The Freedom From Religion Foundation welcomed attendees at its national convention Oct. 7-9 in Hartford, Conn., with two 14x48-foot billboards honoring freethinker Mark Twain and native daughter and atheist Katharine Hepburn.
A fall-colored billboard off Interstate 91 south of Weston Street quotes Katharine Hepburn saying, “I’m an atheist, and that’s it.” The remark comes from her Ladies Home Journal interview in October 1991: “I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe that there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.”
Hepburn made many public statements about her nonbelief, including in her famous interviews by Dick Cavett and in her autobiography Me.
“We love this quote, which is humble and humanistic and true — there is no proof of an afterlife,” said FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Nonbelievers believe in life before death, not life after death, and in making the best of this world, the only world we know exists,” added Gaylor, a lifelong nonbeliever. She directs FFRF with her husband Dan Barker, a former evangelical missionary who is the author of the books Godless and Losing Faith in Faith — From Preacher to Atheist.
A second billboard at Interstate 84 near Olive Street quotes Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
“We chose Hartford as the site for our 34th national convention not only because it’s a convenient location for many Northeasterners, but literally because we’ve always wanted to tour Twain’s home,” Barker said. FFRF arranged a preconvention group tour of the famed Twain home on the afternoon of Oct. 7, in which about half the attendees took part.
“The ranks of nonbelievers are disproportionately filled with giants like Twain and Hepburn, social reformers, iconoclasts, scientists, artists and other achievers who have enriched humanity and advocated rational conduct,” Barker noted.
That tradition continues, as exemplified by the speakers and honorees at the FFRF convention. The event was headlined by Harvard University’s evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, MacArthur scholar and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein and Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago professor in the department of ecology and evolution and the author of Why Evolution Is True. A special guest appearance was made by Broadway icon and composer Charles Strouse (“Annie” and “Bye Bye Birdie”).
The FFRF billboards and convention received lots of Hartford media coverage. Look for convention coverage and photography in the November issue.