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Freethought Today · Vol. 21 No. 6 August 2004

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Pacific Northwest A Freethought Mecca

Beth Taylor provided invaluable assistance in planning the FFRF Pacific Northwest Mini-Convention.

Beth,an Air Force brat," lived in Morocco and Germany as a young child, then settled with her family in Florida. She got her undergrad degree from the University of Central Florida. Beth worked as a reporter and editor for ten years for The Orlando Sentinel. Her master's degree from the same university is in political science. Her thesis compared the degree of political power of fundamentalist religions in Iran, Israel and the United States.

She and her husband, Scott, decided to trade in their suntan lotion for an umbrella seven years ago. She edits Washington Law & Politics magazine. Her freelance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Chicago Tribune, University of California at Berkeley's law school alumni magazine, Seattle Magazine, Yale Law School's Legal Affairs journal, Puget Sound Business Journal, Seattle Homes & Lifestyle, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Seattle Times. She and her husband have a daughter Molly, 5, and live in Washington.

By Beth Taylor

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Beth Taylor
Photo by Brent Nicastro

Thank you. It's great to see so many of our Seattle friends here today, and I'd like to welcome everybody else to our beautiful Emerald City, which has everything going for it except sunshine. I don't know if there are any weather gods, but if there are, we probably don't have much pull with them. Sorry about the clouds, I hear there's going to be sunbreaks later, our infamous sunbreaks. But we would like to extend a very sunny warm welcome on behalf of the many, many freethinkers in the Pacific Northwest to Annie Laurie and Dan and the wonderful volunteers from Freedom From Religion Foundation. We've been working on them for quite some time to come out here, and really appreciate them coming all the way out to our rather remote little corner of the map.

And though we may be remote geographically, this is a great place to live, especially if you're a freethinker. A recent study, which Dan referred to last night, found that Washington and Oregon states have the highest percentages of unchurched residents in the entire country. And 22% fewer people in the Pacific Northwest are affiliated with a church than the rest of the nation.

Half of our adult residents have college degrees and 20% have graduate degrees, so we'd like to think that there is some connection between those two studies. I'll let you decide. (In a perhaps not unrelated recent study, Seattle was named the rainiest city in the country.)

But we do have some deep thinking going on out here. Maybe it's the rain, but whatever it is, where else could you possibly find a bumpersticker like the one I saw the other day in the parking lot at The Family Pancake House? It read: "God was my co-pilot, but we crashed into a mountain, and I had to eat him."

A little bizarre, but where else could you find a bumpersticker like that? Or I should say, where else could you find a bumpersticker like that and not have someone get lynched?

My husband, Scott, and I moved here from Florida seven years ago, and in Florida we could not even keep a simple Darwin fish-sticker on our car without someone ripping it off the bumper, presumably some charitably-minded Christian folk, so we really appreciated the open-mindedness out here in Seattle.

We atheists and agnostics may still be in the minority here, but the level of tolerance is refreshing, and we have found out here that dissent is actually considered a sacred right instead of an act of treason, which sadly seems to be increasingly the case in much of the country.

But here, freethinkers still get to speak their minds. Our letters fill the pages of our local newspapers. Our neighbors and co-workers even occasionally ask our opinions, and sometimes even listen to them, and our voices are heard frequently on our local radio call-in shows. So I just can't think of a better place to hold a freethought convention. Without further ado, let's get started.


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