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Author Topic: AAI European Convention


lt_zippy2
Administrator
Posts: 140
AAI European Convention
on: May 23, 2012, 15:39

I think there was a breif thread on this earlier with me asking if anyone was going to Cologne for the AAI European Convention which beging this Friday (25th May).

My plan with this thread is to post a few updates and observations from the convention as we go...although these will tend to be at the end of each day so may degenerate into a drunken ramble, but I'm willing to take that risk 😛



russell20
Calcium
Posts: 1576
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 23, 2012, 23:12

Thanks zippy, sounds good, just wish I could be there



Graham-
Martin-Roy-
le
Calcium
Posts: 1162
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 24, 2012, 00:31

Wish I could have made it but work gets in the way again. Keep us updated zippy.



lt_zippy2
Administrator
Posts: 140
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 24, 2012, 16:28

Will do, just arrived, haven't seen anyone else around yet!

Beer sampling later.....



lt_zippy2
Administrator
Posts: 140
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 25, 2012, 23:08

OK all, it has been a busy couple of days, so apologies for the lack of posts.

I'll be brief as it is midnight and tomorrow is always the busier day!

We started off well with the AAI AGM which was really really informal, most of the voting has been done by proxy so there was little to discuss, the board elections had full nominations and so were uncontested, however there was a lot to report on. The Phillipnes has their first ever convention and the conventions in Australia and Kamloops BC were big successes, also work continues to bring on groups in third world countries and the Humanist School in Uganda.

The conference itslef started with a welcome from Rene Hartmann from the hosts IKBA, and a short talk from Tanya Smith (AAI pres) about why we were here (apparently it's becuase we care and want to make a difference), PZ Myers gave an interesting talk on why we talk a lot about science at atheist conferences, and that we should now look at what we can now do to make a better place (a 3rd phase of atheism), looking at the fact of 'no god' and 'no afterlife' meaning we need to make things better in the here and now and that simply being scientific is not enough.

There was then a talk by a former German school teacher about his experiences with immigrant children. It was really funny and interesting, at least I assume so as the talk was all in German and the German speakers were laughing. This prompted a complaint to the organisers that a pan-European convention needs to be conducted so that everyone can understand.

The following speaker (also German in German) gave a talk on bizarre sexual practices of Buddhists of the Dalkai Lama's tradition with Rene giving summary translations, frankly the content was explicit (and a bit sick!) and sadly the real entertainment was seeing Rene's face as he listened to what he was bein asked to translate! Schadenfreude anyone?

Dan Barker rounded off the day with another rendition if his deconversion story with a few songs. I seem to get to listen to this talk once a year now, but I don't complain because it is a story I love and never get tired of!

The rest of the evening was spent in the bar as is tradition with losts of local beverages being consumed!

Onwards to tomorrow, the big day!



lt_zippy2
Administrator
Posts: 140
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 26, 2012, 20:28

Day 2 - A few sore heads in the breakfast room this morning, I think that the local Kölsch beer is quite drinkable and comes in relatively small glasses encouraes the drinking of large amounts! However I don't feel too bad but I missed the first couple of talks, but they were all in German and I don't have a whelk's chance in a supernova to understand them.

I attend my firt session on Blasphemy. First speaker (in German but with regular summaries in English) spoke about the theory of blasphemy, with quesions about criticising religion and breaking taboos, then Micheal Nugent from Atheist Ireland spoke a bit about the anacronistic ans silly blasphemy laws in the West to dangerous ones in the East and the way one affects the other.

Then Taslima Nasrin gave a talk on her own story from her being thrown out of her home country of Bangladesh, to being kicked out of India to findig her home within the Atheist community (this won her a standing ovation) before introducing a man from Pakistan who spent three years in a death row cell in Pakistan for blasphemy (those that have read the God Delusion will recall the story of a Dr sentenced to death for stating that Mohammed wasn't a Muslim until he invented the religion at the age of 40! He managed to escape and now lives in Switzerland!

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the FFRF gave a talk about the FFRF, their work and some of their recent successes. A little about their campaign to show that atheists are normal people.

This was followed by a bit more socailsing and networking, with friends old and new. I cannot stress how much these gatherings extend ones circles of friends and are well worth attending (even if half the talks are in a language I can't understand!)

Anyway, I'm going to have a relatively early night tonight as Leo Igwe from Nigeria is speaking tomorrow morning and I don't want to miss it. For those that do not know he is a tireless secular campaigner in Nigeria who has been arrested and beaten up on numerous occasions for opposing religious absurdities in his home country (of which there are many!), and this is the fourth time he has been on the bill of a conference I have attended, and the FIRST time he has actually been allowed in the country! So I do not intend to miss him!

