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Meeting Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is a British ethologist and evolutionary biologist; but he is probably more well-known as an outspoken atheist. He is definitely a hero of mine. What a thrill it was to actually meet Richard Dawkins in person!

Richard was a speaker at the 70th Annual American Humanist Association Conference, which happened to be held in Boston this year. Aaron is also a big fan, so we went to hear him speak. His speech was interesting, insightful and entertaining. I just love listening to his British accent. We were even more excited to be able to meet Richard at a book signing after the lecture!

Aaron and Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins and I

Aaron brought his book “The God Delusion” and was able to get it signed. In this best selling book, Dawkins ruffled many religious feathers when he wrote that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that all religious faith is a delusion. Dawkins encourages Atheist to speak up against religion because religion is a major source of conflict in the world and because it gives people justification to blindly believe without any evidence.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Dawkins was asked how this event might change the world, he responded:

“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labeled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!”

Dawkins gives atheist the courage to come out of the closet. Atheists are far more numerous than most people realize and our voices need to be heard in order to fight back against religious intrusion in our schools and politics. We need to fight back against those who force their own religious agendas down the throats of our children and our government. It is vital to uphold the separation of Church and state. Religion is an unnecessary part of our global problems and it is time to stand up against the enemies of reason.

It is also important to help remove the negative stigma associated with atheism. Here in the US, research has found that Atheists are the most hated and distrusted minority in the country. University of Minnesota study found that atheists are more distrusted than Muslims, recent immigrants and gays. While in reality, Atheist are statistically more peaceful, moral and trustworthy than Christians. The best way to fight back against the negative stereo typing of atheist is for atheist to stand up and say, I’m an atheist and I’m a good person. After all, an atheist is just a “non-theist.” A theist has a belief in the existence of a god or gods, an atheist does not have a belief in the existence of a god or gods. Is that really such a bad thing? On the contrary, it’s a good thing. Being an atheist is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.

Thank you Richard for speaking out for free-thinkers. It was a pleasure to meet you!

Related Links:

Third Tracheostomy.com Pediatric Conference

Below are a couple of videos and photo slide shows from the Third Tracheostomy.com Pediatric Conference. This year’s conference was June 12-14, 2008 in Cincinnati, OH. Aaron (who is the inspiration behind tracheostomy.com) and I had a wonderful time. Rich stayed home with Eric and Anthony, as they don’t travel very well. That said, I was amazed by the many families who managed to bring their trach kids to the conference. One mom drove all the way from Florida with her son who uses a power wheelchair and is ventilator dependent. Another family had 4 kids including a newborn, another brought 6 kids, including 4 with special needs.

In addition to the many interesting speakers and vendors, we had lots of fun! Thursday night we rented the entire Newport Aquarium and had the whole place to ourselves. Friday night was the “Gala”; a wonderful dinner, music and dancing. Saturday we went to the Cincinnati Zoo. There was lots of fun for the kids, including Build-a-Bear, face painting and a magician.

We came home tired, but had a great time, lots of fun, learning and networking. Special thanks to our conference coordinator Ann Schrooten! Below is a video that Ann put together that was shown at the Friday night Gala:

Aaron’s speech:

My Photos

Suzanne Upton Photography