|Genre||skepticism and atheism|
Skepticon is the largest student organized skeptic and atheist convention held in the United States. Guest speakers are invited to discuss atheism, skepticism, and other related topics. This free event is sponsored by the Missouri State Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and is held on the campus of Missouri State University.
To explain the goals of the event organizer JT Eberhard wrote: “Skeptics conferences are an important part of the movement. They not only grant people access to the icons of the movement, they also arm those in attendance with information; the key weapon for the side of reason. They also provide a sense of community for a group of people who can often feel isolated in a largely religious population.”
The Skepticon conference grew out of a speaking engagement organized by a student group on the campus of Missouri State University. The students invited two well-known atheist speakers, PZ Myers and Richard Carrier, to campus to speak critically about belief in God. The event was considered particularly controversial because Springfield Missouri is also the home to the Assemblies of God national headquarters and the campuses of several religious universities such as Evangel University and the Drury University.
In the years that followed the conference was able to attract additional speakers who were willing to reduce or forego their speakers fee in order to keep the conference free for attendees. Donors help with the cost of event space and speaker’s travel costs.
In July 2010 Skepticon received the ‘’Best On Campus Event’’ award from the Center for Inquiry.
Shortly before Skepticon III in November 2010 critics questioned the naming of the convention, suggesting that the topics covered are focused more on Atheism than Skepticism. Event organizer J.T. Eberhard responded by saying "To say that skepticism applies to some truth claims but not to others, that dilutes skepticism".
At Skepticon IV (2011) the event featured a tour of a nearby creationist museum, two full days of lectures detailing science-related topics, and a performance by Atheist Evangelist Brother Sam Singleton. A local gelato shop owner took offense to Singleton’s performance and posted a sign in the store window which read "Skepticon is NOT welcomed to my Christian Business." The resulting internet reaction had a negative impact on the store’s user ratings on a number of consumer satisfaction websites. Three days later the shop owner posted an apology on the website Reddit. Concern over whether the sign violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 earned the incident the nickname “gelato-gate”.
Atheism vs. Christianity debate
Skepticon 2009 also featured a debate between Christian and Atheist experts on the question “Does God Exist”. Participants included Richard Carrier, Victor Stenger, and J.T. Eberhard for the Atheist perspective and professors Charlie Self, Zachary Manis, and Greg Ojakangas presenting the Christian position.
Confrontation vs. accommodation debate
A repeating theme for the speakers at Skepticon 3 (2010) was a discussion of the merits of confrontation vs. accommodation. It also featured a debate between James Randi, PZ Myers, Richard Carrier, and Amanda Marcotte.
Locations and Dates
- Official Skepticon website
- Videos of Skepticon speakers
- Greta Christina (February 22, 2011). "High School Atheists Are Organizing -- Why Are Schools Pushing Back?". AlterNet. http://www.alternet.org/belief/150006/high_school_atheists_are_organizing_--_why_are_schools_pushing_back_. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
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