This weekend, atheists will converge in Hartford, Connecticut, to participate in the Freedom From Religion Coalition's (FFRC) annual conference. FFRC, one of the most vocal groups working to remove God from American society, wholeheartedly believes that "the most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion." The group describes its mission as follows:
The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.
The 34th annual gathering of atheists will be held at the Marriott Hartford Downtown and will include a multitude of non-believing speakers. Among the individuals currently on the agenda are professors, entertainers and the like.
There's Joseph Taylor, a former Christian rock band member (the band "Undercover") who is now a "nonbelieving educator." Then, there's broadway composer Charles Strouse, the lifetime atheist who wrote the musicals "Annie" and "Bye Bye Birdie."
During the convention, FFRC will be honoring University of Chicago Professor Jerry Coyne with the "Emperor Has No Clothes Award." Coyne wrote a book back in 2009 called, "Why Evolution is True."
Of course, these are only a few of the individuals who will be addressing conference participants (the full list can be found here). Below, watch Christopher Hitchens' acceptance speech for this same award back in 2007 (during the 30th annual event):
The Guardian has more information on the event, which will likely cause some angst among the religious:
At the meeting, members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) will hear speakers celebrate successes they have had in removing religion from US public life and see awards being presented to noted secularist activists.
The US is increasingly portrayed as a hotbed of religious fervour. Yet in the homeland of ostentatiously religious politicians such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, agnostics and atheists are actually part of one of the fastest-growing demographics in the US: the godless. Far from being in thrall to its religious leaders, the US is in fact becoming a more secular country, some experts say. "It has never been better to be a free-thinker or an agnostic in America," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF.
It's no secret that FFRC is consistently working to rid society of references to God and the like. Back in September, we reported on a lawsuit that the group launched against housing exemptions that Christian ministers are afforded by the federal government.
In July, the organization unsuccessfully sued to stop Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting, saying that it would violate the constitutional ban on the government endorsing a religion. And in June, the group was forced to remove atheistic billboards that were mistakingly placed on church land.
But the group has also had some major success in achieving its mission. In March, after threatening to sue a Virginia school district, copies of the 10 Commandments were removed from public schools. Also, who can forget their anti-Christmas messaging and their ongoing Godless billboard placements?
While the proportion of Americans who call themselves atheists is still relatively small, the numbers are growing, as groups like FFRC dig their heels in and fight incessantly against religious institutions.