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I started grad school in 2003… or maybe it was 2002. Regardless, I was pretty excited. Since grad school is pretty intense, i really wanted to get to know my classmates. I decided to throw a party at the end of the Spring semester.
My parents had recently constructed a beautiful house on the Potomac and it seemed like the perfect venue to be after months in the library at a time year when the weather was getting warmer and warmer every year. It took a long time to convince my parents to let me have the party. I wanted it to be amazing and I spent weeks preparing. I made all the food, purchased plenty of beverages and I even bought a massive tent just in case it rained. I was actually up the entire night before the party trying to get that stupid tent put together!
When the party started, no one was there. At first I thought people had gotten lost or were arriving fashionably late. I was still smiling. I kept waiting. I carried the phone with me. I checked my e-mail. I continued to wait. As I kept staring down the driveway looking for someone – anyone – day turned into night. No one ever showed up. Not one single person.
I cried and cried and cried. Now, over ten years later, I look back and I still cry. At the time, it didn’t help that my father teased me about the lack of attendees. If I had thrown the party at my house instead of theirs, I would have kept the day a secret. The next day, my mother told me two people showed up and they had the date wrong; sometimes I think she just made that up to try to make me feel better.
Atheist Alliance of America has just announced that Christopher Hitchens will be appearing at their annual convention next month. I’ll be there too and I’m really looking forward to his acceptance of the Richard Dawkins Award.
Here’s the release:
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS CONFIRMS HOUSTON APPEARANCE
MEDIA ADVISORY: New Atheist Alliance International Launched in Dublin, Ireland
3 June 2011
For immediate release
Atheist Alliance International (“AAI”), a global network of atheist and freethought organisations, launched today as prominent atheists, including British biologist Professor Richard Dawkins and Danish science writer Dr Lone Frank, gathered at the World Atheist Convention in Dublin, Ireland.
With membership comprising 19 atheist/freethought groups plus individuals from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia, Atheist Alliance International will: * Strengthen co-operation between atheist and freethought organisations around the world;
* Support the establishment of new atheist/freethought organisations, particularly in developing countries;
* Publish Secular World magazine, with Atheist Alliance of America;
* Co-host atheist conventions, continuing the success of international events in Australia (2010), Denmark (2010) and Ireland (2011); and
* Act as an atheist spokesperson on relevant international matters.
The new board of Atheist Alliance International was elected today and is comprised of thirteen members from around the world, reflecting the diversity of Atheist Alliance International’s membership and its global activities.
Tanya Smith, an investment banker from Melbourne, Australia, has been elected as the President of Atheist Alliance International. Tanya said, “Atheist Alliance International will be a positive global voice for atheism and secularism. The new board is excited about opportunities to support and promote freethought around the world – particularly in relation to the separation of religion and government and assisting new atheist organisations in developing countries, where atheists often face persecution and discrimination.”
The launch of new Atheist Alliance International is part of the process to separate the former Atheist Alliance International into its US and international components. The US component has been re-named Atheist Alliance of America and will be launched at a convention in Houston, Texas, in October 2011.
Nick Lee, President of Atheist Alliance of America said, “I am confident that the new Atheist Alliance International will be a great success and look forward to a co-operative relationship between Atheist Alliance International and Atheist Alliance of America.”
About Atheist Alliance International Atheist Alliance International develops and supports educational, advocacy, and community-building programs for the atheist and freethought community. Atheist Alliance International seeks to transform society into one that supports and respects a worldview based on the values of reason, empiricism, naturalism, and respects and protects the separation of religion and government.
Contacts Tanya Smith
President, Atheist Alliance International
+61 448 422 253
Tanya is from Australia and currently resides in France
President, Atheist Alliance of America
+1 201 288 2766
Nick is from the United States of America
I run, and assist with, almost a dozen local groups… the smallest, and newest of which is Drinking Skeptically-Richmond. We’ve met monthly – since our beginning in December.
Last month, a new member showed up. Many of the other members spoke to him about skeptical issues but my conversations with him were more about his experience as an Assistant Organizer of two other groups – unrelated to religion. He was concerned that we only met once a month – to which I told him that with all my other commitments I simply did not have time to set up addition meetings. He instantly volunteered to lead a second event a month and I figured it couldn’t hurt.
The next day, I made him an Assistant Organizer. His first decision was to post a joint event with two other groups. At this point I was mildly concerned. I know many members come out to our events specifically because they want to hang out with like-minded people… which obviously wouldn’t be the case during a joint event with two other large groups. However the bigger issue was that one of these groups was a singles group and I know from running other meetups in the past that combining these two is a recipe for disaster. I tried to talk to him about it and in the process of that conversation, and through some investigating online, I learned that he was a pagan and believed in the paranormal. Some of the events he had planned for other groups were geared towards embracing religion and superstition. When I questioned him about this it was obvious to me that he was not a skeptic and we didn’t have the same goals in mind for the group.
I was afraid I had made a HUGE mistake. Clearly I should have checked into this in advance but at this point I couldn’t go back in time and I hoped simply to not make this into a bigger mistake. I tried to talk to him but, after sleeping on it, I thought it would be best just to tell him now that it wouldn’t work out.
This is, in part, what I said:
“Unfortunately I don’t think this is going to work out – it seems that you are entirely closed to even the possibility that a joint event may not be the best approach. While I was considering a wait-and-see approach I’m concerned that even if this did not go well I would be unable to convince you otherwise.
I hope you continue to be involved with the group but, if not, I understand. I completely acknowledge that much of this has to do with a failure on my part to not have discussed all this with you in advance. I made too many assumptions from your discussions of working with other groups. Perhaps if you’re really interested in being involved with a skeptic group that holds joint events with others, you might consider starting your own Meetup group.”
I tried to keep it simple. I really didn’t want to make this able his beliefs but I’m sure the implication would have been there regardless of what I wrote.
His response was to send me a nasty letter, post a comment on the group page about how much of a “bitch” I was, leave the group, and to write to a few other members with the same message. Nothing has happened since then.
Through this whole ordeal I’ve learned to be a bit more skeptical myself. In larger groups, I require a member to have attended several events before planning one on their own. Obviously the same rule should apply regardless of group size.