A Massive Reason Rally Recap (with Videos and Behind-the-Scenes Pictures)

As someone on Facebook said, it was cold and rainy outside, but there was warmth all around at the Reason Rally.

Here are some random thoughts about the event along with pictures and video:

  • The grounds, the day before the event began:

    (Image via Adam Lee)

  • Did you see these pre-Rally articles about Nate Phelps and Dave Silverman?
  • The grounds, 90 minutes before the event began:

  • I spent the night before the Rally at a friend’s house. The friend had a cat. I stayed there, anyway. If you saw me at the Rally (or post-Rally dinner), then I was most likely out of it, ready to collapse. My apologies if I didn’t seem very cordial. Damn cats. Thanks to Greta, Ingrid, Ashley, Sarah, Jesse, and everyone else who took care of me in my why-can’t-I-breathe-I-blame-the-felines rage.
  • Contrary to what people are saying on Facebook and Twitter, while all the organizers appreciate the sentiment about having another Reason Rally soon, we’re *not* doing this again next year. Or the year after that. We’re probably not doing this again in five years. It takes a lot of time, it costs a lot of money, and it’s a major investment on the part of the sponsoring organizations. It took *years* to make this event happen. The media was interested because this was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event. It won’t be “fresh” or “interesting” if we make it an annual thing, even if that was feasible. And I’m also not sure the enthusiasm would be there if we did it annually.
  • The official attendance? Nobody actually knows. So don’t even bother offering an “accurate” number. USA Today said 20,000. Religion News Service said 8,000-10,000. The Washington Post said “thousands.” Pre-Rally estimates were 30,000 but that was most likely overshot just to be safe (and to make sure there were enough Porta-Pottys on hand).

    So be on the safe side. If anyone asks, just tell them there were 1,000,000 people at the Reason Rally.
  • The crowd, 30 minutes before the event began:

  • The Pledge of Allegiance was said… sans “under God” (video courtesy of cbitguru):

  • The crowd, 30 minutes after the event began:

  • Richard Wade and Daniel Fincke both met Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagin (!!!) on the DC streets and I found this out only when I read this. (Dammit, Richard, I thought we were friends!)
  • With the help of the American Humanist Association’s Roy Speckhardt (and, really, all of you who donated), I presented a check to Jessica Ahlquist:

  • I’ll post the transcript of my own speech up on this site soon. I hope the other speakers do the same!
  • Jessica Ahlquist‘s check rests near a backstage table. Memo line = Bravery:

  • A (totally paraphrased) conversation I had with Jessica Ahlquist backstage before her talk:

    Me: Hey, Jessica, what’s the thing Lady Gaga says about her “little monsters”?

    Jessica: You’re all my little monsters?

    Me: Yeah, that’s what you should say to the crowd. You’re all evil little things to me :)

    Huffington Post:

    One big hit with the crowd was Jessica Ahlquist, the 16-year-old Rhode Island high school student who successfully sued her school district to remove a prayer from her school’s walls. During the fight, state Rep. Peter Palumbo called her an “evil little thing,” an epithet she has since proudly embraced.

    I am here to tell you that what I did can be done by anybody,” she said. “And you are all evil little things to me.”

    Me: Shazam!

  • There’s (low-quality) video of Jessica Ahlquist‘s talk right here (courtesy of gothkillya):

  • The Huffington Post article included this passage which was really amazing to read:

    Charles Martin, 25, was among the African-Americans at the rally, which he said was his first formal step into the atheist community.

    “I wanted to be around other people who have similar ideas to me,” he said, his eyes on speaker Hemant Mehta, a popular atheist blogger who is also a man of color. “It is very rare for me to find other people who are not religious, especially in the black community.”

  • Backstage, Cristina Rad finalized her speech, while American Atheists’ AJ Johnson and Reason Rally webmaster Ben Hibben worked on the website:

  • Members of the Beltway Atheists held up their signs:

  • Cristina Rad delivered her message:

  • After Cristina’s speech, she was greeted by Tim Minchin (Nate Phelps is on the left). If only that’s how all my speeches could end…:

  • Nate Phelpsspeech was one of the most emotional ones all day (video courtesy of fedos):

  • Bill Maher: What was up with him? Thousands of atheists in the crowd and the best he could do was send in a clip from his show from a couple of weeks ago?

  • Organizer Dave Silverman smiled after a long and successful Reason Rally:

  • Somewhere in the audience, a Dave Silverman Rageface Poster was held high:

  • Hey, Dave! Make that face!

  • The view from stage as Richard Dawkins spoke:

  • And here’s the entirety of Richard Dawkins’ talk! (Video courtesy of weinerdad)

    Edit: A full transcript of Dawkins’ talk can be read here.

  • Backstage, James Randi did what I can only assume is a magic trick:

  • Mythbuster Adam Savage and philanthropist Todd Stiefel talked backstage:

  • Adam Savage spoke at the rally, too! (Video courtesy of MKirby559)

    Highlight of that talk:

    I have concluded through careful, empirical analysis and much thought that somebody is looking out for me. Keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less then I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I am capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me and I’ve concluded after careful consideration that this person keeping score is me.

