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Con 2000 Write-Up


SSA Con 2000 Montage

Here's the buzz on the streets:

"Just wanted to write to thank all of you for a terrific conference this past weekend. The speakers were great, the organization was smooth for a first conference, and the piece of pizza I mooched from the board was tasty... As a former Executive Council member of the CFA, I'm glad you guys are carrying on the torch of student freethought."

Nathan (James) Hartshorn
University of Chicago Law School

"Wow! I cannot tell you how incredibly proud I am to be a part of this organization... This has been the most exciting and high quality program I have experienced."

August Brunsman - Vice-Chair of SSA
Students for Freethought at The Ohio State University

"It was a very enjoyable and informative event. I think the variety of things you offered, from lectures to debate to panel discussion to comedy was wonderful and certainly a model to be followed in the future."

Massimo Pigliucci - SSA Academic Advisory Board
University of Tennessee - Knoxville

"A brilliant affair of staggering genius and unparalleled beauty!"

A Fabricated Quote

"[I]t was an awesome conference and a testament to the fact that [student freethinkers] rock!"

Stephanie Kirmer - SSA High School Director
Topeka, Kansas

"My eyeballs started hurting Sunday after I left the hotel."

Jende Huang - President UMAH
University of Minnesota Atheists & Humanists

"I have to say that I had a freakin' blast...I made new friends, got to see old ones from across the country, laughed my ass off, and gave out some great hairstyles, all while witnessing a landmark event in freethought history. It was wonderful to see so many of the finest articulators of the secular vision provide their perspectives to the next generation of activists and culture warriors. In short, I was blown away."

Gabriel Carlson - Executive Director of SSA

"That was a FUN conference!"

Dan Baker - Freedom From Religion Foundation

"Ass backwards? Not when it comes to putting on the GREATEST student freethought conference EVER!"



Thursday, August 11 witnessed student freethinkers from all over the country arriving at the Days Inn where the Secular Student Alliance shared a hotel with the Christian Women of Faith. (It was our organization, however, that received a public welcome on the large hotel sign outside symbolizing one small step for atheists and one giant leap for humankind.)

Friday the conference was officially kicked off with an entertaining and informative talk by Dr. Robert Price. The SSA Board of Directors followed with an informal introduction to themselves and the organization. The audience had the opportunity to ask questions, offer comments and suggestions, and to learn more about how to get deeply involved within the organization. The board of directors of the SSA represents the youthful face of the freethought movement, and is one of greater sexual balance than the old guard. The women on the Board out numbered the men 4 - 6. As the Board mingled with the student guests there was no generation gap, only a sense of unity. Discussions throughout the conference allowed all students to provide input and work together to build the Secular Student Alliance to unprecedented heights in the future.

Guest speakers included a merry band of skeptics, humanists and freethinking activists. Leaders included Edwin Kagin, Director of Camp Quest, the only Summer camp for atheist, agnostic and humanist children, Marie Castle, President of the Atheist Alliance, Dan Barker, Public Relations Director of the Freedom From Religious Foundation, Rob Boston, Assistant Director of Communications for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and Fred Edwords, editor of "The Humanist", the American Humanist Association's official magazine. Authors included Matthew Alper, who wrote "The God Part of the Brain" and Robert Price, author of "Beyond Born Again", "The Widow-Traditions in Luke-Acts" and "Deconstructing Jesus". Friday evening students were immensely entertained by the kick ass comedy troop known as The Cabinet Theatre in their performance of The Garden of Anal Sex.

Jeeeesus, I love your shoes...
I wanna be your monkey
I wanna be your monkey in a cage
And you can feed me peanuts

(Check back to read more about The Cabinet Theatre and how you, too, can be entertained in the comfort of your own neck of the woods. Or visit their website and tell them the atheists sent you!)

