May 25, 2014 by kittynh
I’m a big fan of TAM, The Amazing Meeting, but I also enjoy other skeptic conferences. There is a big difference between attending a skeptic, or even purely Atheist, conference and say your average “I love PEZ dispensers” conference.
I think this can be summed up by a recent visitor to my home, Ajay. Ajay came to TAM 2013 all the way from India. He really didn’t know anyone, but he jumped right in and helped out when needed. After TAM, he has been travelling the US, staying with various people he met at TAM that just said “Hey, why don’t you come visit?”
He commented “TAM isn’t just where you make contacts, it’s where you make friends.”
People he never knew before invited him to their homes and have been happily playing tour guide to this remarkable young man. It was a delight to have him over just for a short visit, so that he could enjoy kayaking and a boat ride.
Still, what makes a skeptic conference different than say your average conference?
For one thing, people often feel a sense of freedom they have never had before. You can open your mouth and not worry “Is someone going to be offended by the opinion I am going to express?” There is no worry about joking about Fox news or bemoaning parents that won’t get their children vaccinated. There is no need to think twice about expressing an opinion about the latest quack product, because you might offend your aunt that buys every new cure all that comes out.
Got ghosts? No one at TAM does, so you can laugh about reality TV shows featuring endless hunts for paranormal beings. If you try this at work or school, someone will interupt to tell you all about their local ghost. Or how dowsing works, they know someone that knows someone that can find anything. As a skeptic, you have to make the choice, do I explain why this belief is at best shaky, or do I remain quiet as I just don’t have the time to deal with this now?
TAM, you don’t have to make those choices. For the most part, the basics are agreed upon. At the very least, you can argue with someone that knows better than to pull out the “Well, my cousin has a friend, and his friend’s sisters cousin was abducted by aliens!”
Everyone at TAM, or most skeptic conferences, knows what it feels like to be the voice of reason at home, work or school. Our families all roll their eyes when we explain that statue of Mary probably isn’t crying real tears. Our co workers tell us the Warrens were incredibly brave ghost hunters, and we tell them the truth about that movie they’ve just seen. No it is not a documentary. Skeptics get a bit tired of it all, and TAM is where we can just relax and have fun. No one is going to ask if you have found Jesus, Bigfoot or had a colonic recently.
Instead, we can talk about dealing with our relatives, friends, neighbors and co workers that believe in anything that the Discovery and History channel put on TV, and maybe even laugh about it. It’s a common bond. At TAM I’ve met skeptic friends that keep me sane when the believers get me down. We may not meet often, but it’s like we’ve never been apart when I say “Yep, Bigfoot has been spotted yet again near where I live!” and they laugh and share that there’s yet another mystery big cat where they live.
I won’t even go into the joys of finding someone not pushing their religious belief upon you. I often try to tolerate this sort of attempted conversion with some civility. It’s based on the religious person’s belief that if you don’t convert, bad things are going to happen to you, if not now after you die. So they think they are being nice. But there is only so much anyone can take. At TAM, you don’t have to take it anymore!
So, it was lovely to have Ajay visit. When he returns home, we’ll stay in touch via facebook and email. He now has a much bigger family!
- The Amaz!ng Meeting (phoenixskeptics.org)
- What’s Right with Skepticism? (skepticalhumanities.com)
- Syracuse! Come hear me talk! (Learn to collect Bigfoot DNA!) (yankeeskeptic.com)
- TAMtastic time – TAM 2013 review (yankeeskeptic.com)