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 and Drury). 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, and the psychology of belief, among others. During the talk given by the world-reknowned supernatural investigator James Randi, an estimated 800 people were in attendance. Over the course of the three-day event, roughly 1,000 people attended, making Skeption III one of the largest skeptic conferences in the world.

Skepticon IV featured sixteen speakers, a panel on nontheistic approaches to death, and a trip to the local creation museum. Upwards of 1,200 people were attended, making Skepticon the second largest skeptic/atheist conference in the U.S. in 2011.

Our incredible growth has yet to slow! This year we intend to host an even larger group of top-notch speakers and anticipate more participants than ever 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 bydonations from skeptics like you.

Interested in helping us continue to make this event bigger and better? Check out the Contribution page to learn more about donating your time or money!