Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Spaghetti Served Up Well in Omaha

This was my first attendance at Apostacon, the 5th annual convention of the ever evolving name of the Omaha event. I predict this will be its permanent moniker. It was an experience I'll not soon forget and one I look forward to in the coming years.

This write up could really just be one continual love fest about the speakers, the location, the hotel, the attendees and the substance of it; those who attended could attest to what I'm saying. For those who did not, I would urge you to make plans for next year, if at all possible, to experience what I hope will be a repeat of this year's positivity or even better, if that can even possibly be done.

For me, it was a great experience from the time I left my house the Thursday before the event until my eventual return the following Monday. Driving time included, hands down the easiest road trip ever. Everything, and I mean everything, was such a positive experience, even when the topics delved into the in-fighting in the movement or speakers highlighting what we still face in the realm of religion in our politics. I had the opportunity to make new friends, catch up with old friends and connect in person with those who were previously only friends on Facebook, endearing them to me even more now than just what they post there.

Hearing and meeting many of the speakers for the first time was especially thrilling, seeing previous ones again was not disappointing either. The topics were interesting as well as enlightening with new information to digest and ponder. I always do love learning. The information whore that I am had me squeeing all weekend. Let's just say they scored a ten with the substantive presentations that were showcased during this weekend.

I'll touch on a few of the speakers that really left an emotional impact on me. One speaker in particular tore at my emotions, and I don't think I was the only one. He made me cry, really. During Seth Andrew's talk I welled up more than just a few times and in looking around, there were others dabbing at their faces, too. His passion and empathy were palpable. Afterwards, I just had to hug that man. Then I was sobbing. I could barely get my words out to tell him what he did so right and urged him to not ever stop making a difference. Hopefully, he understood. At least I think he did. He hugged me back and looked a little moist around the eyes when I let go. When the videos are up, take a moment to view this one. I do not think you will be disappointed.

I was glad, but saddened to understand more of Sarah Morehead's struggles that brought her to Recovering from Religion. Having to endure the emotional and physical events in her past has certainly touched her in a way to bring the best out of her now; she adds tremendous value as its Executive Director specifically because of the terrible insight she has. I'm proud to call her my friend and glad to be working with her to further the organization's mission. Religion and the effects of it won't be going away any time soon. It's great to have an organization in place that can help those people who are in the process of abandoning a religion, but also how to overcome what religion has done to them.

Nathan Phelps, son of Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church now Executive Director of Center for Inquiry Canada, Canadian author and avid activist for LGBT rights, shared his story with us. Fascinating but frightening insight about the WBC left me just shaking my head so many times. Like Sarah, he went through unimaginable horrors and came out the other side a wounded and worse for the wear individual. But he then, in spite of his past, created a better, more loving future for himself and his family. And chooses the path of sharing and educating to further impact his world in a positive way. Just an awesome experience to hear him and go through that journey with him. After enjoying a wonderful dinner and spending some time with him at the hotel restaurant I'll add that he is thoughtful, genuine and exudes such a loving quality about him. You just wanted to hug him all night. He's a big teddy bear in a human suit. If ever you have the opportunity to hear him speak, do it.

Two days full of speakers with so much information on so many different topics. The ineffectiveness of prayer, separation of church and state issues, political action to be taken, how to organize, getting good at doing podcasts and so much more...and a break from it all with entertainment provided by Matt Dillahunty. Richard Dawkins Skyped in to be with us, too. It was all just wonderful! If I touched on all of them, this blog would be a book! So, if you didn't attend, I'd highly recommend that you watch all the videos! I'm not kidding when I say there was valuable information to learn from all the speakers. Their personalities and humor brought to the subject was just bonus. Do a marathon session of Apostacon videos and it will just feel like you were there with us. There truly is so much to learn!!

I'll end this by saying to all the organizers of the event - FANTASTIC JOB GUYS!! If this level of awesomeness is what we can expect every year, count me in! See you next year. :)

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