September 2, 2017

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Confirmed Speaker: Will Gervais

Will Gervais is an evolutionary and cultural psychologist in the Psychology Department at the University of Kentucky who is interested in why people believe what they believe about the world. His research focuses on the cognitive, evolutionary, and cultural forces that facilitate supernatural beliefs—and how these beliefs, in turn, affect cognition, evolution, and culture.
He is seeking answers to the following questions. Why does our species have religion? Why do most folks believe in some sort of a god? Why do other folks (almost a billion, by some estimates) not believe in any gods? What are the consequences of this (dis)belief in supernatural agents?

Education
B. S., University of Denver, 2005
M. A., University of British Columbia, 2008
Ph. D., University of British Columbia, 2012

Confirmed Speaker: Rita Swan

Rita Swan of Lexington is the president of Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), which she founded in 1983. For 34 years she has advocated for the rights of children to access healthcare regardless of the religious affiliations of their parents. She has helped change many state laws, saving the lives of countless children. CHILD advocates laws requiring medical care of children, including preventive and diagnostic measures, without exception for religious belief; reporting of child abuse and neglect without religious exemption licensing of child care facilities including those run by churches; ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Rita earned a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt in 1975, has received many awards, has been published in numerous journals, and has given multiple media interviews.

Confirmed Speaker: Anthony Pinn

ANTHONY PINN is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Humanist Association. Pinn completed his undergraduate degree (BA) at Columbia University, and he received the Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University Divinity School, as well as the MA and PhD from Harvard University in the study of religion. Anthony taught at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) before becoming the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is also the founding director of the Houston Enriches Rice Education Project – a program meant to foster creative partnerships between Rice and the larger Houston community that impact both the work of the University and the quality of life in Houston.

Related to his research, he is the author/editor of twenty- six books (http://www.anthonypinn.com/books), including By The Hands: A Documentary of African American Humanism (2001); African American Humanist Principles: Living and Thinking Like the Children of Nimrod (2004); and, The End of God-Talk: An African American Humanist Theology (2012). He is also the director of research for the Institute for Humanist Studies. In 2006, he was named the Harvard University Humanist Chaplaincy “Humanist of the Year.” In 1999, he received the African American Humanist Award from the Council for Secular Humanism.

Confirmed Speaker: Seth Andrews

Seth Andrews is a former Christian radio broadcaster who is now the host of The Thinking Atheist podcast, one of the top 3 podcasts of Blog Talk Radio.

The Thinking Atheist is a website, radio podcast and online community which rejects faith as a suitable tool for living.

Far too often, faith (believing something without evidence) is celebrated, reason is distrusted, and people are encouraged not to ask questions, test the waters, demand evidence or think outside the religious box.

The Thinking Atheist icon is a symbol that reminds atheist and believer alike to engage the brain, to challenge even the most sacred of traditions/beliefs, to be passionately curious about our world and universe, and to never be satisfied with the charge, “You just have to take it on faith.”

Assume nothing. Question everything. And start thinking.

Confirmed Speaker: Mandisa Thomas

Mandisa Thomas is president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc.

Black Nonbelievers (BN) is a 501 c3 non-profit fellowship of nonbelievers headquartered in the Atlanta area that is dedicated to providing an informative, caring, festive and friendly environment. We strive to connect with other Blacks (and their allies) who are living free of religion and irrational beliefs, and might otherwise be shunned by family and friends. Instead of accepting dogma, we seek to determine truth and morality through reason and evidence.

BN welcomes all regardless of sex, sexuality, gender identity, age, national origin or race. We extend a caring embrace to all who wish to explore a meaningful and rational life.

Mission
The mission of Black Nonbelievers is to…
• Provide secular fellowship.
• Nurture and support nonbelievers in coming out.
• Promote atheist pride.
• Organize nonbelievers for charitable causes.

Confirmed Speaker: Matt Dillahunty

I was raised in a loving, Southern Baptist home and was a fundamentalist Christian for over 20 years. After 8 years in the Navy and several years in the hi-tech game, I set out to re-affirm my faith with designs on attending seminary and continuing with a life in the ministry. What began as an attempt to bolster my faith became a continuing investigation into more topics than I ever suspected I’d enjoy.

After the first couple of years, reason forced me to acknowledge that my faith had not only been weakened by my studies – it had been utterly destroyed. The thoughts, writings and wisdom of people like; Robert Ingersoll, Voltaire, Dan Barker, Richard Dawkins, Farrell Till and many others, helped free my mind from the shackles of religion without a single moment of despair. I continue to study philosophy, religion, science, history and the many other topics which have helped me to understand reality and enjoy my life.

Having spent the majority of my life compartmentalizing my religious beliefs to keep them safe from skepticism, it’s thrilling to leave the critical, investigative, hungry portion of my brain turned “on”. While my own pursuit of knowledge is a powerful driving force in my life, I’d also like to prevent others from wasting another day on irrational beliefs. Education is the key …and if my work manages to educate even one person, I’m satisfied.

Muhammad Ali Center

Muhammad Ali Center http://www.alicenter.org