This is a continuation of my account of my first American Humanist Association (AHA) Conference experience and fifth trip to Las Vegas. The 77th Annual AHA Conference was held at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino on May 17th until the 20th, and was hosted by the Humanist Association of Las Vegas.
Day 3 – Saturday8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Registration and Exhibitors’ Areas Open
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM
Identifying Gender… or Not
“Writings like The Story of X (by Lois Gould and first published in 1972) and Chapter 7 of Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness set out a vision of a society in which gender need not be labelled.” Read more about it here.
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
This session was participatory in that Mark asked to use the breathe-in, breathe-out technique to try and enter the trace-like meditative state. Unfortunately, this session had been scheduled in one of the smaller Laughlin 2 rooms of the conference center and there was a very off-putting low frequency hum emanating from some machinery (I’m assuming an air conditioner). I did my best to zone out but doubt whether I really did. Read more about it here.
9:30 AM – 10:00 AM
Humanist Children’s Books: Selling Reality in a World of Fairy Tales
I can’t even remember whether I was in attendance or not for this one. Maybe that meditation session worked better than I thought. Read more about it here.
10:15 AM – 10:45 AM
How Can A Humanist Stop Global Warming?
A subject very close to my heart. “Have you ever felt frustrated that the evidence for climate change is mounting but we have no solution? Here is a solution. All we need is for Congress to enact a carbon fee and equal dividend to each household. Is it that simple? What about all the marginalized groups that have suffered from environmental injustice?” Richard is a chemical engineer, and you could tell he is passionate about solving the problem but understandably frustrated by lack of progress so far. Read more about it here.
10:45 AM – 11:15 AM
The Need for Cannabis Advocacy in the Area of Legalization
No free samples, unfortunately. “Nine states and the District of Columbia have now enacted adult-use cannabis policy, and more than thirty states have some form of medical marijuana legislation. It seems as though we are on the tipping point of total cannabis freedom, so what could be the importance of advocacy now that legislation is nearly inevitable? Cannabis activist Chris explains the driving forces behind legalization, the hopeful future of marijuana policy, and how prohibitionists like Jeff Sessions a.k.a the ‘Keebler Elf’ demonstrate the clear need for continued advocacy”. I do remember that Chris presented much information on the history of cannabis use in the USA going back to early 20th century, I think. He also recommended three books on the subject, the names of which might be available in the photo album accessible at the end of this report. Read more about it here.
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Lauren J. Barnhart
The Problem with Purity
“We all struggle with complicated issues around the human body. Much of our culture is informed by patriarchal religious views which teach people to transcend the body rather than be fully within it. This has resulted in systems of control and repression. By examining fears of the physical in all of us, and finding presence in our existence, we can strengthen our relationships with each other and also with life itself.” Read more about it here.
12:00 PM – 2:45 PM
This was another part of the conference that had the potential for photo opportunities with celebrity guests. By the time I arrived outside the luncheon hall, all the celebrity guests had been seated so I would have to wait for later.
Deven Green a.k.a. ‘Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian’ and Andrew Bradley won the Humanist Arts Award, while Ana Kasparian, the Humanist Media Award. Read more about it here.
After the award ceremonies, there was a brief period before the first presentation of the afternoon sessions and it was obvious that many people were expecting photo opportunities with Ana and Deven. Sporting my “For the Glory of HAPI” shirt (still for sale on Teespring) I managed to get some quality time chatting about HAPI with the two stars. Thanks to Randy Curioso and his DSLR camera, these moments were captured for our enjoyment. A link to the photo album is provided at the end of this report. Scalps numbers 3 and 4, and very pretty scalps they are, too.
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM
The Ethical Case for Ending Factory Farming
Something I support wholeheartedly as the treatment of the animals in these mass production environments is horrific. Extraordinarily, of all the subject-matters that were presented at the conference, this was the only one that received a protest. I was seated about halfway up the seating area and, after Amy had presented some data on methane gases from cows and the impact on climate change (I think), a lady came screaming up the aisle challenging this information. The interruption did not last long as the protester soon retreated, satisfied that her point, whatever that was, had been made. “Amy is the director of the Strategic Partnerships of Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, a non-profit that educates people on the devastating impacts of industrial agriculture – on the planet, social justice, public health, and animal cruelty.” Read more about it here.
3:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Struggling for Freedom: Taking Materialism Seriously
“This presentation argues that it is not enough to embrace metaphysical materialism as freedom from superstition. To take materialism seriously requires us to consider our current political and economic situation as well. Drawing on current debates in political economy and social movements in the USA and elsewhere, I will attempt to show that humanism, which rightly embraces scientific materialism as an antidote to superstition in all its forms, must also take historical materialism seriously in order for human flourishing to be fully realized and the destruction of our ecosystem to be halted.” Read more about it here.
4:15 PM – 5:30 PM
Cardio Spider Comedy
Very funny skits! One featured an image of Alan Sugar, UK billionaire and in one way at least, he could be called UK’s equivalent of Donald J. Trump as he hosted the UK version of ‘The Apprentice’. Strange, and I should have asked somebody. It shall, more than likely, forever remain a mystery. Read more about it here.
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Humanist Contributors Reception
7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Saturday Night Banquet
David Tamayo and Victoria Gettman won Foundation Beyond Belief’s Heart of Humanism award, while Ijeoma Oluo won Feminist Humanist Award, and Roy Zimmerman gave live entertainment. I didn’t stay around for this. I am unaware of the work done by David and Victoria and they were not on my list of people I wanted to see. Ijeoma Oluo is a Seattle based “writer, speaker, internet yeller” focusing on race, feminism, and other social issues. Seeing that Ijeoma was a Seattleite, I did attempt to connect with her directly via her blog page before the conference. Last time I looked, there has been no response. This played a part, but another reason I made some sort of personal protest — staying away from the evening dinner and awards — was that I had previously seen a tweet of hers joining in the controversy over Apu Nahasapeemapetilon of my favorite TV show, ‘The Simpsons’. I won’t expound here on why I think this is another example of political correctness gone too far, but this was enough for me to say “No thanks, Ijeoma”. Later, it became apparent that Ijeoma was not the most well received speaker at the conference. She, allegedly, was heavily critical of the humanist community at large for what she perceived to be lack of effort with respect to her issues. This may be a harsh impression of Ijeoma and her work, so I will leave it up to anyone that is interested to follow up and maybe write an article for the group about her. Ditto for David and Victoria, I suppose. Read more about it here.
It must have been Saturday evening when I teamed up again with my new friends, Joan and Jean, with the aim of grabbing a bite and something to drink to round off the day. The two ladies had previously eaten in one of the resort restaurants and we were going to head off there. I was not very enthusiastic about this, so I suggested an alternative. A really rather obvious place, Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ which was just across the main strip from Flamingo Resort. Earlier, Joan and Jean had befriended a young chap named Ron (I think) who said that he had run away from his Mennonite community and was embracing humanism at the conference. So, off the four of us walked to Hell. It was hot. The place was packed and the wait for a table was too long, so we headed out to find another place. We settled for a small, modest, open air street bar just for a few drinks. I didn’t chat to Ron too much. Shame, it would have been interesting.
Day 4 – Sunday8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Registration and Exhibitors’ Areas Open
8:00 AM – 9:10 PM
As the American Church Crumbles, Is Humanism Ready to Step In?
An excellent presentation of a fascinating and vitally important subject. Dale is the guy who made a less than favorable comment about Ijeoma’s award speech last evening, and is partially the basis for my previous commentary. Read more about it here.
9:10 AM – 9:50 PM
The Secular Buddhist Reformation
Someone made the comment that it was hard to distinguish Secular Buddhism (Buddhism without nonsense) from Secular Humanism with meditation. I forget Mark’s reply. Read more about it here.
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Interfaith Work: Fighting for Reproductive Freedom A very interesting and unexpected (for me anyway) ally in the fight for reproductive freedom as Glenn is the Domestic Program Director for Catholics for Choice. Plenty to discuss here for my Filipino friends I would imagine. Read more about it here.
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Keynote Speech by Gavin Grimm
Gavin is another one of those p