The Atheist Community of Austin
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  • 2022-08-16 15:35 | News Update (Administrator)


    August 28th is the next “final Sunday of each month” that will find us back in the studio with live broadcasts and a lively studio audience. If you are in Austin, consider making plans to join us for live broadcasts of Talk Heathen (1-2:30 pm) followed by The Atheist Experience (4:30-6 pm). Guests are invited to stay for both or either or simply stop by to reconnect with everyone! Doors open at noon, and parking is "where you can find a legal spot" after the lot is full. Matt Dillahunty & Jim Barrows will be hosting The Atheist Experience and Johnny P. Angel & Student Doctor Ben will be hosting Talk Heathen. No ticket required, come on over.

    July 31st was our first day back in the studio in two years, and it was a wonderful return. Over the course of the day we had almost sixty friends and fans join us in the studio audience and the “back room” where there was a bit more conversation during the broadcasts. The time before, between, and after the shows was a great time to meet new people or share a few words with a favorite host. We ordered pizzas at 6 pm to wind down the day.

    Vern Graner (ACA Board Chair) has been behind the scenes doing tech and production (and, well, everything!) for years and he put in a tremendous amount of time getting things ready indoors and out for our guests. We asked him how it felt, as an ACA leader and as part of the crew, being back in the studio after years of pandemic closures and remote broadcasts. 

    “There’s such a contrast between operating the business side of the organization and being on the ground meeting people at the building and running the tech to support the live show. There’s a lot of work to do to manage the organization, but there’s equally much to do when setting up mics and choosing frequencies for wireless mics, balancing the speakers, getting remote stations set up for call screeners, etc. So for me, switching gears from management to tech crew was the biggest change. There’s that feeling of getting back on a bike, after a few years, right back into the swing of live shows. The cadence is so familiar, the ups and downs. It felt great being back in and doing this work, though I will admit that on Sunday most of the people I got to speak with were the folks I talk to every day. ACA crew. When we arrived to open the studio we were still oscillating between terror at being overrun and worry that we wouldn’t fill the chairs. That degree of nervousness was in the background about every aspect of the return to the studio. What if something goes wrong? If the PA goes out, or we lose the internet? Everything has to go right for the show to go off. Anyone who understands this work knows what I mean when I say it ultimately feels awesome when the systems you put into place actually work right. And there were new elements for the first live broadcasts. Remote call screeners with hosts in the studio was a first. The control room only had two of us, everyone else was remote–the call screeners, video director, and camera operator. Still, it all came together. A mic that didn’t work (loose connection) at the start of The Atheist Experience was the only significant technical problem. Nothing else interrupted the flow of the show. For me, when the intro rolls is a favorite moment, at that point it’s a go and all the work is coming to a point. Like when the roller coaster clicks and climbs to the top of that first climb and then it all happens.”

    We caught up with the hosts for those first two shows, and here’s what they had to say.

    Christy Powell (The Atheist Experience) "The energy being back in the studio was amazing. The chemistry with your co-host, charged up by the crowd and connection to the crew make everything about the show so much more electric. It was amazing to reconnect with the community and see so many people engaged with the mission of spreading positive atheism."

    ObjectivelyDan (Talk Heathen) “I am not the type to get nervous when doing any kind of public speaking, but I think being back in the studio gave me a kind of nervous energy that I haven't had since I first started hosting. It was great to be back and see everyone in person, and I'm looking forward to more.”

    Jim Barrows (The Atheist Experience and Talk Heathen on July 31st!) “It was familiar and strange.  Wonderful and strange. I loved the audience questions, and I’m glad that got added. It was a little strange, and not perfect, but it’ll get better. Can’t wait to get back there.”

    All this to say, "JOIN US IN AUGUST!" 

    Doors open at noon.

    ACA Freethought Library and Studio 

    1507 West Koenig Lane

    Austin, TX 78756




  • 2022-07-26 15:59 | News Update (Administrator)


  • 2022-07-19 13:06 | News Update (Administrator)

    The Atheist Community of Austin is working to upgrade communications with supporters and friends, expanding beyond the engagement with fans of the popular programs we broadcast. In recent weeks we have begun sharing news about atheists and atheism on our Facebook page, and we are working to include other social media platforms in the weeks ahead. With 30 days of effort to review, we have learned a few things!

    1. Wow. If you DO NOT steward your social media for a while, the analytics when you DO are really impressive. Those 500%+ improvements are shockingly exciting, but then you remember it isn't hard to come up from a low bar.

