One of the things I’ve wanted to do as a semi-out atheist/freethinker is to attend some kind of large convention/conference to be surrounded with a lot of other atheists, skeptics, and freethinkers and hear talks by people in the larger secular movement. This has largely been a pipe dream, since 1) I don’t have much money, 2) conventions cost money, and 3) see #1 & #2.
So my hopes for this have mostly been pinned on Skepticon, which is 1) free and 2) in the neighborhood of several family members (Springfield, MO), which could bring opportunities for free lodging. That still leaves transportation (Springfield is several hours away) and food, but cutting out the cost of the convention itself and lodging would put attendance within the realm of possibility.
Another potentially deal-breaking issue for me was the date and whether I would subsequently have to take any time off work to go, which I had pretty much figured was going to be an issue. But I was reminded by a fellow freethinker that the convention occurs on Veterans Day weekend, and my district observes the holiday on Monday (it’s actually on Sunday this year), so I would have a day after the convention to return. With a personal day off the Friday before for traveling, it could work.
I mentioned this to my wife, who relayed my interest (unbeknownst to me) to my mother. And the weirdest thing happened: my mother volunteered to come down for me to go.
So, my thoughts after hearing that – and then getting confirmation from her directly that this wasn’t just a momentary lapse in judgment – were pretty much immediately as the title above says: Is this a trap?
What I mean by this (which should be obvious to any of you who are not religious but have religious family members) is that I worry that I am setting myself up to be ambushed. The most likely scenario, if this general arrangement comes through, is that my mother and I will stay with my grandmother, who you might remember as the one who once wrote me a letter. If that doesn’t happen, the other possibility for lodging is my aunt and uncle, the latter of whom was mentioned in the aforementioned letter as having brought up Pascal’s wager (easily one of the most ridiculous pro-theistic arguments out there). Either situation provides the opportunity to be put in the uncomfortable position of having to explain myself, essentially.
But my instinct tells me that I’m probably worrying over nothing. My mother, despite her lack of approval of my unbelief, has also been very good about not putting me in uncomfortable situations, and I even told her expressly that I don’t want any interventions staged for me down there, which she seemed to accede. But more importantly than that, I think that I can defend myself against the inquiries that my family members may have, so I really have nothing to worry about. At worst, I can say that I respect their right to believe in God based on what they believe to be true, and I simply want them to respect the conclusion I have made on the evidence as well. We should be able to sustain that stalemate, at least. The only possible monkey wrench might be why I’ll be there: a skeptics’ convention, which they will interpret (rightly, for the most part) as an atheist convention. (Ostensibly, there is a distinction, but I think it’s fair that it’s a <i>de facto</i> atheist convention simply because of the demographics of skeptics, or at least the skeptics who would attend one of these conferences.)
It remains to be seen if and/or how I’ll make it to Skepticon this year and consequently whether or not any of this will even come to pass. But I do think that this would be another step in the right direction for me, both being able to go and having my family be a part of going (albeit certainly not a part of the convention itself). It would give me a sense of where I can go from here in at least a few domains of my life. (And hopefully things will work out better than my hopes for the Reason Rally.)