The second annual PA State Atheist/Humanist Conference was held this past weekend in Philadelphia at the Embassy Suites Hotel near the airport. Turn out for the conference was not only high, but completely sold out. Twitter and Facebook comments left with the hashtag #atheistpa indicate that the crowd had a good time at the conference.
Friday the thirteenth’s “Anti-superstition Party” kicked off the conference. Attendees were encouraged to break all sorts of superstitions like walking under ladders and dance under open umbrellas indoors. Friggatriskaidekaphobia nurses and doctors were on hand to assist in the breaking of superstitions. Most of all, the party gave attendees an opportunity to socialize with each other and converse with a few of the speakers privately.
PA State Rep. Mark Cohen officially opened the conference on Saturday morning. He sarcastically praised religious right State Rep. Rick Saccone for getting him involved in church/state separation issues.
The conference featured a diverse list of speakers and entertainers that focused on the themes of unity and community. Many of the speakers spoke out against the infighting that has been going on within the community and spoke out in favor of giving people the benefit of the doubt – not just within our community, but in our interactions with the religious as well.
Here is a list of the speakers and their talks:
James Croft – Forging Unity by Building Community
JT Eberhard – What is a Firebrand?
AJ Johnson – The New Secular Movement
David Tamayo – The Examined U.S. Hispanic Experience
Tracy Lockwood – My Life in Community: Growing Up on a Religious Compound
George Hrab – Singer/Entertainer
Hugh Taft-Morales – Strong Coalitions and Clear Identities
David Silverman – Ready, aim, firebrand: The quantifiable benefits of firebrand Atheism
Dr. Joe Wenke – Freedom from Religion: Calling Out Bible-Based Bigotry
Teresa MacBain – The Tinman, Scarecrow, Lion, and Dorothy: Finding Community on the Yellow Brick Road
Edwina Rogers – Expanding the Movement Beyond The Base — Women and Minorities
Joe Nickell – The Science of Miracles
Lauri Lebo – From Dover to DNA: How science-literate communities can change the narrative.
Seth Andrews – The Ultimate Question
And that was just on Saturday and it doesn’t even include Saturday night’s entertainment. Stage performer Jamy Ian Swiss acted as MC for the evening introducing comedians Dave DeLuca and Steve Hill. The last performance of the night was singer/song writer Shelley Segal who took the stage despite getting over an illness.
Former Pentecostal preacher Jerry DeWitt opened Sunday morning with a sermon atheist style. The morning continued with another packed line up of speakers:
Jamila Bey – Alone Together: Using our Individuality as One
Sean Faircloth – A Plan for a Secular America
Amanda Knief – The Golden Calf: Why the Faith-Based Initiative Needs to Be Sacrificed!
American Humanist Association Panel: Rebecca Hale, Debbie Allen, Jennifer Kalmanson, Herb Silverman
Rob Boston – Defending The Secular State: How We’ll Move Forward Together
After the break from lunch, the conference continued with a special workshop on how to get media attention hosted by UnitedCoR Executive Director, Fred Edwords. The workshop talked about the tremendous success of the various billboard and bus ad campaigns and then instructed attendees on how local groups can capitalize on those campaigns. Edwords also showed a clip from an old appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News.
The conference ended with the announcement that next year’s PA State Atheist/Humanist Conference will be held in Pittsburgh. No dates or venue have been made available at this time.
Writer’s Note: This examiner was one of four conference organizers for this year’s conference. For more up-to-date information about next year’s conference or when videos will be made public, please continue to check out the conference website – atheistpa.org.
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