Skepticon 2011 (Presented by Southern Illinois University Carbondale Secular Student Alliance)
In November 2011, SIUC SSA was able to attend Skepticon IV thanks to a project grant from the national SSA. This article summarizes the experiences of the group's leadership at the event.
Being able to go to Skepticon was kind of like a dream come true. I had been to conferences before and they were fine but this one was different. There was no emphasis on networking or professionalism but rather it was about learning that it is OK to be non-religious, that there are others who are non-religious, and what it means to be non-religious in a seemingly religious world. While there may not have been an emphasis on networking and the like, I still had the opportunity to meet a number of leaders in the secular community including members of other college and university SSA chapters, representatives from secular organizations, and several of the guest speakers including my hero, Dan Barker.
Being surrounded by like-minded individuals made for a positively charged environment. The guest speakers added to that and by the end I was motivated to be more outspoken about my atheism and to challenge others to do the same. I wanted to learn more about my stance on religion and science and how I could better use what I have learned to reach more people. As the president of the Secular Student Alliance chapter at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, this conference provided me with a push towards expanding our organization by recruiting more members and being more active on the SIUC campus and in the Carbondale community.
But enough about me, time to mention the group that represented SIUC SSA at the conference. We had 9 members, including myself, attend Skepticon. Unfortunately a number of other members had to back out at the last minute. I just hope they have a chance to experience Skepticon next year as they really missed out on an incredible experience. Honestly, I think Skepticon was a turning point for our group. Sure, we had just received our official student organization status at the beginning of the semester and while we met regularly and spent time planning activities and scheduling events, we were still trying to figure out what we wanted out of this group. I truly believe that Skepticon was the catalyst for helping us figure that out. We have since become a very close group. I think the 11 hour round trip car ride, spending two nights together in the hotel rooms, and three days experiencing the conference together brought us closer as a group. We immediately took that back to the rest of SSA.
As I mentioned earlier, Skepticon got us excited about expanding and about being more active. More than that, it gave us the group we have today. We went from being a gathering of non-religious students that met every week to a group of friends that gets together for Family Dinners. I never expected that to happen. I figured this we would meet and have our activities and events and then go our separate ways. It dawned on me at Skepticon that this is not going to be the case and I would not want it any other way. This is the most incredible group of people I have met and I could not be more proud of what they have accomplished as a result of the closeness we have with each other. Skepticon was a huge benefit to our group and you can bet that we will continue to attend as long as the event remains active.
We would like SSA to know how much we appreciate all the help and support they have shown our group. We would have had a much more difficult and challenging time getting this group started had it not been for SSA. Thank you!
The above article was written by Written by Southern Illinois University Carbondale Secular Student Alliance