Travel Grant: Anne

[infobox type=”success” clickable=”yes” boldtext=”Thanks, Secular Woman!”]Anne has received a partial grant from Secular Woman for $100![/infobox]

Anne’s Story

I was raised as an atheist and freethinker, and I have been actively involved in the atheist and skeptical communities for about three years. My initial involvement was with the online community and blogs like Pharyngula, Skepchick, and Blag Hag. I attended my first large event, the Oakland Rapture RAM, in May of 2011. I enjoyed the speakers greatly and made friends with Rebecca Watson and Amy Davis Roth of Skepchick and Greta Christina.

In June of 2011 I became involved with the 3rd Annual Atheist Film Festival in San Francisco, the first and oldest film festival of its kind. I originally signed on to help with advertising and promoting the festival but ended up doing a lot more than that. I stuck around for the 4th Annual Atheist Film Festival, which just occurred this past weekend. This year, I managed operations and communications starting in October 2011, helping to curate the film selection, coordinating with visiting directors, soliciting screening rights, courting and following up with sponsors and press, managing ticket sales, and running day-of operations. In short, I did most of the heavy lifting this year, and we pulled off the biggest and best Atheist Film Festival yet.

I attended Skepticon IV last year and was blown away by the programming. I was happy to see friends I had made at previous events and make new ones, but I also learned a lot. Far from being an echo chamber where everyone just patted themselves on the back for being smart, it was an intensely educational experience. Every single speaker taught me something new. David Silverman convinced me to make the trip to DC for the Reason Rally, which I attended with my husband and parents.

Following Skepticon IV, I became a writer for Mad Art Lab, a blog on the Skepchick network that explores the intersection of art, science, skepticism, and geek culture. I mainly write about the science of food and drink. I took my skills off the page and into the public this July at SkepchickCON, a mini con within Minneapolis’ sci-fi and fantasy con CONvergence. I sat on multiple science panels and also performed science-focused cocktail demos at the nightly Skepchick parties.

In the past, I have been thrilled to be able to support these events and other secular and skeptical organizations with my own money, paying full admission and making donations whenever possible. Now, my situation is changing. I am days away from starting a MBA program at Presidio Graduate School here in SF. I work only part-time right now, and I’m spending a lot on books and taking on debt. I hope to use my MBA to work for a national or local skeptical/secular organization, managing operations behind the scenes so that my organization can promote our values and make a difference in the world.

A travel grant would allow me to stay involved while I develop my skills and further my education to help further our goals.

Anne needs $330 to get to Skepticon. Help her out?

Travel Grant: Sheri

Sheri’s Story

I have come out of the closet to my family and, as a result, have experienced a great deal of Christian sermonizing. Whenever possible, I challenge Christians concerning their faith. I’ve attended Skepticon in the past and know first-hand what a wonderful event it is. Now that I’ve moved back to Mt. Vernon, it is no longer practical for me to attend Skeptics events. My atheist friends are all in Springfield. I feel like the Lone Ranger here; standing up for atheistic non-belief in the existence of God, spirituality, and the soul.

I am disabled and live on a very meager Social Security Disability. I have no money left even for something as important to me as Skepticon. It is truly motivation and inspiration I need. In the past, Skepticon has assisted me in my arguments attempting to persuading Christians to at least question their faith. Most of them are Christians simply because they grew up in a Christian home. Some have had a spiritual experience; speakers at Skepticon are helpful to me in do a better job debunking their experiences.

I also need the reprieve. Any more sermons against atheism and I may become sick to my stomach!

Sheri needs just $40.00 to get to Skepticon. Donate today!

Sponsor Highlight: Secular Woman

Secular Woman: Skepticon Sponsor

“Skepticon is a natural partner for Secular Woman’s first disbursement of travel grants. We’ll be able to help more women atheists and skeptics experience a major secular event, thanks to Skepticon’s free registration and its track record of high attendance and engaging speakers.”

– Kim Rippere
President, Secular Woman

In conjunction with our new travel grants program, Secular Woman is pledging to help at least ten women make it to Skepticon 5. We couldn’t be more pleased! Together, we’re making SK5 the most accessible Skepticon event yet.

Please help us show our gratitude to this fantastic new organization!

Interested in getting a travel grant? Stay tuned! Details will be available when registration launches on July 31st.

SK5 Lineup: Week 1

It’s a good one, guys.

I can’t even express how pleased I am to be announcing this Skepticon’s lineup. It’s really something else this year! To keep you all on the edge of your seats, we’re releasing our speaker list over the next few weeks – a few new names (and maybe a couple familiar ones…) every Monday. As always, we’re depending on you to help us fund our event – and if we can meet our weekly donation goal (this one’s $1500!) we’ll post the next bunch of speakers immediately. Please consider donating – the vast majority of our funding comes from individuals who want to see Skepticon succeed!

Alright, enough of my fundraise-y talk – let’s get to the names!

Jessica Ahlquist

We’ve been following this “evil little thing” since she started her battle with her public high school to have an unconstitutional prayer banner removed from its auditorium. Ahlquist has since won her case and become a prominent atheist activist, despite receiving innumerable threats from within her Rhode Island community. Jessica is a remarkably gifted speaker, and we’re very pleased to have her at SK5!