    2. There is a lot of news that connects to atheism and the position statements of the ACA. We are hoping that, over time, readers will follow us on the platforms of their preference to keep informed of the news on these matters.

    3. Outside of Texas, our reach is highest in NYC and Portland, Oregon. 

    4. Among those who like us on Facebook, 71.1% identify as men. (A bit of searching on the internet suggests that Facebook began offering other options to male or female in 2014.)

    5. Happily, the MOST POPULAR post so far was about ACA returning to in-person events. We are pretty happy about that too!

  • 2022-07-08 13:35 | News Update (Administrator)

    For the last two years, the Atheist Community of Austin has suspended in-person events as part of COVID safety measures. Prior to the closures in March of 2020, there was a live broadcast every Sunday (The Atheist Experience and Talk Heathen), Friday (Truth Wanted), Thursday (Secular Sexuality), and Wednesday (Non Prophets) weekly for years. At that time, all the hosts and most guests were in the studio at the ACA Freethought Library located on Koenig Lane here in Austin. (Indeed, a silver-lining of the pandemic has been significant upgrading of our tech capacity for remote hosting which has allowed us to work with even more wonderful hosts and guests.)

    Now, we’re returning to LIVE EVENTS!

    We have been working to ready the ACA site for months. Testing all the production equipment of course, and the studio, library, meeting space, and outdoor areas are getting cleaned, re-organized, and prepped for guests.

    Last Sunday of Every Month: The current plan is to resume live broadcasts on the last Sunday of every month–and we could not be more excited!

    July 31, 2022: Our grand re-opening as it were! First up is Talk Heathen (1-2:30 pm) followed by The Atheist Experience (4:30-6 pm) and you are invited to stay for both or either or simply stop by to reconnect with everyone! (Doors open at 11 am so anyone who wants to get a good seat or lend a hand can be there then!) Jim Barrows and Christy Powell will be hosting The Atheist Experience and Objectively Dan will be hosting Talk Heathen. Please, put this date on your calendar and join us. More details here and on social media as we get closer to the date. 

    August 27, 2022: Bat Cruise 2022! We have chartered the boat, the bats are roosting under the Congress Avenue Bridge, and we are looking forward to a wonderful BYOB/F(ood) evening with our ACA community of friends. Details on purchasing tickets will be shared soon, but now you have the date for summer scheduling!

    Gatherings at the Freethought Library: Our intention is to return to game nights, great conversations, and speaker series events in September of 2022. We are working with our wonderful volunteers to schedule a collection of opportunities for convening and building community. More details here and on social media as we finalize dates and times!




  • 2022-07-06 12:48 | News Update (Administrator)

    In August of 2021, the Atheist Community of Austin was contacted by the family of David Kent. We were offered a wonderful collection of books for the Freethought Library, and we were both honored and thrilled. During the time that the Freethought Library was closed, we spent many happy hours opening the cartons of books and discovering familiar favorites as well as new titles for our shelves. Many had notes and news clippings tucked in the pages, adding to our sense of the individual who collected these books. We recently reached out to the family and asked for a few words about the man who put together the collection, and we are sharing their reply here:

    David L. Kent moved with his family to Austin in 1981 to work for Madalyn Murray O'Hair. He was a proofreader for her publication, American Atheist Magazine, and frequent contributor to Freethought Today, published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Mr. Kent became a founding member of the Atheist Community of Austin, and over the years made several appearances on The Atheist Experience. He campaigned for the removal of religion from Texas school textbooks, as well as the removal of the monument of the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol. Here is a clip (The Atheist Experience, "Episode 002", October 26, 1997) in which he describes the monument, why it is unconstitutional, and gives background on the history of each engraving on the monument as well as information on the organization that erected it.

    Mr. Kent's freethought library has been donated to the Atheist Community of Austin on behalf of his family, who wish to preserve his unique and rare collection of books on the history of religion and its deleterious effects on societies worldwide. It is through his discovery of this subject matter that he was able to raise a generation of children free from religion, and his children now wish for his library to be publicly accessible to anyone curious about how to cultivate an evidence-based understanding of the world.




  • 2022-07-01 16:14 | News Update (Administrator)

    “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church, I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.” This is what incumbent Congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado said only days before she won her primary on Tuesday, June 28.  She’s up for reelection in November of this year.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/29/republican-lauren-boebert-wins-colorado-primary-church-state

    In TheWashington Post’s coverage of Boebert’s comments, multiple experts weighed in on her take about the separation of church and state. (Spoiler alert: none of the experts had her back.) 

