On Sunday, July 20, 2014, we once again gathered for our annual Regional Atheist Picnic. We met at the beautiful Mohican State Forest North Park Shelter, where festivities kicked off at noon. The weather was perfect for us once again this year, with no rain and sun all day for everyone to enjoy all the day’s planned events.
We had 55 attendees this year, plus a German Shepard and an African Grey parrot! Our friends traveled from as near as the Mansfield and Ashland area to as far as the Cleveland and Columbus areas. We are always thankful for such support that everyone comes back year after year.
Once again, our charity drive was another success! This year we had two great charities that people could donate to, Harmony House, a local homeless shelter, and The Humane Society of Richland County. Overall, we collected over $400 in donations between the two charities! Each location was very appreciative of the donations received, so “Thank You” to everyone who donated to such worthy causes. Grand prize this year for the donation drive contest was a $30 gift certificate to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, OH and a $20 gas card.
Since it was so successful last year, we again invited a few guest speakers to join us and talk about life in atheism. Mark and Marni Tiborsky and Sam Salerno, from the Cleveland area based Northern Ohio Freethought Society, a Freedom From Religion Foundation chapter, spoke first. They filled us in about the recent billboard campaign in the Cleveland/Akron area their organization was able to do with the help of their FFRF affiliation, their member’s donations, and a lot of hard work. They also went on to tell us about the media coverage and public reaction both in person and on social media outlets. Was it worth it? Yes, according to them. They were able to convey to the public at large positive messages and most importantly show people in everyday neighborhoods in their community that freethinkers are there, they are positive, wonderful people, and are just normal everyday folks, just like everyone else. They put up 11 billboards in all during this month long campaign.
Our second speaker this year was JT Eberhard. JT is a writer, gay rights activist, and co-founder of Skepticon. JT wanted to share with us his take on how to debate common religious arguments against atheism, using plain English. He had some very insightful views about how we as atheists can get our views across without having to have a doctorate of some type or to constantly be trying to remember stats and numbers. Using logical and reasonable arguments, a few jokes, and a tad bit of slight of hand magic, JT really got his point across. He really had the crowd engaged with his talk and laughing with his Ken Ham jokes and his ongoing fight with technology during his speech. We all really enjoyed our speakers and thank them for taking the time to spend the day with us and share their experiences with everyone this year.
As an added bonus, our friend Frank Zindler had a special treat in store for us. He brought a comical video to share of an interview he had worked on that will be showing on the upcoming launch of the Atheist TV channel, set to start on July 29, 2014 on Roku. The crowd really seemed to enjoy the sneak peek offering and hearing from Frank.
This year, as a way to thank all of our friends, who attended, we had a ton of raffle prizes to give out throughout the day. Numerous atheist related books, gift cards to restaurants, t-shirts, and a 19” LCD flat screen TV were handed out this year to the lucky winners. We appreciate everyone who donated items to us to be able to do this, and hope that we can do it again next year.
This event takes a lot of hard work from a lot of dedicated people to be so successful year after year. Why do we do it? We do it for our community. We want to show people that we are here. If people are either questioning their beliefs or are non-believers already and feel stuck thinking nobody around is like them, they are not alone. Those are the people we are trying to reach out to, and get the word out to, to know that there is a haven (not heaven) and they are accepted for what they think, feel, and see as reasonable knowledge in front of them to be true. Atheism really is about promoting a personal relationship with reality and not being afraid to think. Whatever you call it, atheism, humanism, freethought, skepticism, or all of the above, its all around us and people will slowly start coming out of their closets, standing up from the church pews, and finally start looking for a places were they can talk about science and reason instead of fairy tales. When they are ready, Mid Ohio Atheists Inc, will be there. Until then , you will see us on I-71 picking up trash for Adopt A Highway, collecting food and supplies for Harmony House and The Humane Society of Richland County, having a beer at a local pub and discussing separation of church and state issues, and meeting once a year in a forest with awesome people from all over Ohio for some great food and even better conversations.
~ Marisa Hills, MOA Vice President