University of Wisconsin–Madison

Freethought Festival 10


Friday, March 26th

Time Speaker Talk Title
1:00 PM John Wathey Biology, Religion, and 1/6/21
2:00 PM Pidgeon Pagoins A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Intersex People Fight Back
3:00 PM Break Break
4:00 PM Eli Heina Dadabhoy I Called It: How Being an Ex-Muslim Made Me Right About Trump
5:00 PM Ryan Bell Radical Humanism for a Planet in Crisis
6:00 PM Chris Hedges When Atheism Becomes Fundamentalism


Freethought Festival will be held virtually via Zoom this year!

The zoom link can be found here.


John Wathey

John C. Wathey is a retired computational biologist whose research interests include evolutionary algorithms and the biology of nervous systems. He got his PhD in Neurosciences at UC San Diego and has spent most of his career working on computer simulations of protein folding. He is the author of The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing (Prometheus 2016), which explores the evolution of the emotions and intuitions behind religious belief.

Talk title: Biology, Religion, and 1/6/21
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

A picture of John Wathey

Pidgeon Pagoins

Pidgeon Pagonis has slowly, oftentimes not so quietly risen to visibility as an activist on behalf of intersex people. Whether advancing intersex advocacy as the co-founder of the Intersex Justice Project, producing informational videos that go viral on Buzzfeed, creating art that centers intersex voices, appearing on the cover of National Geographic “Gender Revolution” special issue or being honored as a LGBT Champion of Change in 2015 by the Obama White House, Pidgeon has staked out a place at the forefront of debates on intersexuality and otherness.

Talk title: A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Intersex People Fight Back
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

A picture of Pidgeon Pagoins

Eli Heina Dadabhoy

Eli Heina Dadabhoy is an ex-Muslim atheist feminist who has written at Skepchick and Freethought Blogs. They now blog at The Orbit, a social-justice oriented network of which they are a co-founder. You may have heard them at Skepticon, the American Atheists National Convention, the Huffington Post Live, and Have Your Say on the BBC World Service or read about them in the New York Times.

Talk title: I Called It: How Being an Ex-Muslim Made Me Right About Trump
Time: 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

A picture of Eli Dadabhoy

Ryan Bell

Ryan Bell is the Humanist Chaplain at the University of Southern California. He spent almost 20 years in congregational pastoral ministry before leaving his church in 2013. In 2014 he spent a year examining his religious and spiritual beliefs, exploring atheism, and writing about his experience in his blog, Year Without God. He is host of the podcast, Life After God, and his writing has appeared in The Guardian, CNN, Time, The Humanist, and Patheos. Ryan works for the California state-wide tenants rights organization, Tenants Together, as the Southern California Regional Coordinator.

Talk title: Radical Humanism for a Planet in Crisis.
Time: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

A picture of Ryan Bell

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges has written 14 books, including the New York Times best-seller “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2007), “When Atheism Becomes Religion” (2009), and his newest book, “America, the Farewell Tour” (2018). Currently, he hosts an interview show, “On Contact,” on RT America and writes a column for Scheerpost. Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times. Hedges was part of a New York Times team of reporters awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002.

Hedges was born in St. Johnsbury, VT. His father was a Presbyterian minister in upstate New York. Hedges holds a B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He spent a year studying classics at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow.

In 2014 he was ordained as a minister for social witness in a ceremony at the Second Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, NJ. The ordination was approved for his work in New Jersey prisons, where over the past decade Hedges has taught college credit courses for inmates through Rutgers University.

Talk title: When Atheism Becomes Fundamentalism
Time: 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

A picture of Chris Hedges


Freethought Festival is a free, student-run freethinking convention held annually in Madison, Wisconsin. It is organized and hosted by Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Authors, bloggers, activists, and scientists from around the country give talks relating to atheism, freethinking, skepticism, science, and secularism. The event is funded by AHA through an annual operations budget received from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Harassment policy

Freethought Festival is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, race, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference at the discretion of the organizers.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Assuming the absence of problematic behavior (intimidation, following, inappropriate physical contact, etc.), criticism or disagreement regarding an attendee’s belief structure will not be construed as harassment. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

Exhibitors, sponsors, and volunteers are subject to the anti-harassment policy as well.

If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately.

If you need assistance or need to request an accommodation you can email to reach our organization.