17 Feb 2013
Are you good without god? Hey, so are we!
Like anyone, we all benefit from a supportive community for friends, charity, and fostering a better understanding of secular values with our neighbors. Atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, skeptics, non-religious, “nones,” lost tourists, and the confused are all welcome to join us!
It is often claimed that nonreligious people are rare, but according to a study released in 2012 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, nearly 20% of our nation’s population – including about a third of all Americans under the age of 30 – have no religious affiliation. Still, non-religious people can feel isolated when the religious community is so organized and outspoken on issues.
We deserve to be heard. Building and participating in a community is the first step in giving ourselves that voice.
And the conversation here is great! Aside from friendly Meetups we also organize volunteer events, discussions, and support for science education. Ideas are always welcome.
- Unite as many Freethinkers in Arkansas as possible. Yes – we have a statewide reach!
- Enrich the community by hosting and developing informative activities and events, and by encouraging and facilitating dialog in matters of science, reason, ethics, and tolerance.
- Inform people of their First Amendment freedoms of and from religion, and monitor and promote awareness of local separation of church and state issues.
- Maintain a friendly, healthy relationship with other organizations and the community.
Find Our Events on Meetup.com
The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers is affiliated with local and national secularist organizations, including:
17 Feb 2013
The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers exists to promote the secular, non-theistic, humanist viewpoint as a valid contribution to public discourse. We strive to protect the First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state and work in coalition with like-minded people and organizations where joint action is needed to maintain this separation. Our Society seeks to enrich the community by hosting and developing informative activities and events, and to encourage and facilitate public dialogue in matters of science, reason and tolerance. The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers operates in an open manner, without discrimination as to gender, race, age, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, or disability.
16 Feb 2013
David Bentley currently serves as Vice President of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and chairs the Public Relations Committee. Dave discovered the organization in 2007, after his retirement from 20 years in the Air Force at the rank of Major, and has been an active member ever since. He worked to create the Winter Solstice display in 2009 and has assisted every holiday season since then to set it up on the state capitol lawn. Dave served as President during ASF’s transitional year, 2011-2012, overseeing the largest membership increase in the organization’s history. Simultaneously he spearheaded a second federal lawsuit that preserved the freedom of speech for non-theists in Little Rock. He is the webmaster for the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason. He is a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists.
Tod Billings is the founder of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. He served as its leader, chairman, president, advocate and primary activist until 2011, shepherding the group through a major federal lawsuit that required the Arkansas Secretary of State to allow seasonal displays on the capitol lawn that represented non-religious reasons for the winter holiday season. Under his leadership, multiple organizations joined together under the mantle of the nonprofit Arkansas Society of Freethinkers that he had incorporated in 1996.
Chris Borecky, President of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and member of the board, began his freethinking journey as a child in Catholic school where none of the teachers could answer questions such as, “Why doesn’t God show itself?” and “How can a just God send people to hell for being born into other cultures?” Chris spent his college years studying the psychology of beliefs, then earned an MBA in 2010. He discovered ASF in 2008 and acted as the group’s first Fundraising Committee chair. Chris believes freethinkers should develop innovative social networks that provide a variety of valuable benefits and generate genuine enthusiasm. He is active on the Facebook Group and can be seen at many of our events.
Lisa Brents is a board member and serves as chair of the Programs Committee, ensuring that our Lecture Series and educational events are top-notch and appealing to a variety of interests. Born and raised in the Bible Belt, she realized and accepted her disbelief in deities as a college senior, but remained wholly closeted for 5 years until finding ASF in March 2012. Lisa, who is passionate about science, recently graduated from UAMS with a doctorate in Toxicology and currently studies the neuroscience of human addiction. She is excited to be part of a group that serves as a much-needed secular voice in Arkansas; one that advocates science, education, critical thinking, humanism, the separation of church and state and, most importantly, the freedom to seek truth by questioning and having respectful open discussions with others who are also earnestly seeking answers.
Jane Doe is the Registrar of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. The fact that she holds this position proves that not only can closeted non-believers benefit from and contribute to ASF, their anonymity can be protected while they take advantage of a friendly, supportive, secularist community. Jane lives in a small rural Arkansas community over an hour away from Little Rock, so she also proves that being in central Arkansas is not a prerequisite for involvement in ASF.
Susan Heffington is a board member and is a past president of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. Currently, she chairs the Membership Committee. In 2005, she founded Central Arkansas Freethinkers, one of several secularist groups that came under ASF’s umbrella in 2011. She served as a council member for Atheist Alliance International. She has been an RN for 28 years, and as an nontraditional student working on her B.S. in nursing, was active in the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She helped organize the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Central Arkansas, and has helped organize many of the secularist groups that currently exist in Arkansas. Her tireless efforts and unflagging positive attitude get things done with a cheerful smile.
Aaron Kelton is the Ombudsman for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, serving as a direct conduit between membership and the board. He is passionate about communication and leadership, and is an active member and promoter of Toastmasters. He discovered ASF after dating Christian women, only to find himself embracing his honest disposition of disbelief. He is currently married to a fellow freethinker and believes one ought to question everything, seeking the truth and understanding regardless of the outcome. Aaron earned a bachelors in chemical engineering and currently works as a business analyst. Follow @AaronKelton on Twitter.
