Since it’s creation by Madalyn Murray O’Hair in 1963, American Atheists has been one of the most widely recognized atheist organizations in the country.
Ellen Johnson has been the president of the group since 1995. You may have seen her on Larry King Live, on the podium at the Godless Americans March on Washington in 2002, or most recently, with Barbara Walters talking about how heaven and hell don’t exist.
The upcoming American Atheists convention will take place in Seattle, Washington on April 6-8.
Ellen was nice enough to take some time to answer a few of my questions:
Hemant Mehta: Were you raised without religion?
Ellen Johnson: Yes, my parents weren’t religious. I went to public school and never to church services.
HM: Can you tell us about any hardships you’ve faced as a result of your atheism?
EJ: None that I can think of.
HM: Can atheist groups work together with religious groups, and if yes, how so?
EJ: Our experience has been that the religious groups don’t want to work with US and not the other way around. They don’t want us speaking at their press conferences, etc. To the extent that we subsume our Atheism we can work with them [but] that isn’t acceptable [to them].HM: What would you like religious readers and leaders to know about atheists?
EJ: Nothing. Actions speak louder than words. We need to show them that we are politically organized and that we vote our Atheism and that we will speak up when they say or do something we don’t like. We need to show them that we are serious about our Atheism by joining American Atheists. This isn’t to say that Atheists aren’t serious about their Atheism, but when you don’t have an Atheist organization that can claim 100,000 members then it doesn’t look like Atheists care all that much. Perception is everything in politics.
HM: What type of work do you do as president of American Atheists?
EJ: I wear many hats. I address the media on radio and television; I am editor of American Atheist magazine; I oversee the office; I plan our conventions; I cohost our cable tv program, The Atheist Viewpoint; and I oversee our various departments such as legal, affiliation, our library, and state directors.
HM: What can we expect from American Atheists in the future?
EJ: We are working on two events which I can’t talk about yet. I wish I could because I’m very excited about them. They are still in the formative planning stages.
If you have other questions specifically for Ellen (and not to atheists in general, please), feel free to leave them in the comments. I’ll send them to her if we have some good ones.
[tags]Madalyn Murray O’Hair, American Atheists, atheism, Christian, Ellen Johnson, Larry King Live, Godless Americans March on Washington, Barbara Walters, heaven, hell, Seattle, Washington, The Atheist Viewpoint[/tags]