LITTLE ROCK — Skeptics, atheists and others who don’t believe in God plan to gather this month for their first conference in Arkansas.
More than 150 people have signed up for the Reason on the Rock conference scheduled for Oct. 27 in the Darraugh Center at the Central Arkansas Library, according to co-organizer Anne Orsi, who said there’s room for more since the auditorium holds 283.
"Secular conferences are on the rise around the country," Orsi, vice-president of the Arkansas Society Freethinkers said Tuesday.
The conference, sponsored primarily Orsi’s group and the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason, is patterned after Skepticon, an annual convention for skeptics and atheists in Springfield, Mo.
"A number of our members go to that and have been talking for a while about wanting to do one in Arkansas, and this year we decided, especially after Skepticon was so incredibly successful last year, that it’s time for us to get about the business of having one here," she said.
Skepticon organizers said close to 1,200 people attended the conference in November 2011.
The daylong event here this month will feature speakers from Arkansas and other states who represent varied aspects of the secular movement. The overall theme will be secularism and all speakers "will touch on the subject of critical thinking," Orsi said.
Funding for the event is provided by the national United Coalition of Reason and the James Randi Educational Foundation. Other organizations supporting the event are American Atheists, Camp Quest Oklahoma, the Secular Alliance and Recovering from Religion.
In 2009, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers sued the Arkansas secretary of state after a Nativity scene was erected on the Capitol grounds but the group was refused permission to put up a display marking the winter solstice.
A federal judge later granted a preliminary injunction and the group has set up the display on the south side of the state Capitol, not far from the Nativity scene, every year since.