Are you going to Utah in the spring?

It’s not exactly a Mecca for atheists, but the American Atheists have announced their speakers for the 2014 National Convention in Salt Lake City. It looks good!

American Atheists revealed details on Wednesday about its 2014 national convention in Salt Lake City, announcing that speakers will include NFL Raiders punter Chris Kluwe, Survivor®: Philippines winner and sex therapist Denise Stapley, and Grammy®-nominated Spin Doctors bass player Mark White. The convention will also feature an art show, workshops, childcare, and a comedy show the weekend of April 17-20.

“We’re thrilled to bring so many great nontheists to our convention—some of whom have never addressed our movement before,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “This is our 40th annual convention and it’s going to be stellar.”

Early bird tickets will go on sale Wednesday, August 7 on the American Atheists website at The convention will take place at the Hilton Salt Lake Center hotel & convention center in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.

Salt Lake City is famous for being the seat of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. American Atheists chose Salt Lake City in order to better reach out to the sizable ex-Mormon population there.

“We want ex-Mormons to know that there is this entire community of people here for them,” said Public Relations Director Dave Muscato. “Often when people leave the Mormon church, they continue to base their identity in it because they don’t know any other community they can identify with. The 2014 American Atheists National Convention will be the place where ex-Mormons know that it’s okay to take that step and start saying, ‘I am an atheist.’”

Other speakers include the Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Maryam Namazie, Matt Dillahunty, Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Marsha Botzer of the Ingersoll Gender Center, Faisal Saeed al Mutar, Sikivu Hutchinson, Brian Keith Dalton also known as Mr. Deity, and Vickie Garrison.

Chris Kluwe, whom the New York Times called “The Most Interesting Man in the NFL,” is also a gaming enthusiast, author, LGBTQ equality activist, and musician. His book, Beautiful Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities, features personal essays about religion and the Pope, his family, guns, and many other topics.

Denise Stapley is the $1,000,000 grand prize winner of the 2012 CBS show Survivor®: Philippines. She is also a sex therapist and lives with her husband and 9-year-old daughter in Iowa.

Mark White is the bassist of the Grammy®-nominated alternative rock band Spin Doctors, known for their hits “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” He lives in Houston, Texas where he also teaches music privately.

I’m especially happy that they’re reaching out for speakers who aren’t on the usual roster of known atheists (although the ones they’ve got are good, no complaints there!). This is how we grow. I’ll be especially interested to hear Chris Kluwe talk.


  1. raven says

    That sound you hear in the background are Mormon heads exploding.

    Ironically Salt Lake City itself has a nonMormon majority. At one time the mayor was a nonMormon feminist woman.

    This is due to gerrymandering and residential self selection.

    The massive suburbs around SLC are more or less a 100% monoculture of the LDS.

  2. says

    I’m especially happy that they’re reaching out for speakers who aren’t on the usual roster of known atheists.

    Yeah, not even known in their own community! I live in the same town as Denise Stapley and am somewhat active in the local atheist community here; I’ve never seen her involved at all. (Then again, maybe she’s more like regular FtB commenter Ace of Sevens (also a local resident to me) and is involved more online than in meatspace.)

  3. says

    A lot ex-mormons in the Salt Lake area are going to be very happy about this conference. They are pressured into keeping a low profile far too often (family concerns, job concerns, etc.). It will be fun for them to have the relative protection of a larger group, and lots of press coverage.

    In the meantime, here’s some news about mormons getting into the cyber attack business:

    City Weekly link.

    According to a statement by the owner of, Paul Jackson, began experiencing problems with its server late Sunday night. Jackson says the website’s server administrator discovered that the IP address of where the attacks originated is associated with the ZIP code 84150. That ZIP code includes city blocks owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and where the LDS Church Offices Building, Temple Square, and the LDS Conference Center are located.

    An ex-mormon commenting on this news writes:

    … there AREN’T any houses in 84150. It’s not a residential area. The entire zip code is owned by the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Look up the map for 84150; it’s all LDS, Inc. It includes the Conference Center, the temple, the North Visitors Center, the JSMB, the Lion House, the Beehive House, all of Temple Square, the COB. So if the IP is really associated with that zip code, I’d say that’s pretty damning. Because that didn’t come from somebody’s house; it came from the heart of LDS, Inc.

    This story looks weak, for now. If there is actual criminal cyber activity originating from LDS Inc., then there should be a search warrant to enable authorities to pinpoint the origin of the attack.

