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Convention Offers Outlet For Kentucky Skeptics


This week local skeptics will converge on the Lexington Center for the third annual Kentucky Freethought Convention - and their ranks could be growing.

A recent Pew study tracking religiosity in the U.S. found a decline between 2007 and 2014 in the percentage of residents identifying as Christian and a corresponding increase in the number of so-called “nones,” the somewhat loosely defined category that’s home to atheists, agnostics, and respondents who answer “nothing in particular” to the religion question.

As for the Commonwealth, Pew reported that that nones comprised roughly 12 percent of the population eight years ago. Today the research center estimates 22 percent of Kentucky respondents fall into the category.

"From what we're hearing, all across the board, the numbers are increasing," says convention organizer and Humanist Forum of Central Kentucky moderator Clay Maney.

National data show younger people, especially millennials,  driving much of the growth and Maney senses a similar climate beginning to develop in the Bluegrass. He splits the new members into two groups - longtime non-believers who just now discovered the group and people who have decided they no longer fit the traditional mold.

"Certainly there are also people who, for whatever reason, some of them through education, philosophy, reading, or more exposure to ideas online... they've decided that they no longer believe a very dogmatic view and want to explore and see where they fit now," Maney says.

Speakers at this year's Kentucky Freethought Convention will include names familiar to many in the skeptic community, including author Dan Barker and Austin TV host Matt Dillahunty. The event kicks off with a Friday night panel dubbed "Ask and Atheist" at the University of Kentucky.

Asked if he expects to be greeted by protest signs downtown, Maney says, "It's never been an issue."

More info on the 2015 Kentucky Freethought Convention is here.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.