Why Should You Attend the Reason Rally?

I know you’ve already decided whether or not you’re going to the Reason Rally this weekend, but The Washington Post is running a series of guest posts from atheists on why you should attend the Reason Rally. We’re all approaching the topic from different perspectives.

I focused on the youth movement:

Five years ago, the number of active campus atheist groups was just over 50. As I write this, the Secular Student Alliance ha over 350 affiliates across the country. It’s to the point where college students seeking out an atheist group at school are more surprised *not* to find one. Even high school groups have begun popping up…

What does all of this have to do with the Reason Rally?

We’ve never had a chance to celebrate en masse what we’ve mostly (up to this point) enjoyed online and in smaller groups: A chance to meet other atheists from around the country, a chance to talk about religion without feeling the need to censor ourselves, a chance to be inspired by the people who helped shape our views.

I expect to see hordes of young atheists make their way to DC for the event. And I hope they leave there eager to be even more active and politically-engaged.

Richard Dawkins invites everyone on the fence:

How have we come to the point where reason needs a rally to defend it?…

That is the fourth time in this essay I have said something like: “the Reason Rally is not for you.” But let me end on a more positive note. Even if you are unaccustomed to living by reason, if you are one of those, perhaps, who actively distrust reason, why not give it a try? Cast aside the prejudices of upbringing and habit, and come along anyway. If you come with open ears and open curiosity you will learn something, will probably be entertained and may even change your mind. And that, you will find, is a liberating and refreshing experience.

A hundred years from now, there should be no need for a Reason Rally. Meanwhile, unfortunately, the need is all around us and may become increasingly apparent in this election year. Please come to Washington and stand up for reason, science and truth.

Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason, invites us all to be part of something historic:

Emerging ideas tend to go through three phases. First they are considered so dangerous or odd that people won’t talk about them. Then they are thought so new and fascinating that people can’t stop talking about them. Finally, they become mainstreamed and are no longer unique enough to spark concern or secure air time.

Well, today, the idea that one can be a good citizen without believing in a God is in the middle of that process. People who are nontheistic (atheists or agnostics) are suddenly interesting. And, in being interesting, they have become more willing to show themselves.

… as this process continues, in good time the secular minded will be permitted to take their place at the table with everyone else–recognized as legitimate contributors to society with ideas that make up an important part of our culture and its history.

Elisabeth Cornwell, executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, wants women to fight the recent “war on the womb”:

If women can’t determine their own reproduction, women will lose in the workplace, in education and in the right to live their lives as they choose. They will lose all they have gained over the past decades in terms of equality and opportunity. This holds true whether a woman is single, married, or divorced. Couples will no longer have the right to plan their own lives–to plan, for example, the number of children they want and when they want them. Some politicians and activists believe it is their ‘God-given-right’ to interfere in the most private of decisions of both women and men. They want to own the family and police the bedroom

Please join me in rallying for taking back our rights as individuals from those who seek to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us. Stop the new radicals from enforcing their fanatical views and ignorance by way of the government. Don’t let them cloak our daughters in invisible burkas.

Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, wants everyone to support a religiously-neutral government:

The Reason Rally is an opportunity for everyday Americans to come together in our nation’s capital to celebrate a fundamental aspect of who they are. While the Reason Rally is a non-partisan event with attendees from all along the political spectrum, it is a statement to Washington, to our elected leaders, and to the rest of the nation that nonbelievers are a legitimate political segment of the American population.

The Reason Rally is not about eradicating religion. There is a difference between wanting a secular government and a nontheistic government. A secular government is one that gives no preference to any religion or to non-religion. This allows the government to remain neutral and to protect all religious belief. America’s great religious diversity is best protected when the federal government to stays neutral about matters of religion and ends special privileges for religion in law.

Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, wants us to show politicians we’re a demographic worth taking seriously:

… For too long, our nontheistic constituency has been considered politically inconsequential. We may be the last minority against whom intolerance and discrimination are not only permitted, but also sometimes promoted by political leaders at every level. Improving the public perception of secular Americans is as important to many of us as pursuing a particular political agenda. Politicians think they are being tolerant when they express support for all faiths; instead, we expect to hear them publicly express support for all faiths and none, in light of the freedom of conscience for all people have.

We have learned from the Christian Coalition’s successes and failures, and we plan to benefit from both…


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Patrick King

    Congratulations on some actual serious and respectful (for once) media coverage on Morning Edition. I’d love to send you one of these: http://progresswear.com/safe_secularism_shirt.html albeit too late for the rally. Or anything else from the site.

    Keep fighting for the cause!

    best wishes

    Patrick King

  • Prosey

    I’m excited that we’re going up tomorrow! My biggest concern was the weather, when I saw the forecast for rain and afternoon t-storms. Thanks to NAP, I now know that there are tents. YAY!

  • Anonymous

    The existence of, and enthusiasm for, events like this one blows up the claim that “atheism” refers to some mysterious void in the universe called “absence of belief in gods.” 

    Instead, atheists themselves understand and use the term “atheism” to mean something more like “the criticism or skepticism of theism and related beliefs,” combined with advocacy positions for their rights to engage in critiques of theism and for the freedom from the imposition of arbitrary theistic beliefs on them through political means. 

    In that respect atheism more resembles veganism that it does “not stamp collecting.” Vegans don’t just refuse to eat animal protein or use animal products like leather; the firebrands among them go further to critique how our civilization exploits animals, and they argue for the advantages of abandoning these practices. In effect the vegans say “Carnivory poisons everything.” Atheists in the real world, despite their disavowals, do something similar regarding religious beliefs. 

  • Trobin330

    Hey Hemant…….where will you be hanging during the rally?  Will you be milling around with us common folk or will you be hanging in one of the atheist rock star tents signing autographs and dropping knowledge on everyone?  I must know so i can complete my Reason Rally Bingo card!!  Hope to see you there!!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Hehe — I think I’ll be in the Speakers area at least at the beginning. I want to move around after I’m done, though.


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