Interview with Anne Landman – Founder & Board Member at Large, Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Anne Landman is the Founder & a Board Member at Large of the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers. Here we talk about her life, work, and views.

Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated?

Landman: I have eight years of full time college and university-level education, but only a bachelor’s degree to show for it. My degree is in communications. I also have an associates degree in Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Technology.

Two years of my college time was spent in technical training to become a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) and I worked as an RRT for 15 years to make a living. I went back to school in the late 1980s-early 1990s to complete a bachelor’s degree.

I had artistic inclinations early on, but my parents assured me I would never be able to make a living as an artist, or in the humanities, which I also loved, and they urged me not to go into the arts or humanities, so I was a little lost in finding a calling and wandered around in education for years without much focus.

I ended up taking years of science (biology, chemistry, anatomy & physiology, soils science, etc.) to go into fields that could make me a living, but these were not subjects I was wild about. I also got into researching tobacco industry documents online in 1997 and did a 15-month fellowship at UCSF in 2005-2006 in a department where everyone else was a post-doc.

I ended up publishing a number of papers about tobacco industry strategy in medical journals like Tobacco Control, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Social Science and Medicine, and the Journal of the American Public Health Association. 

Jacobsen: As the Founder and a Board Member at Large for Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, why was the atheist and freethinker organization originally formed?

Landman: I created the group to provide support for atheists locally, to help us find each other and provide some fellowship, to educate the public about the atheist world-view and to act as a watchdog group for separation of church and state issues locally.

Jacobsen: Following from the last question, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position? 

Landman: I arrange for the monthly meetings, created and maintain our website, post to our social media channels, come up with ideas for our holiday billboards, and sometimes serve as a speaker for media when I can’t find someone else to do it. 

Jacobsen: Of the community social activities, what tends to be the most popular?

Landman: The solstice parties. I host a summer solstice BBQ and swim party and we have a winter solstice dinner party at a restaurant, or sometimes it’s a potluck at someone’s house, or we’ll go to a bowling alley. People bring their kids and we have a great time.

Jacobsen: What has been the general trajectory of growth of the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers? What have been the demographics over time, too? 

Landman: We’ve gone from zero to having fans all over the world. We started in 2007, before use of Facebook and Twitter became commonplace, so we had maybe 30 people initially.

Now we have several hundred fans here on the western slope where we live, and started a second group in Montrose, 60 miles south of there that has been very successful.

People follow us on social media from all over the world, including from the U.K., Australia, India, Canada, the Philippines, Germany. Our fans are 52% male and 47% female, most of our fans are in the 25-55 year age range. 

Jacobsen: In terms of activism, what have been some efforts in the history of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers? What have been the real successes and onest failures? How can others build on the successes and learn from the failures?

Landman: We’ve had lots of successes. We’ve worked on trying to get our city council and county commission to stop praying to Jesus at the start of their public meetings.

We’ve had some result on that — we got the City to stop limiting prayers to 95% Christian and instead open up invocations to everyone, including atheists, and we’ve had a number of atheist invocations and there has even been a Satanic invocation at the start of a city council meeting.

Our county fair used to let a local church host a prayer service on the fairgrounds before the fair opened up for the day and then the county would give free admission to anyone who attended the prayer service.

We got the church to move it’s prayers off taxpayer-funded property and have their members pay admission to the fair like everyone else. We succeeded in getting Colorado Mesa University to stop the Gideons from thrusting bibles at nursing students at their graduation ceremony.

We exposed the religious proselytizing going on in the Delta County public schools (teachers quoting the Bible in class, children being forced to attend a religious nativity play at Christmas time, a Christian missionary teaching “sex ed”). Delta County is the county next door to us. 

As for a failure…We haven’t been able to get prayers out of our local public meetings completely. Our county commissioners used a sneaky technique to keep the public from being able to observe their prayers on the TV live cast of their meetings by instructing the videographer who records the meetings not to turn the cameras on until they were done praying. 

Jacobsen: What books and intellectuals would you recommend for the audience here, today? Any freethinking women who need more prominence and media coverage than they, currently, get within the general society?

Landman: Christopher Hitchens, Phil Zuckerman, Sam Harris. And I really admire Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. That’s one group that will really jump in and help when you need it. 

Jacobsen: How can people become involved with the donation of time, the addition of membership, links to professional and personal networks, giving monetarily, exposure in interviews or writing articles, and so on?

Landman: They can contact me through our Facebook page, or call me at (970) 216-9842, or mail us at WCAF, P.O. Box 1434, Grand Junction, CO 81502, or donate to WCAF through the “Donate” link on our web page at http://WesternColoradoAtheists.org.

We accept PayPal. We are also on Amazon Smile, so people who shop on Amazon can choose to have a small donation given to WCAF with every item they purchase, at no extra charge. Just go to Amazon Sign In and choose Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers as your charity:

Amazon Sign In

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?

Landman: No, thank you very much.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Anne.

Landman: You’re welcome!

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

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