Keynote Speaker: Matt Dillahunty
Matt Dillahunty is a warrior for skepticism and reason. His quick wit, charisma, and reason-based arguments have made him the big attraction on the hit internet TV show The Atheist Experience, based out of Austin, TX. He has debated many high-profile Christian apologists, including Ray Comfort and Sye Ten Bruggencate. He is also a founder of the comprehensive counter-apologetics Wiki “Iron Chariots“. In 2015, he toured Australia alongside fellow activists Seth Andrews and Aron Ra as a member of the “Unholy Trinity Tour”.
This November he hosted “Richard Dawkins and Matt Dillahunty in Conversation” in Vancouver. He’s been known to say “Science is the only things that disproves science, and it does it all the time.”
Raised a fundamentalist Southern Baptist, Dillahunty initially considered seminary to become a minister; however, he discovered that the more he studied religion, the less believable he found it. After eight years in the US Navy, he served from 2006 to 2013 as the president of the Atheist Community of Austin. He is married to fellow activist Beth Presswood, and he is an outspoken feminist. He is also a life-long enthusiast of the magic and illusionist arts, entertaining friends and select audiences. With casual Texas charm and logical precision, armed with a thorough understanding of biblical fundamentalism, Matt is an ambassador for the power of debate to engage with accurate information and enlighten with reason.
Mandisa Thomas is a founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Although never formally indoctrinated into belief, Mandisa was heavily exposed to Christianity, Black Nationalism, and Islam. As a child she loved reading, and enjoyed various tales of Gods from different cultures, including Greek and Ghanaian. Through reading these stories and being taught about other cultures at an early age, I quickly noticed that there were similarities and differences between those deities and the God of the Christian Bible. “I couldn’t help but wonder what made this God so special that he warrants such prevalence in today’s society,” she recalls.
Mandisa has a number of media appearances to her credit, including CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, and JET magazine. She has been a guest on podcasts such as The Humanist Hour and Ask an Atheist, as well as the documentaries Contradiction and My Week in Atheism. Mandisa currently serves on the Boards for American Atheists and the Reason Rally Coalition, and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief and the Secular Coalition for America. She also is an active speaker, and has presented at conferences/conventions for Freedom from Religion Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, and many others.
As the president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., Mandisa works to encourage more Blacks to come out and stand strong with their nonbelief in the face of such strong religious overtones. “The more we make our presence known, the better our chances of working together to turn around some of the disparities we face. We are NOT alone.”
JT Eberhard is the current world champion at Candy Land and holds both the Olympic and World Records. He is also humanity’s best chance in a zombie apocalypse.
When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.
As a writer he has contributed to Atheism Resource, ShitZombiesSay.net, and numerous other sites. JT currently writes a regular column for American Atheist Magazine. JT maintains a regular speaking schedule and has appeared at the American Atheists national convention, Apostacon, Skepticon, the SSA Leadership Conference, the American Humanist Association’s national convention, the Pennsylvania Atheist/Humanist convention, and many, many more.
In his personal life, JT is a trained opera singer who has worked under the directorship of two-time Grammy award winner James Billings. He is also an avid gamer who can often be found playing League of Legends. This year he joined forces with the hosts of the Game Theory Podcast to form an online hub for atheist gamers (fittingly called “Atheist Gamers”) where atheists of all stripes from board gamers to those who enjoy online games can bask in each other’s company.
Gayle Jordan is the Executive Director of Recovering from Religion. She is a former Southern Baptist who left the faith 10 years ago when her then-teenagers began asking questions she could not answer. Her research led her (and her children) into the light of reason and rationality. Years later, she still feels the effects, both positive and negative, of that dramatic shift in perspective and attitude.
It is this sympathy and compassion that drives her to reach out to help others navigate the emotional and physical process involved in leaving one’s faith.
Gayle is an attorney and former personal trainer. She lives on Freethought Farm in middle Tennessee, where she spends her days amongst her longhorns, goats, donkeys, chickens, and dogs. She blogs about life on the farm, endurance event training, and secularism at Happy. Healthy. Heathen.
Jim Helton is the President & Co-Founder of Tri-State Freethinkers, and Regional Director of American Atheists for Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. He was instrumental in organizing last year’s events at Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter Protest & Rally For Science & Reason; his organization even adopted the highway in front of Creation Museum!
His efforts have stopped Gideon’s bible distributions and challenged Abstinence Only Sex Education in Kentucky. Jim is not only an activist for separation of church and state but also equal rights. He helped get a Cities for CEDAW resolution passed in Cincinnati, which was a step towards women’s equal rights. (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) He has spoken at the Kentucky Freethought Convention, at the Secular Student Alliance annual conference, and to many local groups.
Callie Wright is an activist, speaker, and host of The Gaytheist Manifesto podcast, which explores the intersection of the atheist movement and the LGBTQ rights movement. Callie came out as a transgender woman in the summer of 2013, and her mission is to be a voice for the LGBTQ community in the atheist movement, and a voice for secularism in the LGBTQ community.
Sain’t Patrick was raised a preacher’s kid whose background is Mennonite/Amish and pacifist. Now he is an atheist and a combat veteran, having just completed 12 years of service in the U.S. Army. He is a former missionary kid who speaks seven languages, including Italian, Spanish, German, Sicilian, Arabic, and Lebanese. He lives in Christian County, KY, where he is the father of two children he is co-parenting with their fundamentalist Christian mother. This gives him a special soft spot for families struggling over different belief systems, and for secular people isolated in highly religious areas.
These experiences forged his passion for building welcoming secular communities. That’s why last year he co-founded the Nashville Nones Convention, which launched with 400 participants. He is also a Board member at Sunday Assembly Nashville, where he was a founding band member in 2013, playing guitar and bass. He has led numerous workshops promoting humanist values, including at Reason Rally, Skepticon 8, Smoky Mountain Freethought Advance, Military Atheists & Secular Humanists (MASH), and more. In his free time he enjoys travel photography, coaching soccer, and frosted lemonade. His topic this year is “Make America Good Again: Human Values for Dangerous Times.”