But this gathering showed to be more than just a meeting of godless intellectual students hanging out with established atheist and humanist leaders. The community fostered among attendees provided a source of humanistic values with which to combat the high degree of misinformation spread about the non-religious lifestyle. The desire to combat the intolerance and irrationality of the religious right was exercised as well

On Saturday, August 12th a group of students from the conference trucked on over to a protest against Focus on the Family's "Love Won Out", a program that promotes the idea that homosexual orientation can and should be changed. The students joined with members of the Atheist Alliance and other groups proudly holding up signs like "Gay hate is not a family value" and "Support Tolerance".

Saturday also included a finely tuned mixture of talks, a panel discussion, and a second comedy performance by the Cabinet Theatre. The conference's highlighted event was a debate titled "Is Evolution or Intelligent Design a Better Explanation for Life's Diversity?" between the prominent creationist and author of "The Biotic Message" Walter RaMine and three time winner of the Oak Ridge Labs Science Alliance Research Award and recipient of the "Dobzhansky Prize" for his studies of evolution, Massimo Pigliucci.The debate was co-sponsored by the Secular Student Alliance and the Twin Cities Creation Science Association.

A well deserved party was thrown at the hotel Saturday night that involved the SSA Executive Director, Gabriel Carlson, doubling as a hairstylist with two voluntary victims from Kansas and another Kansan being sacrificed with the help of duct tape and a large stake out front of the hotel. We thank the Individuals for Freethought from Kansas State University for being martyrs to their state's unacceptable behavior in promoting irrationality and religious nonsense. Kiev, Jeff, and Derek may you rest in peace (for another year at least and depending on what part of the world deserves to be publicly flogged next!)

Also during Saturday's impressive line-up of events, the Secular Student Alliance Board of Directors met with Erika Hedberg, Erin Cowan, Sharon Moss, and Lorie Weiner - representatives of the Council for Secular Humanism and the Campus Freethought Alliance - to open up dialogue for cooperation between our like-minded organizations. The celebrated outcome to foster an environment that places the best interest of the student movement at the forefront of all future programming and development was heralded by all. This step was one of several being made to build coalitions between all members of the Secular Community, a goal that is intricately woven into the very fabric with which the Secular Student Alliance is built.

Sunday morning, as students scuffled about desperately to get out of the hotel by check out time, an impromptu brunch was organized at a nearby restaurant. Among coffee, eggs, and heartfelt good-byes, we all agreed to meet again next year and bring along a few friends.

All and all the SSA leaders and supporters are beaming with pride over the success of this conference. Our hope is that the momentum will carry us in to the future and fuel us with the inspiration to build an organization large enough to effectively counteract the enormous membership and funds of Christian fundamentalist groups, as well as provide a fulfilling outlet and community for non-theists of all sorts.

The Secular Student Alliance would like to thank all in attendance for such an enjoyable weekend. A special thanks goes out to Jerry Rauser for video taping the event and to Bill Bishop for his photography. We also thank the following organizations for their support at our first annual conference: The Atheist Alliance, The American Humanist Association, The Minnesota Atheists, The Internet Infidels, Skeptic's Society, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. We also thank the Council for Secular Humanism and the Campus Freethought Alliance for sending representatives to help celebrate our shared commitment to the non-religious stance and the powerful role the student movement will have upon our future.

Please stand for this year's Secular Student Alliance Anthem:

By The Boils

City to city and state to state, one thing still rings true
A sign of the times that won't be denied
Dedication's living proof
You got the outcasts, the kids
The life's blood of a movement
The young and the old
Generations working together
Some say that the flames died low and the clock's run out but, i know
Some say that the thing they see is a dying breed but, i know
And it's a long long way from here to there
A thousand miles from me to you
From the streetlights of the city
Out to the light of the moon
They're on fire now
Some say that the flames died low and the clock's run out but, i know
Some say that the thing they see is a dying breed but, i know
It won't stop, whether or not it's 15 kids and a hole in the wall
Or 1500 going strong
There's a lot to learn from the kids who've stood up, stood up
And answered the call
And the will to not give in
To forge a future with your hands
It's the life's blood, and it's just beginning

Welcome to the Future !

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