Who We Are
Minnesota Atheists is Minnesota's oldest and largest atheist organization. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization that seeks to promote the positive contributions of atheism to society and to maintain separation of state and church.
Our bylaws are available here. Each year we hold eight monthly members meetings with guest speakers (Jan.-May, Sept.-Nov.), three picnics (June-Aug.), and a Winter Solstice banquet (Dec.).
We have a full calendar of events, such as dinners, movie nights, game nights, discussion groups, book clubs, a how to debate class and many others. To find out about these events, sign up for A.W.E. - Atheists Weekly E-mail.
We produce a public access cable TV program, "Atheists Talk," and a weekly podcast of the same name.
We offer speakers to the community free of charge. We specialize in presentations to high school and community college comparative religion classes.
The 2015 Board
Minnesota Atheists is a democratic organization with elected representatives who serve on the board for a one year term unless reelected. Nominations are in January and elections are in February. Nominees need to be paying members in good standing for at least one year prior to the date of election; Director-at-Large nominees need only be members for 6 months prior.
You may click on the board member's name to email them directly. General inquiries to the board can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
President, Eric Jayne
Eric is thrilled to have been elected for a third and final year of a term as president of Minnesota Atheists. He has served on the board since 2011 and has participated in Minnesota Atheists events since 2007. The idea of positive atheism in action has guided his efforts in helping to promote our organization through several mechanisms including billboards, baseball games, conferences, and community service projects. (Stay tuned for updates about “atheist night” in 2015 with the St. Paul Saints!)
As a fulltime social worker in St. Paul Eric has worked hard to connect several godless volunteers to local secular nonprofits who help underprivileged individuals and families meet their basic needs. Thanks to a dedicated group of event leaders, Minnesota Atheists has helped support the work of several local agencies while receiving recognition and awards from Foundation Beyond Belief for successfully completing a variety of community service projects.
Eric looks forward to another year of working with, and learning from, a talented board of directors. Increasing our paid membership by at least 10 percent is a primary goal which he hopes to achieve before his term is up next year.
Associate President, Alyssa Ehni
Alyssa has enjoyed serving on the board this past year as a director at large and is excited to have been elected for associate president. Although she has only been a member of Minnesota Atheists for a year and a half, she has been an atheist for 13 years. She is happy to have found a welcoming community full of kind people with interesting stories to share. During the past year she has actively been involved in our community by volunteering, participating in Freethought Toastmasters, and hosting a craft beer meet-up, among other things. She looks forward to furthering Minnesota Atheists’ mission helping to grow our community by being a positive force.
Chair, Phil Cunliffe
Phil grew up in Edina, Minnesota and graduated from Edina High School in 1982. He moved back to Minnesota in 2008 after spending 10 years living in the Chicago area. He has been an atheist for more than 30 years. In Minnesota Atheists he has found a group that shares the values that he considers important. He has found that serving as a member of the board of directors for the past 2 years has been a great experience. He looks forward to continuing to serve our community.
Associate Chair, Jill Carlson
Jill has been attending Minnesota Atheists events since 2010 and is an active member of the Unitarian Universalist church in Bloomington. She is interested in secular parenting, feminist philosophy, community service, and interfaith dialogue. Jill served on the editorial board for Atheist Voices of Minnesota and her personal experience with atheism can be read there. Jill lives in Burnsville with her husband and son and works as a licensed mental health counselor.
Secretary, Heather Hegi
Heather is happy to have been elected this year as secretary on the board of directors. Having been the chair of Minnesota Atheists these last three years, she feels that she is well prepared to take on this position. She looks forward to continue to serve our membership and the greater atheist population of Minnesota as a member of the board. In addition to the duties of recording minutes and giving reports, she will continue to do what I can to make sure Minnesota Atheists itself is running smoothly.
A little about Heather: She moved to Minnesota in 2009 from her home state of Nebraska. She had come to the atheist conclusion by the time she was in High School, so when she decided to move to the Twin Cities for grad school, it was icing on the cake when she found there was an active and influential atheist community here. She is a passionate atheist who sees religious thinking as harmful to society, suppressing science, reason, and free thought. Since religions are widespread, she thinks this organization is an important voice of reason.
