Nathalie Rothschild Is Wrong; The Reason Rally *Is* Worth Attending

Nathalie Rothschild doesn’t get what the Reason Rally is all about. And because she doesn’t get it, she wrongly assumes the rally isn’t worth attending.

According to its website, the goal of this gathering is “to encourage attendees … to come out of the closet as secular Americans, or supporters of secular equality”.

… Are atheists really a beleaguered minority in the US? Is it really a great taboo today to profess that you do not believe in God?

atheists are not being persecuted for denying the existence of God or prevented from holding secular values and expressing them in public.

So because we’re not going to jail or getting beaten up for our views, we have no reason to complain? Atheists have no problem expressing our views in public? it’s not taboo to be an atheist?

Rothschild has absolutely no idea what she’s writing about.

Maybe she doesn’t get it because she’s based in Sweden. But we know it’s hard to tell people you’re an atheist in many parts of this country. And, yes, it’s hard to express secular values as well.

We’re the most distrusted, least electable minority in the country.

Rothschild doesn’t think we have it rough?

Talk to Jessica Ahlquist, who went through hell and back as she stood up for church/state separation. Or Damon Fowler, who had to move to another state after he tried to stop illegal prayers from taking place at his high school graduation. Or anyone who has come out as atheist to a religious family, only to be kicked out or altogether shunned for it. Or all those people who can’t express their atheism out of fear of losing their jobs. Or spouses. Or kids.

Even those of us who are openly atheist are used to hearing nasty statements directed at the godless, like pastors telling their flocks how atheists are immoral and evil. We get stories of discrimination against atheists on a regular basis in our inboxes. That’s part of what keeps us blogging and talking about this stuff.

We’re gathering in Washington to show people what atheists really look like — we’re kind, happy, diverse, and (yes) angry. But we’re angry for good reason. We want politicians to take our views seriously, because they’re the views our country’s Founders took seriously. We’re gathering to surround ourselves — some of us for the first time ever — by likeminded, rational people. We’re gathering to let the atheists who can’t make it know that they’re not alone, no matter where they live in America.

Rothschild ought to attend the Rally and speak with the attendees. Maybe she’d learn a thing or two about why it’s so important and how much it means to the people who are traveling from all over the country to be there.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Iosue

    What Ms Rothschild says may certainly be true in Sweden and for much of Europe, but sadly, the US is behind the times– and so, as far as the US is concerned, she is clearly wrong. 

    I’m sure I’m not the only person living in the US that has to maintain silence in order to keep from getting fired or harassed.  As someone (currently) living in the southern US, its dismaying to see that such bigotry exists even up in New England (cf. Ms Ahlquist, et al). 

    It is a shame that the US has not yet caught up with Sweden in this regard (and no, I’m not being facetious when I say this).  But for the time being, yes, it is still a struggle in the US…

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    1) There are LOTS of great reasons to attend the Reason Rally. Enjoy the sense of community. Meet other freethinkers in person. Network and brainstorm future ideas for the ‘movement’. Be part of history. Get noticed by lawmakers (who probably vastly underestimate our numbers). Or just come to have lots of FUN!

    2) Her article makes it sound like the only reason to attend would be if you feel victimized. I would suggest that IF that wacky thought would keep you away, then embrace the idea of coming as a CELEBRATION of secularism, free-thought, rationality, etc., and a have a FUN time (no victim-hood required). 

    • Anonymous

      I’d love to go, but the bus from here isn’t even close to being full enough. If it doesn’t fill up, I can’t go :-(

  • Nicole

    Very well said.  I am attending because I want to be counted.  I want someone to look out of the window of the Capitol and see me standing there, as an American who demands separation of church and state and freedom from religion. 

     I also long for fellowship amongst like-minded folks. 

  • Georgina

    “What Ms Rothschild says may certainly be true in Sweden and for much of Europe,”
    which is why it is so very, very hard to make any one understand the dangers of islamization.

    Religion for most people in Europe (and definitely in the UK) is something harmless that other people enjoy doing, like cricket. Something for a Sunday afternoon, usually with a cup of tea and a sandwich. Calm, civilised and relaxing. But not everyone is interested.

