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Convention 2004 - San Diego

The original page for the 30th Convention of American Atheists is below. Click here for photos from the event.

The 30th Annual National Convention
April 9-11, 2004 -- San Diego, Calif.

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The Venue

The 2004 Convention will be held at the luxurious Shelter Pointe Hotel and Marina on Shelter Island. This is a world-class resort tucked away on the tip of Shelter Island in beautiful San Diego Bay. Downtown is just a few short minutes away by car. Shelter Island includes two giant swimming pools and Jacuzzis, fitness club, private beach and volleyball courts with bicycle and court rentals, water sports, boat rentals, plenty of jogging paths and nearby championship golfing in San Diego and La Jolla! There's also a picnic and barbecue area, full service waterfront restaurant, and AJ's Lounge.

A Great Vacation Get-Away

The weather is just right at this time of year in San Diego, a perfect break for those of you living in those cold "snowbelt" areas! Warm-up, play, learn and spend time with your fellow Atheists in one of the great vacation spots on the West Coast! Before and after the convention (with our special room rates), you, friends and family can experience the fantastic attractions in and around one of the premier tourism destinations in the country!

* The San Diego Visitors Bureau web site is your place to start on the web. Gets maps, a list of area attractions and discount coupons. Find out about the culture, cuisine and shopping in and around San Diego!

* Balboa Park is one of the many "must see" attractions in the region. There are over 15 world-class museums here including the natural history museum, art museum and the Reuben Fleet Planetarium. The Inez Grant Memorial Rose Garden is one of the major such sites in the country. There are a variety of wonderful restaurants, sculpture gardens, and so much more!

* A drive north are other destination spots, including Disneyland, Legoland (yes, there is such a place, and kids 2-12 love it!) and Universal Studios.

* Closer in and around San Diego, you can visit Sea World, a 150-acre marine life park featuring Shamu, new attractions, aquatic shows, incredible marine habitats and aquariums, and the new Pirates 4-D program.

* The San Diego Zoo is one of the most incredible such facilities in the country. Here, over 4,000 rare and endangered birds, mammals and reptiles are protected, along with 6,500 varieties of exotic plants. See the Giant Pandas, the Polar Bear Plunge and the Ituri Forest! The Zoo's Wild Animal Park is in Escondido, and includes a 2,200-acre exotic animal and botanical reserve.

* If you love science and particularly astronomy, one of the great historical telescopes of our era -- the 200-Hale telescope -- is the centerpiece at Mt. Palomar Observatory. Operated by the California Institute of Technology, Palomar is open to the public during the day with self-guided tours, museum and a gift shop.

Special Convention and Vacation Rate

As usual, American Atheists has arranged for a special Convention rate that allows you to make a "mini-vacation" and save money by arriving early and/or leaving late. Many of our members use the Convention weekend as an anchor for their annual vacations!

The special Convention rates are:

Deluxe Single/Double: $99/night
Jr. Suites: $149/night
1-Bedroom Suites: $189/night
Townhouse: $349/night

You must make reservations directly with the resort by calling 1-800-566-2524. Be sure to identify yourself as being with the American Atheists convention so you may qualify for the special per day room rate. The above rates do not include the 10.5% state and local taxes. Registration cut-off date for this special convention rate is March 8, 2020. Reservations made after that date will be accepted only on an availability basis and only available hotel rates will then apply. We urge you to call now while space is available!

Other Lodging Options

San Diego Concierge can be very helpful in obtaining lodging in the San Diego area. Their toll-free phone number is 1-800-979-9091.

Getting to the Shelter Pointe Resort...

There is free shuttle service to the Shelter Pointe Resort from major transportation providers including the San Diego International Airport and AMTRAK. Prior to or upon your arrival, just contact the hotel at 619-221-8000.

Additional links:

  • San Diego International Airport

Speakers and other Convention Events

As usual, the American Atheist Convention features a stimulating and informative line-up of speakers addresses a variety of topics of crucial interest to Atheists and other nonbelievers...

