"The Atheists Go Marching In" is the message on a New Orleans streetcar advertisement to inform the city that humanists, atheists, freethinkers and skeptics are coming to New Orleans June 7-10 for the 71st Annual American Humanist Association (AHA) Conference.
The New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, the local chapter of the AHA, is also running a billboard ad near the Superdome welcoming conference attendees to town, says executive director, Roy Speckhardt.
He says the organization has a lot they're trying to accomplish in the Crescent City. "We want to spread the idea that it's O.K. to be good without a God, and that more recognition and equality is needed for atheists and agnostics."
Speckhardt says they want a stronger foothold in the south, and this conference "Is part of a larger push that we have."
The group thinks New Orleans is more open-minded than much of the south, which is why Speckhardt says, they're starting here. While the group claims tolerance of other religious views, he says they want to let other like minded-people know they are not alone.
The conference will feature American cultural icon Gloria Steinem, recipient of the 2012 Humanist of the Year award. The award-winning author, journalist and activist for equality is best known for her work against gender bias, abuse of children, and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples says Speckhardt.
"Gloria Steinem’s life’s work of standing up for the disenfranchised is the embodiment of humanist values," says Speckhardt. "Without her dedication to achieving equality for all, America might still be in the dark ages."
The others accepting awards by the American Humanist Association are host of NPR’s Science Friday Ira Flatow (Isaac Asimov Science Award), anti-war activist Debra Sweet (Humanist Heroine Award), host of Current TV’s The Young Turks Cenk Uygur (Humanist Media Award), leading skeptic and magician James Randi (Lifetime Achievement Award), student activists Jessica Ahlquist (Humanist Pioneer Award) and Damon Fowler (Humanist Pioneer Award). Actor George Takei will accept the LGBT Humanist Pride Award via recorded video message. The keynote speaker will be Herb Silverman, Secular Coalition for American president and author of Candidate Without A Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt.
Other speakers, including some of the country’s top authors and activists, are Margaret Downey, Marshall Brain, John Barry, Anthony Pinn, Katherine Stewart and Sean Faircloth, among others. Australian singer-songwriter Shelley Segal will also be performing.