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  • 2023-01-27 14:52 | News Update (Administrator)

    I'm sure you've noticed the regular drumbeat of news stories and social media commentary from religious folks claiming they are suppressed, censored,  or put-upon in some ways- persecuted for their faith. Its rare to hear news about how folks that are not religious are being directly, measurably harassed. So, as we are interested in evaluating real data, and not someone's personal perception, here's a recent PEW research study on the topic:


  • 2022-11-22 12:12 | News Update (Administrator)


    You may not know, but there is a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that serves as an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government agency created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The USCIRF exists to monitor the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad; makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress; and tracks the implementation of these recommendations. 

    The USCIRF just published their 2022 Annual Report, and (with all the appendices) it is 100 pages of information regarding what's happening in nations where governments repress religious freedom through laws and policies that coerce compliance with a particular religious interpretation, typically one that aligns with an official or state-favored religion. Governments. Coerce. Religion.

    This report centers on violations of religions freedom. It is a federal agency publication--so it is almost a technical read. (Hard to grasp that adjective being used on some levels, when the word 'torture' appears 32 times, 'killing' appears 17 times, 'flogging' appears 3 times, 'genocide' appears 35 times...well, you get the idea.) Documenting these violations is certainly important work, and getting the information out to decision makers (and the media and the world) matters, but it invariably feels so remote.

    But as I read through the report, I think about the ACA's programming. We hear from people from these countries (calls, comments, emails) because our shows on YouTube and other platforms have a reach that is remarkable. The work of the Atheist Community of Austin, for twenty-five years, has been to create programming dedicated to promoting atheism, critical thinking, secular humanism, and the separation of religion and government. There have been hundreds of program hosts through the years. There have been tens of thousands of volunteer hours donated by individuals who have been on camera and on the crews that make it happen. All to keep the space intact, the space where the conversations happen. The space where it is safe to declare oneself an atheist, or uncertain. A space that we should never take for granted. And if we do, a look at the report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom will remind us why this matters.

    Deepest respect for everyone who contributes their time and talent to this work. And profound gratitude for the hundreds of thousands of individuals who have found our shows and given even greater value to the investment of everyone involved in ACA programs. 

  • 2022-10-02 20:01 | News Update (Administrator)

    The work of Matt Dillahunty as an Atheist Community of Austin (ACA) member, board member, board president, volunteer, and popular show host for the The Atheist Experience is but a part of his role in the greater world of atheism, secular humanism, and skepticism. Our organization, our members, and years of viewers have benefitted in countless ways from his engagement and passion. We are thankful to have been one of the many settings where an icon, a legend, and a friend has chosen to invest his energy and intellect.

    Matt has hosted ACA’s The Atheist Experience for almost 18 years, becoming a stand-out personality on a roster of charismatic hosts since that show’s inception in October of 1997. Beyond his work on The Atheist Experience, Matt has been seen on countless stages around the world in the company of other luminaries who promote and protect the perspective and rights of an appreciative and growing demographic of non-believers. His commitment to the value of debate is such that losing an argument to Matt Dillahunty is almost the conferring of an honor–or at least a recognized rite of passage. Vern Graner, Board Chair, President and CEO of the ACA, remembers, 

    “The first episode of The Atheist Experience I ever watched featured Matt Dillahunty and Jeff Dee. Over the years, so many hosts on The Atheist Experience and other ACA shows have made a huge positive impact in so many people's lives. Matt in particular has been a central figure in the atheist movement and has performed an amazing service for the ACA and for our fans.

    I agree with Matt that the mission of the ACA is the most important thing to consider in the current regressive climate in which we find ourselves. It is crucial that we stay focused on the mission and work to carry it forward. Over the last 25+ years, Matt and other volunteers have given countless hours of their time to make all the shows at the ACA possible.

    I am truly grateful for anyone and everyone that helps carry the burden with us. I wish Matt the best in his future endeavors, and I look forward to the continued success of the ACA, its shows, and its mission.”

    All this to say that the Atheist Community of Austin has much respect and affection for Matt Dillahunty and we wish him all the best as he leaves the host chair of The Atheist Experience. We look forward to hearing from him and about him for Matt will certainly continue to challenge himself and all of us to bring our “A game” to the work.



  • 2022-09-30 12:33 | Anonymous

    The Atheist Community of Austin is dedicated to promoting atheism, critical thinking, secular humanism, and the separation of religion and government.

    This month the Atheist Community of Austin’s Board of Directors made a change to our mission statement. The new statement, above, now includes critical thinking and secular humanism.

    So why a change?

    Nonprofit organizations are required to have a clearly stated charitable purpose to acquire and maintain their tax exempt status. This is commonly known as a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS. Best practices suggest that nonprofits should review their mission statement every two or three years.

    So purpose is a very significant element.

    Nonprofits create a mission statement to describe their purpose.

    A nonprofit’s mission statement is ideally brief, clear, and inspiring.

    As part of our review and revision process, we solicited input from staff and volunteers (including our incredible show hosts and crew) before finalizing and voting on the new mission statement. In the words of our Board Chair, “We absolutely benefited from engagement with folks in our organization on the issue, and adding critical thinking was part of the consensus of our larger organization, including hosts.” Feedback included not only suggestions for wording–but often the thought processes informing those suggestions, and wry and humorous asides about this process and the world in which we live.

    Sharing some of the feedback here:

    “The path to atheism that we have consistently advocated is one of reasoned critical thinking (skepticism) and not atheism merely via intuition.”

    “Were we using the word “positive” deliberately or unintentionally? As “positive atheism” is a thing, the question becomes ‘does the ACA mission statement intend to declare that we promote Positive Atheism, or was the word positive intended to be an adjective (in the vein of “upbeat”) describing (atheist) culture?’”

    “...thanks for this opportunity, and I look forward to hearing the thoughts -- not "thoughts and prayers" -- of others.”

    “Lastly, I'm just a volunteer and understand that even if I raised a stink it wouldn't have mattered. I do appreciate it being asked of everyone though.”

    p.s.

    Wondering what changed?

    Here’s the previous mission statement: The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheist culture and the separation of religion and government.

    p.p.s.

    Why a mission statement at all?

    There are rules and regulations that govern nonprofit organizations. To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3). Further, the Atheist Community of Austin is registered as a nonprofit corporation with the Texas Secretary of State. A lot of people don’t realize that nonprofits (or charitable organizations, if you prefer) are corporations–and like any business we cope with insurance, payroll, budgeting, employee handbooks, audits, strategic planning, copyrights, risk management, tech issues, etc.

    What’s different about tax exempt nonprofits is that the work is limited to purposes that are defined as charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency. (That’s all language from the IRS website.)


  • 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.



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