Sep 24th

My Reflections on Apostacon

ByHelen Austen | In Blog

This past weekend I attended Apostacon. This is the secular conference that I attended exactly one year ago, the very one where I was inspired to get off the couch and get involved in the secular movement. This year was no different, except this time I wasn’t just attending—I was contributing. I held a workshop about Oasis and the incoming tidal wave of secular communities. It was an absolute honor to be a presenter at this years conference, the only downside is that my talk coincided with other presenters that I really wanted to hear: Neil Carter and Dr. Darrell Ray! Here’s a rundown of the weekends festivities.

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Sharing about Oasis and the power of secular community.

Comedians Steve Hill and Eric Schwartz were hilarious, their performance rank as one of, if not the best, comedy performances I’ve ever seen. I had never heard of them prior to Apostacon, so if you haven’t either, you should fix that now. Dale McGowan talked about how we have allies, seemingly hidden, within religious communities and politics, and he briefly touched on some of the challenges facing secularism.

Cara Santa Maria opened up about her time as a Mormon, and painted a picture of her life growing up in a Mormon family. David Fitzgerald gave us an epic dramatization of the Song of Solomon, and I found out later that same evening that he was an epic dancer as well.

Debbie Goddard explained how she was a triple-minority—black, atheist, woman—and shed light on the need for black atheist/humanist groups. Linda LaScola discussed the Clergy Project and the challenges clergy face when realizing they no longer believe what they share from the pulpit, but don’t have a way out.

Our two keynote speakers were Dr. Neil deGrass Tyson and Dr. Lawrence Krauss—neither disappointed. Dr. Tyson presented what was probably the most engaging talk I’ve ever heard. He lives up to the hype. He raved over science, ranted over unnecessary big words, and truly connected with us on a human level. Lawrence Krauss talked about how cosmologists recently discovered a way to observe the universe in its earliest stages of development. While a lot of his talk flew over my head, I followed enough of it to be mesmerized by the wonder of our universe.

There were so many spectacular presenters at Apostacon this year that it was impossible to attend them all, a real embarrassment of riches. My husband went on and on about David Silverman’s talk about billboard marketing tactics. I wish I could have attended them all, but such is life.

On Saturday night the conference hosted a costume party equipped with a dance floor and DJ. We got a lot of mileage out of the dance floor. I even danced with Lawrence Krauss, a renowned physicist! We didn’t leave until the DJ stopped spinning, then we took the party elsewhere, it was probably the highlight of my weekend.

 

A few of us from KC Oasis enjoying the Costume Party.

A few of us from KC Oasis enjoying the Costume Party.

On Sunday, my friend, who shall remain nameless, put nuts in his mouth, walnuts that is, of which he is allergic. He had a severe reaction to this. Several people came to his aid in the hotel lobby. One woman gave him their epi-pen, another was an ER physician, both were instrumental, and both were attendees of Apostacon. The secular community truly has some of the best people in the world among their ranks. He had to take a ride in an ambulance, and we spent a few hours in the ER, but he was released soon enough, and we got a great hospital-room selfie out of the deal. I was so relieved he was ok; though it was scary, it ended well. Science to the rescue!

Hospital room selfie. Healed by science!

Hospital room selfie. Healed by science!

This meant that I missed a lot of the Sunday presenters because I wasn’t leaving that hospital until I knew everything was OK. I was able to catch the tail-end of Teresa MacBain talking about the masks we wear, regardless of our faith or lack thereof. She was her usual great self. Her talk was especially important to me because it was her talk last year was pivotal in my starting Oasis in Kansas City.

Speaking of Oasis, I invited the Kansas City Oasis community to Apostacon, and because of this we skipped our regular Sunday gathering this week. A lot of them made the trip, and it was great spending time with them; however, many of them couldn’t make it. I was delighted to notice that in our absence the KC Oasis community had organized a spontaneous Sunday picnic at a park. This brought joy to my heart…with a little jealousy; I wanted to be there!

Impromptu KC Oasis Picnic

Impromptu KC Oasis Picnic

I don’t know what next years Apostacon will bring, but it’s going to be hard to top 2014’s festivities. In any case, I plan on being there. It’s the most fun you can have in 2.5 days; I’m convinced of that. I made a lot of new friends, and reconnected with old ones; it was a whirlwind of weekend and I’m ready to do it again next year. Big props to Sarah Morehead and her team in organizing such a flawless convention.

 

2 Comments to "My Reflections on Apostacon"

  • Ron Reed
    September 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Helen, thanks, The amount of human talent and good will you note is refreshing. It reminds me of what it used to be like to be Episcopalian when we were humanists first in a sacramental relationship to the wonder and worship of Life itself. . . . Good for Apostacon!!! Three cheers.

  • Twyla Dell
    October 2, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Since I am so recently “out”–this year, I was thrilled with the authenticity of the group, unabashedly, unapologetically being free of the burdens of religion. I loved it. Can’t wait to go back. I am loving Oasis and what it stands for and have never felt more free. I have been wearing a facade of religious acceptance for so long while roiling within on an inner monologue of disagreement, I hardly knew how to act being plainly and simply god free! Thanks, Helen, for starting KC Oasis. I hope more and more people can experience what I am feeling.

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