List of Freethought Conferences
Elsewhere we've covered SkeptiCamps, do-it-yourself conferences for presenting and discussing issues of interest to skeptics, humanists, and atheists. While they are fun and interesting in their own right, they lack some of the crucial advantages of the conferences sponsored by national groups. These gatherings offer lectures and interaction with well-known freethought luminaries, networking with activists from across the country, and the opportunity to travel to interesting new places with your student group.
More and more of these conferences have come to recognize the advantages of student representation, and accordingly offer reduced (even free) student registration. Because some can be counted for school credit, your university may be able to fund travel costs. Finally, if you are looking to be a part of the freethought movement after college, or even have a career within it, a conference can be a useful aid to those ends.
In that spirit, what follows is a list of major freethought conferences, as well as what advantages they offer students.
American Humanist Association (AHA)
The AHA is a federation of humanist groups from around the United States, and is one of the largest forces in the freethought movement. Their annual conference hosts distinguished speakers, workshops, exhibits from vendors and organizations, and awards the Humanist of the Year.
American Atheists (AA)
AA is one of the oldest and most well-known advocates for the atheist cause. They recently joined the Secular Coalition, and are looking to expand student access to their national convention. Find out more here.
James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) - The Amaz!ng Meeting
While not strictly a part of the atheist movement, JREF is a fantastic community of skeptics, debunkers, and other promoters of rational thinking. The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) hosts well-known skeptics and scientists in a variety of fields, from academia to popular culture (see here). Common attendees include James Randi, magicians Penn & Teller, and Bad Astronomer Phil Plait.
International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
Although they only put on the World Humanist Congress every three years, IHEU brings together freethinkers from around the world. For the in-between years, IHEU also puts on conferences on selected topics, such as women's empowerment and bioethics. Find out more here.
Atheist Alliance International (AAI)
With a reputation for getting big-name speakers, including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, and Bill Maher, AAI also offers steep discounts for students. Find out more here.
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)
FFRF's annual convention in the fall focuses more on opposition to religion than some other conferences, and almost always features their charismatic co-president Dan Barker. Find out more here.
Secular Student Alliance (SSA)
What can we say but...best conference ever? The SSA's conference is geared for students, offering steep discounts, cheap housing, and (funds permitting) travel grants. Workshops are offered on various aspects of student organizing, from team-building to political advocacy. Additionally, you'll meet student freethought leaders from across the country, as well as atheist luminaries who are directly concerned with and supportive of student atheism. See here.
While focused on skeptical and scientific issues, the Skeptic Society is never afraid to tackle religious, social, and ethical topics. Generally features leader and publisher of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer. Find out more here.