Heard Aron Ra (aka The Texas Tank) state director of American Atheists speak at a LAAG event 30th April. Sell-out capacity crowd (70+?) filling the room at The Prince of Wales, Drury Lane.
As befits the rock’n’roll / goth / heavy-metal image plenty of T-shirts with messages on display – not all of them black(!) – Eisenberg’s Tree of Life, Muse, We Are All Africans, The Null Set, … oh and I spied a copy of this:
Anyhoo … after an introduction highlighting LAAG’s campaigning credentials, Ra gave what turned out to be a fairly low-key laid-back summary of weird conclusions arising from various “logical” combinations of so-called-religious so-called-beliefs – anecdotal and delivered for the laughs. He majored on his recurring theme of “cladistic taxonomies” (though he didn’t use those terms for this audience) of what defines gods & religions (& philosophies, & social identities) – not a hard and fast ontology, obviously, how could there be – clades are not the only classes, strict taxonomies are not the only ontologies? But I digress. Some stats on relative sizes of various self-identified religious and non-religious populations. No strong point, given he was preaching to converted “Active Atheists”, on specific American Atheists campaigns to compare and contrast the US with UK contexts. Entertaining however.
A couple of points I picked up – one on the US / UK contrast – was a reminder of the idiotic situation in the US of having “dominionists” other than Islamists, from Christian denominations, that believe in their own one world theocracy being higher than all potential competing institutions. [In my agenda this leads – once you accept secularism – to the national / shared-community / human values question – that atheists and humanists often duck.]
Most striking theme was his constant reference to his own Mormon (family / cultural) background – not exactly ex-Mormon, since he never was one, but a source of many anecdotes. A little history of Mormonism, it’s ’tis / tisn’t relationship with Christianity generally, and the Mormon Wars.
Novel fact for me, was the history of the Mormon dominated area at the corners of Arizona, Utah & Nevada – where in fact “Mormon Peak” lies – rather than the ubiquitous Salt Lake City campus. Particularly interesting to me since, having lived and worked in the US – based in the deep-south – for several years myself, we also experienced that part of the world. We steered clear of SLC, but travelled the roads between the national parks of southern Utah and northern Arizona, including one memorable run “down” I15 through Mesquite. We tried to stop for beer / food / sleep in Hurricane and in St. George, doubling back on ourselves a few times in our search. It must have been a Sunday – either way traditional religious observance meant there was little comfort on offer.
No room at the inn; now I know why.
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