Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Secular Society and Its Enemies - Religion & Politics in America

I missed a lot of the next panel, Religion & Politics in America, because it had already gotten underway while I was out in the lobby with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Matthew LaClair. While I sat in the Spillover Room, I neglected to take notes for the panel, so I will have to rely on my memory.

The panelists were Wendy Kaminer, Edward Tabash, and Michelle Goldberg, with the discussion moderated by Susan Jacoby. It was the consensus of the panelists that for secularists, the Democrats were clearly the better choice than the Republicans, as flawed as the Democrats were. For example, Michelle admitted that while she favored Barack Obama and was okay with him talking about his own religious faith, she was disturbed that he was touring with a gay basher in an attempt to appeal to conservative voters.

Ed Tabash, who grew up in a Jewish household, spoke of how he came to disbelieve in the existence of god when he was 4 years old. At that early age, he said, his mother took him into the kitchen and pointed to the oven. She told him that a few years earlier during the war, the Nazis put some of his family members in an oven at Auschwitz. Tabash's mom then showed him the scars on her back from the whippings she received. Then, upon hearing a Rabbi refer to the Jews as god's chosen people, Tabash told the audience "I did not like how we were chosen."

At the moment, I am drawing a blank on most of the discussion. At the end of the panel, I went into the main conference room. I wanted to say "hi" to Michelle Goldberg and mention to her about the picture of her and I at the Barnes & Noble where my head got cut off. But that was actually the moment where Richard Dawkins passed by me and I took the opportunity to pester him for his autograph.

I went into the lobby area to see if I saw any familiar faces. The conference was breaking for lunch. I recognized Adam because he had posted pictures of himself recently on his blog from his vacation to Puerto Rico. After greeting each other and chatting for a few minutes, we went out to lunch together. One of the downsides of the conference was that because of the cost of using the facilities, there was no money in the conference budget for food, so everyone was on their own when it came to eating.

I also managed to get Victor Stenger to sign my copy of his book God: The Failed Hypothesis. Stenger laughed when I showed him this picture on my digital camera.

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