Who We Are
Minnesota Atheists is Minnesota's oldest and largest atheist organization. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization that seeks to promote the positive contributions of atheism to society and to maintain separation of state and church.
Our bylaws are available here. Each year we hold eight monthly members meetings with guest speakers (Jan.-May, Sept.-Nov.), three picnics (June-Aug.), and a Winter Solstice banquet (Dec.).
We have a full calendar of events, such as dinners, movie nights, game nights, discussion groups, book clubs, a how to debate class and many others. To find out about these events, sign up for A.W.E. - Atheists Weekly E-mail.
We produce a public access cable TV program, "Atheists Talk," and a weekly podcast of the same name.
We offer speakers to the community free of charge. We specialize in presentations to high school and community college comparative religion classes.
The 2014 Board
Minnesota Atheists is a democratic organization with elected representatives who serve on the board for a one year term unless reelected. Nominations are in January and elections are in February. Nominees need to be paying members in good standing for at least one year prior to the date of election; Director-at-Large nominees need only be members for 6 months prior.
You may click on the board member's name to email them directly. General inquiries to the board can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
President, Eric Jayne
Eric Jayne is the current president and an active board member for the past three years. During his time on the board Eric led the organizational efforts for the 2011 billboard campaign, the lavender Marriage Equality t-shirts and many volunteer events including the monthly dinner with families at a local homeless shelter. Eric also led many of the coordinating efforts for the 2012 Mr. Paul Aints game and 2012 regional atheist conference that was co-sponsored with the American Atheists. He is proud to be coordinating more volunteer activities and helping to prepare more events including the 2013 Mr. Paul Aints game and subsequent conference.
Eric served on the editorial board for the Atheist Voices of Minnesota book where his story of transitioning from an evangelical Christian to an atheist parent is explained. All proceeds of the book go directly to the Minnesota Atheists.
Associate President, Stephanie Zvan
Stephanie has been a host and interviewer on the Atheists Talk radio show for several years. She currently blogs at Almost Diamonds on the Freethought Blogs network. Stephanie is leading many of the efforts in organizing the 2013 Minnesota Atheists conference.
Chair, Heather Hegi
Heather is originally from rural Nebraska and moved to Minnesota in 2009 to further her career goals, but it didn't take her long to start attending atheist events and become an active member in Minnesota Atheists. She finds MNA to be an extremely important organization in a day in which atheists are still ostracized and political candidates are elected on faith based ideals. In this group non-believers can find community, intelligent discussion, and a way to promote their ideals to build tolerance in others; all attributes which she prizes highly. She would like to see this group continue making the progress it has been, extend its reach, and continue on the right course. She is honored and excited to have been elected chair for the second year in a row.
Associate Chair, Phil Cunliffe
Phil grew up in Edina, Minnesota, and graduated from Edina High school in 1982. He moved back to Minnesota in 2008 after spending ten years living in the Chicago area. He has been an atheist for more than thirty years. In Minnesota Atheists he has found a group that shares the values that he considers important. He has found that serving as a member of the board of directors for the past year to have been a great experience. He looks forward to continuing to serve our community.
Secretary, Jill Carlson
Jill has been attending Minnesota Atheist events since 2010 and is an active member Unitarian Universalist church in Bloomington. She is interested in secular parenting, feminist philosophy, community service, and interfaith dialogue. Jill served on the editorial board for Atheist Voices of Minnesota and her personal experience with atheism can be read there.
Treasurer, Chris Matthews
Chris' active involvement with Minnesota Atheists began in late 2010 as assistant treasurer, and I have served as treasurer since 2011. He enjoys working with numbers and computer so this role suits him well.
Director-at-Large, August Berkshire
With many years of leadership, August has served as president, newsletter editor, and radio show producer for Minnesota Atheists (MNA). He also serves on the executive council and is a past vice president of Atheist Alliance International (AAI), serves on the boards of directors of Camp Quest of Minnesota (CQMN) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and is on the speaker’s bureau for the Secular Student Alliance (SSA).
August has been an atheist activist since 1984, when he co-founded and served as the first president of the Twin Cities Chapter of American Atheists (which became Minnesota Atheists in 1991). He has also served on the boards of directors of the Humanists of Minnesota and American Atheists. He is the author of eight pamphlets and several articles, which can be found on his website August Berkshire.com.
He is the owner of the “ATHEIST” license plate for Minnesota and is proud to be included in the reference book Who’s Who in Hell. August uses down-to-earth arguments that he wishes he had heard when he was younger. He believes atheists have already won the intellectual debate and now they must be persuasive in the areas of emotion and politics.
Director-at-Large, Georgia Hancock Tsoi
Georgia’s excited for the opportunity to serve on the board this year. She has been a member of Minnesota Atheists for almost eight years and has participated in many activities in the free thought community throughout the years. She has enjoyed meeting new members and is looking forward to taking a larger role in the Minnesota Atheists Community. She finds it great to see the increase in members and participation the last few years. She shares Minnesota Atheists goals of educating the public about atheism, and promoting the separation of state and church. She is an open atheist in her community and career and encourages others to be open and educate their friends and family about atheism. Her partner Jim is an atheist and he will support her as she moves forward in her new role.
Director-at-Large, Alyssa Ehni
The Minnesota Atheist Newsletter
Published nearly every month, The Minnesota Atheist is distributed to our membership and to media to keep people informed of current events, book reviews, and provide topical articles of interest to atheists. Without a dedicated team of editors, writers and publishers, we could not complete a newsletter so often.
Editor, James Zimmerman
James was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness household and was a member of that religion for most of his life. At the urging of ministers in the religion, he undertook an extensive project researching many aspects of the religion’s teachings on God, the bible, and science. Needless to say, learning the facts meant leaving the religion. He and his wife abandoned their religion in the summer of 2006. Visit www.watchtowerletters.com to examine some of James’ research.
James now spends his time trying to make up for the years he spent knocking on people’s door and annoying them. He joined Minnesota Atheists in early 2008 where he serves as co-editor for the newsletter and assists with the Atheist Talk television show. He lives with his wife, son, daughter, and cat in the Twin Cities. He maintains a personal blog at www.zimmerscope.com. His book Deliverance at Hand! The Redemption of a Devout Jehovah's Witness has a late August/early September 2013 release date.
Atheism provided me with answers that my theological degree did not. While studying for my doctorate in theology, I came to the realization that the bible lacked authority, a supreme being is nonsense, and that ethical living has evolved.
The greatest dangers religions create are:
1) encourage ignorance of rational and scientific thinking;
2) encourage apathy toward learning because they have the answer;
3) creating an attitude of certainty about their religion;
4) an arrogance that they are better than anyone not having or sharing their knowledge.
Minnesota Atheists is a member society of the Atheist Alliance International, an umbrella organization for independent, local atheist groups. The goal of the Alliance is to help establish strong, democratic, autonomous atheist societies around the world. The Alliance sponsors an annual national convention, publishes the quarterly Secular Nation magazine, and engages in other activities to help make the atheistic viewpoint heard and respected.
Minnesota Atheists is also an affiliate of American Atheists, which holds annual national conventions and publishes the quarterly American Atheist magazine and the monthly, members-only, American Atheists Newsletter.
Minnesota Atheists is also part of the Alliance of Secular Humanist Societies (ASHS), which is connected to the Council for Secular Humanism, publishers of Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer magazines.