ELLEN JOHNSON is President of American Atheists. She has served with the organization for over two decades, and since 1994 has co-hosted "The Atheist Viewpoint" television program carried on dozens of cable systems throughout the nation and on the internet.

Last year, Ms. Johnson served as Chairperson of the Godless American March on Washington (GAMOW) Task Force, which organized the first national gathering of diverse Atheist, Freethought and Secular Humanist groups in Washington, D.C. Her call for our nonbeliever community to "work together on the basis of mutual respect" struck a chord with thousands of nonbelievers throughout the nation.

Ellen Johnson is a frequent media guest on national and regional programs. She received her Masters Degree in Political Science from the prestigious New School for Social Research and is a second-generation Atheist.

EDDIE TABASH, Attorney and First Amendment political activist. Mr. Tabash is a Constitutional and civil rights attorney from California who will speak on "ATHEISTS ENGAGING THE POLITICAL PROCESS: How to Effectively Support and Oppose Legislation..."

Mr. Tabash has emerged as a key force in raising political awareness throughout America's diverse community of nonbelievers. He serves on the Platform Committee and State Central Committee of the California Democratic Party.

ALEXANDER WAUGH, Novelist and music critic. Born in 1963, Alexander Waugh comes from a line of distinguished writers and thinkers. He is the grandson of the popular distinguished British writer Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh (1903-1966, author of Brideshead Revisted, Decline and Fall and A Handful of Dust., and the son of columnist Auberon Waught and novelist Teresa Waugh.

Alexander Waugh read Music at Manchester University, and became Chief Opera Critic for the "Mail on Sunday" newspaper and the London Evening Stardard. He is a renowned authority on music and has written several books including Classical Music: A New Way of Listening, a delightful work that has been translated into 14 languages. His recent book is Time -- Its Origins, Its Enigma, Its History published by Carroll & Graf of New York. In this seminal work, Waugh explores the origins of our idea of time beginning (perhaps) with the Big Bang through the writings of Zeno, Gailileo, Newton, Caesar, Einstein and others.

Alexander Waugh is also a publisher, a cartoonist and illustrator, and he composed the music for the award-winning stage hit, "Bon Voyage!"

Mr. Waugh will be speaking on his latest work, God. We are pleased to also host a book signing for this distinguished author following his lecture.

DEBRA OLSON is the grandaughter of the late California Governor Culbert L. Olson (1938-1942). She graduated from UCLA Magna cum Lauda with degrees in Business and Political Science. In addition to a career in real estate and development, she has continued her family's legacy of political activism and is involved in the Kucinich for President Campaign. In addition, she has been involved in philanthropic and social justice movements, active in the Children's Global Village; and served as Co-Chair of the Women's International Advisory Committee. Today, Ms. Olson also develops strategies for grassroots advocacy organizations, and advises groups on everything from voter participation to fundraising and coalition building.

Another family relation with deep roots in progressive politics was Debra Olson's Great Grandmother, Deliah King Olson, one of the first Suffragette leaders in the United States.

AROUP CHATTERJEE is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Final Verdict which probes the life and sordid legacy of Mother Teresa.

Mr. Chatterjee was born in Calcutta, India; his father was an attorney, Atheist, and involved in politics. After studying medicine and two years of hospital practice, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1985 where he pursued graduate studies, married and started a family. It was here, and not in India, where he first began seeing western media coverage and celebrity-fascination with Mother Teresa. An intellectual who had taken up the Western Enlightenment weltanshauung -- and skeptical, then tired of the uncritical adulation of the Catholic nun -- Aroup Chatterjee began investigating. He finished the first draft of The Final Verdict but publishers repeated slammed the doors. Macmillan UK signed, but then withdrew from the contract. The book was finally published from Kolkata (as Calcutta has been officially renamed).

Mr. Chatterjees's exhaustive work blows the media gloss off the life and deeds of Mother Teresa. We will host a book signing for the author at the Convention.