  • If you appeared onstage, you saw this giant cross out in the crowd… with a message calling to banish the Ten Commandments to the dustbin of history:

  • Cristina’s not the only one who can get some Tim Minchin love!

    If it makes you all feel better, Minchin has no idea who I am. Neither does Dawkins and it’s, like, my sixth time meeting him.

  • Tim Minchin‘s long set included the crowd-pleasing “Storm” (video courtesy of girlpalooza):

  • Eddie Izzard did something funny:

  • Eddie Izzard did something else funny:

  • Eddie Izzard‘s full set can be heard here, here, and here.
  • Loved this sign:

    (Image via Lev Pinskiy)

  • I can’t believe I missed meeting Survivor‘s Richard Hatch. I was passed out in a cat-induced coma in a hotel room somewhere in DC when the Atheist Nexus party was happening. Richard, I <3 you! GET ME ON THAT SHOW!:

    (Image via Michael Cluff)

  • Want to see some great pictures? Check out the galleries from Michael Cluff, Eric Haas, Jonathan McDowell, Nicole Introvert, Neal Kamper, and the Reason Rally website itself.
  • I don’t know who this guy was, but he won for best costume:

    (Image via Iel Hall)

    Glenn Beck‘s website, The Blaze, even interviewed him:

  • The Blaze was incensed that Tim Minchin sang a song featuring the word “motherfuckers” 3084242 times. But apparently, the basis of that song — the Catholic Church covering up child rape — doesn’t seem to bother them one bit.
  • How about some respect for the sign language interpreter who handled that Tim Minchin “motherfuckers” song? She was awesome.

  • The backstage area had TVs where we could watch everything happening onstage… but they had no audio. Booooooo. (Then again, that was my worst complaint, so I’m gonna shut up now.)
  • The Christopher Hitchens tribute was created by TheThinkingAtheist. I heard there were some technical difficulties when they played it, so here it is:

  • As the Christopher Hitchens tribute played, Richard Dawkins (left) watched from backstage:

  • Richard Dawkins had a bodyguard. I’ve been to a few conferences with him and I never saw that until the Reason Rally. I guess 1,000,000 atheists will do that to you…
  • ReasonTV was quick to get a video recap up:

  • Amusing: In the giftbag for the speakers, The Brights gave out a mini-flashlight. Hehe.
  • Shelley Segal is the sweetest person alive. Her giddiness all day was absolutely infectious.
  • Shelley Segal sings, too! (Video courtesy of 2clean4dean):

  • Want unofficial videos from the rally? David Singer has a bunch of low quality ones (he tried to live-stream the Rally — not sure how that worked out, but he gets a lot of love for the effort). Skeptinerd compiled a *lot* of great videos from throughout the day. Official DVDs are being sold for $39.00 on the Reason Rally website and that will be available soon.
  • sundelldc offered this reflection:

    This Reason Rally is the first step, and it was a great first step. It felt amazing being with so many people from my own country who believed and behaved and trusted and reached out in the ways I’ve wanted to for so long, and have helped give me strength to do so. It was an awe-inspiring event, and I’m very glad I was a part of such a historic moment. The thing is, will we make another step forward, or just sway back and forth with that first step down, not sure where to plant the other foot? Is this the end, or is this the beginning of an awesome and hope-fulfilling journey towards what should have been set in stone 235 years ago?

  • Twitter user CockamAmy sent this beautiful letter to her parents after attending the Reason Rally:

So what did the Reason Rally mean to you? What great reflections or amazing videos/pictures did I leave out?

Leave your thoughts/suggestions in the comments!

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.

  • Piet Puk

    Wow, I’m in tears here. This is simply beautiful!

    • amycaswell

       Same here.

  • Jett Perrobone

    Only thing missing from the Reason Rally is the Police to sing “EVIL LITTLE THING she does is magic” for Jessica Ahlquist. ;)

    • FSq

      I rather see James Randi sing that….

  • Anonymous

    What?! Dawkins doesn’t know who Hemant is? After PZ, Hemant is the most popular atheist blogger on all the internets!

    I have a feeling Dawkins doesn’t surf the blogs too often.

  • mte1000

    I read a little of the Blaze article on Tim Minchin. It said that he received a standing ovation after his set…I guess that is true since we were all standing to begin with!

  • http://twitter.com/CockamAmy CockamAmy

    It was an inspirational day and was so proud to be a part of the movement of free thinkers.  We’re here, we’re godless, get used to it. 

  • http://twitter.com/RantBot5000 RantBot Grikmeer

    No videos of Bad Religion? Sad RantBot…

  • amycaswell

    It was spectacular.

    First, the buses from Texas were canceled, and none of us knew about it until the week before the rally. 24 of us (many of us had never met face-to-face) started a forum and were able to rent two vans for a trip to D.C. It wasn’t easy, and none of us got to take a shower or even lie down until we got home tonight (well after 2 a.m. for me). We’re going to plan a trip to Skepticon now and possibly the Texas Freethought Convention.

