by Helen Grant
If you haven’t heard of FreeOK, or maybe saw OKC.NET post about the event across our social media platforms, here is an interview we conducted with one of the organizers, Aimee Breeze. For the record: it’s been held in Tulsa for the first two years of its existence, but this is the first time the Freethought Convention will be held in Oklahoma City.
Freethought is a movement that seeks to use the philosophical ideals of logic, reason, and empiricism rather than dogma based on tradition to inform opinions and shape world views. This movement is not exclusive to the United States, but George Huston is credited as the first US Free Thinker to organize the movement with his publication “The Correspondent,” which dates back to 1827.
okc.net: What was your first impression when you heard the term Freethought and had you heard of the movement or participated within it before it was established in Oklahoma?
Aimee Breeze: I immediately knew it was something I could identify with. The movement had been well-established before I learned of it, but once I did, I knew I had to get involved. I dove in head first and have been seeking out ways to make a difference within the movement ever since.
okc.net: Is this event exclusive to atheists? If not, what are the organizers’ intentions in making it open to anyone who is interested?
Aimee Breeze: In no way is this event exclusive to atheists. Freethought is a philosophical perspective that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and evidence, rather than authority, or tradition. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in a god and is, in no way, synonymous with freethought. Not all atheists are freethinkers and not all freethinkers are atheist. Freethought is the process, not the conclusion. We are not attempting to inform anyone about what to think, but rather how to think. We are trying to appeal to those who favor science, logic, and reason, regardless of whether or not they believe in a deity.
okc.net: What has been the response across communities?
Aimee Breeze: Favorable and accepting.
okc.net: Who are some past speakers that really stand out, either from feedback you’ve received or those that really struck a chord with you?
Aimee Breeze: Seth Andrews, a fellow Oklahoman, has already commanded a strong response from the crowd with his inclusive, humorous, and appealing delivery.
okc.net: What is special about this new panel of speakers?
Aimee Breeze: We wanted to ensure that we had a diverse selection of topics, ranging from the Higgs Boson to secular parenting to sexual health education.
okc.net: What are some of the challenges in organizing this event? I heard you lost your original fundraiser dinner location because the owners found out that atheists were involved, can you speak to that? Have there been other hardships?
Aimee Breeze: Our major challenges have been fundraising. We held several fundraising events, but when you’re appealing to the same small community of supporters over and over, they tend to grow weary of being asked for money. We’ve been very successful, though, and appreciate the support we’ve received from the community at large.
To be fair, the restaurant owners were supportive and followed through with their initial commitment (which turned out to be our most successful fundraiser), but chose not to do further events because they didn’t want to alienate their majority customer base by openly supporting what they perceived to be a specific ideology. I believe they misunderstood the purpose and intent of the event.
okc.net: Overall, if you’ve met resistance, how has it been handled?
Aimee Breeze: Organizing an event like this a challenge in itself, but I can’t say that we’ve met much resistance.
okc.net: Have you found people from all walks drawn to this event, even if everyone’s inherent beliefs systems are slightly different?
Aimee Breeze: Absolutely. That’s another reason we wanted such a diverse panel of speakers. We are able to appeal to a variety of interests.
okc.net: What haven’t I asked that you feel is important to know about the event or its history?
Aimee Breeze: After this year, we will be reforming FreeOK as an engine of humanitarian and community aid here in Oklahoma and focusing on building the freethinking community by supporting freethinking artists, businesses and educational entities in addition to holding our annual convention.
For more information see our calender event listing for dates, times, and prices.