FRANK ZINDLER is the Director of the American Atheist Press, and Editor of the quarterly American Atheist Magazine. Mr. Zindler is an internationally renowned science writer and linguist, with an expertise in over two dozen contemporary and ancient languages. He is a former professor of biology and geology.

Frank Zindler is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Chemical Society and the American Schools of Oriental Research. He is also a member and participant in the Jesus Seminar, a global community of scholars probing the early history of Christianity.

Mr. Zindler will be speaking on "NOAH'S SECOND FLOOD: Religious Domination in the Media and the Great Disinformation Inundation." He explores how America's broadcast, electronic and print media have been flooded with disinformation on a myriad of topics all manufactured by religious propagandists. The truths of history and science are being swamped by a rising sea of noisome religious revisionism. What can skeptics and others who are guided by the scientific method do about it?

TIM SLAGLE is a nationally famous entertainer whose politically-charged style of comedy has appeared on MTV, C-SPAN, Showtime and other media outlets. You may know him from his boisterous, witty and controversial delivery at the Libertarian Party National Convention in Washington, DC where he burned an American flag while producing a copy of the Bill of Rights. "It wasn't the real flag, only forty-nine stars. Rather than amend the constitution to protect the flag, I though I'd just amend the flag to protect the Constitution!"

Tim tells us that he arrived in Chicago in 1986, pulled up a barstool and proceeded to mess up his hair. In the period since arriving in the Windy City, his hair has gone from normal to shaved, from jet black to two-toned, from brush-cut to dread locks."

"If we were really serious about saving the earth, each and every one of us would be perfectly willing to spend the rest of our lives without cars, toilet paper or underarm deodorant; and I'd rather be dead. Who wants to live like the Amish?"

CHARLIE BOY is a rapper, humorist, and, yes, an Atheist who brings his edge brand of humor to our Convention! We've had classical, pop .. and now rap. Why not?

Charlie Boy's latest CD, Da Fearless Weirdo has been released to critical acclaim. He touches on a reality that most rappers have ignored. Blending harsh humor, poignant jokes and expressive rhymes (Is he the next Nelly?), it has been described as one of the funniest rap albums in the history of the genre. Dave Kong describes "Weirdo" as having "solid musical underpinning," and "the coolest rap CD I have ever heard."

DMITRY SUBBOTIN is a graduate in Historical Studies from Moscow State Pedagogical University in Russia. He is one of the founder of ATOM, the Moscow Atheistic Society and creator of its publication Novy Bezbojnik, or New Atheist.

Mr. Subbotin is presently an assistan editor of the Atheist educational magazine, Scepsis, and also works on the group's web site on the internet. He will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing Atheists and secularists today in Russia. He is joined in his visit to our Convention by Alexei Vyazovsky, also from ATOM.

CONRAD GOERINGER is Editor of AANEWS and a frequent contributor to The American Atheist Magazine and the Newsletter. He is a former antiquarian book dealer and investigativereporter. His articles on organized crime, international politics, First Amendment concerns and cultural and scientific issues have appeared in such diverse publications as "Schism, " "New Times" and "Sky & Telescope."

Mr. Goeringer will speak on "Searching for Frances Farmer, the Lost Atheist." For years, he has relentlessly pursued the story of Frances Farmer, the famous 30s and 40s-era actress who starred in such stage-and-screen hits as "Come and Get It!," "Golden Boy," and "Son of Fury." But while popularly acknowledged as a Hollywood beauty queen and celebrity, Farmer had a parallel life as an heretic, radical political activist, crusader for peace and social justice and an intellectual. At age 16 she shocked and outraged much of the nation with a controversial Atheistic essay. As she rose to stardom, Farmer never abandoned her political principles and role as an advocate for victims of the Spanish Civil War, for strikers and the working men and women of America including the disposessed farm laborers of California. She ran afoul of the law, spent years in an oppressive mental institute where, some say, she was subjected to inhumane experimental treatment, perhaps a lobotomy, and the loss of her rights. Using published and original archival information not unearthed for decades, including censored FBI files and other historical resources, Mr. Goeringer gives us a glimpse of who Frances Farmer really was. Goeringer is working on a forthcoming book, Frances Farmer: Heretic, Radical, Feminist...