Greta Christina

If we’d failed to invite Greta back, we would’ve been due a revolt. Greta Christina’s SK4 talk has been viewed nearly 100,000 times on Youtube, making it the most popular Skepticon presentation of all time. If you don’t yet know who Greta Christina is, you’ve clearly been in cryogenic freeze – and now it’s time to defrost and read up.

Sean Carroll

A Harvard-educated theoretical cosmologist, Carroll specializes in dark energy and general relativity. He is a talented cosmologist and science educator, occasionally making guest appearances on the History Channel’s The Universe, the Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.. Take a look at his homepage or his blog.

Julia Galef

Another familiar face! Julia’s SK4 talk tackled the frequent straw-manning of rationalists in the media. A prolific skeptic, Galef writes for Measure of Doubt and Rationally Speaking and produces the Rationally Speaking podcast with co-host Massimo Pigliucci. She is currently in the process of launching a new non-profit organization dedicated to the teaching of rationality skills.

Kitten Billboard: Brief Answers to Brief Questions

Why?
When the idea of an adorable atheist billboard was proposed on a prominent blog, we immediately loved it. When donors started saying, “Hey, I’d pay to see that!” we were thrilled. We really couldn’t have asked for a better way to interface with the local community in Springfield, MO.

Where’s the billboard?
At the intersection of Glenstone Avenue and Seminole Street in Springfield, Missouri.

Is there a press release?
Yes!

I am disgruntled. What should I do?
If it would make you feel better, we have a contact form you can use to air your grievances. Otherwise, I recommend a glass of wine and this video on repeat.

Who paid for the billboard?
The billboard funding was provided by you, the internet, with the explicit purpose of making a horrendously cute billboard for atheists. Most of the donors were readers of the Friendly Atheist blog, where Richard Wade first suggested a generation of totally innocuous atheist billboards.

Those are cats, not kittens.
Yep.

What are you going to do with the billboard?
The billboard is printed on vinyl that we’ll get to keep after it’s been taken down. It’s 36 feet wide and 10 feet tall – so… kitten tent? Kitten parachute?

More likely: we’ll auction it at SK5 in November.

Press Release: Kitten Billboard

LOCAL ATHEISTS PUT UP KITTEN BILLBOARD

Springfield, MO – Commuters on Glenstone Avenue may be surprised by a new billboard with an unexpected message.

The advertisement, created for the Skepticon atheist convention, features the innocuous tagline “Kittens are cute,” framed by several inquisitive-looking tabby cats.

“Atheists are among the most despised minorities in the United States,” said Skepticon organizer Jeffrey Markus. “We want to set the record straight: we’re not evil, and we’re not scary. We’re part of this community.”

A 2007 Gallup poll showed that 53% of Americans would refuse to cast their vote for an otherwise well-qualified atheist candidate. The following year, another Gallup survey found that only 13% of Americans have a positive view of atheists as a group.

Skepticon’s director of development, Katie Hartman, says that last year Skepticon attendees were briefly barred from a local Gelato shop after the owner discovered the conference’s irreligious content. “The ‘Skepticon not welcome’ sign was up for only a short time, but we got the message – and it doesn’t have to be this way moving forward. We’re a friendly, playful bunch of people. The billboard is an olive branch.”

Billboards raised by atheist groups in other parts of the country have sparked public outrage and been subjected to vandalism. Hartman says the Skepticon organizers don’t anticipate any setbacks. “They’re kittens. Who could possibly be opposed to kittens? They’re intended to make people smile. I can’t imagine this offending anybody.”

Skepticon has been held in Springfield since 2008, when it was created by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at Missouri State University. The organizers anticipate an audience of about 1,500 at the 2012 event, which will be held November 9th-11th at the Springfield Convention Center.

The billboard will remain in place through July.

Press Contacts:

Micah Weiss
(417) 425-6150
[email protected]

Katie Hartman
(360) 450-8678
[email protected]

Update: Kitten Billboard

Thanks to your generous donations, we’re able to move forward on our ridiculously adorable billboard!

This is our current frontrunner design – but we’re looking for your suggestions and criticisms. By all means, have at it!

If we’re able to afford a second billboard, we’ll be using the next most popular image:

Your support makes us feel warm and fuzzy!

Challenge Accepted

Richard at the Friendly Atheist recently posted his suggestions for ‘soft sell’ pro-atheist billboards, including:

To which we at the Skepticon team say:

We’ve priced billboards in the Springfield area and think it can be done for as little as $2,000 – and if we end with more? We’ll put it on buses in St. Louis and Kansas City. Here’s our concept template:

(Note that this is an updated version of our first concept, altered based on your comments and suggestions.)

But, internet – we need a star. And there are so many deserving candidates! Like these kittens punching holes in their known universe:

And these bulldog puppies:

And this fluffy kitten! And this awkward pair! And this slightly less awkward group of baby critters

Help us decide, internet!

[poll id=”2″]

And please, please help us pay for it.