    We started our journey in Arlington, TX early Friday morning and drove across Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia. We arrived at the rally by about 9 a.m. Most of us had been to some group meeting of the Metroplex Atheists before, and at least two of our group are deeply involved with the Secular Student Alliance at Collen College in Plano, TX, but many of us had never been to any kind of atheist meeting. I had never been to a rally or protest of any kind, and I’ve only been to about 4 atheist meetings in the past. My boyfriend has been to one atheist meeting.

    I didn’t listen to all of the speakers. I was busy getting to know the other 10,000 atheists. It felt amazing. I could look around me and see people who were like me. My boyfriend said it made him feel like we finally belonged to something and for once, he was having to look for a way that he stood out of the crowd. Usually we’re the atheist thumbs amongst religious fingers. I talked to dozens of atheists, a few of the protesters and got to meet a sampling of my atheist “heroes”: Ed Brayton, JT Eberhard, Darel Ray, AronRa, Thunderfoot and James Randi.

    When I talked to other atheists, we shared stories, ideas and laughs. One of the more belligerent protesters started spewing hatred at a fellow atheist who was merely asking questions.

    “You can never by my brother,” he said,”You are deceived by the evil one, and he is your father now, so we can never be brothers.”

    I stepped up and told the atheist that he could be my brother. Then I turned to the protester and told him that even though we have different beliefs, I still love him. Even though I didn’t know him well, I could still love him because of our shared humanity.

    “You will never by my sister,” he said,”You are Satan’s daughter, he is your father.”

    He told me I could never feel love because I didn’t have god in my life.

    Those words felt all too familiar, but it didn’t matter because it was met with laughs, cheers and hugs from people nearby whom I had never met before in my life. We were there to support each other. The protester was wrong: I did feel love, and I felt loved. When I left religion, I didn’t know if I would ever feel that kind of solidarity again. I felt it at the Reason Rally.

    I felt it when we said the Pledge of Allegiance the way it was meant to be said–the way I never got to say it as a student at school and therefore refused to say it (I was Christian back then, but I was mocked for not being “Christian” enough for this).

    I felt it when Dave Silverman said we would never be silent again.

    I felt it when Nate Phelps described his expulsion from his family and his acceptance in the atheist community.

    I felt it when Greta Christina described our anger.

    I felt it when Hemant gave Jessica Alquist her check (for bravery), and when Jessica called us “evil little things.”*

    I felt it when Tim Minchin sang,”Fuck the fucking Pope, motherfucker!”

    I felt it when the whole crowd turned out to hear Dawkins speak and to watch the unfortunately-cut-short tribute to Hitchins.

    I felt it when the crowd by the WBC was telling that poor young girl being forced to protest that, if she ever left, there would be a place for her with us.

    I felt it when a disparate group of atheists who (mostly) had never met before spent 4 days online organizing a trip to go thousands of miles and across 3 states, with no beds or hotels to speak of, and we came out loving each other in the end.

    I felt it when we stopped our van to help stranded motorists on the side of the road. The first car we stopped to help said we were the only people to stop in two hours. The second car we stopped for had a busted fuse and one of our members fixed it for him, while explaining where we had been, and the motorist was extremely grateful.

    I felt it when we taped a “This is what an atheist looks like” sign to the back window of our van, and we got thumbs up from passing motorists.

    I felt it when we group-sang Journey’s “Don’t stop believing” and the song ended just as we entered Dallas city limits.

    The trip and the rally was amazing and I wouldn’t trade this past weekend for the world. Here’s to the future of the atheist movement!

    -Amy Caswell (real name)

    *credit to Hemant

    • Piet Puk

      Thanks, that is a lovely read.

    • Anonymous

      Amy, I am proud to be your fellow Texan and a fellow member of Metroplex Atheists. The emotion of your story speaks so much for our community. Perhaps we will meet some day soon. 

      http://muledungandash.blogspot.com/
      http://www.meetup.com/FWFreethinkers/

      • amycaswell

         I have only been to a few MA meetings because I often work on Wednesday night. You can add me on facebook if you like. I’m also in the DFWatheists group on facebook. :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Emily-Moskal/100000022554924 Emily Moskal

      This.  A thousand times this.

    • bibliotequetress

      Amy. that’s great. Strangers coming together to travel how-the-hell-far to a rally. Atheists reaching out to give a hand to people who need it.  You rock. Your fellow Texan atheists rock.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=196001011 Nichole Dunigan

      I’m in Texas and I went also! Would love to know of any local groups! I had no idea that there was a forum going. When the buses got cancelled we drove alone :( Before I went to DC I felt so alone. I had never met another atheist before that.

      • amycaswell

        You didn’t say what part of Texas you’re from, but if you’re in the metroplex you should check out the DFWCOR website. They have a listing of the local groups in the DFW area. I also know there’s a big group in Austin and at least one in Houston, but Texas is big so you may not be near any of those. Cthulu help you if you live in West Texas though…

  • Anonymous

    I met Dawkins when he did a talk with Sam Harris in Oxford, UK and there was not one, but TWO bodyguards! Obviously the crowds in that classy university town get pretty rowdy. (As an added bonus one of them looked exactly like Patrick Stewart.)