  4. says

    Mormons can add all the names of the atheists attending the conference to their lists for:
    – proselytizing
    – love bombing
    – as a last resort, necrodunking after the atheists die

    The origin of proxy baptizing dead people (necrodunking in ex-mo lingo) into the mormon church has a shaky history, as does much of mormon dogma:

    After Alvin Smith’s death in 1823, the Smith family was forced to worry about his eternal status when a minister implied that he had gone to hell because he was unchurched and probably unbaptized. . . . Seven years later, on 21 January 1836, Smith received a revelation that ‘all who have died without a knowledge of this Gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.’ . . . Later, in 1840, when Smith instituted the doctrine of baptism for the dead in Nauvoo, his brother Hyrum was baptized for Alvin.

    This info was posted on another forum by Steve Benson. He excerpted the quoted material from Dan Vogel’s Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1988], pp. 162-63.

  5. raven says

    In the meantime, here’s some news about mormons getting into the cyber attack business:

    Old news.

    There have been Mormon computer criminals for at least a decade.

    Someone hacked my computer to get my real name. The second time, a computer forensic expert isolated the highly illegal spyware program. The weak spot is that these programs have to send their output to their installers.

    In one hour, we got the location of the program’s ouput and some names. They were in Provo, Utah and I recognized one of them. A vicious Mormon criminal hacker for hire.

    The Latter Day Saints aren’t very saintly.

  6. says

    Thinking more about my comment @2, how did American Atheists know to get her as a speaker? I don’t watch Survivor and even though I knew there was a local resident competing, I didn’t bother to watch the show. Did she perhaps say something on the show to indicate non-belief? (To be honest, I’m feeling a little out-of-the-loop right now. Interesting stuff is going on in my figurative backyard and this is how I find out about it!)

  7. says

    How to “date” while one is in Utah:

    I used to seriously date a Utah County attorney. …

    … one time he told some friends of one of his sons to go to Vegas and get married. He said that they were so horny and talking about hurrying up and doing a quickie temple wedding. … He told them that he would do an easy divorce for them as long as she didn’t get pregnant and really gave them a lot of info, which they needed, about birth control. But he said he’d have to do a divorce not an annulment …

    The logic was that they could have sex and get the edge off the dating and have time to decide what they really wanted to do. His advice was that if they decided they wanted to get married in the temple, he would do a divorce for them and they could get a new marriage license and have a regular temple wedding. If, soon after the marriage they decided to break up, no one would be any the wiser. … They went to Vegas and got married, but the next week the girl got the guilts and told her parents. Her parents threw a big fit and the pressure was on with both sides of the family for them to move in together and make the marriage work (since they’d already had sex) and work toward going to the temple in a year….

    .. it just points out how stupid the mormon marriage machine is. Kids who get married in their early 20s are getting married for one reason. Sex. I was one of them. There is no possible way in the world I would have married that early or married the sociopath I married if I’d had a normal life, gone off to college with no pressure to be looking for a husband, been taught about having responsible relationships, and not thought I would burn in hell for having responsible pre-marital sex. It is all just so stupid.

  8. gregpeterson says

    I picked up Kluwe’s book and flipped it open at random to a terrific (if slightly precious) little essay on not believing in God. Roughly on par with something Penn Jillette might write. I was impressed, as I was when he and his band played at Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis in support of marriage equality. I have to think his unusual and high-profile advocacy was at least a factor in marriage equality become a Minnesota law. I will be very interested to see what his identification with non-believers amounts to.

  9. says

    Having a convention in the spiritual center of the LDS church might be especially useful to the image of atheists to Mormon people due to their blatantly false theological beliefs on atheism. In one of my (many) forays into the minds of religious believers I did a Book of Mormon scripture study with a friend of mine who was Mormon. Her Sunday School had filled her head with all sorts of egregious lies the worst of which was that atheists worship Satan and that we tell everyone that we deny god as a cover. Let that one sink in. That was not just one silly rogue Sunday School, either, all Sunday School lessons are standardized, everyone in the LDS church learns from the same lesson plans. American Atheists has a lot of work ahead of them in Utah.

  10. says

    Mormons are going high-tech for their proselytizing efforts. (Maybe we will be spared the door-to-door visits from 19-year-old “Elders” in the future.)


    As of July 31, 2013, the Arizona Phoenix Mission is an online-proselyting mission, authorized to use; Facebook (including chat); email; Skype; blogs; and text messaging to help the missionaries accomplish their purpose. Initially approved for online proselyting are the assistants to the presidents, zone leaders and sister training leaders – ….

    “Remember that working online is a sacred trust and privilege.”…

    While missionaries are approved to use Skype for proselyting purposes, the Arizona Phoenix Mission has not yet received authorization to use Skype for Christmas or Mothers Day calls home to parents. We will continue to use our cell phones as directed until given other instructions. …

  11. psanity says

    This is exciting — this is a con I could actually get to, only 8 hours or so drive. I’d be coming from SW Montana, via Idaho Falls and Pocatello. Anyone else in this goddy wasteland who wants to go?

