By Eric Jayne
Minnesota Atheists had an incredible (some might say “unbelievable”) year in 2012. Thanks to great leadership and enthusiasm from our board and general members we were able to take on new and significant projects that helped to promote our brand of Positive Atheism in Action. I’d like to take a moment to celebrate some of our accomplishments this year.
In some ways it feels like it’s been several years ago, but it was only this past January that we erected our first ever billboard campaign. After receiving design feedback and financial assistance from American Atheists and our own members, we were able to put up two billboards—one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul.
Not only did the billboards attract the attention of local media (print, online, radio, and TV), they also caught the eye of some of the St. Paul Saints front office management team; more on that in a moment.
In April, Minnesota Atheists revealed the new t-shirt design that proclaimed Minnesota Atheists Supports Marriage Equality. The lavender shirts sold at an unprecedented pace and they were proudly donned by several members and donors who participated at the Day of Reason inside the state capitol on May 3.
The following month, roughly 50 people marched with Minnesota Atheists in the Twin Cities Pride Fest parade. Congressman Keith Ellison and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak both had their picture taken with our group. And, as with the Day of Reason, most of our marchers wore the Marriage Equality lavender t-shirts.
Then in July a media storm landed on the Minnesota Atheists for the upcoming Mr. Paul Aints game. After months of planning, the news percolated through the internet, and then in mid-July the story became the focus of conversation on local radio morning shows, columns in the area’s two biggest newspapers and other big newspapers in places like Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, and USA Today. Our Aints game even made it onto the morning Fox & Friends show on Fox News and international spots like The Guardian and Montreal’s biggest newspaper, La Presse.
August was undoubtedly the busiest time for Minnesota Atheists. And, as previously mentioned, the billboard campaign back in January is what triggered two of the three big godless events for us: The Aints game and the regional conference. Any night where PZ Myers, Teresa MacBain, Ayanna Watson, and more than 250 other atheists watch Dave Silverman lob a baseball to a professional baseball catcher in front of more than 6,000 other spectators is a night to remember.
Even though the Aints lost 2-0 (as if most of us were that into the game), attendees enjoyed a fun tailgating pre-game party, beautiful and sunny summer weather, group camaraderie, a proud sense of community, and several laughs while watching our team play in atheist-inspired specialized jerseys that matched clever wit with public outreach. The sport of baseball aside, it was a fantastic opportunity to showcase atheism and our community in a popular and mainstream venue.
The subsequent conference at the Double Tree hotel in downtown St. Paul was a resounding success as almost 200 people showed up to learn from a stellar lineup of nationally respected atheists including Robert Price, Jessica Ahlquist, Andy Thomson, and Hector Avalos.
Another significant moment in August was the release of Atheist Voices of Minnesota. This highly successful and well-reviewed anthology of 36 local atheists begins with a foreword from Greta Christina. It has been featured and reviewed on several popular websites and has been the object of several authors’ events including one at a Barnes & Noble in October. If you haven’t purchased a copy yet, you can buy it through Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and our very own MNA online store. It’s also available in ebook format. All net proceeds go to the Minnesota Atheists.
September and October (as well as all the other months this year) provided many fun events and group outings on our Meetup site including book clubs, picnics, Freethinking Female lunches, board game nights, parent groups, movie nights, pub nights, community volunteer events, and so much more. And of of course our radio show continued to provide high quality programming with terrific, live interviews with guests from around the globe. We really are “Positive Atheism in Action.”
We have nearly doubled the annual increase of members on our Meetup site compared to last year. Even though many of the individuals who sign up on Meetup are not paying members they are prospective paid members/donors if we do a better job campaigning for money. They also represent new enthusiasm, new ideas, and new perspectives. Beginning in January, we broke the previous monthly record for new Meetup members (which had been March 2009) every month except for two. There’s little doubt that our hard work and creative outreach efforts this year are guiding us toward an exciting path. Stay tuned for an exciting 2013…and please consider becoming a dues-paying member or donating to one of our many projects online so we can keep up the work!