Mark Love is a board member and serves as Treasurer of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. He is committed to science education and has a master’s degree in instrumental science, a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and worked as an electronic engineer for 20 years, designing both hardware and software. He helped to create the Winter Solstice Display that graces the state capitol lawn every December, as well as the ASF holiday float used in Little Rock’s Big Jingle Jubilee holiday parade. He chairs the Leadership Development Committee. As the primary videographer of the lecture series and Reason in the Rock, he manages the YouTube Channel for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. He is a strong atheist and skeptic who, in almost any situation, challenges delusional thinking directly. He claims he actually looks forward to Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to his house, just for the stimulating debate.
Laney Pierce is an ASF board member. As chair of the Social Committee, she works to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all nonreligious people, and especially to those who are still “in the closet” or are getting their first taste of living without deities. Laney is a founder of Arkansans for Equality, a non-profit organization dedicated to achieving equality for all Arkansans. Feel free to add her to your friends on Facebook, as she is always excited to grow her circle of freethinking friends and help welcome all newcomers to the community. Laney is always looking for new ways for members to have fun and get to know each other better, so she welcomes all ideas and suggestions for new events and get-togethers.
Anne Orsi is a board member and chairs the Leadership Development Committee. She acts as one of the designated spokespersons for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, and is a co-organizer of Reason in the Rock. She is an attorney and writer. Her weekly column on Secularism and the Law appears Thursdays on the What Would JT Do? blog on Patheos.com. She is a member of the Center for Inquiry, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, American Atheists, the American Humanists Association, the Skeptics Society, the Foundation Beyond Belief, and the Brights Network.
Robert Schafer is a board member. He founded Arkansas Atheists, one of several groups that came under the ASF umbrella in 2011. He established the popular First Tuesday meetings, when freethinking Arkansans gather over food and drink at local restaurants. He has a master’s degree in social work and travels internationally as much as possible.
LeeWood Thomas is a board member and chairs the Activism Committee. He is a devout Pastafarian. He has been a freethinker most of his life. He is the primary spokesperson for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason; in addition to making statements to local media, he appears on radio talk shows, podcasts, and anywhere else someone might be listening. He co-hosts the Pink Atheist Podcast on Blog Talk Radio. He volunteers with other community organizations, too: as vice president of his neighborhood association and as media contact and stage manager for the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He co-founded the newest Arkansas freethought group, Benton Atheist & Skeptic Society (BASS). LeeWood has been along for the ride since the very beginning of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers in 1996, and usually can be found in the thick middle of things with a grin on his face. Add him to your friends on Facebook – LeeWood is always looking to grow his network of freethinkers.
Interested in a leadership position with the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers? Contact us!
16 Feb 2013
In 1996, Tod Billings filed documents with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office incorporating a new non-profit organization: the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. He and LeeWood Thomas were its original incorporators. The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers initially existed for purposes of organizing secular activism – specifically promoting separation of church and state.
In 2005, Robert Higgins decided to start a secularist discussion group. He wrote the Freedom From Religion Foundation and asked for help finding other freethinkers in Arkansas. Dina Hartsell and Sybil Smith responded, and the three of them started the Central Arkansas Freethinkers as a Meetup group. They began meeting in Hot Springs. The group grew to about 100 members with the help of a website through MSN. Each month, at least 10-15 people participated in the library discussion group. Eventually, the meetings moved to Little Rock’s main library.
Robert Schafer started the Arkansas Atheists Meetup group in 2007. Arkansas Atheists met the first Tuesday of every month for beer and pizza at Vino’s in Little Rock. Members of the Central Arkansas Freethinkers learned of the Arkansas Atheists gathering and joined in.
As the Central Arkansas Freethinkers and Arkansas Atheists did more and more together, they decided to combine their websites and start an online discussion forum. As the groups became more active in 2008, they decided to create a display about the winter solstice for the state capitol grounds as a counterbalance to the Nativity Scene, which had been displayed alone there for decades. They needed a bank account, which meant incorporating.
Tod Billings and LeeWood Thomas were active with the Central Arkansas Freethinkers, and had kept their nonprofit Arkansas Society of Freethinkers alive. Because of the need for a bank account, the winter solstice display was created under the legal auspices of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers filed suit to enforce the First Amendment rights of non-Christians to the public forum on the state capitol grounds, and won.
Because it was already acting as an umbrella for Central Arkansas Freethinkers and Arkansas Atheists, in 2010 the various secularist groups decided to coalesce under the single name of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. Now the nonprofit acts as umbrella for other freethinker groups in Arkansas, and helps to start local secularist groups around the state.
First Tuesdays are still a social tradition for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, although the location has changed. Robert Schafer and LeeWood Thomas still serve on the board. Online discussions are still lively and active. The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers still uses Meetup’s calendar as an easy way for secular Arkansans to find like-minded friends. And a group of freethinkers still meets in Hot Springs.