By Eric Jayne
It’s been another great year for the Minnesota Atheists! Since January 2013 we’ve added over 400 members on our Meetup site and held over 200 events in the Twin Cities area. Our paid membership has increased by more than 10 percent, which brings us up to almost 250 paid members—each of whom plays an integral role in helping us finance our endeavors and administrative costs. With all of the exciting stuff we have planned for 2014, I don’t see any reason why we can’t expect to get our Meetup membership to over 2000 by the end of the year, and more importantly, our paid membership to over 300. Before we look at the exciting stuff 2014 has in store, let’s briefly review 2013..
The Day of Reason at the Capitol in May echoed the theme on our 2013 T-shirt design: One Nation Indivisible. Blake Page from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation addressed nearly 60 people in the state capitol’s rotunda with a thoughtful and compelling speech about the importance of keeping religion out of the military and out of all government. The praying crowd outside participating in the Day of Prayer was almost outnumbered by the freethinkers inside.
Our turnout at Pridefest in June was as impressive as ever with more than 40 parade marchers representing Minnesota Atheists, most of whom donned Minnesota Atheists T-shirts while carrying pro-humanist and atheist signs.
We also increased our volunteer activities at different community agencies. Twelve meals were prepared and served at the Family Place shelter in St. Paul, and several thousand pounds of food were packed at the Emergency Foodshelf Network in New Hope. In December about 20 of us donated items including bicycles and clothes to the Youth Express program in St. Paul while also collecting a full carload of gifts for the holiday gift program at Keystone Community Services. Gifts were also collected and donated to the Bridge for Youth shelter in partnership with the Humanists of Minnesota at the yearend winter solstice party.
For the second year in a row we partnered with the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team for another broad community outreach effort by displaying our playful, fun-loving side. We again secularized the team by changing the team name to the Mr. Paul Aints—but this time we were able to arrange it so the word Aints on the players’ jerseys featured the scarlet atheist A made popular by the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Even though the Mr. Paul Aints lost for the second year in a row, we had a fun summer evening at the ballpark with tailgating, fireworks, and between-inning, atheist-themed antics.
The game was followed by our second annual regional conference in partnership with the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists. Our full-day conference attracted nearly 200 attendees from all over the world and it featured well-known, big-name speakers as well as two hours of unique morning workshops.
That brings me to the 2014 sneak preview part of this column. It is with a great deal of excitement that I get to announce we will be partnering with the St. Paul Saints for a third year in a row for another Night of Unbelievable Fun. Once more we will be taking over the team for one day during which time they will again be known as the Mr. Paul Aints. The family-friendly game, tailgating, fireworks, and atheist-themed antics will happen at Midway Stadium on Friday, July 11, which is just four days before the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game across the river in Minneapolis. The date works well for us and the St. Paul Saints, and we thought that it would be fun to tap into some of the All-Star game excitement.
We will also be holding our third annual regional conference on Saturday, July 12—the day after our atheist baseball game. The conference will be in downtown St. Paul at River Centre, which is conveniently located on a major bus line and just four blocks from the new Green Line train station at Fifth and Cedar. Sticking with the All-Star theme, we will be offering an impressive lineup of speakers who are considered All-Stars in the freethinking community. We are still in the planning stages for the conference, but I can tell you as of this writing that Susan Jacoby and Rebecca Watson are confirmed speakers.
As we have done for the past several years, we will again meet at the State Capitol Rotunda for the Day of Reason (our response to the National Day of Prayer) on Thursday, May 1. We’ll also participate in the Twin Cities Pridefest. We’ll host a booth beginning on Saturday, June 28th, and join in the parade on Sunday, June 29th.
We will continue to organize more of our popular community volunteer events in 2014 as well. If you’re interested in participating, we meet the third Saturday of every month at the Family Place shelter which helps stabilize families who have no permanent housing. There will also be other volunteer events and many other fun social activities listed on our Meetup site including game nights, movie outings, happy hours, book discussions, lectures, picnics, and much more. By the way, if you have an idea for an event please feel free to share your ideas with me or the rest of the Minnesota Atheists Meetup team.
Look for detailed updates on all of these upcoming events on our Meetup site, our website, our Facebook page, and right here in The Minnesota Atheist. Most of the events listed on our Meetup site are free, and those that require a fee are relatively inexpensive. These fees cover the cost of the event only; Minnesota Atheists makes no profit from them.
Of course Minnesota Atheists isn’t all about having fun. We also take church and state violations quite seriously and we’ve challenged these violations when necessary. This year August Berkshire is leading the way to challenge state law that omits atheist leaders from becoming wedding celebrants. This will be the topic of discussion at our upcoming January 19th meeting.
Thank you to all of our supporters, donors, and members for making all of our past and future events possible. If you value the service and efforts of Minnesota Atheists, please consider becoming an official member or renewing your membership. There are several different levels of membership starting at only $35 per year. Members can run for board positions and make board nominations. Moreover, besides the satisfaction of knowing that they’re financially supporting Minnesota Atheists, they receive ten-percent discounts for conference admission and select merchandise.
Get ready for an unbelievably fun 2014!