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Presentation: Building Local Skeptical Communities

As many of you may know, I do a lot of critical thinking and scientific literacy activism under the label of "skepticism" and for the past couple of years have been involved in building an organization to that effect in my own city of Columbus, Ohio. Recently, I shared some of the things I've learned in effort to help other like-minded folks create similar groups in their areas by way of a workshop at the GenCon convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since I thought it might be of interest to both skeptics and those wondering what the hell skepticism is in the first place, I've embedded my presentation slides after the jump.

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Skeptrack at Dragon*Con

Over Labor Day weekend, I'll be attending Dragon*Con in Atlanta for the dedicated skeptic track, named, aptly enough, Skeptrack. Catch me with other Skepchicks Rebecca Watson, Maria Walters, A Kovacs, Carrie Iwan and Amy Roth for the "Women's Intuition and Other Fairy Tales" panel on Saturday at 2:30 PM. As the only Skepchick mom representative there, I'll have some things to say about skeptic parenting.

Not in town? No problem - all of the Skeptrack panels will stream live here. You can also follow Skeptrack on Twitter.

If you will be in the Atlanta area this weekend, however, Colin from the Science-Based Parenting blog (who gave a great presentation at last May's SkeptiCamp Ohio) is having a party for all the skeptic parents Friday night at 10:30 PM. See the details on that and RSVP on Facebook here.

A Cold Pittsburgh Skepchick Interview

A couple of weeks back, I hit Pittsburgh to meet up with fellow Skepchicks Maria and Elyse, along with atheist activist and vlogger Ashley, whom I brought along with me from Columbus, and a whole bunch of great Steel City skeptics, including Laura (who so awesomely made most of the arrangements for us). It was a really, really good time and despite the fact the bar closed at midnight (seriously, Pittsburgh, WTF), I met some great people and had some great discussion. Ashley also interviewed Maria, Elyse, Laura and me about skeptic activism on a very, very cold street outside the bar, and here it is, in all of its tipsy, profane glory:

It's been about a year, I think, since I started writing for Skepchick, thus introducing me to the larger skeptic community and leading me to work on reviving Central Ohioans for Rational Inquiry. Now, in Columbus, we not only have a flourishing skeptic group that meets regularly and the foundation laid for further community involvement, but a SkeptiCamp unconference that's already attracting a ton of people from across Ohio and out of state.

I keep hearing over and over again from people I meet in this line of activism that they were waiting for someone to organize something, so that they could connect with like-minded people. Here's my advice: don't wait. Start a reading group at your local library, create a Drinking Skeptically at the neighborhood bar, find or begin a Meetup.com group, or organize a speaking event with a local professor or doctor. (Like Maria says in the video above, we're happy to add any new group events to the Skepchick calendar, which reaches thousands of people across the US). Start a blog, make a video, record a podcast. Skeptic activism in this day and age is ridiculously easy - and there's already a wide-reaching network out there who are friendly, fun and willing to help anyone who wants to learn more. As the US enters a new governmental era, whatever your political leanings, it's been made clear that scientific education and rational thought is coming back in a big way. It's a perfect time to be a skeptic.

Calling All Ohio Skeptics!

My involvement with all the great people* at Skepchick has made me realize that I really enjoy being part of a skeptical community, and led me to seek out opportunities for meeting up with skeptics locally. Unfortunately, finding them hasn't been the easiest - there's a student freethought group at OSU and an area humanist group, but Central Ohioans for Rational Inquiry, a group that was active for about 9-10 years, has recently been inactive. I contacted CORI's last president, Charlie Hazlett, to get the details, and he kindly offered not only the details, but encouragement to get things started again. So I've decided to at least try.

I know that I've got too much on my plate to jump right into building up a big organization, but I thought maybe I'd put the word out, and see if we can't start a few casual meetups, and gather together a new group. If there seems to be a good interest, I figure we could move on from there setting up a stronger structure, bringing in speakers, etc. If there's one thing I can do, it's use social media, so I will be reviving the ohioskeptic.org domain (also kindly offered by Charlie Hazlett), and setting up some Facebook/MySpace/Twitter/etc. pages.

So, what I'm looking for is: any and all central Ohio skeptics, secular humanists, atheists, rational thinkers, or any other related types who are interested in participating in any capacity at all. Even if it's to say, "Hey, I might show up to one of those," let me know, because that's how I can decide whether or not this is a worthwhile project. Please just leave a comment with your info, jump on over to my contact page, or ping me on any social media sites on which you might already know me.

And if you're just curious as to what this is all about, please contact me with your questions, and I'll do my best to answer them!


*Seriously, all of you - contributors, commenters, readers - you rock and I love writing with/for you.