A Quick Trip To SLO

I recently visited Atheists United of San Luis Obispo (“SLO” as city residents call it). For those who are not familiar with SLO, it’s a city about 5 hours north of Los Angeles by train. I was there to celebrate Atheists United’s 30th anniversary with the group, give a talk about what Atheists United has been up to, hear what AU SLO has been working on and meet the group face to face for the first time.

Visiting SLO was surprisingly easy. For less than $100, Amtrak took me from downtown Los Angeles right to SLO. The train ride was comfortable and included beautiful views of the California coast throughout the trip. I’d highly recommend the train ride over driving and the hassles of flying.

Steve Arkowitz, President of AU SLO and also a director of Atheists United, greeted me when I arrived. Although I’ve spoken to Steve several times, this was the first time we met each other face to face. We had a little free time before the event so we went to a café in downtown SLO with David Leidner, another AU SLO director. It gave me a chance to hear about all the great things they’ve been up to.

Atheists United SLO has a variety of great events throughout the month. A quick glance at their meetup page shows how active they are. Events include social gatherings, book discussions, movie nights, speakers from different religious faiths, outreach at farmer’s markets, Bible study for atheists, Hunger Walk, pub nights and informative lectures.

In addition to those events, AU SLO also has a Community Action Team (CAT) that fights to keep government and religion separate. One notable case was when the city of San Luis Obispo changed it’s Sunday parking ordinance to accommodate downtown churches and forgo an estimated $116,000 in revenue per year. AU SLO shined a light on the biased ordinance and called for a law that is fairer to the community as a whole.

The meeting itself was great. About 30 people came to hear the talk and we had a constructive conversation about the organization. After the talk, Steve invited everyone to a local restaurant where we got to continue the conversation and get to know one another.

The entire trip was less than 24 hours. By 7am the next morning, I was on the train heading home. But even in that short amount of time, we got a lot accomplished and learned a lot from each other. I look forward to visiting SLO again and even joining the group for one of their farmer’s market outreach events.

I’d like to finish by thanking Steve Arkowitz and the entire AU SLO board of directors for organizing the event, Robin and Paul Rinzler for putting me up for the night, Martin Williams for setting up the equipment, Kim McGrew for picking up my tab at the restaurant and all the wonderful people of SLO who came to the meeting. Thank you so much!

Michael Khalili
Atheists United President