Location: Springfield, Missouri
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Skepticon – A Brief History
Skepticon is an annual skeptics convention set in Springfield, Missouri. Springfield is home to the Assemblies of God and several religious universities (such as Evangel). The area is affectionately referred to by many locals as the buckle of the bible belt. This is why in the Fall of 2008, JT Eberhard, Lauren Lane, and the MSU Chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster invited PZ Myers and Richard Carrier to the Missouri State campus to criticize belief in god. The event was well-attended and was retroactively dubbed Skepticon.
The following year seemed like a good time to do it again. A piratey, Pastafarian crew was taken on and collectively we, as Richard Carrier put it, “cranked the dial up to eleven.” PZ Myers and Richard Carrier returned, joined by several new faces such as New York Times best-selling author Victor Stenger, Dan Barker, Rebecca Watson, D.J. Grothe, Robert Price, Joe Nickell, and JT Eberhard. The event also hosted two debates, both over the question “Does God Exist?” One debate was between students, while the other pitted Richard Carrier, Victor Stenger, and JT Eberhard against top scholars from the Assemblies of God.
Skepticon II featured a pub night as well, where attendees were able to meet the speakers (and actively make them intoxicated). To manage all this, the event was stretched into two very full days. Skepticon II was awarded Best On-Campus Event for 2009 by the Center for Inquiry (CFI).
Skepticon III featured fifteen speakers discussing a wide variety of topics pertaining to skepticism, including feminism, sexuality, diversity in the movement, techniques for coming out as a skeptic or atheist, the psychology of belief, among others. During the talk given by the world-renowned supernatural investigator James Randi, an estimated 800 people were in attendance. Over the course of the three-day event, roughly 1,000 people were present, making Skeption III one of the largest skeptic conferences in the world.
Skepticon IV featured sixteen speakers, a panel on non-theistic approaches to death, and a trip to the local creation museum. Upwards of 1,200 people attended, making Skepticon the second largest skeptic/atheist conference in the U.S. in 2011.
Skepticon V proved to be our largest endeavor yet. On top of offering three days of lectures over various topics, from LSD to werewolf mythology to Pseudoscience, organizers added an entire day of workshops to expand the Skepticon experience. In all, about 1500 heathens made their way to Springfield in 2012 to revel in a weekend of science, logic, and merrymaking.
Our incredible growth has yet to slow! Each year, we work long and hard hard to ensure that the coming year will be even larger and more awesome than even before. An event of this magnitude can only be managed through the tireless work of the volunteers who don’t mind working insane hours for the reward of helping the movement, and also by donations from amazing skeptics like you!