  12. says

    psanity @15, You might want to post your request for persons to share a ride here:

    Yes, sometimes a photo can stand in for a thousand words. Here’s a photo album of mormonism in Utah. I like the photo of the sports field/playground with a sign that says no one can use the area on Sundays — it’s owned by the LDS church. Sundays being a no-fun day.

  13. says

    In the 1970s (and some say well into the early 90s), Brigham Young University was the site of aversion therapy that sometimes included electric shocks to the genital of gays.

    How is the more “enlightened” BYU environment today? Slightly better, if you consider not shocking one’s genitals, but otherwise still in the dark ages. Here’s a quote from an ex-mormon [I corrected a few spelling errors]:

    Another development at BYU and BYUI [Brigham Young University Idaho] is the USGA group. (Understanding Same Gender Attraction.) These are groups where LGBT mormons meet up weekly or bi-weekly. People who are not LGBT attend as well. Out front it looks like an accepting awesome organization, but what I have found it it is mostly a bunch of LGBT people who wish to remain mormon, therefore remaining celibate for the rest of their lives.

    They go around telling people how they are gay and will never act on it. Then they get sympathy from fellow mormons as if they have some disease or something is wrong with them. …

    I know many of these people in these groups, and there are many of them who are not celibate. They have gay intercourse, and then run around BYU and BYUI bragging about how they remain celibate and true to the church. …

    If anyone in these organizations may be reading this, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. You should not feel good about fellow mormons feeling “sorry” for you for being gay. Do not be ashamed of yourselves, be proud of who you are and get out of that school. I read a story about a gay guy at BYU Idaho who so desperately wants a family… well create one. Get out of the box. I am gay and have been with my partner for four years, and we are becoming more financially stable and one day wish to adopt children….

  14. says

    Sources for the electroshock therapy sponsored by BYU in the good old days, courtesy of ex-mormon “Tahoe Girl”:

    Every few months I post these videos for those who aren’t yet familiar with the shock “therapy” that was done on gay men and lesbian women in a basement on the BYU campus to try and get them to stop being gay. This continues to horrify me. I’m so embarrassed to admit that I was attending BYU during the time that this was going on. Of course I didn’t know about it, but it’s awful for me to think that this was going on in a building in which I had classes and church.

    This torture went on for 15-20 years and was performed on teen and adult men and women. Horrific.

    We need to keep getting the word out about the atrocities of the mormon church.

    YouTube link, part 1.

    YouTube link, part 2.

    YouTube link, part 3.

  15. says

    More sources that document BYU’s involvement in gay aversion therapy: This link documents BYU professor Dr. Robert Card’s patent application for the electroshock device. This link document the involvement of the mormon church leadership, including the involvement of Thomas S. Monson, who is the current President/Prophet/Seer/Revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

  16. says

    I’m delighted this will be in my hometown next spring. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since the first news broke. It will be a big expense, but we should be able to manage it without hotels/travel expenses, saving starting now.

    What I find funny is how many comments on Twitter have been concerned with liquor stores or religious anger from locals. Our liquor stores are middling in terms of inconvenience compared to other places I’ve visited in the US. (We certainly have no dry counties; that would cut into the state budget.) As for religious anger, devout Mormons are in the minority in Salt Lake.

    I also find comments like Raven’s a bit misguided & definitely inaccurate:

    The massive suburbs around SLC are more or less a 100% monoculture of the LDS.

    I’ve lived more than half my life in these massive suburbs in Salt Lake County. (The remaining time was living in Salt Lake City proper.) They are not a Mormon monoculture, nor are they all-white. My neighborhood in West Valley City (the 2nd largest city in the state) has diversity in religion, ethnicity & sexual orientation.

    The annual neighborhood breakfast was organized for years by a gay couple who happily organized a secular fundraiser every year alongside religious people without incident. The first person to welcome me to the neighborhood is Latino & he is a wonderful advocate to local government. There are multiple same-sex couples and gay single people living here. My representation in state government is of East Asian descent. My next door neighbor was born in Mexico City; he & his wife are ex-Mormons. Other neighbors are agnostic. There is a large mosque on the drive between my house and office. There is a new Buddhist temple by my grocery store. The nearest Catholic parish predominantly serves Latinos in the area.

    There are absolutely sections of self-righteous intolerant white Mormons in & around Salt Lake, and I have more reason to be angry about them than people who don’t live here. The disproportionate influence that LDS church policies and Mormon culture has over my life through state & local government is nothing short of infuriating. But nothing is served by ignoring the actual demographics here.

    We have major problems in our suburbs: abuse, racism & corruption. And I suspect they occur in similar incidence to other fucked up places in the country.

