Monday, November 9, 2009

Atheists in Seattle

So, when I bought the paper last Wednesday to find out the local election results, I also saw an article about how the Seattle Atheists* were going to have their yearly convention this past weekend.

I was interested to see that Ursula K. Le Guin was to be one of their two featured speakers (the other being Ron Reagan, son of the president). I was rather surprised to see Le Guin's name listed, since I had thought her more of a Taoist than an atheist; in any case, I haven't been able to find a follow-up as to whether or not she actually appeared,* or if so what she said, though I did find a piece from a local tv station confirming Reagan's appearance as the opening keynote speaker


Among the event's promised highlights were its non-prayer breakfast, with its Moment of Bedlam (I suppose in revenge for all those who squirmed during enforced 'Moment of Silence's in early life). Overall I gather folks don't so much mind them getting together, but they do raise hackles (deliberately) through their bumper stickers and by taking out ads on the side of local buses, such as one that reads "Yes, Virginia, There Is No God". That one strikes me as rather silly, though I admit to rather liking "There A Sucker Born Again Every Minute" and especially "Eve Was Framed!"

As for the participants, apparently this is their big yearly event; most of the rest of their time, according to their website, they apparently spend in doing good works, like a recent blood drive and volunteering to man gift-wrapping counters at downtown Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores in support of charities like Children's Hospital. So far as I can tell, locals pretty much ignored the convention (I doubt many knew it even took place, and the few exceptions probably stumbled across a reference to it online or in the paper like I did). But their ads apparently are drawing some attention, irking some among the Faithful, as was of course their intent. Funny how few people who object to a billboard or poster criticizing religion can see that ads advocating religion are really just the other side of the same coin. Not a v. good medium for theological or existential debate, though I suppose dueling ads, like the Xian vs. Darwin bumper stickers war, are better than the real conflicts we used to get in the Bad Old Days.

--John R.

*or, as they officially call themselves, the 'Freedom from Religion Foundation'.

**the events calendar on her website confirms that she had at least planned to attend: I have been lucky enough to see Le Guin two or three times, and can testify that she's an excellent speaker -- interesting, engrossing, and engaging.

1 comment:

David Bratman said...

Le Guin respects and esteems the Taoist philosophy and may perhaps be considered a follower of it, though unsurprisingly it doesn't come with a dotted line to sign up on.

What she is not is a communicant of the Taoist religion, which is quite a different thing. Thus there is no conflict between her Taoism and atheism.