Illustrious Line-Up For 1999 Annual Convention (August 1999)

Noted author Barbara Ehrenreich is among the confirmed speakers for the Nov. 5-7 annual national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, meeting at the Crowne Plaza St. Anthony Hotel, San Antonio.

Ms. Ehrenreich, who was a regular columnist for TIME magazine through the 1990’s, will be on hand to accept a “Freethought Heroine” award. Perhaps America’s most famous atheist writer, her articles, reviews, essays and humor have appeared in a range of publications, including New York Times Magazine, Ms., Esquire, The Nation, and the Atlantic Monthly. She has written many books, including the 1972 classic, Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers; For Her Own Good, 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women; The Mean Season: The Attack on Social Welfare, and her latest, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (Metropolitan, 1997), called “brilliant” by the New York Times Review of Books.

Her magazine article for Mother Jones, “U.S. Patriots: Without God On Their Side” is included in the Foundation’s anthology of women freethinkers, Women Without Superstition. Barbara Ehrenreich will be speaking Friday evening, Nov. 5.

Also receiving an award, for excellence in the media, will be Steve Benson, political cartoonist for the Arizona Republic, and apostate grandson of the late head of the Mormon Church, Ezra Benson. Benson won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 and has worked at the Arizona Republic for 18 years. He is nationally syndicated in over 120 newspapers.
He will talk about his decision to leave the Mormon Church and all the resulting fallout, as well as show some of his award-winning cartoons. Needless to say, many are controversial. Steve says his editor’s favorite saying is: “A picture is worth a thousand phone calls.”

Speaking will be Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D., the lead author of the “Religion, Spirituality, and Medicine” article appearing recently in the Lancet to rebut medical studies treating prayer and religion as a form of medicine. Dr. Sloan is director of the Behavioral Medicine Program, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York City.

In the article in the British medical journal, Dr. Sloan and two colleagues warned that linking religious activities to better health outcomes could imply illness is due to moral failure: “Attempts to link religious and spiritual activities to health are reminiscent of the now discredited research suggesting that different ethnic groups show differing levels of moral probity, intelligence, or other measures of social worth.”

Dr. Sloan will give a lay overview of his analysis of various medical studies suggesting religious activity promotes health.

“An Evening With Darwin” will conclude the convention, featuring crowd-pleasing freethought poet Philip Appleman, who is just completing his second edition of the Norton Critical Edition of Darwin. The November conference happens to coincide with the 140th anniversary of the issuance of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

Prof. Appleman is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996 (University of Arkansas Press, 1996), three novels, and several other nonfiction books including The Silent Explosion about overpopulation. His poetry has appeared in numerous periodicals, including Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, and the New York Times. Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, he now lives and writes in Manhattan and Sagaponack, New York, with his wife, the playwright and poet Marjorie Appleman.
Other speakers will be announced in future issues of Freethought Today.

Those interested in attending are urged to make their hotel reservations now. Phone 210-227-4392 and mention the FFRF annual convention to receive the special group rate of $120 single or double per night, plus tax. Hotel cut-off for this rate is Tuesday, October 5, but you are urged to make arrangements as soon as possible to be guaranteed a room.

The St. Anthony Hotel (formerly known as Crowne Plaza), 300 East Travis St., San Antonio, has received the AAA Four-Diamond Award for 14 consecutive years, and is renowned for its antiques and museum-quality objets d’arts throughout the grand lobby. It boasts a heated roof-top swimming pool, a fitness center, and two restaurants. Only two blocks from the Riverwalk, it is close to many other restaurants and shops.

The SA Trans Shuttle, which stops at several hotels, is $8 one-way, $14 roundtrip, and is boarded outside the baggage claim area. The hotel reports that typical taxi fare for the 10 mile trip runs $15-$20.

To register for the convention, call FFRF, Inc. and ask for a registration form. Convention registration is $40 per member. Two group meals will be offered on Saturday, a NON-prayer breakfast, $15, and a banquet dinner, $30.
As occurred when the FFRF convention met in San Antonio in 1992, a large banner over a major downtown intersection will greet participants of the Freedom From Religion Foundation convention, compliments of San Antonio freethought hostess Catherine Fahringer!

Freedom From Religion Foundation