, and a divided atheist community ready to tear each other apart destroyed its chances before it got started. I was so looking forward it. I really wanted my panel to shine. I spent weeks making graphics and promotional videos for the conference that will never be seen. We were actually just weeks away from launching our huge promotional campaign that I don't think any atheist conference has ever had, with gifs, and banners, and tons of videos. Better it crashed before, I guess. If you bought tickets, they will be refunded.

With TAC dead and my time freed up, I will work on other things, possibly a YouTube Channel in collaboration with some other members of the team. Stay tuned!

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