    People are waking up and realising that for many people, religion is more like soccer football, violent and brutal and unforgiving to anyone not on your team.
    We are not yet sure how to deal with this, any more than football-hooligans.
    Do we educate them, try to shame them (hollow laugh), threaten sanctions or just throw them out of the country (the EU courts won’t let us do it legally).

    Perhaps it is easier for you, you know that religion can cause people to loose all reasoning faculties, here in Europe we still have to learn that lesson – hopefully before it is too late. 

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m trying to figure out where Ms. Rothschild is coming from with this, because when I read the excerpts it sounds like the words of an evangelical Christian. To evangelical Christians it is Christians who are the downtrodden minority, they believe that to live according to Christian tenets and be willing to talk about their faith exposes them to ridicule, therefore everyone else is an atheist and atheists can’t possibly be a minority. Never mind that most of that “everyone else” is actually just another sect of Christianity, perhaps one that doesn’t feel the need to proselytize and make very public displays of their faith.

    But most fascinating is that Ms. Rothschild doesn’t bother to do a lick of research. She simply assumes that no one really feels the way Silverman says people feel. She doesn’t ask anyone. She doesn’t even bother to look up the statistics on religious belief in America, let alone the polls on opinions of atheists Hemant linked. She doesn’t do a quick Google News search for “atheist” which would surely have turned up the death threats on Jessica Ahlquist (although after checking that myself she doesn’t show up until the third page of results).

    I know it’s too much to ask for anyone at the Huffington Post to do actual journalism, but the least she could do is a Google search. As it is this piece reads as nothing more than the uninformed ranting of some high school blogger who has no idea what she’s talking about. No, strike that, Jessica Ahlquist is in high school, and she would have done a much better job.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

      Thank you!  I made it through the whole piece and thought, “I really hope that’s *not* how my Print 101 professor felt reading my early stuff… I couldn’t have been that bad, right?”

      • Gus Snarp

        I know I was that bad in Freshman Comp 101. I won’t give examples, because it’s too embarrassing.

  • Anonymous

    Or anyone who has come out as atheist to a religious family, only to be kicked out or altogether shunned for it. 

    I realized awhile back that young people from religiously obsessed families who want to announce their apostasy need to do the following:

    Finish college. Get a job. Live frugally. Pay down debts. Save up at least a year’s worth of living expenses in an F.U. Fund.

    Then you can tell your parents that you’ve rejected their superstition.

    Why do I say this? Well, in the current economy, you don’t want to have to move back in with those parents if you lose your job, do you? Your F.U. Fund can sustain you while you look for another job.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

      I’ve told my husband that when we finally have a place of our own (we have the land, saving up for the house!) that if I know of any local kids that are kicked out for being an atheist or being gay, I won’t hesitate to take them in and work with child services to help them.  No child should ever be rejected like that by their parents and dang it, I won’t stand by if I can help it.

      • Dfrigge

        I volunteered for a exchange program for international students here in Western MD, Appalachia, and over and over families would say they would host a certain boy, then after getting all his info , change their minds, I found it was because he had claimed to be an atheist- so I hosted him the next year myself!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Jade-Brown/640358790 Tiffany Jade Brown

    She is so very wrong. I live in Mississippi. So, yes, I have been treated terribly because I don’t believe in any gods. It’s great that she doesn’t have to deal with that, really it is. I’m happy for her. But that doesn’t dismiss the fact that there are those of us who HAVE faced once beloved family members calling us selfish, saying we’re tearing the family apart.  And just let her try to get anyone who isn’t a god-fearing, faith-professing conservative elected in this state.

    • Iosue

      And to add to this (living in Arkansas) having the CEO begin a company meeting with a prayer (he’s a so-called “evangelical”).  Where I live (in a very small town with a terrible economy) I can’t risk even letting on that I am not “one of them” and lose my job.  Nor can I let on with my direct boss (who is likewise and has made statements about “evil atheists”) and so therefore also I cannot say anything to co-workers (who, all in my department except one is an “evangelical” also).  Word would get back and I can’t afford to lose my job or make my job more stressful than it already is.  This is what it is like living in the southern US, certainly if you are living in a small town.