Featuring Dr. Susan Blackmore and Dr. James W. Polichak

Are ideas (along with persistent habits, skills, theories and stories) self replicating? Can they be understood as "Memes," entities which seem to exist for their own survival, much in the manner genetic material operates?

Psychologist Susan Blackmore will debate this topic along with cognitive researcher James. W. Polichak, Jr. at the 2004 National Convention of American Atheists. Join us for this stimulating encounter!

Susan Blackmore
SUSAN BLACKMORE is a writer, lecturer and Visiting Lecturer at the University of the West in England, Bristol. She has a degree in psychology and physiology from Oxford University, and a background in paranormal studies which she no longer supports. She is author of numerous papers, studies and books and currently investigates memes and the theory of memetics, evolutionary theory and consciousness.

James Polichak
DR. JAMES W. POLICHAK, JR. is an attorney specializing in corporate law and intellectual property issues. Prior to obtaining his J.D. from the University of Michigan, he was a researcher at State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he obtained his Ph.D. in experimental psychology. His publications include "Authoritarian and Threat: A Response Latency Analysis" and articles on memory and language. He has also written on the subject of memetics, and questions many of the claims supporting the existence of memes.


The social high-point of the Convention is the Annual Member's Banquet. Here, we award those special people who have distinguished themselves for contributions to the First Amendment separation of church and state, Atheism, and American Atheists. The Banquet also includes the yearly Address From the President, Ellen Johnson.

Served buffet-style, this gathering will take place on Friday evening, April 9, 2020. The Shelter Pointe Hotel Chefs and Staff are known for their gourmet menu, and this soiree will be no exception. The menu features a variety of Tender Greens served with your choice of Dressings; Oriental Tortellini Salad; Angel Hair Pasta Salad with Smoked Ham; Chicken Tarragon; Fettucini Alfredo; Seasoned Rice Pilaf, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and fresh Seasonal Vegetables; freshly baked rolls with butter; Chef's sweet table, Coffee, decaffeinated coffee and tea.

The Member's Dinner includes talks, presentations and other entertainment. The $39.95 charge covers gratuity, taxes and other costs.


On Saturday evening, April 10, 2020 we host our exclusive dinner for Life Members and members of the Legacy -- those with the organization for 15 years or more. State Directors may also attend this gathering. This is a more intimate event where we honor those Life Members who have served American Atheists with such distinction, as well as members of the Legacy Program who make exception contributions to the American Atheists cause. It will be an excellent opportunity to interact with the Board Members, Officers, State Directors and other Staff of American Atheists. The cost is $39.95 per person for this buffet event, and includes all taxes and gratutity.

Once again, the professional Chefs at the Shelter Pointe present a groumet selection for our enjoyment. This buffet includes a variety of Tender Greens served with choice of Dressings; Oriental Tortellini Salad; Angel Hair Pasta Salad with Smoked Ham; Beef Bourguignonne; Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce; Seasoned Rice Pilaf; Herb Roasted Red Potatoes; fresh seasonal Vegetables; Freshly baked Rolls with Butter; Chef's Sweet Table; Coffee, decaffeinated Coffee and Tea.

And a Sunday Excursion & Buffet Cruise of the San Diego Harbor and Marine Area on "The California Princess"

Once again, we have chosen a Convention venue that offers a spectacular Sunday Cruise -- a popular event at so many of other annual gatherings! Remember the Boston Harbor in 2002, Chicago and the Great Lake in 2003? But no need to bundle up for this year's bash -- in warm and sunny San Diego, we take off on the Cruise ship "California Princess" for two hours of entertainment, gourmet food and spectacular views on the water.

