Media Coverage of Rock Beyond Belief

Media Coverage of Rock Beyond Belief April 2, 2012

There wasn’t a whole lot of media coverage of the Rock Beyond Belief event, but what coverage there was seemed to be fair-minded. Reuters had a reporter there who talked to atheist soldiers and their families. What they said reinforces why this event, and the broader movement for recognition and equality for atheists in foxholes, was so important:

Though some Christian groups asked the Defense Department not to allow the non-theist event and other critics groused about it through social media, the gathering Saturday had a peaceful vibe without a protester in sight. The crowd included many families with children, some of them part of the military community and others civilians who came out to show support.

“This is very cool,” said Brenda Germain, whose husband retired from the Air Force. “So many times the atheists feel like they’re alone in their community.”

Several military members and their spouses echoed Germain’s feelings but didn’t want their names used out of concern about possible repercussions. One Army wife said her home in a town near Fort Bragg was vandalized after her children told their friends they did not believe in God. Her family ended up moving, she said.

Two service members said they put “no religious preference” rather than atheist on their dog tags to avoid having their beliefs influence how they are treated or viewed by their colleagues.

“We’re good people, we’re serving in the military,” said an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg who did not want to be identified. Atheism “hasn’t changed how I serve.”

But it can and too often does change how others treat them — and that’s the whole point. In my remarks that opened the event, I made it a point to say that some — emphasis on that word — officers abuse their authority and try to force their religious beliefs on those under their command. I think it depends very much on the views of the unit and base commanders; sometimes it isn’t a problem at all and sometimes it’s a big problem.

AP also talked to some of the soldiers:

The event marked a coming-out of sorts for atheist and secularist soldiers at Fort Bragg, who have been trying for more than a year to be recognized as a “distinctive faith group,” a designation that would allow them to hold their meetings at Bragg facilities. Curious soldiers in uniform mixed with people in civilian clothes as bands played and children began to race around the huge field when the rain let up.

“I’ve been an atheist pretty much my whole life, and where I was growing up in Texas, I didn’t know another atheist,” said Pfc. Lance Reed. “It’s important to meet people who have some of the same beliefs and interests as you do, and that’s what this is about.”

Reed also said he hoped Christians at Bragg and other believers would attend, to dispel some misconceptions about atheists.

“A lot of people think it’s all about God-bashing or something like that,” he said. “You can see we’re not evil people who want to burn down churches. We’re just here to have fun.”

Sgt. Lance Hollander, who said he’s been looking forward to the event ever since he first heard about it last year, agreed that in some ways the concert could serve as a calling card for soldiers who aren’t religious.

“Atheists are the least trusted group in America, and we want to change that,” he said.

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  • dingojack

    As I mentioned earlier*, it even made it into the Sydney Morning Herald (albeit in a jokey item on the back page), guess which celebration of a religious position didn’t. 🙂



    * Sorry, I can’t find it at the moment.

  • dingojack

    Hmm I can’t find it anywhere (I must have dreamed it or posted it elsewhere). Anyway here it is:

    with atheists on main street

    It was, one speaker said, their coming-out moment, The Washington Post reports. Atheists, non-theists, secularists and others who say they believe in reason, not God, gathered on Saturday for the first Reason Rally, where they pledged to stand up for their beliefs in a society that they say sometimes views them with scepticism and distrust. “God is a myth,” said Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists. “Closet atheists, you are not alone.” Despite intermittent rain, several thousand people gathered on the lawn across from the National Museum of American History to hear a roster of speakers, including comedians, activists and the first openly atheistic member of Congress, the Californian Democrat Pete Stark. “We’re here,” the crowd yelled in a chant led by Fred Dewords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason. “We’re godless, get used to it.” Organisers said the aim of the rally was twofold: to unite individuals with similar beliefs and to show the public that the number of people who don’t believe in God is large and growing. “We have the numbers to be taken seriously,” said Paul Fidalgo, spokesman for the Centre for Inquiry, a group that promotes scientific method and reasoning and one of the organisations sponsoring the rally. “We’re not just a tiny fringe group”.

    Sydney Morning Herald – March 26, 2010.


  • mobius

    I am very glad that this event finally happened. I know there were some obstacles in its way at the beginning and the perseverance of the organizers is commendable. I just wish it (or an event like it) had been closer. A roughly 1500 mile commute is a bit far.

    One gripe about the AP article.

    …to be recognized as a “distinctive faith group,”

    This reinforces a common opinion that I have heard expressed by many Christians, particularly fundamentalists, that “atheism is a faith” or “atheism requires faith”.

  • I know I’m barely read up on the issue, but from what I understood, the reason they’re trying to be recognized as a ‘distinctive faith group’ is because otherwise they couldn’t have any meetings at all, and changing that would be next to impossible, whereas getting in as a kind of ‘faith group’ would only be really hard.