      • Southern Fried

        Same here (in Tennessee), We have a huge picture of Jesus in the entry of our office, as well as a “Christian Based Business” on much of our marketing.

  • Gus Snarp

    I also noticed that she claims we can’t be a minority because we have such famous advocates for our position, including Tim Minchin.

    Seriously, anyone this out of touch with America shouldn’t be writing articles about us. I challenge her to stop any sample of random Americans on the street and ask them if they know who Tim Minchin is. I love Tim, but I’m betting the number of Americans who have ever heard of him is very, very small.

    Frankly, I expect even fewer Americans have heard of Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris. Dawkins and Maher might be more recognizable, but how many of those who recognize their names also look on them with scorn?

    I think you’re right Hemant, she looked around Sweden and the U.K., with which she has the most experience, and said look at how popular atheism is! What are these Americans complaining about?

    • Anonymous

      It’s also like saying that African Americans weren’t persecuted because everyone knew MLK or that gays aren’t persecuted because millions watch Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show

      • Gus Snarp

        Yes, that too.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

      I’m an atheist and didn’t know who the heck Tim Minchin was until a few months ago.  I have since remedied that deficiency. :)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Reading her article is like listening to the clueless drivel of a spoiled 11 year-old brat living in Beverly Hills saying that the kids in Watts have nothing to complain about.

    Why does Huffpost even publish her vacuous prattle?

    • Drew

      Unfortunately, “vacuous prattle” seems to be precisely the kind of drivel Huffpost likes to publish. It reminds me of the “open-minded”, politically correct overtones of Seth McFarlane’s work.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Les-Watts/612095199 Les Watts

         That shouldn.t be a surprise as the parent company of Huffpost is none other than AOL. Mainstream media strikes again.

      • Guerilla Surgeon

        As opposed to Fox news whose prattle is of a higher order? At least Huffpo has a section on atheism.

  • Ducky

    Are blacks really a beleaguered minority in the US? Is it really a great taboo today to profess that you are an African American?
    Blacks are not being persecuted for being black or prevented from holding African cultural values and expressing them in public.

    I KNEW that statement sounded familar…

  • Greg Peterson

    I read this last night and hoped someone like you would take it on, Hemant.  This is one of the stupidest things I’ve read in quite some time.  Just as a for instance, I was invited by a church to discuss atheism with a theologian in front of the congregation, which I was happy to do.  As I spoke, the two older couples discussed–in front of my two children–the ways in which they would like to kill me (shooting was favored, so I guess that’s a small mercy). 

    I used to write for newspapers and magazines.  We had this person who helped make sure that things that were silly, utterly mistaken, or just badly written were prevented from getting into print.  They were called “editors.”  Admittedly, this was back when we used dead trees to express ourselves, but surely more electrons don’t have to be sacrificed just so Ms. Rothschild can spread her fatuous ignorance.

    Won’t someone think of the pixels?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

      I also miss those mythical and majestic creatures, the editors.  I’m an admitted grammar freak and do have college journalism credits under my belt and I’ll be happy to work cheap!  I even do research AND windows!

      You seeing this HUFFPO?!

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    I can’t help but remember that Alain de Botton is somehow related to the Rothschild family. In some way.

  • Rieux

    If it’s any encouragement, Rothschild is getting utterly pwned in the comments of her HuffPo piece.

    That’s an encouraging thing about online atheist-bashing in general, actually: wherever it pops up, it seems like there is almost always a reasonably large number (which is to say large in proportion to the number of commenters on the site in question—and for HuffPo, that’s large) of atheists ready and willing to call the basher out on his or her bullshit.

    Another data point, IYAM, in favor of the hypothesis that the Internet is the greatest thing to happen to atheist community and identity in history.

    • Verichatov

       I’ve been saying the same thing. The information age (Internet) is going to be the down fall of religion. Because we can actually speak our mind and call them on their BS. No longer do we have to hide!… I wonder what they will do with all those abandon churches in 100 years? :)

      • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

        There’s a brand-new Mormon temple in my neck of the woods that I refer to as the “Future Home of the Museum of Mormon Mythology.” I’m thinking of making a sign and putting it on the street corner.

