Friday, April 24, 2015

Godless Gathering in Hickory, NC by the Hundreds

Conference attendees listen to Dr. Richard Carrier speak at last year's “ReasonCon” in Hickory, NC
According to a recent Gallup poll, the Hickory area is one of the ten most religious metropolitan areas in the country. So it may seem like an unlikely place for hundreds of godless people to gather to promote secular values and reason. But that’s exactly what is happening again this year starting with a VIP dinner tonight (April 24th) and conference speakers tomorrow (April 25th). They call it “ReasonCon 2015,” and it is expected to be the largest secular conference ever held in the Carolinas. Last year’s “ReasonCon” conference, also held in Hickory, drew over 400 attendees and featured talks by a former Seventh-day Adventist pastor and an academic expert on the historicity of Jesus.

This year’s conference is being organized by the Hickory Humanist Alliance (HHA), a local chapter of the American Humanist Association (AHA) and an affiliate of the American Atheists. HHA is a non-profit organization that provides a community for non-believers in Catawba and surrounding counties. Last year the organization also held the first “Reason Rally” on the square in Hickory to celebrate the National Day of Reason which is promoted by the AHA and other national secular groups as a way to celebrate reason and “to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.”
 
With the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion rising at a rapid pace in recent years, local secular and humanist groups are popping up everywhere to foster a sense of community among the like-minded and raise public awareness that people who don't believe in a god or gods can be decent citizens who contribute to the larger society. In the greater Charlotte metropolitan area alone, there are now ten different groups that make up the “Charlotte Coalition of Reason.” HHA is one of the founding members of this broader coalition of local secular groups.

In highly religious communities like Hickory, non-believers often feel isolated and alone and are afraid to come out to others about their disbelief. If they do come out, they may be shunned by family or friends. Organizations like HHA, and events like ReasonCon, reassure these people that they are not alone and that there are many like-minded individuals - even in the “Bible Belt.” They also serve to demonstrate to the religious that non-believers exist even within highly religious communities and that they are decent, ethical citizens who also care deeply about their families and communities.

This year’s “ReasonCon” schedule includes Sarah Morehead, the Executive Director of Recovering From Religion, Tracie Harris, cohost of a weekly webcast and cable access television show in Austin, Texas called "The Atheist Experience", David Smalley, host of the Dogma Debate radio show, and Heina Dadabhoy, an ex-Muslim and “atheist feminist secular humanist” who is currently writing a book titled “A Skeptic’s Guide to Islam.” For more information or to purchase tickets for the conference, you can visit their web site at ReasonNC.com.

Note The VIP tickets are sold out, but we'll be live tweeting during Sarah Morehead's talk via @MetrolinaRfR. And tickets are still available for tomorrow.



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