At this ArmadilloCon I spent a substantial amount of time in the dealer room — on the dealers’ side of the table! I was volunteering at the Center For Inquiry table. We would grab the passers-by by their sleeves and proselytize to them our doctrine of freethought and rationalist mindset. No, I’m kidding. We did not try to engage anyone in the conversation against their own will. And the nature of materials on the CFI table — books and booklets on freethought, skepticism and humanism — indeed had an ability to make some people uncomfortable. Jenni (the person who coordinated the CFI activities at the ArmadilloCon, and who spent quite a few hours at the table) observed more than one person scurrying away after taking one look at the titles of books on our table.
Still, some other people struck up conversations with us. Long ones, sometimes. I guess that compensated somewhat for their scarcity. One guy argued that religious fundamentalism is losing its strength and is on the way to extinction, at least in the US if not worldwide. We pointed out there were a lot of signs to the contrary, such as (to take the most obvious example) encroachment on abortion rights. Then he started a long discussion on why the recently passed laws to curtail abortion rights in several states aren’t really important. Since I stay away from politics in this blog, I’ll say no more, but it suffices to say it was an interesting discussion. It could have gone on even longer, but at some point we were joined by a woman who brought a different perspective to the discussion. She teaches at a university, and in the last few years she has had hard time with some students who demand that she bring a religious perspective into the classroom. I don’t remember the exact way she phrased it, but I think she was saying some students want her to address the subjects she teaches from a biblical perspective. They are a minority, but a vocal one, and they have gotten increasingly louder over the years.
By joining our discussion, she drew the guy’s argumentative zeal towards herself, and soon they drifted off into the crowd where they continued their agitated debate.
Below, Jenni talks with a congoer who walked by our table.
We also had a handful of people sign up for the CFI email list. Another thing we did — with less than stellar results — was sell books. All the books were from Pyr, a publishing house that has a close relationship to CFI. They sent us a shipment of science fiction and popular science books at a discount, so we could, in theory, make a profit selling them… but we sold only about 7 books throughout the entire weekend. The dealers’ room was teeming with booksellers, and the competition was stiff.
Below, CFI volunteers Jenni and Thad.
I can’t say if participation in ArmadilloCon was really beneficial to CFI in terms of attracting new members, but I personally had a nice time sitting at the table and chatting with some people (mostly with fellow volunteers, and sometimes with other congoers who wandered by).