The Amaz!ng Meeting conference for science and skepticism in Las Vegas was an epic adventure that introduced me to scientists, monster hunters, secular authors, social psychologists, and a whole flock of enthusiastic science advocates. My goals for TAM9 were to make new friends, to learn interesting things, and to spread my message of putting deeds before words. I wasn’t surprised that those goals were easily fulfilled by volunteering for Foundation Beyond Belief at their table in the convention hall.
Though I only offered to help FBB intern Brittany Shoots-Reinhard a few hours a day, I found myself compelled to stay longer at the table and “spread the good word.” I certainly don’t regret taking the time to see speakers Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” and Richard Dawkins (among others), but I found that the truly rewarding experience for me was being an advocate for the slogan of putting “humanism to work.” It was a rush of happiness to meet many of the 1,600 skeptics and humanists attending the conference and to convince them to consider donating to the many worthy secular-friendly charities that we represent.
The majority of people who visited our table were unaware of Foundation Beyond Belief and were impressed with our dedication to supporting and focusing the charitable giving of secular humanists. It was important to potential members that they would be able to control and manage their donations, that we promised to forward 100% of donations to the charities they prefer, and that we take the time to research every charity to make sure that they don’t compromise our secular values. Yes, a skeptic’s convention will have its fair share of doubters who are harder to convince. I can’t blame them for applying their critical thinking to an organization that is asking for a share of their budget, but my hope is that we convinced them to set aside many of those doubts and join our ranks.
We had several noted skeptics visit our table, including author Jennifer Michael Hecht, JREF President DJ Grothe, and “Survivor” star Yau-Man Chan. To those of you TAM attendees who decided to become a new member because you were persuaded by me, Brittany, Heidi, Rob, or Laurie–thank you!
It’s important that humans give to worthy charities for the sake of humanity, regardless of their religious affiliation, but it’s also important that secular humanists come together and give in the name of secular humanism. It’s high time we unite in the name of something greater than ourselves, and after TAM9, we can once again announce that it was in the name of goodness and not god. That’s an achievement we should continue to celebrate!