    • Gwen Calais-Haase, a political scientist at Harvard University, told The Washington Post that Boebert’s interpretation of the Constitution was “false, misleading and dangerous.” Calais-Haase said she was “extremely worried about the environment of misinformation that extremist politicians take advantage of for their own gains.”

    • Steven K. Green, a professor of law and affiliated professor of history and religious studies at Willamette University, agreed, saying, “Rep. Boebert is wrong on both matters. While the phrase separation of church and state does not appear verbatim in the Constitution, neither do many accepted constitutional principles such as separation of powers, judicial review, executive privilege, or the right to marry and parental rights, no doubt rights that Rep. Boebert cherishes,” wrote Green, the author of “Separating Church and State: A History.”

    • Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted in reaction to Boebert’s comment a line from the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion.” “I can’t. Not today,” Steele wrote.

    Writing about this because this issue is in our wheelhouse. And, this issue seems to be the focus of a growing number of elected officials and appointees who welcome religion and prayer in government and federally-funded settings. CNN just published a feature with the headline, “How the Supreme Court is dismantling the separation of church and state,” noting that “The broadly worded decision is certain to invite more challenges by religious adherents and will likely increase displays of religion in schools and other public places.” https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/27/politics/supreme-court-church-state-kennedy-maine-analysis/index.html 

    The first Position Statement of the Atheist Community of Austin is Religion-Government Separation. All of our Position Statements can be found here, https://www.atheist-community.org/positions, but sharing this one here:

    The ACA understands:


    • Article VI of the United States Constitution prohibits any religious test for public office

    • The First Amendment necessarily requires that our government remain neutral with regard to religion.

    • The Fourteenth Amendment extends amendments to the US Constitution to the state governments


    We believe that this neutral position ensures that no religion receives preferential treatment over another religion, or the lack of religion. We support the right of each individual to believe or disbelieve as they choose. We support the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs to the extent that such practice does not inhibit or infringe upon the rights and freedoms of others.


    The Atheist Community of Austin will be working harder to share these news stories, and the context that surrounds them, to our readers, viewers, and friends. When we see opportunities for action and involvement, we will share that as well. We will continue our work to educate and engage the community as we promote positive atheist culture and the separation of religion and government.


    *These statements represent the official positions of this organization and are not intended to represent the position of all atheists or ACA members.



  • 2022-07-01 15:56 | Anonymous

    When I joined the staff at the Atheist Community of Austin, it immediately felt like far more than accepting a job. I have been a nonprofit professional, a Director of Development, for almost three decades. But seldom have I felt so much like I was joining a community of kindred spirits on an issue that has been a significant part of my life as an individual. I was raised a Catholic–and for the first eighteen years of my life I tried to do my best with the faith into which I was born. But the questions, for me, began as early as elementary school, and continued to challenge my ability to live in faith. It started with small things that a child would ask–why was there no good answer as to what would happen to my best friend (Jewish) when she died? No one could or would reassure me that this wonderful human being, following the faith traditions of her family, would be welcomed into heaven. Yikes. And when it was time for confirmation (early 1970s), I wanted to take Patrick as my saint’s name–but was refused the option to take anything but the name of a female saint. (This was not any kind of challenge or introduction of gender fluidity. I was adopted and had been told I was of Irish descent, and I chose Patrick as an homage to one of the few bits of information I had about my ancestors.) This refusal to let me have a meaningful choice of a confirmation name hurt me on several levels, and I was also struck by the hypocrisy of the position, as many of the nuns I knew were sporting names like Sr. Wenceslaus, Sr. Michael, or Sr. Mary Willliam. As I got older, I struggled with other issues that left me struggling to find the compassion and continuity I wanted in a faith. My queer friends were, at best, welcomed to be Catholic as long as they didn’t say a word about their sexuality and lived in chastity. No one ever blinked an eye at the scattered cousins in our family who were the product of affairs with priests or seminarians. Birth control and R-rated movies were absolutely off the table. Girls were lectured relentlessly on maintaining virginity until marriage, no such lectures were shared with boys. And, a huge issue to me, women who wanted a career in the church were never going to lead a congregation. A nun might lead a school, a health care setting, or a convent–but she wasn’t worthy to minister to congregants. So by the time I was a college student, I found myself unable to weave together a faith that comforted me. This left a hole in my world, as I grew up in Texas and the Hispanic culture that was such an influence in my life was tightly entwined with the Catholic faith. But time and reason eventually led me to the realization that I truly didn’t believe in a god. I was then, and still am, okay with others who seek a community of faith, but I knew that wasn’t for me. (And I think many of those people value the community and traditions more than the faith in a higher power–but the heart wants what the heart wants.) So I began telling individuals I was an atheist. It didn’t come up a lot, outside of dating, but I didn’t waver and it became an essential truth, not something new, for me. Though I was aware there was stigma, and I sometimes punted to agnostic just to avoid unpleasantness. (I don’t do that now. At almost 60 years of age I’m not worried about unpleasantness on this front.)

