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California Freethought Day

Sunday, October 16, 2016

California State Capitol Building


In celebration of our 15th anniversary, we are proud to have booked some amazing speakers:

Featured Speakers:

Aron Ra

Aron Ra, Pres. Atheist Alliance of America

Sanal Edamaruku

Sanal Edamaruku, Pres. Rationalist International

David Silverman

David Silverman, Pres. American Atheists

Nas Ishmael, Ex-Muslim Activist

Cidney Fisk

Cidney Fisk, Student Activist

Special Guests:

Mercedes Macias

Mercedes Macías, Chico City Council Candidate

Community Panel:

Amanda Metskas

Amanda Metskas, Camp Quest

Tom Manger

Tom Manger, Secular Coalition for California

Melissa Pugh

Melissa Pugh, United COR

Rebecca Hensler

Rebecca Hensler, Grief Beyond Belief

Live Entertainment:

Shelley Segal

Shelley Segal, Singer-Songwriter

Steve Hill

Steve Hill, Comedian

Victor Harris

Victor Harris, Poet

Dallas Darnell  Dallas Darnell, Guitarist 
Uncle Sam  Uncle Sam

Author's Panel:

Dan Arel

Dan Arel, Author and Journalist

Elbe Spurling

Elbe Spurling, Author

David McAfee

David McAfee, Author

Bill Zuersher

Bill Zuersher, Author

And don't forget:

  • Leadership Day on Saturday for those in leadership and advocacy roles at the local and state level
  • Supporters' Reception on Saturday evening where you can meet many of our speakers and enjoy wine, dessert, and more
  • Advocacy Day on Monday where you'll be able to share your secular voice with our state's elected officials inside the Capitol

Aron Ra, Atheist Alliance of America

Aron RaAron is president of Atheist Alliance of America, hosts the Ra-Men podcast, and is the director of the Phylogeny Explorer Project.

Aron is one of the "YouTube atheists" and an advocate for rationalism in science classrooms. His videos promote secular education and skeptical thinking, often focusing on evolution and the evidence indicating an interrelated tree of life. His series summarizing the 'Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism' among others have been mirrored, featured, referenced, and recommended by many professional scientists, secularists, and educators, and has attracted more than 140,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.

Aron's soon-to-be-released book, Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism is available for pre-order. Follow him on Twitter (@Aron_Ra) and YouTube.

Aron will be speaking at Freethought Day at 5:00 PM.

Sanal Edamaruku, Activist

Sanal EdamarukuSanal is an outspoken rationalist and freethinker from India. He brought to public attention the message of critical thinking and rationalism across India through mass reaching campaigns, lectures, numerous articles and hundreds of TV appearances.

On a live TV test of magic powers of a holy man - whom Sanal challenged to kill him with tantric rituals - he came out victorious and a national hero in India. In 2012, following his role in examining a "miracle" at a Catholic church in Mumbai, the Catholic Archdiocese of Mumbai filed blasphemy cases against him. As his life, security and freedom were at severe risk in India, Sanal moved to Finland, where he now heads the Rationalist International that he founded in India in 1995.

Follow Sanal on Twitter (@SanalEdamaruku) and on Facebook.

Sanal is a fellow of the Committee for Secular Inquiry (CSI) and the author of twenty-five books. A new book in English on his encounters with Indian holy men (Indian Gurus - From Flying Fakirs to Starving Saints) is expecting release in November 2016.

Sanal will be speaking at Freethought Day at 12:05 PM.

David Silverman, American Atheists

David SilvermanDavid is President of American Atheists and was the creator and Executive Producer of the 2012 Reason Rally as well as Vice President of the 2016 Reason Rally. 

He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science from Brandeis University and his MBA in Marketing from Penn State. Mr. Silverman served as a professional inventor at Bell Labs for eight years (74 issued patents) and a Marketing Director for Natural Microsystems.

He has been an atheist since he was 6-years-old. David became an activist in 1996 and soon became American Atheists' New Jersey State Director. He was tapped to be the National Spokesperson in 2004, and then was named Vice President in 2008. The Board of Directors elected David as President in September of 2010.

David's first book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, was released on December 1, 2015.

David has appeared on most major news programs including The O'Reilly Factor (spawning the famous "WTF meme-face"), The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Ronan Farrow Daily, Scarborough Country, CNN's Paula Zahn NOW, Nick News, Hannity and Colmes, FOX and Friends, NPR's All Things Considered, and many more. 

Follow David on Facebook and Twitter (@mratheistpants), and American Atheists on Facebook and Twitter (@americanatheist). 

David will be speaking at Freethought Day at 2:50 PM.

Nas Ishmael, Ex-Muslim Activist

Nas is one of the co-founders of Ex-Muslims of North America. He has worked behind the scenes in the Ex-Muslim movement for many years, helping build and maintain Ex-Muslim communities across the United States and Canada.