    • Guerilla Surgeon

      Yes, and in contrast to the various religious who post on atheism, and engage when challenged, she’s being VERY quiet.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    After reading a few of Rothschild’s earlier articles demeaning the Occupy movement, it appears she would have us “eat cake.”

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    Here’s Ms. Rothschild on a panel to discuss the threat of immigration into Britain. Keep in mind, she was born in Sweden and immigrated to Britain…

    The only part you need to watch is at 13:50-ish, when a Somali fellow tells her she lives in a small world, i.e., a bubble.

    http://vimeo.com/2504594

    • MariaO

      Reminds me of the story about those vocal (but fortunately few) Swedish neonazi nationalists who hate our immigration policy and plan to move to a country not accepting immigrants.

      Or: don’t throw glass in a stone house…

  • atheo

    If you look into the website she writes for (Spiked.com), they have a history of being dismissive of atheists. They are a far right Libertarian site with anti-atheist views.

    Left Hemispheres tore them a new one a few weeks back.

    • Gus Snarp

      Interesting that this piece wasn’t even written for HuffPo, they just either bought or stole it from Spiked. Which by the way is actually http://www.spiked-online.com.  And just check out a few of those articles. Why is HuffPo stealing this kind of content? Guess Huffington hasn’t really moved far from her conservative, Breitbart influenced roots.

      • Anonymous

        She is a regular contributor to HP and probably cross-posted it to both sites. That kind of stuff happens all the time.

  • Jeromy Rutter

    What bothers them I there isn’t anything to know about us. All they know is what we don’t believe. That’s all they can say about “atheism” because it’s not a system of thought. Broken down like this: “do you believe in ANY god?” atheist: no. Theist: yes, and a very humanlike one at that, complete with desires, emotions, vindictive nature, Etc Conclusion based on their thinking: atheist = evil , theist = good.

  • Mtnfraggle

    Well, here’s an atheist getting beaten up for his views. Money shot is toward the end. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crkD6MQ5rV8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  • Anonymous

    We have Reason Rally because a bunch of fat cats, who most people know nothing about, had an idea to make a shit ton of money by preaching to the choir.

    It’s a rally for the gullible yes men and women of america, to buy t-shirts, and donate to organizations whom they’re poorly informed on.

  • Anonymous

    “There exists in society a very special class of persons that I have always referred to as the Believers. These are folks who have chosen to accept a certain religion, philosophy, theory, idea or notion and cling to that belief regardless of any evidence that might, for anyone else, bring it into doubt. They are the ones who encourage and support the fanatics and the frauds of any given age. No amount of evidence, no matter how strong, will bring them any enlightenment. They are the sheep who beg to be fleeced and butchered, and who will battle fiercely to preserve their right to be victimized….” James Randi.


    What is important to note in this quote is that he is not using the term “believer” in a religious sense. What he’s defining is gullibility, something many atheists are still very guilty of today.

    For example, many atheists contribute to ‘atheist’ foundations who makes claims of being on a sort of “secular movement,” but do you know EXACTLY what that means? Do you know what percentage of your donation is going towards the organizations pockets? Do you know if there is a ceiling for the profits, or are we dealing with an organization who idolizes the profits of the prophets and the clergymen?

    We are in the early stages of something big. All polls show atheism as being at an all time high, and climbing. We need to be very careful who support in these times, as the last thing we need is some massive, fear mongering fat cat towering over us.

    Some of you will be attending Reason Rally, and there are some hugely questionable organizations there, which are unfortunately also some of the most popular Atheist/Secular organizations around. Before you give ANYONE your money, ask questions, get information, act like a free thinker. 

    When someone is asking for YOUR money, and claiming they intend to use it to help YOU and YOUR countrymen, it is NOT rude to ask that person exactly how they intend to spend it. And don’t accept cliches like “Awareness and secularism!” Ask for details. “Does the money go towards lobbying legislators, or does it go towards gravestones and school banners? Will this money be for promoting actual awareness? or will it go towards public instigation, attention whoring, and preaching to the choir?”