We leave Shelter Pointe via bus at 10:30 AM on Sunday for the brief trip to the pier. The cruise begins at 11:00 AM, ends at 1:00 PM. The spectacular on-board buffet includes a grourmet selection. Choose from a palatial offering of Season Fresh Fruits, Fresh Baked muffins, Scones, Crescents, Danish and Bagels served with Butter, Whipped Cream Cheese and Assorted Preserves; Caesar Salad and a variety of other Seasonal Salads; Delicious Smoked Salmon Lox with Cream Cheese; Minced Red Onions and Capers; Roasted Red Breakfast Potatoes with Sauteed Onions and Bell Peppers.

All this, plus your transportation and entertainment is only $60 per adult, $20 for youngsters 12 and younger.

The American Atheists Oral History Project

Recording Your Atheist History For Posterity

One of the goals of the Charles E. Stevens American Atheists Library and Archives is to provide you with an opportunity to have your oral history recorded and preserved for posterity. It is important that you leave a record of what life was like for you, as an Atheist. There is no other such undertaking of its kind anywhere. Future generations will have the valuable opportunity to be able to reflect on who the Atheists or our era were, how they lived -- and in their own words.

At this year's 30th National Convention of American Atheists, Mr. Bart Meltzer will be videotaping the oral histories of conventioneers. A sign-up sheet will be available at the registration desk, and appointments for recording made on a first-come, first-serve basis. A list of questions will be provided in advance of the taping so that you can prepare your responses.

They are:

  • Your name
  • Your place of birth
  • Were you reared in a religious or non-religious home? If religious, what religion?
  • Are you a first, second or third generation Atheist?
  • What has been the most significant influence on your Atheism?
  • What has life been like for you as an Atheist in America?
  • In the time remaining for this interview, is there anything you would like to add?

The service is free for members of American Atheists. There is a $10 charge for nonmembers.

The oral history recordings will only be made at the annual national Convention of American Atheists. So join us as we inaugurate this important new project to preserve the legacy of Atheism!

Friday, April 9
8:00 - 9:00State Directors Meeting
9:00 - 9:15Welcoming comments by Dave Kong
9:15 - 10:00Ellen Johnson, president American Atheists
10:00 - 10:15Bart Meltzer introduces State Directors
10:15 - 10:45Break
10:45 - 11:45Debra Olson speaks about Governor Culbert Olson
11:45 - 1:30Lunch
1:30 - 2:15A Game For Everyone
2:15 - 3:15Alexander Waugh, book signing follows
3:15 - 3:45Break
3:45 - 4:00Charlie Boy (rapper)
4:00 - 5:00Frank Zindler
6:30Cocktail hour
7:00 - 11:00Members Dinner
8:30Awards ceremony
9:00 - 10:00Tim Slagle
Saturday, April 10
8:00 - 9:00State Directors Meeting
9:00 - 10:00Alexey Vyazovskiy, Dmitry Subbotin (Russian Atheists)
10:00 - 11:00Conrad Goeringer
11:00 - 11:30Break
11:30 - 12:30Aroup Chatterjee (The Final Verdict) followed by book signing
12:30 - 2:00Lunch
2:00 - 2:05Scholarship award announcement - Dave Silverman
2:05 - 3:00Eddie Tabash
3:00 - 3:30Merrill Lynch (Planned Giving)
3:30 - 4:00Break
4:00 - 5:00Meme Debate: James Polichak, Susan Blackmore
6:30 - 7:00Cocktails
7:00 - 9:00Life Members' and Legacy Members' Dinner
9:00 - 11:00Movie - To be determined - all welcome
Sunday, April 11
8:00 - 9:00MAAF Meeting
9:00 - 10:00Affiliates Meeting
10:00Board Bus to Cruise
11:00 - 1:00Buffet Cruise
2:00Return to hotel
3:00Members Business Meeting


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