President’s Column: Our Year in Review

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

By August Berkshire

Headshot of August Berkshire, smiling.

Many, many people volunteered their time and talents to produce the great success Minnesota Atheists had this past year.

Nine people served on our board of directors (see list on page two), but this represents only a fraction of the leaders in Minnesota Atheists.

We produced ten newsletters with great articles and photos. For those receiving the paper copy, we have started mailing them in envelopes, which speeds up production (and thus delivery). Thanks to editor James Zimmerman, photographer Richard Trombley, Cedar Printing, mailers Steve Petersen and Shirley Moll (and others), and our many contributors.

Our website was redesigned by volunteers and has received good feedback from people who visit. Thanks to Steve Petersen, Eric Jayne, and Grant Hermanson for acting as webmasters.

On Facebook we have both an active Group (with over 600 members) and a Page (with over 200 “Likes”).

We produced a dozen Atheists Talk TV shows, which were also uploaded as podcasts. Thanks to Steve Petersen for chairing this project and crew volunteers George Kane, Shirley Moll, Wendy Steinberg, Art Anderson, Brett Stembridge, and Grant Hermanson.  Also thanks to program distributors Kevin Hardisty, David and Joanne Beardsley, Steve Petersen, Shirley Moll, Jack Richter, Jim Salutz, Lee Salisbury, Jim Bodsberg, and Michael Seliga. And thanks to our numerous hosts and guests.

We produced 52 weekly Atheists Talk radio programs, which were also uploaded as podcasts. We continue to have problems with our iTunes feed but we hope that will be resolved. Tremendous thanks to Mike Haubrich, who scheduled, hosted, posted show notes, and uploaded programs for most of the year. Thanks to Carl Hancock, Stephanie Zvan, Brianne Bilyeu, Scott Lohman, Greg Laden and others who have helped.  Thanks our sponsors, Q.Cumbers restaurant in Edina and the Humanists of Minnesota, and everyone who contributed to our Radio Fund.

Our Meetup group has grown to 1,000 members and continues to be very popular, with events such as book clubs, Freethinking Females lunches, debaptism ceremonies, and Godless Gamers gatherings. Thanks to Jack Caravela, Rhonda LeSage, Eric Jayne, Jeff Mondloch, Patricia M., Sam, and Jacqueline.

We had seven monthly public educational meetings, featuring speakers Monica Meyer, PZ Myers, Teresa Nelson, John Loftus, Greta Christina, Hector Avalos, and Grant Steves. All of these presentations were recorded and will appear as podcasts.

We had not one but two Rapture Parties, as the world twice failed to end as predicted. Thanks to Keith Lodermeier for organizing the events and to the talented bands that played and helped us raise money.

We worked with the Humanists of Minnesota and Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists (CASH) to sponsor three summer picnics and participated with the Humanists in the Winter Solstice Freethought Follies. Tremendous thanks to Jerry Rauser for organizing the latter event, and to all who participated. Once again we collected gifts for the teenagers at The Bridge for Youth organization.

In May we had another successful Day of Reason at the State Capitol, organized by Steve Petersen and featuring guest speaker Sandhya Bathija from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  

Also at the Capitol, we testified in favor of a bill that would have ended the religious blue law mandating the closing of liquor stores on Sundays. (The bill passed the committee but remains stalled in the legislature.)

We filed our first-ever friend of the court brief, on behalf of the group Marry Me Minnesota, which is suing Hennepin County and the State of Minnesota trying to legalize same-sex marriages in our state.  We were the only group to file such a brief on behalf of the appellants.

We participated in numerous festivals: May Day, Juneteenth, Anarchists Book Fair, Twin Cities Book Festival, and six Gay Prides (Minneapolis, Rochester, Mankato, La Crosse, Duluth, and St. Cloud). Thanks to the dozens of people who marched in parades and staffed booths for us. A new handout we had this year was our “Saved by an Atheist” business cards.

Deb Doucette organized two Adopt-A-Highway cleanups in Rice. We became a partner in the national Foundation Beyond Belief organization and applied to get into their Volunteers Beyond Belief program.

We had letters and opinions published in the Star Tribune and the St. Cloud Times and were featured in two articles in Lavender magazine. Our press release for our first Rapture Party was picked up by a number of media outlets. Thanks to Emily Matejeck for being our public relations officer.

Our public speakers on the topic of atheism appeared at the Coon Rapids Evangelical Free Church, Southwest Christian High School, South Dakota State University (Brookings), St. Cloud Public Library, Northwestern College, and the Project 42 Conference in Fargo.  We were also interviewed on the Center for Inquiry’s “Point of Inquiry” podcast and sent a speaker to a regional humanist conference in San Diego.

We also had speakers appear on the following Christian radio programs: The Doug Pagitt Show, KKMS radio, and a New York City internet radio show.

We debated “Which is the More Reasonable Worldview: Christianity or Atheism?” in Fargo and “Did Jesus Need to Die for Our Sins?” at the Maple Grove Theater.

We started a book project called Atheist Voices of Minnesota that will feature essays by dozens of atheists who have Minnesota connections. The book is being edited by Bill Lehto and will be published by Freethought House later this year.

We became Local Partners with American Atheists and our first project together will be a billboard near downtown Minneapolis in late January through mid-February.

Our Building Fund, which had been deemphasized this past year in favor of our Radio Fund and our Legal Fund, finished with a total of about $130,000. In 2012, we expect to step up our efforts to find a building.

Thanks to Chris Matthews, Steve Petersen, and Shirley Moll for tracking memberships and donations and sending out renewal reminders.  And thanks to all of you who have kept them busy – we greatly need and appreciate your financial support.

George Kane continued to produce our Atheists Weekly E-mail (A.W.E.), listing all the freethought events in Minnesota that we are aware of. Also, a special thanks to George for hosting all our board meetings. He cooks us wonderful food, which alone is enticement enough to run for our board. Nominations are this month!

(If I have overlooked someone or something in this list, please let me know and I’ll make a correction next month. -AB)

Minnesota Atheists

Positive Atheism in Action Since 1991