  • http://mamamara.wordpress.com/ Mara

    I only got to be there for a few hours, but I’m glad I made it. It was an amazing thing and I’m still bouncing and energized :)

    Go, us!

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    Thanks for linking my photos.  The entire day was mindblowing.  From the time when I woke up and checked my email to find out I had won one of the VIP passes until I got on the train back home and attempted to process my thoughts.  

    Adam Savage’s speech drove me to tears.  I was not expecting his speech to be the one that moved me the most.  But I identify with him, being a non-confrontational person.  Yeah, I am just as angry as Greta Christina, but my personality doesn’t allow for confrontation.  I have to figure out ways to be me, and still fight the good fight.   Perhaps if I were as eloquent as Richard Dawkins I would be up for more face to face debate.

    I also have to say I was not familiar with Jamie Kilstein before the rally, and was extremely thrilled to hear his rants.  He was absolutely hilarious.  

    I’m so honored to have been a small piece of this historical event. 

    • amycaswell

       Don’t worry about who you’re not, just do your best as the person you are. :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1149275904 Charlie R Frey

      I am the same way.  I sometimes write or post things, then question who it might piss off and second guess myself and delete it.    I don’t like confrontation.  I would hope my christian friends would notice and be inticed by that, but they’re not.  Who am I kidding?  Anything we say that is against their ‘deeply held beliefs’ are considered an angry attack.  I’m working on it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

        I have a wide variety of atheist-themed teeshirts–but I tend to consider where I’ll be going (or shopping, for example) before putting one on.  Silly self-censorship…

  • Wintermute

    Man, I’m just bummed as all hell that I missed this. Glad it went well. Sounds like it meant a lot to a lot of folks. Thanks and congratulations to everyone who made it happen.

  • Anonymous

    Really good coverage, Hemant… I’ll be stealing some of your content (attributed, of course) to update mine. 

    http://www.meetup.com/FWFreethinkers/
    http://muledungandash.blogspot.com/

    It was really nice to finally meet you at the Lauriol…  and Greta Christina too.

    … even though you were on drugs at the time… ;~)

  • http://twitter.com/JesusLovesBags JesusLovesBags

    I was able to record Rihard Dawkins, Christina Rad, Nate Phelps, Sean Faircloth:
     
    http://www.jesuslovesbags.com/2012/03/reason-rally-success.html
     
    I also got video of Bad Religion doing a soundcheck in the beautiful Friday weather:
     
    http://www.jesuslovesbags.com/2012/03/reason-rally-bad-religion-sound-check.html

  • Anonymous

    My goodness, Tim Minchin has a really huge face! Either that, or Hemant has a tiny face.

  • http://twitter.com/arensb arensb

     The ASL interpreter in the video is SB Morgaine, and while she gets mad props for interpreting Tim Minchin, I think “The Pope Song” was comparatively easy, since it’s just a matter of signing “fuck” very quickly. It must have been much more difficult interpreting “The Song for Sam’s Mum”, in which he basically summarizes the skeptical approach to miracles in a couple of verses.

    I also want to give a shout-out to another ASL interpreter, Judi Rockhill, who had to interpet Jamie Kilmeade’s ad-libbed high-speed rant (and showed 20,000 people how to sign “masturbation”).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1149275904 Charlie R Frey

      You mean Jamie Kilstein I think.  He was great.  I don’t remember if the J/O joke was in his first set or 2nd?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsSP6kt2bKk

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1149275904 Charlie R Frey

      2nd set (unscheduled.  In the piss pouring rain, whilst they set up the set for Bad Religion and dried the stage, etc)  http://youtu.be/_4LBEVI4TFQ

  • dorothy30

    can anyone tell me what was done with the Gideon bibles in the Marriott hotel? (this was discussed in the article about Dave Silverman, linked in this post).

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

      I was in a hotel room in the AA Conference hotel. There was a Bible in the drawer. Then I closed the drawer and went to sleep.

  • Anonymous

    What about Sen Harkin and Rep Stark? Did they speak to the crowd in the end?

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

      Yes. Both were relatively uneventful (other than the fact that they were politicians). I’m trying to get the videos…

      • http://www.facebook.com/gashporter Graham Ash-Porter

        RepStark on youTube has his.

      • http://twitter.com/humanbeing2 elaine kilshaw

         I hope we will be able to get the dvds in the UK.perhaps someone can help

  • http://twitter.com/sbmorgaine SB Morgaine

    Thanks for the props! 

  • Anonymous

    If it makes you all feel better, Minchin has no idea who I am. Neither does Dawkins and it’s, like, my sixth time meeting him. 

    Well I’m a little less jealous, but only a little.

