Board Member Elections & Big Idea Meeting 2012

So much has happened in the last 11 months. Seattle Atheists has enjoyed an active year of outreach, education, support, and community building, and we’ve built up a lot of great momentum. We’ve featured prominent atheists like Rebecca Watson, Vyckie Garrison, and Edward Falzon. We also ran a successful visibility campaign with our bus ads.

We want to do so much more and we need your help to make amazing things happen over the next year.

On Sept. 15th, we’ll be holding our annual board member elections and we’ll also follow the ballot box with a Big Idea Meeting. We want to hear from you about what you believe the future of our organization should look like. What do you want to see Seattle Atheists accomplish in the next year and decade. Think about the little details and your big dreams for the future. Your input will be instrumental in shaping what the new board takes on in the coming year.

Can’t make it to the Elections & Big Idea Meeting but still have ideas to share?

Please take the Big Idea Survey.

Are you interested in becoming a member of the Seattle Atheists board?

We love new ideas and new energy, and have 8 open board positions this year:  President, Vice President, Secretary, and 5 Members at Large.

If you are interested, please email a candidate statement to Also, please join us if you can for our next board meeting to see what they’re like. All candidate statements will be posted below so that members can get to know who is running. All candidates need to attend the elections and be current Seattle Atheists members to qualify.  

Light refreshments will be provided. Afterward, we’ll have a casual get-together to play games, mingle, and talk about what you’d like to see happen in the organization.

Skills such as public speaking, writing and editing, graphic design, and secretarial skills are desired. Experience with a board of directors is very useful.

Candidate Statements:


Primary responsibilities include:
• Leads meetings
• Acts as the face of organization
• Formulates strategy
• Drafts a mission and vision, together with the Vice President
• Drafts annual goals
• Assigns permanent seats for Board members
• Serves on the Public Relations Committee
• Serves as the Chief Executive Officer
• Presides over each meeting of the board or designates another board member to preside
• Makes appointments to the board committees after consultation with the board

Ericka M. Johnson

Having been a board member for almost a year now, I am excited about what the future holds. The atheist community has only been growing and now is a crucial moment in the history of the atheist movement. It is, by its very nature, a responsive movement. Our activism would be unnecessary if there wasn’t a mountain of damage done by religions and faith-based thinking. And I am excited to continue working against the damage that has been done in the name of dogma.

Most of my volunteer experience has been split between Seattle Atheists and my community center. Through the years, I’ve been an event host, event staff, volunteer coordinator, volunteer trainer and most recently I organized an off-site fund raiser for my community center that’s entering its fourth year.  I’d love the opportunity to build something similar for Seattle Atheists in the coming years.

What I’d like to make happen with the Seattle Atheists:

  • Continue growing our ambassador program to welcome new members.
  • Support marriage equality for Washington State.
  • Create an annual fund raising event that engages the public while supporting our organization.
  • Organize and facilitate more frequent MeetUps and gatherings.
  • Revamp Seattle Atheists’ website to be easier to navigate, provide forum space for local online community, and integrate an online store allowing members to get discounts on our merchandise.
  • Expand and support our network of volunteers.
  • Facilitate more secular support groups for spiritual abuse survivors, non-theists dealing with grief or trauma, etc.
  • Develop marketing material and fliers to spread secular, skeptical and non-theist information

Whether I’m elected or not, I’m excited to be a part of and do volunteer work for the Seattle Atheists.

Vice President

Primary responsibilities include:
• Performs administrative functions
• Organizes meetings and Board events
• Manages agendas
• Appoints committee roles
• Serves on the Events Committee and Member Relations Committee
• Performs the duties of the president whenever he or she cannot perform his or her duties by reason of physical absence at scheduled meetings, incapacity, resignation, or death.
• Performs such continuing duties as may be mutually agreed with the other officers

Vicki Williams

I am excited to have the opportunity to run for Vice President of Seattle Atheists.  I think my experience and enthusiasm can serve our community well.

Relevant Experience:

I have been a part of Seattle Atheists for about a year and a member of the Board since May.  During that time, I have helped coordinate volunteer efforts, have started a book club, and have established idea meetings preceding our board meetings to give members an open forum for discussing ideas with board members.

Before moving to Seattle, I was President of a women’s association that provided community support to medical trainees and their partners.   During my tenure I oversaw the transition of the organization into being gender-neutral and helped found a dessert club.

