Atheists invade Hartford

September 27, 2011 • 10:48 am

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is having its annual convention in Hartford, Connecticut from October 7-9.  I’m going (and giving a talk), and there’s a really nice lineup of speakers and events, including Steve Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein speaking about their new books.

Susan Campbell at The Hartford Courant reports that the FFRF has put up two awesome billboards off the main highway, both featuring famous residents:

In preparation for their Oct. 7-9 convention in Connecticut’s capital city, the Wisconsin-based freethinkers’ organization just put billboards up in Hartford (just off I-91 and I-84) that answer that.

Hartford was chosen in no small part because members wanted to tour  [Mark] Twain’s home, says Dan Barker, co-president of the foundation, and a former evangelical minister. Twain was a notorious agnostic — or perhaps an atheist.

And Katharine Hepburn

30 thoughts on “Atheists invade Hartford

  1. No Wallace Stevens billboard? He was another of Hartford’s great unbelievers. Here he is on notions of heaven and how they stack up to nature:

    There is not any haunt of prophecy,
    Nor any old chimera of the grave,
    Neither the golden underground, nor isle
    Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
    Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
    Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
    As April’s green endures; or will endure
    Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
    Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
    By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.

    Too long for a billboard, I admit, but surely something short and memorable that he said.

  2. Wow, the companies that run the billboards allowed them to put that up there? That fact alone sounds like good news to me. Now let’s hope they aren’t taken down because of one faithist’s complaint.

    1. With the state of the Connecticut economy, we’ll put up a billboard for belly button lint if the price is right!

  3. Thank you so very much for speaking out. Glad to learn you are going to Hartford. Probably I should go, too, but I am getting older (74) and driving in Hartford is off-putting.

    Love WEIT and have given copies to several friends.

    And thanks for taking the trouble to keep this website going. (I assume there has to be some fun doing it.)

  4. Pinker is coming to the UK at the end of October to promote the new book – I am going to hear him talk at the Royal Institution on 2nd November I think it is. The book is apparently very long!

  5. I understand that the place might be related to Mark Twain. But I’m wondering about the DATE — Yom Kippur!? Is this just the luck of the calendar, or is it perhaps a deliberate alternative event for a conclave that clearly includes more than its share of Jews?

    As a Conservative rabbi, I find myself once again in this forum asserting that I believe in evolution, in absolute religious freedom, and in extreeeeme skepticism about God.

    I’m just curious about the choice of date.

    1. No kidding, if atheists have to check everyone’s religious calendar in order to make a scheduling decision, that would be … well, mind-numbingly stupid.

      Maybe you should check your egotism at the door. It’s not about you.

    2. But as a conservative Rabbi, why would you care about Yom Kippur? Not everyone can follow Lehrer’s lied and spend it in Missusippuh.

    3. There are only 365 to choose from and the Jews, Christians and Muslims have cornered quite a few of them. We really tried to avoid St. Swithen’s Day so as not the rile up the Catholics.

  6. I have to say I find the second ad of poor taste. Asserting what your point of view is and then saying “that’s it” is what theists do. It smacks of dogmatism.
    That said, I am very much looking forward to attending the event and listening to Jerry.

    1. This isn’t an argument against God’s existence (Argumentum ad Hepburnum) so much as an attempt put a human face on atheism. It’s not there to convince people to abandon theism but rather atheists deserve at least a modicum of respect.

      1. I always took her “that’s it” to mean she was making a definitive statement about being an atheist, as opposed to someone who waffles about their lack of belief. I don’t think she was making a declaration from the mountain top.

    2. I pretty much do that. There’s no catechism for atheism, and no particular reason that has to be given other than not believing in fairy tales. I don’t have to justify my atheism becaus it doesn’t require evidence. It’s the theist that has to justify their unnatural/supernatural position.

    3. I took it as, I’m an atheist….and whether or not I am prone to violence, sodomoy, selfishness, hate, etc, does not follow from that..(or for that matter, whether I have tendencies that are positive)

      It just means I don’t believe in any sort of god, and that’s about it.

      Therefore, “I’m an atheist, and that’s it.”

      In my view, it’s a statement for those who see atheist as lacking in morality.

  7. Google provided this:

    “I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for people.”
    ― Katharine Hepburn

    Perhaps that takes some of edge off that upsets some folks?

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