  • Prosey
  • Trobin330

    Great Event!!  Fortunately i only had a 30 minute drive and jumped on the Metro.  Props to all of you that came from out of town and had to deal with the big bus debacle!!  Hemant was great although i was unable to locate him milling aroung with us common folk.  I heard that he had a huge entourage with plenty of security (to keep the cats away).  I was able to meet Jessica Ahlquist and Shelly Segal and got a picture with each of them.

    The protestors were the “side show” of the rally, but it would have been better if they were totally ignored and not approached at all (my opinion).

    My favorite speakers were probably, Richard Dawkins, Nate Phelps, Adam Savage and of course that math geek Hemant!!  Of course everyone else was also great.  I brought my girlfriend with me who does believe in god and she totally enjoyed it.

    All in all a great day despite the rain!! 

    Todd

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pj-Crepeau/1183389480 Pj Crepeau

    Let’s get something perfectly clear:

    This was a colossal crowd.

    All the coverage makes clear that the writers left the Rally long before it ended.  As someone who was amazed at the size of the crowd at 11 am, I can assure you that it grew considerably as the day wore on (large patches of grass to the side of the event that were empty in the morning were crowded by mid-afternoon), so it’s safe to assume that most media accounts will underestimate the crowd.

    I climbed on a metal electrical box off the to the side to get a decent elevated view.

    There were no fewer than 40,000 people there.

    It was a hell of a sight!

    At least half that number stayed to the end.

    Thanks to Hemant for his contribution.

    • FSq

      I was hoping to rent an airplane and get up to do aerial photos, but the permanent TSA/No fly zone over that area prevented it. Too bad, because getting some aerials of the crowd would have made it very easy to get accurate counts on how many were there…..plus it’s always fun to get in some flying time! :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pj-Crepeau/1183389480 Pj Crepeau

         Likewise, if the Washington Monument were still open to the public, that would have been another way to count the crowd….

  • FSq

    It was a fun time. I made a point of trying to listen to the speeches, but found after about three hours, I was ready to head over to a pub for a drink.

    Many thanks to those who organized the event. I met many nice people, had many great conversations and am appreciative of the work involved in putting this on.

  • Ccubeman

    Googely Moogely!… Tim Minchin has a huge head!

  • Curtst

    I really wish I could have gone.  I prayed so hard that I would be able to get time off work and the money to attend.  But alas, prayers have fallen on deaf ears…

  • Kevin McKinney

    I came by bus from Philadelphia with my twin brother Sean. Our bus was full and everyone was friendly and excited to be involved. We were both interviewed at length on camera by a reporter from the Reason Rally who also happened to be from Philly! Hoping to find some video of that… I’ll be buying a DVD, maybe we’ll be in it!
    We also were both entertained and frustrated trying to ‘reason’ with one of the evangelists who was railing about our eminent punishment at the hands of his imaginary friend. I advised him that shepherds don’t love their flocks; they eat them and wear their skins! My bro actually caused him to take a breath from his non-stop rant by asking him to explain why he had nipples!
    The only thing we missed was Bad Religion and that was only because we were exhausted and wanted to walk back to our bus and eat without having to rush… It was a phenomenal event and I was happy to see so many young people, students and even children.
    FauxNews can decry the profanity, but so what… they have no problem with children watching death, murder and mayhem on their decrepit network, so it just further proves their hypocrisy. 
    I must applaud the Al Jazeera network for their fair and honest coverage. Imagine 1 billion Muslims pondering the fact that 20,000 atheists could gather in the US capital without fear! I’m sure their appreciation for freedom of religion could only be enhanced… now if only the inhabitants of our own nation’s bible-belt could be so moved to appreciate our constitution!
    Sad to learn there won’t be a rally next year…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

    “The media was interested because this was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event. ”

    I’d rethink that strategy, based on the after-the-event coverage.

  • Rieux

    It was a smashing success. A terrific rally, followed by a chance to meet fabulous people like Hemant (who did indeed seem a bit out of it at the Lauriol Plaza restaurant afterward—sorry you felt so lousy, Hemant)!

    Many thanks to all the organizers.

    • Rieux

      Oh, and of course we won’t be doing this again next year, or the year after that. But 2020? 2022? Surely the time will come when we’ll want to give it another shot—and get to 100,000.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Hemant, I don’t know if you’re going to do a post about the On Point show you were on today, but I just wanted to say you did a great job.

  • Daniel Krull

    Sadly the  Lauriol was fully when we arrived (we stayed until the end, in case there was anything important after Bad Religion. I probably would have just left before they played if I had known that they were essentially the last thing), and everyone was pretty much finished eating. We ended up heading over to the Atheist Nexus party, which was fun. I didn’t get to meet many of the big names, but I did get a hug from JT, which was awesome. ^_^

  • David

    I couldn’t find a transcript for Richard Dawkins’ speech at the Reason Rally, so I made one: http://humanistresources.org/blog/transcript-richard-dawkins-speech-reason-rally-2012

    (FWIW, that’s a new site I launched before heading off to the Reason Rally. More development to come — as well as a Reason Rally Round-Up Page tonight.)

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

      Thanks! Added that to the list as an edit.