    Still, I was an atheist without community. It never crossed my mind to “join” other atheists, even had I known they were out there, assembling or convening or doing outreach. Also, growing up in Texas in the 1960s and 1970s, I was aware of the bitter and bizarre headlines around Madalyn Murray O'Hair. Her activism was based in Texas and the venom directed at her was notable on the landscape of news and faith when I was coming of age. Then she disappeared, was found in an unmarked grave years later, dismembered and still an object of loathing. So being an atheist seemed a risky business, in any public or convening enterprise. So I was a loner atheist, raising atheist children, and far more concerned about Texas becoming ever more conservative than I was about practicing religion. (Note: I see the irony in that last line, but I was a single working mom and didn’t notice it so much then.)

    But now I have a chance to bring my nonprofit talents to bear in the company of a lot of dedicated, intelligent, compassionate, like-minded-on-atheism individuals. It has been a homecoming of sorts, unplanned and all the sweeter. I find the Position Statements of the Atheist Community of Austin to be in line with what I think is right and true. I think the separation of religion and government is very important, and I am thankful to work for a nonprofit with a mission that addresses this issue.

    And the things I am learning! It seemed like a good idea to write a blog “from my desk” to share the things I didn’t know about the ACA, Atheism, or related matters. Because the things I’m discovering are fascinating, important, and (in my opinion) not sufficiently discussed in everyday conversation. Many readers here may already know some, many, or all of what I’m sharing…but I think there will be others like me who find these bits of knowledge remarkable–and will want to take these thoughts to dinner parties, happy hours, family gatherings, and infinite other settings.

    So here’s a few things from the first weeks with the Atheist Community of Austin. I hope at least one thrills you, they have all added to my enjoyment of this work and made me proud to be an Atheist.

    Godless dollars. How did I never think about this??? A June 1964 New York Times article talks about the motto “In God We Trust” on bills being printed. From the article: “The new issues of United States notes bearing the national motto, “In God We Trust,” on the reverse design are becoming more common in circulation. The addition of the motto to the new bills is attracting attention to paper money in general…there is nothing irregular about bills without the motto. They are the product of normal printing procedures at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.” So one dollar bills that entered circulation before October 1957 don’t have the motto, and several issues of two dollar bills don’t have the motto, and some 2007 George Washington dollar coins were mistakenly struck without “In God We Trust” and made it past inspectors and into circulation. Regrettably, a 2018 circuit court of appeals ruled that the phrase "In God We Trust" does not violate the Constitution. The decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota came in response to an action brought by a group of atheists who contended that the national motto "In God We Trust" appearing on currency was a violation of the First Amendment clause against the establishment of a state religion and a violation of their freedom of speech.

    The Atheist Community of Austin has been broadcasting programming for more than twenty years. Originally appearing on Public Access television (now on the ACA YouTube channel), these programs have offered education, outreach, and a community for Atheists and those inclined to spar with Atheists on matters of faith and logic. I had NO IDEA that the selection of broadcasts had been around so long! And YouTube Channel analytics show that ACA programming had reached 187.4 million views. Wow. Fantastic that so many viewers have found these shows!

    Volunteers. Volunteers. Volunteers. Turns out the hosts and crew for all the Atheist Community of Austin programs have been volunteers from the start. The ACA has only recently hired staff crew (to manage the covid-pivot that allowed programming to be broadcast remotely during covid closures) and the hosts continue to be volunteering time and talent. This is a remarkable commitment. In all my years in the nonprofit sector I cannot think of a workplace where volunteers were so integral to the core programming of an organization. I have no words to convey the respect I have for the individuals who have made the ACA such a force for good, as volunteers, for decades.

    So those are three things that struck me as worth sharing. The first is a curiosity, and a reminder of the changes in our nation around religion and government. The second is a remarkable achievement for a nonprofit that too many people don’t even know exists. The third? That’s an indicator that I’m in the right place, working with people who truly care and have skin in the game. It is an honor to be doing the work I’ve been hired to do.

    More soon. We will learn together!

