Before "Women of Faith" Hits AAC, Female Atheists Throw a Gathering of Their Own

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Image via Bogdan I. Stanciu
Strangely, Mary has not yet RSVPed.
Women of Faith, a conference put on by the nation's largest Christian book publisher, hits the American Airlines Center next week.

The "Feminine Faces of Freethought" conference is not coincidentally being held tomorrow at Resource Center Dallas.

It's safe to say that there won't be a lot of overlap between their attendees.

"I was just looking at their website," says Melanie Clemmer cheerily. She's the outreach director for the Fellowship of Freethought, one of DFW's atheist and humanist groups. "I was going down a rabbithole of internet videos of Women of Faith, which is kind of scary."

She laughs. "Sorry about that."

Clemmer explains that ever since she found out about the WOF conferences, she's been hoping to hold "a sort of of counterpoint" around the same time. The idea started small: "For our first meeting, I thought we'd have a lunch and learn, there'd be about 15 people, we'd have just a discussion or just one speaker." Then she went out of town and didn't show up for one planning meeting. When she came back, the women in atheism lunch had morphed into a daylong conference with more than a dozen speakers. They're expecting around 75 people to show up. "I'm still a little bit in awe at how this took off."

Before she was a humanist, Clemmer was, several decades ago, a Mennonite in Pennsylvania, where she grew up.

"The community I grew up in was more tied into mainstream American culture" than some Mennonite groups, she explains. "We had cars, electricity, and our dress was like most of mainstream American culture. But even if you look at the wedding pictures of my grandparents, you can actually see a style of dress and head covering of the women, jackets for the men, that are actually a little closer to what we call the plain Mennonite church."

Clemmer came to Dallas at 22 to work for the VA Hospital as a dietitian and diabetes educator, where she's worked ever since. But her religious beliefs began to gradually ebb away.

"I still have many friends who are Christians," she says. "There are many people who I do see as doing good in the world, and it does come as an outgrowth of their faith. But I just personally got to the point where I could no longer compartmentalize my reason and my intellect with the supernatural. So for me -- there are plenty of people who I think can do the mental gymnastics required to say, 'Well, the Bible does say this about women or slavery or gay people, but I can still be a good person. I'm just going to take it in this context.' And I just got to the point where I could no longer do those mental gymnastics."

But Clemmer found that the atheist movement was, at times, not particularly diverse.

"Women are actually still a minority in the atheist and freethought movement. And typically the face of free thought and the skeptical movement is that of the middle-class middle-aged white male." The purpose of the conference, she says, is pretty simple: "We wanted to show that the freethinking movement has many other faces, both in gender and diverse backgrounds, and the wealth of knowledge that we bring."

The keynote speaker will be Noelle George, who founded an organization called Parenting Within Reason, which encourages parents to raise their kids with a background in "science and critical thinking." Other speakers will include former Muslim women, bloggers, LGBT women, and the leader of Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated. Men are also welcome, Clemmer says, and childcare will be provided.

"Those of us that live here in the Bible Belt, there are many of us that do find that we need to have, I'm going to call it a safe space where we don't have to be asked what church we belong to," Clemmer says. "Or where we can talk about some of the different things that we encounter living in a religious environment, different things that drive us crazy, mutual support, and outreach activities." The goal of FOF, she says, is to "create a community where people can get together and do things to help our fellow humans without being under the umbrella of a religious organization."

As for the conference, she says, "One of the things that I would like to accomplish is for any woman feels she's out there alone -- whether it be in her career, in fighting for women's rights, in parenting -- that she knows that she has a supportive community that's out there. I hope that people feel energized to make a difference in their community."

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18 comments
RTGolden
RTGolden

Well I guess this is as good an opportunity to eat crow as any, and relevant as well.  Yesterday I opined that UP routinely denigrates the beliefs of christians all the time.....something about lumping all believers in with the Westboro idiots.  Tone called me on it.  I told him I'd look around a bit for some snips that unequivocally show UP writers castigating the christian faith.  I didn't find them.  There is a lot of christian bashing in the comments, and from the subjects of some of the articles, and a whole lot of ill repute heaped upon christianity by so-called christians both in the articles and the comments (Offender in Chief might be Rick Perry).