  • Matt McCaskey

    It might have been mentioned already in the posts (admittedly TL;DR), but not only what a friendly, helpful, thinking, energetic crowd, but also what a diverse crowd.  While enemies of atheism, humanism, and free thought often use diversity as a divisive and polarizing force, the Reason Rally crowd embraced it and used it to unify our message of basic human rights and a search for truth based on demonstrable evidence .  (Credit to Jamila Bey for pointing this out and kudos to her for repeating the message in the media.)

  • Anonymous

    I was proud to be part of the Reason Rally the other day.  I felt great to be around people
    who share the idea that the government should stay the hell out of government.  I really do not care what a person believes.  God, Allah or the FSM.  It’s all good.  I have a problem when people use that belief to coerce and subjugate others either through intimidation, fear, indoctrination and/or governmental policy.  That’s what I have a problem with and that’s what I hate.

    While what I saw at the Reason Rally and a number of the people I met impressed me, what I found (and already knew to some extent) is that a lot of the atheist themselves are just as intolerant of any non-atheist as the Christian fundie’s. 

    A number of people, when I told them I was agnostic, told me to get over it and pick a side.  Another person was holding a sign at a main intersection that read “Don’t worry
    kids-God is fake too”.  A lot of the vile language coming from the speakers themselves is already making rounds in some of the more conservative sites challenging the whole “family friendly” billing that the Reason Rally had. 

    I saw the reactions from tourist that saw some of the blasphemous mocking of religion and it wasn’t good.  Dawkins said on stage that religion should be challenged and I don’t
    disagree.  However, right after that he said we should mock believers.  Ridicule them.  Shame them.  I agree that there’s a time and place to mock religion, however it shouldn’t be a mandate.  Not all religious people are our enemies.  Some actually agree with the Church/State separation mandate and were instrumental in its implementation in this country.

    This was a chance to show the world that we can be civil.  That we can be respectful.  That we can be “Reasonable”.  In that respect, I think the rally failed.  Not only were some articipants discriminating against those that supported them, but the reaction from the general public (the ones who heard the cussing and disrespect) were pretty turned off I think. 

    If atheists and the secular community want to be accepted, then we, as a whole, need to be more accepting of everyone.  I understand your anger.  I understand your frustration.  However, your not going to win the hearts and minds of those we seek acceptance from if we lower yourself to a “fundie” level.

    • amyc

       There’s nothing to respect about religions, and I really don’t care if conservative tone-trolls get angry about so-called “bad” language. Like Tim Minchin said in his Pope song: if you’re more angry about swearing than you are about religions that do/are trying to strip away basic rights (or ones that harm children) than there’s something wrong with you.*

      *I cleaned up the language, what he actually said was,”Then fuck you too, motherfucker.”

      • johnleven

        It’s not about resepecting religion, it’s about respecting the people.  I have many religion friends.  I don’t go around yelling god damn it when I’m around them.  By the same token, they don’t go pushing their belief on me.  A mutual respect.  If they start pushing it on me, they know I’ll push right back and the gloves will come off. 

        There’s a time to mock religion like when they push for ultrasound laws.  There’s also a time to show that we can all get along. 

        • Anonymous

          “There’s also a time to show that we can all get along.”

          And when the religious — all of them — stop trying to enforce their religion through government and agree to keep in in the confines of their homes and churches, then perhaps the time to speak to the atheists about “tone.”  But we have, every day, laws being proposed about religion, we have people trying to teach lies to children, we have kids dying because of “faith”, hell, we have to look at “god” on money…  when that stuff ends, then come to me about tone.

          • Anonymous

            You’re preaching to the choir my friend.  Pardon the pun.  I agree with everything you said.  However, taking a militant attitude w/ those that disagree with you is only going to be used as cannon fodder against you.  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve already seen in mentioned as couple times as well as the looks from of the general tourist in DC.  In their eyes, we’re no different then some extremist group like the New Blank Panthers.  In addition, some of you are also alienating some of your supporters.  I’m agnostic but was treated by some as though I was the WBC or one of the God Squad members.  I’m not your enemy and support the church/state mandate. 

            Remember…Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers are already a distrusted group.  Taking such a militant approach only reinforces that stereotype and may even eliminate some of your supporters.

            The choice is yours.

            • amycaswell

              Religious people have to kill people and blow up buildings to be called militant.

              Atheists merely have to hold a rally to express their views.

              By the way, I have at least one Christian friend who watched some of the speeches and such from my facebook and other links, and she said it looked like an awesome rally and we should do these things more often. Maybe people should worry more about the message and the point someone is trying to make rather than the use of the word “fuck” and jokes about religion that were mostly made by…what are they called again?…comedians.

            • PA Year of the Bible

               The question is why do you call yourself an “agnostic” and not an “atheist”?  Are you aware that the VAST majority of atheists do not claim CERTAINTY about the nonexistence of ANY gods? (Even Dawkins.)  We can’t PROVE the nonexistence of something.  Most people who call themselves “agnostics” either don’t understand the meaning of “atheist” (i.e. one who is without BELIEF in gods)–that was why I called myself an agnostic for several years– are “afraid” of the (gradually disappearing) stigma of “atheism”, or are simply afraid of offending OTHERS (relatives, in-laws, employers, neighbors).  Which is it?