    Amy


  • 2022-06-26 15:49 | News Update (Administrator)

    The Atheist Community of Austin’s various media outreach programs and activities afford us the opportunity to speak out on a number of issues. Atheism is misunderstood and misrepresented, and we feel it is important that our community has official, public positions* on a number of issues.

    Today we are posting about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which now allows states to ban abortions. Our ACA Position Statement on Reproductive Rights is that individual human rights necessarily include the premise of individual sovereignty with regard to decisions that affect one's person. You can read the full Position Statement on our website https://www.atheist-community.org/positions.

    Atheist Community of Austin staff and leadership made a decision to start sharing information on where to get up-to-date information on available resources and calls to action. We are following the lead of nonprofits in the community and across the country who are leaders in the work to defend and protect reproductive rights–their work just took on an even greater significance.

    The United State of Women https://usow.org/repro/ has information on national and state-by-state nonprofit organizations who will be working on individual services and safety as well as this issue at an advocacy level. Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/ has been fighting to defend reproductive rights and providing health care services for decades.

    In addition to the impact this SCOTUS decision has on individuals and families, impact that will vary by state, and impact that will be felt most greatly by those with the fewest resources, we know there is a growing sense of anger and frustration as we all watch rollbacks on rights and freedoms that have been part of the best of our nation’s progress. Please know that we will continue to build community through our programs, policies, and people. Take extra care of yourself now and in the future.

    *These statements represent the official positions of this organization and are not intended to represent the position of all atheists or ACA members.


  • 2022-06-16 11:32 | Anonymous

    The Atheist Community of Austin produces multiple shows weekly that use a call-in format to allow the exploration of ideas and afford opportunities to confront bigotry, hatred, and prejudice.

    One of ACA’s programs recently took a live call from an individual who had, in the past, personally attacked, by doxxing, harassing, and blackmailing, show hosts who are associated with another ACA program. We regret allowing this caller on an ACA show and apologize for any distress it may have caused. The caller’s behaviors are inconsistent with ACA’s values and we are concerned that allowing this caller airtime for any topic, on any ACA show, contradicts the ACA’s core positions. 

    The ACA is rigorously reviewing our policies to protect against a recurrence of this issue and further clarify show caller protocols. We are making these changes to safeguard our hosts and volunteers, to reinforce our commitment to our Position Statements,1 and to remove opportunities for individuals intent on finding venues to humiliate or harass others.

    Personally identifiable information has been removed to protect the identity of the individuals targeted. 


    1 ACA Position Statements include the following. Full text available. 

    PRIMARY POSITIONS

    • Religion-Government Separation

    • Human Rights


    SECONDARY POSITIONS

    • Religious Displays

    • Creationism and Intelligent Design

    • Public Education

    • Reproductive Rights

    • Trans Rights Are Human Rights

    • LGBTQ Equality




  • 2022-05-06 15:10 | Anonymous

    The Atheist Community of Austin is pleased to announce a new full-time staff member, Amy Price. She has accepted the job of Director of Development and Communications, a new position created in 2022 to support ACA through a period of unprecedented growth. Amy’s nonprofit experience spans twenty-five years and includes national recognition for her work. To date in her career, she has secured more than $150 million in nonprofit funding from philanthropic, corporate, and federal sources. She is a popular trainer at state and national conferences on the many facets of nonprofit revenue generation. We asked her to introduce herself to our members and friends, and here’s what she shared:

    “I could not be happier to have been hired by the Atheist Community of Austin. As an atheist, and a proud parent of atheists, I have a personal connection to the mission of ACA and am glad to be working with the board, volunteers, staff, members, and friends of the ACA to advance our mission. My experience with promoting nonprofit partnerships should be of particular use with ACA, as our work protecting personal freedoms lends itself to cooperative efforts with other entities who have a stake in maintaining and expanding the rights of individuals. As I am learning about the ACA’s rich and varied history, I am truly impressed with the quality and volume of volunteer engagement at every level—with talent from local, national, and international levels combining forces on programming. This is a resource that few nonprofits can boast, and it underscores the value members/friends of the ACA see for the work being done to reinforce the separation of religion and government. In the weeks and months to come, I hope to be communicating with many of you as I work to improve and create communication and engagement opportunities to strengthen the scope of ACA programming.

    On a personal note, I’m a native Texan who calls Austin home for many reasons—not the least of which is Barton Springs Pool, where I can be found swimming an hour every day, rain or shine. I'm an avid reader, a fan of live music, and prefer to be in a National Park when there's time off."


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