My name is Phil Deckebach and I'm a 20-year resident of Toledo. I'm also a lifetime atheist.
I wrote one article for Toledo Faith & Values after the editor, David Yonke, said he wanted someone to write from an atheist's perspective on religious belief systems for his newly inaugurated news website. I intended to continue with contributions at that time, but personal problems intervened, as I was forced to admit my wife into a nursing facility. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for five years and the overwhelming pressures of at-home care became just too much for me to handle alone. I see her on a daily basis and those visits are the highlight of my day. We'll be married for 54 years this coming September and I love her more today than I ever have. It's been a life-altering period of time for both of us, but my feelings for my wife haven't changed an iota.
The good news that there is now a group in Toledo welcoming atheists and agnostics and freethinkers. The purpose of Great Lakes Atheists, or GLA, is to bring folks together who think alike. And I believe that's truly a major step forward.
There was a time not so long ago when people who believe as I do were afraid to own up to their true feelings regarding gods and afterlife theories, lest they be ostracized by family, friends, and the community in general. Happily, that's no longer the case. Racism and sexism and hateful attitudes toward those who don't quite fit the norm are ever so slowly disappearing, some faster than others. But most observers would agree that they are all going the way of the dodo bird.
It's not cool to think like that these days, and the few who do in 21st century America are the few who will be singled out for ostracization in the future. A total turnaround from what it was in the “good old days.” Gay marriage has had much favorable publicity and is edging (however slowly) toward becoming widely accepted. Publicity garnered by the women's rights movement and its many dedicated activists has gone a long way toward the elimination of that particular type of sexism, but most would agree we've got a long way to go. Civil Rights has been the indisputable law of the land for a number of years and we're all — every last one of us — the better for it.
The Great Lakes Atheist group proudly announces its first convention in the city of Toledo. The convention will be held Friday through Sunday (Aug. 16-18) at the Best Western Premier Grand Hotel on Summit Street in downtown Toledo. All are welcome. Speakers over the weekend convention include over a dozen noted atheists from many sections of the United States.
Those scheduled are Bria Crutchfield, director of Minority Atheists Of Michigan; JT Eberhard, from Cincinnati, Ohio, author of the atheist blog,”What would JT do?,” and well-known speaker/debater Zack Kopplin, science education activist; David McAfee, author of ”Mom, Dad, I'm an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as an Atheist,” and Sarah Hargreaves, president of the Kansas City Atheists Coalition.
Also speaking will be Edwin Kagin legal director of American Atheists. Kagin and his late wife, Helen, were founders and first directors of Camp Quest, a project that accepts children from all belief systems and children from atheist and agnostic backgrounds and those coming from families who claim no religion at all. Rachael Johnson, host of “The Pink Atheist” podcast will also speak, along with Elliot Ingorsoll, descendant of the late great Robert Ingorsoll, who will be among the notables giving addresses at the convention.
Sam Singleton will entertain us with his “humor in the jugular vein” take on religion. Sam bills himself as an “atheist evangelist” and does the job quite convincingly. Carie Park, tour manager for Sam Singleton, will also entertain the crowd with background on Sam and his speaking tours. Cari also bills herself as food taster for Rev. Singleton.
Darrel Smith, author of “Black Nones” will speak, and Mandisa Thomas, president of the Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta, will share her knowledge with us in the form of a special talk. And lastly, Doug Whaley, noted author, attorney, and professor emeritus at Ohio State University, will entertain with his folksy take on where he thinks religion is headed in this country.
Dennis Penaluna will skype from the United Kingdom. He is current president of the Nottingham Secular Society and good friend of our own Barb Williams here in Toledo. And as a special highlight of our convention we present Jerry DeWitt, author of “Hope Beyond Faith,” the man many of you know as the individual who renounced religion and was profiled in December on Toledo Faith & Values. Jerry, who was also written about recently in the Toledo Blade, was an evangelical preacher in the deep south for many years.
For further information on GLA and particulars on the Toledo convention contact Barb Williams at email@example.com.