Treasurer, Chris Matthews
Chris self-identified as an agnostic as a teen growing up in a small town in southern Minnesota (yes, I'm a native). He signed up for Minnesota Atheists’ newsletter at Minneapolis Pride in the late 1990's. He became a member soon after and is now a life member. He has served as treasurer of Minnesota Atheists since 2011. He feels that this role suits him well since he enjoys working with numbers and computers. He is proud to help provide the infrastructure that the organization needs to pursue goals that we collectively find worthwhile. He personally values the positive atheism and also the efforts to keep church separate from state. He appreciates the opportunity to continue serving as treasurer.
Director-at-Large, August Berkshire
With many years of leadership, August has served as president, newsletter editor, and radio show producer for Minnesota Atheists (MNA). He also serves on the executive council and is a past vice president of Atheist Alliance International (AAI), serves on the boards of directors of Camp Quest of Minnesota (CQMN) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and is on the speaker’s bureau for the Secular Student Alliance (SSA).
August has been an atheist activist since 1984, when he co-founded and served as the first president of the Twin Cities Chapter of American Atheists (which became Minnesota Atheists in 1991). He has also served on the boards of directors of the Humanists of Minnesota and American Atheists. He is the author of eight pamphlets and several articles, which can be found on his website August Berkshire.com.
He is the owner of the “ATHEIST” license plate for Minnesota and is proud to be included in the reference book Who’s Who in Hell. August uses down-to-earth arguments that he wishes he had heard when he was younger. He believes atheists have already won the intellectual debate and now they must be persuasive in the areas of emotion and politics.
Director-at-Large, Georgia Hancock Tsoi
Georgia is excited for the opportunity to serve on the board again this year. She has been a member of Minnesota Atheists for almost nine years and has enjoyed seeing the increase in members and participation the last few years. She shares Minnesota Atheists’ goals of educating the public about atheism and promoting the separation of state and church. She is an open atheist in her community and career and encourages others to be open and educate their friends and family about atheism. She took on the role of librarian for the MNA Library and looks forward to more opportunities to learn and grow with the Minnesota Atheists board this year.
Director-at-Large, Art Kallenbach
After being raised in a moderately religious Lutheran family in Coon Rapids, Art unceremoniously realized he was an atheist in the mid-1980s. Several years ago his son identified as a Christian. He invited Art to attend a debate his pastor was having with August Berkshire. Impressed by the debate, Art looked into the work Minnesota Atheists was involved in. He soon understood the importance of an organized, unified opposition to all beliefs unsupported by evidence. A year ago he found time to start volunteering with Minnesota Atheists through Meetup.com and saw, in the membership, a level of character and intelligence only eclipsed by a cohesive dedication to purpose.
Art became a member of Minnesota Atheists in the spring of 2014. He is honored to have been elected for Director-at-Large. He looks forward to helping the board of directors and Minnesota Atheists continue to provide Minnesota with an island of reason in a sea of superstition. Incidentally, his son rejected Christianity (and religion in general) shortly after ministers tried to convince him to speak in tongues.
The Minnesota Atheist Newsletter
Published nearly every month, The Minnesota Atheist is distributed to our membership and to media to keep people informed of current events, book reviews, and provide topical articles of interest to atheists. Without a dedicated team of editors, writers and publishers, we could not complete a newsletter so often.
Editor, Jenny Nolan
Atheism provided me with answers that my theological degree did not. While studying for my doctorate in theology, I came to the realization that the bible lacked authority, a supreme being is nonsense, and that ethical living has evolved.
The greatest dangers religions create are:
1) encourage ignorance of rational and scientific thinking;
2) encourage apathy toward learning because they have the answer;
3) creating an attitude of certainty about their religion;
4) an arrogance that they are better than anyone not having or sharing their knowledge.
Minnesota Atheists is a member society of the Atheist Alliance International, an umbrella organization for independent, local atheist groups. The goal of the Alliance is to help establish strong, democratic, autonomous atheist societies around the world. The Alliance sponsors an annual national convention, publishes the quarterly Secular Nation magazine, and engages in other activities to help make the atheistic viewpoint heard and respected.
Minnesota Atheists is also an affiliate of American Atheists, which holds annual national conventions and publishes the quarterly American Atheist magazine and the monthly, members-only, American Atheists Newsletter.
Minnesota Atheists is also part of the Alliance of Secular Humanist Societies (ASHS), which is connected to the Council for Secular Humanism, publishers of Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer magazines.