        • amycaswell

          You specifically said in your first comment that we should learn to respect religion; that’s what I was addressing. Even Richard Dawkins said in his speech that he doesn’t despise religious people; he despises religion.

    • Rick in Atlanta.

      I agree. I enjoyed elements of the Rally but common sense and common courtesy say that when you deliberately attack a person’s most cherished beliefs, the foundations of all they stand for, and do it in language calculated to offend those people as thoroughly as possible, they will not listen. They will not respect you. And those who had no opinion prior to these deliberately insulting diatribes will think less of the attacker. I walked away a bit ashamed and doubt I’ll participate in any organized atheist event again. “We” came across as vulgar, angry, adolescent creeps who were more interested in venting and baiting than in demonstrating that reason and the shedding of superstition can make a better society.

      Very disappointed. No better, either in the art of debate or in manners, from the hellfire and damnation protestors.

  • http://norighttobelieve.wordpress.com/ Ezra Resnick

    Tim Minchin’s remark that “love without evidence is stalking” inspired me to write this little parable

  • Jdavid Eisenberg

    I was there; the best part for me was to see so many younger people (I’m 58).

    • PA Year of the Bible

      Yes, I was AMAZED by the numbers of young people.  Much different from GAMOW in 2002.  What a difference a decade of the internet and Facebook have made. (57 here)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Engler/588970697 Brian Engler

    Great summary, Hemant! Some more photos posted here: http://tinyurl.com/ReasonRally

  • Rene Wirtz

    I was brought up without religion and I have never had the feeling that I have been missing out and throughout my time here on this planet I have come to realize that it’s actually quite the opposite.
    I moved to the US from Europe in 2007 and I have always felt like an outsider, since religion is so overwhelmingly prevalent everywhere. Not that I cared much, because I am used to being an outsider.
    My “problem” is that I am also vocal, so I have no problem telling anyone I am an atheist (or an agnostic, I’m still torn between the two) and, especially in the South, that is cause to raise eyebrows. And the more religious people wall themselves, the more likely I am to try to tear it down: walls have no place in an open mind!
    My wife, Prosey, wanted to attend the Reason Rally something fierce, so that’s why our completely secular family of 4 made the trek to Washington to attend the Rally and to be among like-minded people.
    It was a great day, in spite of (or maybe despite) the rain. All the speakers we saw and heard were wonderful and there were funny, heartfelt, heart-wrenching and funny (yes, twice, because it’s more fun laughing with the sinners than crying with the saints) stories and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
    Even our almost 3-year old son applauded and laughed when everyone else did, while enjoying the rain on his face. Of course, our teenage daughter acted disinterested throughout, but I’m sure she knows she got a more and better education in one day than a year at her Georgia public school.
    My wife, well, she had the time of her life! (http://therearethornstoo.blogspot.com/2012/03/reason-rally-2012.html)

  • Anonymous

    I’m proud to have been there. Today I was invited to speak at a local church by a friend of mine who is a pasture. My experiences as a member of the secular community (largely my experiences at the reason rally) will likely be the subject. This is going to get interesting. TIME TO REPRESENT!!!

    Thank you to all who made the Rally possible.

    • Lori

      I think you mean your friend is a Pastor.  Not a pasture.

    • Rosemary

      Is your friend a little green?  Has he gone to seed?  Has he taken root in your backyard? Do you allow him to keep all his blades or do you confiscate them?

  • Keulan

    I wish I could have gone, but I had to work and couldn’t afford to fly to D.C. even if I hadn’t been working. So instead I’ve spent the past couple days watching lots of videos and reading lots of blog posts of the Reason Rally, and hope to see even more in the next few days.

    • Truthteller

      But to get the REAL feel for the rally, you need to wait for a rainy gray day, get up really early,  and set  up the TV outside on the grass.  Wear a poncho that doesn’t cover your legs.  Never sit down, or else you won’t see the screen.  Turn around, and estimate the crowd to be, uh, 3.  And then, as the afternoon wears  on, set up a pail of dry ice in front of  a fan, turn on the fan, and pretend you are still having fun.  Then after the last act, drive to the nearest $149/nt hotel, with $13/nt parking, and watch the same videos for the next two days (after donating $159-199 for doing so).  Welcome to my world! (but I enjoyed it anyway)

  • Deep-Fried FreeThinkers

    Tweenky and I as well as 50 other individuals drove to Starkville, MS to catch the RallyBus. It was a 2 hour drive for us, but we had some come up from the Biloxi/Gulfport area. 

    The bus ride although the seats were uncomfortable at times was for the most part enlightening. We got to meet and talk with people from the Millsaps Secular Society that were sitting immediately near us and many others at each stop along the way.

    Upon arriving at the event, we jumped on the Metro and rushed to find our friends that came down to meet us from Maryland.

