Revolution #183, November 15, 2009
From Libros Revolucion in Los Angeles
A Weekend with Sunsara Taylor
"Common Ground" is Killing Ground: Abortion, Morality and Christian Fascism in the Age of Obama
On Oct. 2nd & 3rd the bookstore tabled at the Atheist Alliance Int'l 2009 Convention in Burbank. The annual event was in partnership with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and this year highlighted "Darwin's Legacy." The convention was the largest ever—700 people (due to high demand, they re-opened registration after initially closing it at 500). Speakers included Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, among other major voices in the field. Very significant was the inclusion of Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper, who spoke twice at the conference. And what a difference it made.
She first spoke at the morning podcast of "Dogma Free America" which kicked off the conference, so several hundred people heard Sunsara, along with PZ Myers and actor William B. Davis ("The Cigarette Smoking Man" from the X-Files). In the afternoon, she presented a workshop "'Common Ground' is Killing Ground: Abortion, Morality and Christian Fascism in the Age of Obama." People engaged with her throughout the weekend, including a tearful young woman who said she'd gotten an abortion a year ago, and after hearing Sunsara for the first time she felt fully confident of her decision. A speaker from Mexico told us of the abortion battles there, where abortion is legal in Mexico City (though not throughout the country), but the ideological chains of religion weigh very heavily and dangerously on women.
Many participants came by the book table to talk, get literature and t-shirts (equal numbers of Atheist shirts and Fuck Capitalism ones). At times there were 3 discussions going on at once with our 3 staffers. There were some who didn't agree with us about communism, revolution, or abortion, but a number were very attracted to the radicalness and science of what Sunsara and the book table put forward. Atheists generally are critical thinkers and pride themselves on being open-minded and rational, and in some cases "out there" without great concern for social approbation, but our communist atheist line was challenging to mainstream atheists and compelling to many there.
It was great to reconnect at the conference with some of the authors who have spoken at our bookstore, including PZ Myers, Charles Belser and Donald Prothero, and we met others whom we are planning to host in the future. The range of people was itself fascinating -- a truck driver, the manager of extreme sports (athletes he said tend to be religious, but not their trainers), artists, teachers including a couple moms who homeschool, & professors, many of whom came by themselves and seem to be rather isolated in, and not vocal about, their atheism, but were invigorated to be at the convention. The Secular Students Association booth reported a 283% increase in clubs over the past 3 years, and we met some secular students from a religious university!
The opportunity to sit in on the multi-media presentations delving into new scientific discoveries, and philosophical wrangling with a spirit of critical thinking over the course of the weekend was a glimpse into the future when people all throughout revolutionary society will be able to engage in the search for truth to transform the world.
Resisting the Right-Wing Assault on Gays, Women and Others: The Morality We Need to Change the World, With or Without Gods
On Oct. 4, we had a booth at the 8th annual Book Fair in the small, progressive city of West Hollywood. Across from our booth was the Good Reads Pavilion (one of 7 stages) where Sunsara Taylor and Rev. Eric Lee, president of the LA Southern Christian Leadership Conference and author of Marriage Equality, spoke on the panel "Resisting the Right-Wing Assault on Gays, Women and Others: The Morality We Need to Change the World, With or Without Gods." Both speakers have been sharply criticized for their outspoken opposition to these assaults. The panel was moderated by Michael Slate, writer for Revolution newspaper and host of KPFK's Tuesday edition of Beneath the Surface. 30 people attended, filling the chairs in the outdoor pavilion (the highest attendance of these first panels of the day). There was some lively discussion and debate about whether it is a need or a danger to work to repolarize society around the morality of support for gay marriage, women's right to abortion, the liberation of Black people and the rights of immigrants around which the current negative polarization is weighing heavily on people. Sunsara Taylor read from several sections of Bob Avakian's book Away with All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World in addressing the liberating communist morality that opposes traditional, patriarchal norms.
Throughout the day at our booth people took the Set the Record Straight quiz and checked out other literature to dig into questions (and lies about socialism and communism) that came up regarding the upcoming Raymond Lotta tour that we were promoting. Most of the young people who took the quiz got the majority of answers wrong, not surprising given the ideological offensive that "this is the best of all possible worlds," but were open to learning the history of socialism that they'd never heard before, especially since they see the economic crisis, the environment, the unending wars, and wonder what's going on.
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