I am currently completing a Master’s degree in Systems Engineering, which includes organizational optimization and project management.


I believe that the Puget Sound area has the potential to become a major center of progressive atheism in this country.  As a community, we can choose to stand for positive social change in addition to our lack of belief in gods.  Many aspects of our society desperately need the rationality and science-based approach to problem solving inherent in atheism.  I believe this vision of atheism can draw otherwise disinterested local atheists into our community.

I want to support our community as we work together to promote a positive view of atheism.


Primary responsibilities include:
• Responsible for documentation and compliance
• Manages committee reports
• Records meeting minutes
• Performs action and task management
• Responsible for membership documentation
• Creates monthly newsletter and send to membership
• Maintains the minutes of board meetings, the membership roster, and other records as
instructed by the President.

Anu Ramanathan

I am excited to have the opportunity to run for the position of Secretary on the board of Seattle Atheists.

I believe I have most of the skills necessary for the position – I am an organized person with a propensity to neatly document everything, and an enthusiasm to grow Seattle Atheists into an organization that serves to present a highly positive face of atheism and atheists to a public that, even here in the generally progressive Puget Sound, still sees us as other, as evil.

I have been Secretary on the board of my homeowners association, in charge of record keeping of all sorts regarding the association, and so believe I have a pretty good idea of what the position entails (seeing the position description so clearly laid out also helps, for sure!). I’ve put together the monthly newsletter for the HOA while I was on the board, and have organized sidewalk-chalk competitions for the children in our community.

Atheism and feminism surfaced very early in my worldview – I think I was always a feminist (even if I didn’t know of the term until my late teens), but I became an atheist at about age 10. And the thing that kicked me over into atheism was my passion for fair treatment of, and equal rights for, everybody. Also the inability of most religious people around me (including priests of various religions) to answer simple questions of “why would a god/gods allow injustice?” and “how do you know what your god wants?” either back then, or now.

People around me are well aware that I am an atheist and accept me as I am. However, I want not just “nice person in spite of being an atheist,” but “nice person who happens to be an atheist.” In other words, true social acceptance.

  • I want atheists to be just as accepted in the larger society around us, as various religious organizations are, as are people who profess to be religious.
  • I want atheist organizations to be enthusiastically accepted as partners by organizations that are fighting social ills and injustices. I think that Seattle Atheists fighting in support of marriage equality in the State of Washington is a very good first step towards that.
  • Once we achieve the goal of being accepted as partners, I want us atheists and atheist organizations to be courted by other social justice orgs as valuable and vocal allies in their efforts.

Would you like to know some of the other things I want?

  • I want science- and reality-based education in our schools, including comprehensive sex education based on scientific evidence, to be mandatory in all schools.
  • I want an end to all these legal and political attacks on people’s basic civil and human rights and want to STOP letting the majority vote on civil rights for minority communities – in other words, a complete stop to the “tyranny of the majority.”
  • I want “equal rights and justice for all” to not just be a handy slogan, but reality.
  • I want to make sure our community is inclusive and accepting of differences, mental, physical, and cultural – while being aware that being accepting of differences is emphatically not the same as ignoring them and treating everyone the same (hint: it doesn’t work that way).
  • I want to see if we can work our way towards the goals of Atheism+ – I am an early and vocal supporter of the concept – and I think Seattle Atheists is already working towards that set of goals, which heartens me.

I am excited about the goals of Seattle Atheists, and will work towards them, regardless of whether I’m elected Secretary or not.

Anu Ramanathan

Members at Large (5 Positions)

The five Members at Large shall assist the officers in conducting the business of the Board and serve in positions appointed by the Board.

Jerry Schiffelbein

Ellen Whitwell

Brian Martin

I would like to become a Board Member because I would like to take part in making atheists more visible in our city. When I was growing up and struggling to figure out my beliefs, I wasn’t aware of any non-religious organizations that were around to help, or introduce me to secular options. I would like people to see that atheists are healthy and normal people in our society. It would also be nice to help grow an organized group of atheists for our own support and well-being.

I’ve been an atheist for 20 years, having escaped fundamentalist Christianity during college. I teach writing and literature at Shoreline Community College, and I have a strong belief and interest in science, particularly geology, the theory of biological evolution, and physics.