    There’s nothing CYNICAL about being SKEPTICAL. Use your heads. You’re an atheist or an agnostic, which means you’re realized something many have not. But don’t let arrogance cloud your mind so much that you think you’re invincible. Don’t get so swept up in companionship and unity that you forget there are still wolves lurking. Think. Ask questions. Make educated decisions. Every dollar you give to the wrong company is a dollar that could have gone to the right one, and don’t be fooled, this is a matter of right and wrong. 

    • Gus Snarp

      Hmmmm. It SOUNDS like you have some specific claims and allegations to make, but you’re not making any. How about you name names if you know so much, make specific, concrete statements about exactly who is doing exactly what with donated money. Then we can evaluate both their statements and yours.

      As long as your rant remains vague and unspecified, it is you who are fear mongering. 

    • Guerilla Surgeon

      Yup, Eric Hoffer wrote about it years ago.

  • Eva Apple Eater

    …oh, not another one…. it’s always
    so embarrassing to see …. a Swede who doesn’t know how to Google…. I’m so sorry…. 
    Yes, you are correct. 
    She is very wrong and she doesn’t understand.   Growing up in Sweden (or any other secular society)
    means that some questions are simply just not polite. You don’t ask
    someone about their religion. That’s like asking “How much money do
    you make?”, or “Who did you vote for?” or
    perhaps “How many times a week do you masturbate?”. The
    usual answer is “None of your business!”. You wait
    until they tell you their religion (or lack thereof). And the polite
    answer is “Uh-huh”. Or maybe “Really?”. A simple
    “OK” is also good. And honestly, we usually don’t care
    either. Religion isn’t very visible in our world. Yes, there are churches and temples and mosques, but charities, clubs and youth centers are secular. Religion is usually kept where it should be; in the house of worship or at home.So it’s very hard for us main-stream Swedes to completely comprehend what you are going
    through. Most of us will never understand how people like Santorum,
    Gingrich, Romney and Bachmann can be taken  seriously as presidential candidates,
    or how someone could believe that Creationist crap. And a majority of
    Swedish people will never get why you could lose your job, or why your entire community would reject
    you for saying that you don’t believe in a god. But not understanding isn’t the same as not knowing. It doesn’t take a lot of research (that thing you should do before you write an article) to see what atheists have to deal with in other parts of the world. I may not be able to fully appreciate what life as an atheist is like for you, but unlike Nathalie Rothschild I don’t deny your experiences or the need  of the Reason Rally.I just wish I could be there too…

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Reading the comments here make me really appreciate that I have the luxury of not having to hide my atheism.  I hope that trend continues when my son is in school.

  • Tainda

    Little slow getting in on this one…

    I live in Missouri and I have been told that, after they find out I’m an atheist, that they wouldn’t associate with me anymore.  This came from people I considered friends.  I am very open about my lack of believing in the fairy tale but I also don’t care what other people believe in as long as they don’t try to push it on me.

    This lady, and most religious people, live in their own little world where things only happen to them.  There IS major prejudice to non-believers and it’s harsh.  I have no use for small minded people on either side of the fence.

  • Dfrigge

    Don’t let anyone say we have no anti-atheist sentiment in the US, the Advanced Placement biology teacher in my Western MD town was a creationist!!  and one of the assignments was to defend either creation or evolution, guess which kids never got above a C, and which never got below a B!

  • TheWolfCorporation

    I am atheist and my dad makes me protiaipate in church activities every now and then. I sence the pastor and others talking behind my back and when he has speaches when I’m there he adds how atheists are evil what should I do

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’m hoping Richard Wade will weigh in, but my first thought is that you don’t really need do do anything.  If you’re comfortable speaking out, then by all means.  But first and foremost protect your own well being.  If you can laugh it off, then don’t let them bother you.  Nothing they can say will change you.  You are who you are.  Them saying atheists are evil doesn’t make them so.

      That’s not to say words can’t hurt.  They can, a great deal.  But before you get into a debate about the moral code of atheists, consider whether or not it’s going to help your situation.  Like they can’t change you, you probably can’t change them either.  I’m a big proponent of standing up and being counted- but only when it’s completely safe for you.  It helps others, but don’t do it if all it will do is make your life worse.

      All the best, and do check the ‘Ask Richard’ link at the top.  He has addressed similar questions before, and responses there might also help.


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