Anyhow, I told tone if I couldn't find any specific links I'd put up an apology.  To the editor, the talented writers, and even to Schutze, I extend my apology.

NotAnAtheist
NotAnAtheist

I did not know the Women of Faith conference was this coming week. I'll have to go check it out.

LanceAtkinson
LanceAtkinson

@Atheismwatch Why we can't have this sort of thing happen more? There is no reason we can't set aside our differences and help each other.

imanatheisttoo
imanatheisttoo

Just yesterday the Observer's "journalists" were decrying the "insensitive denigration" of people's "spiritual beliefs" ... Well, as long as they are Muslims, that is. Christians are fair game.

imanatheisttoo
imanatheisttoo

"I was going down a rabbithole of internet videos of Women of Faith, which is kind of scary." .... "Strangely, Mary has not yet RSVP'ed". Well thank the non-existent God that a bunch of irate Catholics and "Women of Faith" won't be storming the office of the Dallas Observer or the "Feminine Faces of Freethought" meeting and dragging the lifeless bodies of "journalists" and "freethinkers" down the streets.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

How is athiesm a movement?  Like Adam Corolla said, when I don't believe in something, I can do that in my boxers on the couch.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @RTGolden Thanks for taking the time to look and post RT.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

 @imanatheisttoo Is covering a newsworthy event and accurately quoting an organizer the same thing as us "denigrating people's spiritual beliefs"? 

CraigT42
CraigT42

 @imanatheisttoo 

Yeah, and with 2000 years of practice at it you would think they would be right there. Guess they are all too busy working to deprive others of their happiness, raping children, and telling the world that condoms cause AIDs

monstruss
monstruss

 @Anna_Merlan  @imanatheisttoo Didn't you get the memo? Covering anything religious other than Christianity in a positive light is considered "insensitive denigration" to these morons. 

imanatheisttoo
imanatheisttoo

@Anna_Merlan Don't be so fucking disingenuous. The Observer denigrates the beliefs of Christians all the time. Own up to it. Or do you want me to start posting example after example? Because I can do that if you want.

goodmuslimbitch
goodmuslimbitch

@Anna_Merlan Thank the non-existent God that we live in the USA where we are forced to pay taxes to fund "Piss Christ". What? You don't want to pay for "Piss Christ" with your taxes? Then you are obviously a narrow-minded unenlightened HATEMONGER BIGOT.

goodmuslimbitch
goodmuslimbitch

@Anna_Merlan Thank the non-existent God that we live in the USA where we are forced to pay taxes to fund "Piss Christ". What? You don't want to pay for "Piss Christ" with your taxes? Then you are obviously a narrow-minded unenlightened BIGOT.

goodmuslimbitch
goodmuslimbitch

@Anna_Merlan Hey since you bought up that wonderful inspiring statement of Dear Leader, when do you think he will condemn Bill Maher? The last 20 minutes of "Religulous" is basically an "Anti-Islamic movie" that mocks the religious beliefs of Muslims. Is Obama going to denounce him and send the Feds to investigate him? OOOOH SILLY ME, I forgot Bill Maher donated a million bucks to Obama. Whoops! Sorry! I'll get back to watching "Good Muslim Bitches", as promoted on the Dallas Observer in multiple posts by their "journalists".

goodmuslimbitches
goodmuslimbitches

@Anna_Merlan @imanatheisttoo Gee I'm sorry, I forgot about all those columns The Observer's "journalists" wrote promoting "Good Muslim Bitches".

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

 @imanatheisttoo  You can post whatever you're moved to, obviously (links would be preferable, those huge blocks of text down in the comments get a little cumbersome). But try to make a distinction between the people we write about, the stuff they say, and the views we ourselves hold.     

 

Also, you're actually quoting President Obama, who we quoted in that post. The president said, ""While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants."

 

And then Rick Perry decided that meant Ambassador Stephens' death was his fault. And then we all headed for the bar, because what the fuck else can you do. 

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