Nighty night!



lt_zippy2
Administrator
Posts: 140
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 28, 2012, 13:40

OK then, now for a summary of the final day (my apologies that this is a day late but you'll see why as you read!)

The day's programme started with another German talk, in German, about Germany and those who were non German speakers were informed that it was probably not worth their while sitting in. That was no problem with me as I went to the bar a had coffee with Thunderf00t (those who do not know who he is may click here http://www.youtube.com/user/thunderf00t?ob=4&feature=results_main, and we chatted about science.

The next talk was the one I had been waiting for all weekend. Leo Igwe talking about Atheism and Humanism in Africa. He gave an empassioned speech about human rights abuses in Africa all done in the name of religion, and pleaded that everyone support thier local groups and especially support AAI who had given him much assistance. He stated that those that have supernatural and superstious beliefs were the ones who were the problem, and that he had been beaten and arrested for speaking out about the child witchunts that have taken place. AsI have mentioned before this is the first time Leo has been able to speak at an AAI conference despite being invited (and accepting the invites) on several occasions due to visa issues! He was a terriffic and empassined speaker and someone I hope to see more regularly on the circuit when he is not fighting the "good fight" in Africa.

The next speaker, Valentin Abgottspon was slated to deliver his speech in German, but as the non-speakers were rising to go he said that he would deliver his talk in English. This was a great move as he told the story of how he was sacked without notice from his job as a schoolteacher for refusing to put up a crucifix in his classroom and refused to indoctrinate children in his class in his school in a conservarice canton of Switzerland (despite the fact that the Swiss Fedaral court had ruled that these crosses were unconstitutional). Rather than giving up and going away, he is currently fighting this and refuses to go away which has led to him being labelled an "extremeist"! (just to note he now has another teaching job in another school in the same district!

Rebecca Wastson then gave a talk on the "Religious Right's War on Women" explaining how the bills and laws being proposed and enacted by the religious right on abortion, contraception and womne's health is not a pro-life position, but actually pro-death and that these issues are not about health but a biblically inspired drive to controll women's bodies! (and did you know that 3 out of the 5 top positions in the Religious Right Organisation "Concerned Women of American" are men?). She also pointed out the problem of sexism within the atheist/scpetical community which although perpertrated by a small minority is still continuing and that some of this minority have written to conference organisers asking them not to include her on the programme and effectively blacklist her, kudos to the organisers for not bowing to this demand!

The last speaker was Carsten Frerk who gave a talk on the fact that the Christin Church (all of its incarnations and denominations) is one the most successful buisness model in history with an annual tunover of 2 Trillion Euros! Where does this money goes? But bearing in mind that they have several branches in every town and village in the West and many more across the rest of the globe it's probably not suprising. Also to note this was originally slated to be in German but thanks to the stirling efforts of Steve Duggan from Atheist Ireland who speaks German in translating the 11 page speech overnight, we were able to hear the whole thing!

The conference ended with thank yous from Rene Hartmann and a playoff buy Dan Barker to the tune of "Always look on the bright side of life", several of us who were sticking around decided to go into town to the Cologne Wine Festival! So Steve Duggan, Micheal Nugent, Jane Donnelly, Rebecca Watson, Taslima Nasrin and I hit the town. Several wines and beers later (yeah we mixed!) we were sitting by the Rhein watching Taslima draw pictures of the group on Rebecca's iPad, I think we have a convert!

When we were walking back to the hotel at abour midnight we encountered, moored up next to the Chocolate Museum...Noah's Ark...I kid you not someone had moored a scale "replica" of Noah's Ark wich contained an exhibition. I planned to visit the next day but a 20 Euro entry fee to laugh at this bullshit was a little on the expensive side! Altough I must say the large oragutang that was sitting in one of the windows look like he would be more at home in the Library of the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork (look it up!).

All in all it has been another superb conference with, as usual, better personal access to the speakers that the larger American ones, which balanced out the slight disappointment of not being able to understand some of the talks.

As for where next year's will take place...watch this space!



Graham-
Martin-Roy-
le
Calcium
Posts: 1162
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 28, 2012, 16:45

Thanks for all that zippy, I wish I could have made it.



watchman
Calcium
Posts: 301
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 28, 2012, 19:55

Totally with Graham on his post ...

Excellent stuff Zippy ... thanks.



lt_zippy2
Administrator
Posts: 140
Re: AAI European Convention
on: May 28, 2012, 20:44

I will also be writing a report for the Secular World Magazine for those of you that a AAI individual members...

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