Five years ago, when Skepticon was conceived, we noticed a problem: the only major conferences available cost, at minimum, a few hundred bucks just to walk in the door. The problem wasn’t the charging, because groups like American Atheists do phenomenal things with the income from conference. The problem is that there was no alternative for those, like myself at the time, who couldn’t afford that. The lack of an alternative created a class distinction where only those with a fair amount of money had access to their atheist heroes. Skepticon was invented as an antidote to that problem. We decided, sometimes after fighting over how easier things would be if we just charged a small amount, to keep it free, and to just work out asses off to keep it that way.
And it worked. While heading up the organizing effort, the most common emails I received contained overwhelming gratitude that there was finally a conference they could afford to attend. The crowds at Skepticon were unlike any other event (and those who have attended can attest to this). Whereas young people were the vast minority at conferences before, at Skepticon they came in droves. The ages in the crowd ranged from 9 years-old up to 91, and the sheer joy throughout the attending crowd was unlike anywhere else I’d ever been. That one could be a part of this event for free is undoubtedly culpable for Skepticon’s trademark high energy atmosphere.
Not only does Skepticon keep their tickets free, but they’re right there in the center of the country. They’re in the middle of that most-churched swath of our country, on one edge of the land of fundamentalism. They give people resources to organize rides and couches and floors where people can sleep. They put everything they can record on the web with decent production values.
People can reach Skepticon like no other convention, like no other part of the atheist community. They can participate there, even if they can’t at home. They can be part of the crowd instead of hanging separate from it. They can have that experience of having their understanding of the world be simultaneously front and center and part of the background that Christians in our country take for granted.
I’ve heard people say some harsh things about the very existence of an atheist community over the last few months. Some people have said there isn’t one; others that there shouldn’t be. I disagree on both. If I didn’t think community was an important thing to offer those who want it, I wouldn’t put as much work into improving ours as I have.
What I’ve done pales in comparison to what the Skepticon crew does to promote and provide community. Conference volunteers put in an amazing amount of work, but these men and women are unreal. However, volunteer work can only go so far. This is where Skepticon needs your help.
Let me start by first saying that I love ALL of your faces. I do.
So, as you may have heard, Skepticon is happening soon and I am so excited! WOOO!
But, here’s the thing. There’s a catch. I know, I know–there is always a catch, but this one is pretty important. Skepticon is in a bit of a tough spot. This year, we had to secure a bigger venue, and that means that it’s more expensive to put on.
If I had all the money in the world, I would put on Skepticon for free every year, but sadly (both for me and the world) that is not the case. We need donations to keep Skepticon running, especially now as we are faced with a larger obstacle than we had originally thought.
Every time I express my worry about Skepticon’s financial situation, I am faced with comments about we ‘should just start charging.’ I won’t lie to you all, doing that would make things much easier financially. If everyone who came to Skepticon gave us $5, we would easily be able to fund ourselves.
But we won’t start doing that. Ever. As far as I am concerned, as long as all of you continue to believe in and support us, then we are willing to put in the work to make this event free to attend. We want any and everyone who can make it out to Springfield freaking’ Missouri to be able to be here with us.
We want you here. We want this event to happen. We need your help.
Hearts and kisses,
Five dollars isn’t very much to give one person access to the speakers and workshops and community that Skepticon offers. Many attendees could do that themselves. Some, however, can’t. Others have already donated all they can afford before the problem (some kind of miscommunication on the costs of the venue) arose. They can’t give any more.
I can, and I have. More people get to go to Skepticon this year because I just donated what I could. Can you? Even just one person? Atheism isn’t really communism, but it does need community. Skepticon supports that community. You can too, by donating directly or passing the word on if you can’t.
And if you’re attending, stop and say, “Hi.”