Greg Myers

I came to atheism through an interest in science. A focus on evidence-based reasoning brought me to a place where I could no longer overlook the difficulties I had with both the dogma of the church, and the impact that that dogma has on culture. On the road to atheism for more than 15 years, it is only in the past 4 or 5 that I’ve recognized that I do not believe in the supernatural.

My reasons for standing for a board position includes my desire to see atheists impact our culture for good.  For me, atheism is not simply a philosophical position.  I am only somewhat interested in talking about my lack of belief in gods (not that I’d shy away from a good debate.  I have an M.Div., and have been a pastor,  so I feel comfortable with a good debate, should the need arise!).  I am interested in living well, and I think that happens best when the people around me are thriving as well.

Giving the ongoing culture wars, I feel a need to promote the value of a secular society, the virtues of civic involvement dedicated to the public good, and the recognition that ethics and morality are and have always been an invention of culture, not god or religion.

Although I recognize that dictionary atheism means simply a lack of belief in gods, I’d like to see Seattle Atheists be more than an umbrella organization for people who do not believe in god.  I’d like to continue the trend here at Seattle Atheists towards becoming more of an activist community.

I see three areas where I’d like us to continue to grow.  First, in building a stronger community.  I’d like us to take advantage of recent research around what makes us successful and happy as people, and to provide a supportive community to help us head in that direction.  I would hope that there are folks in the atheist community who would like to build on the events Seattle Atheist already sponsors to create an even-more-vibrant community – a safe space for people to belong, and a supportive place to reach out and strengthen our secular culture.

Second, in developing our voice – speaking to the community about the implications of our atheism, especially around the importance of a secular society and critical thinking.  A dominant narrative in our culture is that only religion can provide the social cohesion and ethical framework to support a healthy, enduring culture.  I’d like to see Seattle Atheists continue its advocacy for human rights and a secular society, and even explore what it might mean to provide alternative cultural and ethical frameworks as part of the larger debate about how our culture should change and grow.

And third, in working to extend our reach –  through involvement in support of student activities, greater engagement with folks at our public events, and by supporting the development of position papers, curricula and other resource material that support skepticism, critical thinking, evidence-based decision making, the development of a civil society and promoting secularism.  This could involve expanding on the kinds of things we do now at festivals, with ad campaigns and in sponsoring public events, to things like supporting secular and atheist groups in schools, providing resources and links to resources on our website, and sponsoring interns, supporting the teaching of evolution in science classes, and becoming more involved in lobbying efforts at various levels of government.

I am fairly new to Seattle Atheists, and I mean the ideas mentioned above more as the kind of directions I’d like to explore than as an precise platform.  I am sure many of these ideas have been tried, and that many of you have ideas on how to adapt or modify these ideas.  What I am interested in doing is working with others in the atheist community in finding ways to expand on activist initiatives already put in place by Seattle Atheists, and to encourage the group to be not only a place to discuss ideas we all may have about atheism, but to become more of a community seeking to impact the larger culture in ways that make it more resilient, more secular, more tolerant, and more ethical.

Eliza Sutton

I was a Member-at-Large of the Board of Seattle Atheists in 2008-2009, the first year of my lifetime membership, although my actual lifetime has been longer than that (so far). I am now running again for a Member-at-Large position, which supports the Board, its officers, and the organization in their endeavors.

As a strong skeptic, I’ve been an atheist ever since I was old enough to consider the evidence for and against the existence of magical entities. I was “in the closet” for at least 35 years and admit to resentment about feeling I’ve had to hide my true thoughts and beliefs for so long, and about the negative assumptions atheists so regularly face.

It’s a real pleasure to work toward improving our public image, though I may still hang in the back row during atheist group photos.

My day job combines a service profession, scientific inquiry, teaching young adults, and a managerial role. Activities in my free time include moderating an active online discussion board for atheists & skeptics, serving on the Board of a local UU Church, and raising my son to be a scientifically literate, humanistically oriented skeptic and atheist.

I would bring to the Board a tendency to step in to help where the need arises, skills in organization and management (but not in finance), an ability (I hope) to listen thoughtfully as well as to speak up when I feel something needs to be voiced, and genuine pleasure in helping Seattle Atheists accomplish its work and its vision.

About Ericka Otterman