    It was wonderful to be with new friends and old friends we had not seen for some time all the while enjoying the speakers.

    It was right after James Randi took the stage that we were approached by two young apologist and the debate began for the next hour and a half. Here is a recap of that conversation 
    http://deep-friedfreethinkers.blogspot.com/2012/03/christians-at-reason-rally-part-2.html

    All in all it was a wonderful trip and would do it all over again the same way, but with a little less rain perhaps.The Deep-Fried FreeThinkers were proud to have our group mentioned by Paul Provenza on stage as well as the other groups from Mississippi. Of all the places to show up with a 95% full bus load of people most were from Mississippi. That has to be an accomplishment of some magnitude considering the rein of the bible belt.Thank you for helping to put the Reason Rally together, with the help of all the groups in Mississippi we hope to make a much louder voice and presence in this state in the months to come.

    Thank you,

    Nathan Piccolo

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I never noticed before how big Tim Minchin’s head was until I saw it compared to Hemant O_O

    • Anonymous

      Maybe Hemant’s is simply extra small…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000596167269 Janice Rael

    It was nice to see you at the Reason Rally, Hemant, I am sorry I forgot to get a photo of us. I was not in fangirl mode when I bumped into you, I was just like “Oh there’s Hemant, I remember when we watched videos on his computer in my hotel room with the Secular Student Alliance at an atheist event in DC a few years ago.” Thanks for this great post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1192321397 Martin Stone

    Just uploaded my photos from the Reason Rally: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martystone/sets/72157629322624886/ 

    Had a blast.  Shame it won’t be a yearly event, but the logistics, planning, time and expense involved in having this event must be incredible.  Thanks to everyone who came and especially to those who organized and paid for/sponsored this amazing event!  Bravo!

  • Lori

    Uuuuuhhhh… I think you should change your website name.  I thought this would be a site to look at that was friendly.  Not so to unbelievers.  Better name would be “Friendly Atheist To Other Atheists”.  And your rally… it wasn’t about unity.  It was about mocking religious people.  I hope you all aren’t talking about tolerance anywhere.  You’ll be laughed out of town.
    P.S.  Do atheist think it is okay to lie?  Because I noticed you said to say there were 1,ooo,000 people at the rally.  There was less than 10,000 in case you want to know the truth.  I think I’ll keep my religion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/heather.spoonheim Heather Spoonheim

      Hey, we’re tolerant – we’re actually ok with you religious folk getting married.

    • Anonymous

      Lori, aren’t you glad that you live in a country that has separation of church and state so you CAN keep your religion? Isn’t this great? Elsewhere in the world you might be persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, or killed because of what you believe (or don’t believe).

    • Rosemary

       If you think that this site and the Rally are examples of unfriendly and intolerant behavior you should spend a couple of weeks telling everyone you meet that you are an atheist.  You will not remain emotionally un-scarred.  Depending on where you live you could be in so much physical danger that you need a hefty bodyguard. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/gashporter Graham Ash-Porter

      latest count 23000. Sorry if you felt mocked. It is not about mocking you, just the bronze age religion and its attempts at science. Update your religion, then we won’t need to snigger. Also stop putting bible ‘science’ into class rooms.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gashporter Graham Ash-Porter

    Hemant, Best videos I have seen are by Mark Rosengarten. Here’s his Richard Dawkins one.
    Also Evil little thing and Adam Savage available http://youtu.be/wSDn_-NXGhI

  • RWPark

    Well, we know who you are in Madison WI, and we look forward to your participation in the Freethought Festival (
    http://freethoughtfestival.org/ ) here April 27-29.

  • John B Hodges

    Replying to PA Year of the Bible-  I’ve had similar experiences in past years, attending other demonstrations. This time I used the Internet to find a hotel outside the beltway, close to a Metro station, so I got a room for half as much and took the train in to the rally. I also bought the smallest “camping chair” I could find, and carried it in with me, so I could sit when I got tired. I even brought a bag lunch. I still got tired, and found the weather a bit unpleasant later in the afternoon, but overall had a good time. At age 59, I confess I thought the use of profanity by Tim Minchin and one other speaker was unnecessary and unwise; I find it more effective to express contempt and disapproval in more elegant and artful ways. 

  • Patricia

    You know it’s serious business when Mehta is willing to brave… CATS. 

  • jetsetdork

    I didn’t get to attend the Rally, but following the news, blog coverage, and watching YouTube videos of the event (even the theist-produced ones) has buoyed my hope that one day atheists will be more accepted in the public life of this country.  I also took the Rally as an opportunity to post articles promoting free thought on my Facebook wall.  This was a big step for me as I’m technically still “closeted” to my parents, my partner’s parents, and the many people who I grew up with in the church.  Turns out I didn’t lose any friends or get any negative flack from the postings.  I guess I can continue to push the envelope more with my loved ones and perhaps one day I’ll be comfortable/brave enough to “come out” to my very religious family.  The Reason Rally gave me the hope and the strength I needed to take these first steps.  Thank you organizers, speakers, and attendees for all that you did that cold, rainy day.  Cheers!


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