Daleks. Picard v. Janeway. Super Soakers.
For the twenty-five hours I was stationed at my booth, these were the deep issues I and my fellow Skepticon attendees wrestled with – no First Cause arguments, no earnest discussions about The Future of The Movement, just a steady stream of entirely lovely people and our shared geekery.
How different it would be, if the world saw atheism more often from the vantage point offered by this humble foldable chair – the group huddled excitedly over a game of Settlers of Catan in the corner, another planning their big Karaoke Night Out, and right here, at this table, two strangers bonding over a shared love of The Wild Thornberrys.
Because that’s what atheism is – getting ecstatically, unreasonably excited about the products of the human imagination, having the entire weft and warp of human fancy as your own private source of daily delight. That world of unhindered exploration is so tangibly yours for the having once you let fall the notion of the sacred and its shadowy Iago, Shame. The people I see have loosed the final fetter on their nerdishness, and it gives them this sort of radiance that it was my privilege to bask in for two days.
That’s not to say we stop explaining and expounding and, yes, arguing, if need be, because there are terrible things happening in the world that must be pointed out, regardless of the opprobrium inevitably attached to the pointer. There is a hard-won heft to the notions of existence and purpose we have scratched from the often cold surface of reality, and we certainly do ourselves a disservice accounting it all as too austere or depressing for public consumption. But, as in all things, the key is balance.
Certainly, the last thing we want is the atheist equivalent of those sheepish Mormon ads that, in attempting to suggest breadth and normalcy, come off portraying Mormons as, most likely, alien changelings. But a few glimpses of joyous humanity, here and there, could not hurt, to which end I offer the following Skepticon sketches in miniature of the people I met and conversed with over the last few days:
Steven Olsen is a strong proponent of Cookies For Dinner.
If you give Nicole Crenshaw a chance, she WILL wear your Victorian cape, and WILL twirl in it.
Rachael Berman has a sixth sense for knowing when somebody around her is starving, and a seventh sense for conjuring ways to feed them from the ether.
Amanda Brown will craft a captioned jpeg of you while you’re not looking, just to make life that much more fun.
Lauren Lane’s family can, within about ten minutes of conversation, fix all of your life’s problems and will give you free beers while doing it.
K. Johnston is probably a ventriloquist, and more probably still is not aware of the fact.
Some small part of Ellen Lundgren is, even now, reenacting the Battle of Gettysburg.
When you’re feeling a bit down, Sara Mayhew will draw a charming picture for you that suddenly makes everything better.
JT Eberhard never forgets a kindness, and is lusciously unashamed to wear the goofiest hat in the room.
And so many more who stopped and chatted, about Dungeons and Dragons version 2.5 and open-shirted William Ryker, Agent Coulson and those plastic jars of Real Ghostbusters ectoplasm that came with a ghost inside, and whose names my Convention-addled brain forgot to write down or who never left one, each a standing example against the popular conception of an atheist as a curious sub-species of human eternally gripping a Bertrand Russell text tightly in cold, unfeeling fingers. They are the future of humanism, and its great hope, and from where I sit, that future shimmers with promise and laughter.