Born into a Muslim background, it was reading philosophy at a young age that lead him towards the path to being a freethinker. An Ex-Muslim Atheist, Nas hopes to bring to light the myriad issues facing Ex-Muslims and the importance of the Ex-Muslim movement to the larger secular movement both in North America as well as around the world.

In his talk, Nas will touch on why the ‘Ex-Muslim’ moniker is important to countering Islamism and religious bigotry, as well as how secular Americans and Canadians can help.

Nas will be speaking at Freethought Day at 3:40 PM.

Cidney Fisk, Student Activist

Cidney FiskCidney is a recent graduate of Delta High School (in Colorado) and a freshman at The University of Denver. She recently earned the attention of the secular community after calling attention to proselytizing and other injustices at her public high school. Reprimanded for her actions, she was denied scholarship opportunities and suffered a 30% penalty to her grades.

Cidney protested faith-based abstinence-only presentations, supported the distribution of secular literature (as a counter to the unjust distribution of Gideon bibles), and brought many separation of church and state issues to the attention of the Western Colorado Atheist and Freethinkers and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Cidney was featured in American Humanist Association's magazine, The Humanist, and continues to correspond with similar organizations and media outlets. Follow her on Twitter (@FiskCidney).

Cidney will be speaking at Freethought Day at 1:55 PM.

Special Guests

Mercedes Macias, Chico City Council Candidate

Mercedes MaciasFor over ten years, twenty-six year-old Mercedes Macías has been an advocate for community development and civic engagement.  She promotes environmental stewardship volunteering as a Team Leader with the Stream Team Citizen Water Monitoring Project, and the City of Chico's Bidwell Park Watch.  She is honored to have been elected to the Board of Directors for the Theatre on the Ridge in Paradise, where she continues to serve as a third year administrator.

Having attended Roman Catholic parochial schools from kindergarten to the age of fifteen, she is proud to be a free-thinking secular atheist and recovering Catholic.  Striving to create bridges between both the world's religiously-inclined and non-believers alike, she hopes to afford us all a mutually beneficial goodwill and cooperation unseen in recent history.  She is committed to ongoing dialogue surrounding the topic of religion used as a political stance and hopes to shed some light on the need for separation of church and state in both local and national politics.

Mercedes is running for a seat on Chico City Council. Learn more about Mercedes on her website and Facebook.

Community Panel

Our Community panel will share the stage at 2:15 PM, introduce themselves and their organization, and answer questions from the audience.

Tom Manger, Secular Coalition for California

Tom MangerTom Manger, the Legislative Chair for the Secular Coalition for California (SCCA), will be speaking on secular activism in California.

The SCCA has had a number of successes helping to minimize religious bias and religious privileging in new legislation.

In this talk, Tom will give a wrap up of 2016 California legislation from a secular perspective. He will also talk about activities planned for 2017 and ways you can assist in not just enforcing the separation of church and state, but ways to reverse the many ways that religion is unduly privileged in existing laws.  

Amanda Metskas, Camp Quest

Amanda MetskasAmanda K. Metskas is the executive director of Camp Quest, Inc. She has been involved with Camp Quest since 2003, and served on the board of directors from 2004-2007.  Amanda became executive director when Camp Quest, Inc. hired her as its first staff person in January 2008. As executive director, Amanda oversees the growth and development of Camp Quest.

In addition to her work with Camp Quest, Amanda co-authored Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief with Dale McGowan, Molleen Matsumura and Jan Devor.  Amanda holds an M.A. in political science from The Ohio State University, and a B.A. in international relations and psychology from Brown University.  She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband August E. Brunsman IV and their two cats.

Follow her on Twitter (@Metskas) and on Facebook.

Melissa Pugh, United Coalition of Reason

Melissa PughMelissa Pugh started her atheist activism when she was a member of the Atlanta Freethought Society, working tables at Atlanta's Gay Pride weekend and bringing international speakers to the Atheist Alliance of America 2015 Conference.

In October of 2015, she was appointed the president of Atheist Alliance of America and left to study biology at Chicago State University. She is now the Grassroots and Outreach Coordinator for the United Coalition of Reason, is the Sponsorship and Outreach Representative for Mythicist Milwaukee, is the Chicago Coalition of Reason Coordinator, and is an active member of The Satanic Temple

Rebecca Hensler, Grief Beyond Belief

Rebecca HenslerFollowing the death of her infant son, Rebecca Hensler discovered that most grief support groups are dominated by religion and spiritualism. Alienated by talk of angels, heaven and signs, she conceived an alternative free of mythology and mysticism.

In 2011, Rebecca founded Grief Beyond Belief, a community devoted to faith-free grief support. Since then, the project has grown to include a peer-to-peer online support group, a website, and secular grief-support workshops conducted at secular events and organizations nationwide.

Rebecca's ebook teaching community organizers how to provide grief support in their freethought communities will be published this Fall.