Volunteer: Skeptalks in the Pub
Cliff Erasmus was born, raised, and is still living in Calgary. He was indoctrinated into one of the many dangerous sects of Christian faith. Growing up in a Baptist household proved to have a huge impact on his impressionable young mind. With lasting effects of the horrific abuse the Baptist religion inflicts - especially on young people; it is no wonder Cliff has dedicated most of his adult life to spreading a different kind of message. One that combats the perversity of a malevolent, angry deity ruling and judging your every move and mistake as a human being. In fact, completely discrediting those teachings, with the reality of our astounding universe; which was introduced to him through the power of Carl Sagan's profound knowledge of cosmology and history of our planet.
When Cliff was fifteen he stumbled onto a television program called “Cosmos”...and it changed his life forever...it struck the cord that shattered the ties of his religious upbringing...introducing him to a world of wonder without the insidious fantasy driven stories of misogynistic men of the old world that had no knowledge of our complex universe.
In late 2008 Cliff started a Calgary chapter of the Centre for Inquiry after his son was subjected to the covert ramblings of religious nonsense from a grade 5 Science teacher. His warped explanations of the origins of our universe became tied in with his Sunday school type brainwashing in our “public” school curriculum. It was enough frustration to drive Cliff to take action in his province.
Under CFI and the Humanist Association of Canada, Cliff participated in many endeavors to thwart political and socioeconomic ties to Religious doctrine. He was asked to participate in a nationwide Atheist bus campaign started by Richard Dawkins in Europe. The campaign was received well in Calgary. So much so that 8 busses carried the quote “There's probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” But via countless emails, Cliff himself received hundreds of letters of hate and even death threats from the religious. Targeted for a photo of him being placed on the cover of an article proudly showcasing his work with the campaign standing next to the controversial sign. Unfortunately, in 2010 he lost his interest as executive director and the community due to many concerns with the direction some of its members wanted to and were going in at that time. Cliff is returning to try and revitalize a passion for secular humanism, critical thinking, free thought, and atheism...to ensure that all walks of life are represented in this community. Over the past 5 or 6 years Cliff has noticed a disturbing trend in what some consider the “Atheist Community” in Calgary. Cliff is an atheist, but has recently observed too many people in that category proclaiming hate, bigotry, and subjugation for certain marginalized groups...which he finds to be completely abhorrent behaviour from individuals claiming that they are critical thinkers. This very issue is something that needs to be a discussion at one of our Skeptalks in the Pub. Presently, Cliff's interests are with understanding and helping individuals escaping from religion and its abuses...helping people to learn how to discuss what had or is even still happening to them. As an artist he wants to tackle these issues through his style of imagery.
Volunteer: Skeptalks in the Pub
Rennie Poynton is a member of the Secular Humanists of Calgary that wants to use her experience as an artist to bring about change in the world! Through compassion, empathy, intelligent forward focused discussions; she means to instill actions to bring about a message that scientific discovery, human ingenuity and the awe of the universe and potential of the human race is far more powerful than the ignorant ramblings of an old world that has no place in our society. We can't allow these political powers tied in with these archaic ideas to keep humanity in the dark, continuously hurting our progression and even destroying our only planet slowly but surely. Rennie was indoctrinated into the Anglican Religion as an infant. No choice to choose her beliefs like most who were influenced by their religious parents.
Growing up in a small town called "Vauxhall"; surrounded by the right wing Christian mentality of colonial pioneer farmers going back generations, Rennie suffocated under the guidance of her mentally unstable "church hopping" mother. Her mother was constantly confused with her faith; first Anglican, then Mormonism for a couple of months, Evangelical for many years, Catholic for a week and Anglican again until finally settling on the now popular Christian sect of "We don't need to go to church to be good christians, just love Jesus". In this time Rennie developed a love for the arts. Diving into books, poems, films and gaming. Her christianity held on by a tiny thread with each fantasy world she dove into. It helped her gain a sense of purpose in her life. A void the bible left behind. As she reached her late teens after having witnessed countless deaths, suicides, drug abuse and herself suffering neglect, sexual abuse, abandonment, and an overall dysfunctional upbringing; she could no longer hold on to her families archaic belief systems she was forced to entrust her life with. Feeling no protection, no love, and no stability in her life; it made no sense to believe that there was a heavenly Father watching over her day by day. Finally at the age of 18 she came to terms with the fact that there was no God. No heavenly father watching out for her and that she was lied to by her entire family. Rennie also came to face her hidden sexuality. Knowing from a young age that she was bisexual. And later on realizing she was actually Pansexual. Escaping religion helped free her sexuality and become proud of it. Instead of ashamed. Formerly dwelling on the lies and the hurt of a life of excuses made up in a misleading book so many have clung to, Rennie decided she was going to take her life back with her focus on her lifelong passion. She is now a flourishing artist developing her style and practicing and learning many mediums of creative expression. A painter, sculptor and primarily an illustrator leaning towards darker gothic fantastical themes. With a love for the haunting images that comforted her disturbed upbringing. Some of her major influences included Victoria Frances' beautiful illustrations of tormented vampires, Luis Royo's famous science fiction paintings depicting strong female figures and monstrous creatures in a fallen kingdom and the films of Tim Burton's creepy silly depictions of children's fairy tales and folklore. She is excited to meet more secular humans with ideas of their own. So that we have a chance to make a difference instead of just bitching about politics and religious oppression. Taking a stand, participating with protests, donating, actively seeking out ways to help those leaving powerful religious systems put in place to keep their indoctrinated members serving the lie. And to also cultivate a more inclusive environment for underrepresented people that are discriminated and judged in many atheist circles.