The downside: The downpour we had early in the day kept a lot of people away from Rock Beyond Belief. We had hoped for a crowd numbering in the thousands.
The upside: Several hundred people stayed or arrived later and the entire event went off beautifully Justin Griffith and his team put together a great event for military atheists and supporters in the area.
The biggest draw, as usual, was Richard Dawkins. Here’s a portion of his speech:
The event managed to get some major press, too… here’s Reuters:
After rain gave way to sunshine on Saturday, a smaller-than-expected crowd streamed onto the same large field where Christians gathered in 2010. There was again face painting and jumping inflatables for children, but a performer on stage rapped that “creationism is dead wrong” and a T-shirt for sale featured a Bible along with the slogan “Holy Crap.”
Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist and best-selling author of books including “The God Delusion,” received a big applause during his speech when he said, “You don’t need religion in order to be moral.”
Why the “but”?! They say it like calling out Creationism and the Bible is a bad thing.
The Associated Press was a little more positive:
Organizers were hoping for a crowd of about 5,000. At least several hundred people gathered on the parade ground by midday Saturday. Rainy weather for most of the morning may have affected the turnout. Fort Bragg officials said they would provide a crowd estimate later.
The atmosphere was festive, with carnival treats like ribbon fries and ice cream, games for children and a demonstration jump by the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team. Speakers and bands performed on the main stage. In many ways it was indistinguishable from a county fair except for the information booths ringing the parade ground and the content of the performances.
TL;DR: Atheists are normal. (Amazing, I know.)
I’m writing this after coming back to my room from the afterparty (at which over $1,000 was raised for the homeless). A lot of the people who attended Rock Beyond Belief were also at last week’s Reason Rally and the people I’ve spoken with have told me how inspired they are to take action, whether that means starting a local group or being more vocal about their own beliefs or encouraging others to get more involved in promoting reason and critical thinking. It’s good news, either way.
If we just go back to the way things have always been and fail to capitalize on the energy and momentum we’ve earned, all these rallys and all the work going into them will have been for nothing. Let’s not waste this opportunity.
(Thanks to George Peterson for the video!)