    I am concerned about this kind of inaccurate sweeping statement because it’s the same kind of language that makes otherwise kind & progressive people talk about writing off the entire population of states with regressive policies as deserving the harm their legislatures cause. (Ever heard someone shortsightedly say we should just let Texas secede?) We can’t or have good reasons not to move away, so please try to help us make things better instead of writing us off as a lost cause.

  17. says

    Steve Benson provides a concise history of polygamy within mormon history, dogma and culture. He then goes on to document the genetic catastrophe caused by endogamous polygamy (breeding within one’s limited group).,983084

    Excerpts below:

    The one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people. — Prophet John Taylor, “Millennial Star,” vol. 15, p. 227

    Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire. . . . Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers. . . . Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ it is the only popular religion there, . . .
    — The Prophet Brigham Young, “Deseret News,” 6 August 1862

    This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans, . . . — Apostle Orson Pratt, “Journal of Discourses,” vol. 13, p. 195

    Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake. — Apostle Heber C. Kimball, as quoted Stanley P. Hirshon, “The Lion of the Lord: A Biography of Brigham Young” [New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969], pp. 129-30

    … This great-grandfather married two sisters which meant the 22 known children were double cousins or as genetically similar as brother and sister. I began to think polygamy might be a genetically unsound marriage practice. Not only were there possibly too few fathers making it easier for defects to clump in the large interrelated kindred but succeeding generations of children from these isolated rural Mormon towns married within a few kindred as well….

    …These groups are white supremacists and inbreeding is an essential doctrine in keeping the bloodline pure. Convinced they are breeding a pure white master race, they blame the mother if a deformed baby is born then preach she was unrighteous or unclean. It is these discredited ideas that foster this genetic legacy. Early polygamy was rife with incestuous and eugenic ideas and practices as well. … (Linda Walker, “Fatal Inheritance: Mormon Eugenics,” under “Science as Culture,” originally written in the fall of 1991, updated in the summer of 1999, citations included, at:

  18. says

    In reference to the discussion up-thread about a monoculture of mormonism, yes there is some diversity in Utah, and the percentage of non-mormons is slowly increasing, (holding steady recently, but the trend over time is inching toward diversity). However, Provo, Utah (“Happy Valley” just south of Salt Lake) is 88.69 percent LDS. See

    Overview of mormonism in Utah: (dated April, 2012)
    Excerpt below:

    For nearly two decades, Utah’s population continued to rise while the percentage of its people who are Mormon slowly and steadily declined. Then the recession hit…

    Utah’s population is 62.2 percent LDS and that percentage hasn’t moved much in the past three years….

    The census estimates that Utah added 40,800 residents in 2011, but less than 10 percent of them were people moving here.

    That means the growth in population is all about Utahns having babies …

    … Salt Lake County, with more than 1 million residents, went from 51.6 percent Mormon in 2009 to 51.4 percent in 2011.

    Utah County, with a population of 530,500 residents, went from 80.9 percent in 2009 to 81.2 percent last year. … Utah County added 10,450 residents from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said 9,315 of them are members of that faith, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the total growth.

    Salt Lake County added 15,075 residents and 7,324 of them are Mormons, or about 48.6 percent of the total.

    If these trends hold, Utah County would become more LDS over time and Salt Lake County would eventually become minority Mormon. The state now has four counties where less than half of its residents are on the LDS Church rolls. They are Carbon, Grand, San Juan and Summit.

    Utah County is one of just three counties that top the 80 percent threshold, with the others being northern Utah’s Morgan and Rich….

  19. says

    Speaking of mormon monoculture, take a look at Rexburg, Idaho.

    White alone – 23,151 (90.8%)
    Hispanic – 1,435 (5.6%)
    Two or more races – 320 (1.3%)
    Asian alone – 301 (1.2%)
    Black alone – 156 (0.6%)
    American Indian alone – 44 (0.2%)
    Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone – 44 (0.2%)
    Other race alone – 33 (0.1%)

    Percentages above are from 2010. Rexburg now has about 30,000 residents, with most of the increase coming from a larger student population at BYUI, and from babies born to mormon families.

    An estimated 97 percent of the locals belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — making Rexburg possibly the most Mormon of all towns.

    More info here:

  20. says

    To add to the discussion up-thread of Utah’s liquor laws, this excerpt is from an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, dated August 7, 2013:

    … Matt Pfohl works in the space of an entry closet in the kitchen, stirring a classic Manhattan and shaking — it’s more of a dance because he rocks up and down with the shaker — a side car that he calls the Honey Apple.

    Utah’s unique laws require most restaurants with alcohol licenses to keep the working bartenders, along with open bottles of liquor and beer taps, out of sight, either in back rooms or behind opaque walls, dubbed Zion Curtains.

    They are meant to shield impressionable youth from seeing alcohol….