Atheists holding first Harrisburg conference

“The sailor does not pray for wind, he learns to sail” — Swedish painter Gustav Lundberg.

Seems time to give a shout-out to the atheists in this space. Especially after this story about the Lancaster restaurant discount flap generated such negative publicity for the group.

I received an email this morning from Brian Fields, president of the PA Nonbelievers, a central Pennsylvania group of about 100 members.

They are being joined by the Lancaster Freethought Society, Nittany Freethought, and American Atheists in bringing a state conference to central Pennsylvania. It will be held September 28th through September 30th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Harrisburg.

So I called Brian to chat about where nonbelievers fit in our society.

“We have decided, especially in light of things like the Year of the Bible and other things going on in Pennsylvania that it would be very appropriate .. to have an atheists conference,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Legislature passed Year of the Bible legislation earlier this year. Although merely ceremonial, the bill attracted criticism for skirting separation of church and state standards.

Brian said nonbelievers want to clear up “misconceptions” that exist about their groups.

“We’re not the small minority that people think we are,” he said. “We’re larger than many faith groups including Jews and many Christian organizations.”

Of the Prudhomme’s incident in Columbia, Brian said the facts of the case were distorted.

“A lot of the negative attention, is a misconception of what is being asked,” he said. “If you consider, for example, if we were talking about this part race gets a 10 percent off on Sundays, or this particular sex gets 10 percent off… the outrage would be deafening.”

Conference speakers include Dan Barker (President of the Freedom from
Religion Foundation), Dave Silverman (President of American Atheists),
Herb Silverman (Founder of the Secular Coalition of America), and many
others will provide fun and informative talks for attendees.

New speakers are still being added, and the latest list is online at the
event’s website, Brian said. In addition, Dan Barker (who is an accomplished
pianist), and Brother Sam Singleton: Atheist Evangelist will be
providing entertainment.

Conference pricing is $50, or $10 for students for the entire weekend.
Day passes are available, as well as tickets for preferred seating.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, see the event
website at:

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to Atheists holding first Harrisburg conference

  1. S. A. Tan says:

    I’d beware of any meeting of atheists, as much as I’d beware of any congregation of “believers.” Group and groupthink are dangerous, no matter the ideology. A group of the misguided faithful and of the overconfident faithless are just two sides of the same silly coin.

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