By Kate O’Dell, News Editor
UNO will host the Midwest Freethinker Conference this weekend. This is the second time the conference has taken place in Omaha. The last conference was attended by over 120 guests from different groups of people. This year, 158 people have already registered for the 3-day conference.
“We expect it to generate a positive impact on the local economy as we bring individuals from all over the country to the Midwest to share ideas,” Luke Hoffman, former president of the UNO Secular Student Alliance, said. The UNO Secular Student Alliance is a student group that meets weekly on campus and gives like-minded students the opportunity to meet with each other and have a sense of community. The student group formed about three years ago and now has about 15 active members.
Several groups in the Omaha Coalition of Reason, including the UNO Secular Student Alliance, have come together for this conference.
The conference will kick off Friday night with a social gathering at Clancy’s on 114th Street. Saturday’s program will feature Paul Meyers, associate professor of biology from the University of Minnesota Morris and science blogger; Jerry DeWitt, a former Pentecostal minister and executive director of Recovering From Religion; Dan Barker, co-host of Freethought Radio and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation; Brian Dunning, host and producer of the weekly podcast “Skeptoid;”Amanda Knief, administrative director for American Atheists and previous government relations manager at Secular Coalition for America; and Hemant Mehta, writer of “Friendly Atheist,” a 2011 Bloggie award winner for Best Weblog About Religion.
“I hope it is an opportunity for like-minded individuals to participate in their community and come together to exchange thoughts in the marketplace of ideas,” Hoffman said.
The conference is open to atheists, agnostics, secularists, humanists, freethinkers and those wanting to learn more about non-religious lifestyles in America. According to a study done in 2008 by Trinity College, these individuals are part of the fastest growing ‘faith based’ group in the United States.
The conference has received a lot of attention from the media in the past few weeks. Some attention is credited to the controversial billboard on 72nd Street that reads, “Don’t believe in God, join the club.” The billboard, funded by the national group, United Coalition of Reason, is one of several throughout the country.
“We look forward to seeing some familiar faces as well as some fresh ones at this year’s conference,” Nicole Miller, President of the UNO Student Secular Alliance, said. “I think the community will benefit from expanding people’s awareness of freethinking programs and events here in Omaha.”
For more information about the 2012 Midwest Humanist & Freethought Conference, visit http://www.midwestfreethought.org/ or http://www.facebook.com/OmahaFreethoughtConference.