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Heidi Shaffer, Published July 04 2010

Freethinkers to hold convention

The Red River Freethinkers hope to encourage new perspectives on religious and independent thought through Fargo’s first major free-thought convention this fall, said Jon Lindgren, the group’s president.

The local group has been criticized for its attempts to remove a Ten Commandments monument near the Fargo Civic Auditorium, but Lindgren said the Sept. 18 convention is open to supporters and critics.

“I do think that some people who disagree with us will register and attend,” he said.

The organization is optimistic about a good turnout, and judging by the number of first-time attendees at local Freethinkers meetings, there will be a lot of interest in the convention, said Lindgren, a former Fargo mayor.

“It gives us an idea that there are many, many people who are skeptical of religious institutions and religious dogma and are interested in what we are doing,” he said.

The convention brings five speakers who will touch on a variety of topics.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, author and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, will speak about the importance of free thought in the women’s movement.

Gaylor said the event serves as an opportunity to help dispel some of the stereotypes and misconceptions around nonreligion.

“A lot of nonreligious people feel like they have to stay in the closet,” she said, “but really, if they can afford to speak out … that’s the most important thing they can do.”

The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has more than 16,000 members nationwide but only 30 in North Dakota, so the convention can also serve to broaden perspective, Gaylor said.

“We do routinely get letters saying, ‘I’m the only atheist in North Dakota or Wyoming.’ … They’re not, but people feel very much like they are,” she said.

Scheduled speakers for September event

Speakers for the Sept. 18 event include:

If you go

Registration begins at 8 a.m. on Sept. 18.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511