On April 4th, 2012 we had our bi-weekly meeting and got to hear about the Reason Rally and American Atheist Conference.Anna Biela gave a great presentation about her experiences, showing some clips of Tim Minchin and Richard Dawkins.
In my own experience, Reason Rally and the American Atheist Conference was an exciting life-changing time. The 12 hour car ride to Washington D.C. was really exhausting, followed by taking the Metro to the National Mall super early in the morning.The event lasted more than eight hours, with few breaks. Our dedication to the speakers and the cause of Reason Rally kept us through the rain.
Reason Rally proved to America the voice of the Atheist/Agnostic/Non-Theist movement. 20,000 people showed up to give their support, disprove stereotypes and create history. Respect for people to have belief or to practice their religion was encouraged, on the stipulation that they don’t impose it on other people. A point was made to the religious right in politics where we stood as a group, that Atheists are not all immoral by nature, that faith was not a virtue. The note that it is very possible to be an Atheist and a humanist was certainly made.
Speakers included Richard Dawkins, Adam Savage, Greta Christina and James Randi. Performances featured Tim Minchin, Bad Religion and Eddie Izzard. The message given was not to show disrespect for people themselves, but to critique religion itself. It’s still a fine line to understand where that sense of “live and let live” can work in reality, when legislation is constantly influenced by religion.
The Westboro Baptist Church made an appearance, standing on the side-lines of the Rally to provide much needed entertainment and debate. The crowd mimicked their hateful signs with their own: “God Hates Bags” and “God Hates Figs”. Everyone kept debates to verbal discourse and no physical altercations took place.
The media exposure appeared to be limited, as USA today misconstrued the event. Unfortunately, the media cannot seem to comprehend that comparing Atheist activities to a church just doesn’t make sense.The title for the paper claimed “Richard Dawkins preaches to Atheists, contempt for religion” which was just wrong on many levels. Fox news tried to argue that people need religion to understand right from wrong.The Atheist movement does not reflect religious rituals or necessarily have a patriarchal leader. The movement itself also features several minority groups.
The American Atheist Conference had a different tone, as it was a bit less recreational and more business. The theme was “Come out wherever you are”, encouraging non believers to be upfront about their non-belief. J.T. recognized that this can be a difficult thing to do in the context of society, friends and work. We got to see some great presentations by P.Z. Myers and J.T, along with Jessica Ahlquist receiving an awesome award.
The entire experience in Washington D.C. was both exhausting and exhilarating. It was inspiring to see all these groups come together and stand up for freedom from religion. It’s a great time to be an Atheist, Secular Humanist, Agnostic, Non-Theist, Free-Thinker.