President’s Column: Ambassadors of Atheism
By August Berkshire
While I am not in favor of atheist evangelists who, as atheist comedienne Paula Poundstone joked, would go door-to-door with a book full of blank pages, I am in favor of us doing more to meet the second goal of our organization: Educating the public about atheism.
Since 1989, when we were the Twin Cities Chapter of American Atheists, we have produced a public access cable TV program called Atheists Talk. Since then, our Cable TV Committee has created and broadcast at least 200 shows.
This project was begun by Art Anderson, who continues to help with the cameras. Steve Petersen, Grant Hermanson, George Kane, and Brett Stembridge help in the control booth. Frequent interviewers include Grant Steves, James Zimmerman, and George Kane. Others helping on cameras include Shirley Moll, Wendy Steinberg, Karen Burke, Mike Haubrich, and Brian Knoblock. Distribution is handled by Steve Petersen.
We thank the many guests who have appeared on our program. We also thank our members who sponsor it on their local cable TV stations (see the Cable TV Report on page 13). The program is also turned into a podcast by Grant Hermanson, which people can download from our website and iTunes. (Grant also converts tapings of speakers at our monthly meetings into podcasts as well.)
Do you have a cable program you would like to do – perhaps a book you’d like to discuss? Would you like to help as part of the crew? (Operating a camera is really easy.) Can you help with technical aspects of production and distribution? We’d love to have you join us!
As far as personal appearances go, up until now we have mostly relied on the media, community groups, and schools contacting us. It’s time we became more proactive about reaching out to society to let everyone know we’re here and what we stand for. This increased outreach will primarily be achieved through three committees:
George Kane chairs our Public Relations Committee and we are glad to have professional help from Emily Matejcek. We are looking to create a press kit and to increase the number of press releases that we do. We will also be contacting schools and other community organizations.
Laura Hutt chairs our Speakers Bureau and Education Committee. At this point our main public speakers are George Kane, Grant Steves, and me, but we would like to enlist others to speak on behalf of Minnesota Atheists and atheism.
Shy about public speaking or need to hone your skills? Join Freethought Toastmasters and receive speaking tips and friendly encouragement! (See page 15 for more information.)
We will also be creating pamphlets that you can use to explain atheism to friends, family, and acquaintances. This will complement the excellent yellow tri-fold pamphlet created by Jack Caravela detailing the many things Minnesota Atheists does.
I chair the Program Committee, which includes outreach efforts such as participating in marches and festivals and sponsoring our Day of Reason at the Minnesota State Capitol. These events are great opportunities for our members to mingle with the general public for one-on-one discussions.
We all become ambassadors of atheism whenever people get to know us and our worldview.