Imagine No Religion 2

It’s been more than a week since the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops. I’d never been to Kamloops, and in fact had only ventured into the Interior a couple of times. So hey, this was a little closer to home than TAM, a lot of the local skeptical crowd would be there, why not go too? It’d be like a 2-day long Skeptics in the Pub.

May 20

Highlights of the day:

Joyce Arthur, director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, talking about how religion has historically oppressed women. I admit I’m not familiar with current research on how egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies were and are, but most of her reasoning seemed sound: the rise of agricultural societies led to a sharper separation of labour, the adoption of concepts like territories, border, and ownership of other living beings, the use of horses meant long-distance travel, which meant contact with more cultures like them, which meant war. Which meant the need for women as baby factories to continue those wars. A bit speculative, maybe, but there you go.

And then you have today’s fundamentalists, howling about abortion and birth control and the gay agenda. Did you know that 44 bills or motions have been introduced in Parliament to attempt to roll back the clock on abortion? Because I didn’t. Turns out Bill 312 is only the lastest shot in a long war on women.

I decided to skip the “Atheist Revival” since I’d been hearing mixed reviews about this guy, and instead decided to go for a walk and snap pictures of Kamloops. The weather was overcast but still warm, and a few drops were falling as I headed out. Fortunately the weather held and I got some great shots of river and surrounding mountains. I came back just in time to catch the end of Seth Andrews’ talk, where he showed the latest version (with a better voiceover) of his video, The Center of all Things

Maryam Namazie spoke on “Freedom of Expression, Multi-culturalism and Political Islam”, a passionate but chilling exposé of the oppression that women and gays (and freethinkers and apostates and…) suffer in countries where Islam has political power. And not just in those countries: Muslim women get oppressed in Western countries too, but their oppressors hide behind multiculturalism and cries of “Islamophobia,” a term which Namazie claims they invented. I’m not convinced about that part… and the tricky part is that hate and bigotry towards Muslims is a real thing.

I’ll tell you, though, it was refreshing to hear from a non-Christian freethinker perspective. We don’t get enough of that around here.

And we ended the conference with Professor Lawrence Krauss and his talk, “A Universe From Nothing”. I’d already heard most of this from the last time he came to Vancouver, but who can get bored hearing about dark matter, dark energy, graphics describing a young universe, speculation about what the universe will look like in 100BYears, and the mind-blowing theory that under a quantum theory of gravity, space and time can pop in and out of existence spontaneously. “Nothing” is unstable: if you wait long enough, nothing will fill itself up with something.

(Unfortunately the annular eclipse that had been scheduled for this afternoon ended up being a no-show in Kamloops, due to the cloud cover. Bummer!)

I had thought about hanging around one more night: my roommate was heading back, but I had offers to house me for the night. Tired as I was from the weekend I turned them down, though, and found a ride back, this time taking the short way by the Coquihalla Hwy. We stopped for sushi in Merritt (quite decent, though the waitress mangled the dishes’ pronunciation) and snapped a couple shots of a gorgeous sunset.

So, there you have it. A fine weekend spent with friends and strangers, learning and schmoozing. I had a great time in Kamloops, and I’ll definitely be attending next year!

Mounts Peter and Paul

North Thompson River

Thompson River

Rail bridge and Red Bridge

Merritt sunset

Lenticular clouds and sunset