"Largest secular rally in world history" planned for D.C.

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At a time when the Republican right is attempting to use religion to push its pet issues - including opposition to birth control and the denigration of science - atheists, secularists, and free thinkers in general have decided to come the furthest out of the shadows they have ever been with a new project: The Reason Rally. Organizers claim the event, set for March 24 in Washington, will be the largest secular rally in the history of the world.

Giving a boost to the organizing efforts, Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin has thrown his support behind the freethinkers, not in his religious views, but in defense of the American secular tradition.

Sen. Harkin will send a video greeting to the rally because, in the words of his spokesperson, "Just like the rest of his colleagues in Congress, Sen. Harkin, a lifelong Catholic, strongly endorses the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. It was out of this conviction that he agreed to the invitation to send a video welcome to those exercising their Constitutional right on the National Mall."

A diverse coalition of secular groups, ranging from the militant American Atheists to the more warm and fuzzy secular humanists, has been running advertising campaigns aimed at encouraging non-believers to come out of the shadows. But now they have turned their sites to the rally, a far more united and organized undertaking with the potential to be much bigger.

The rally's organizers argue that it will speak on behalf of the nation's largest growing demographic, non-believers. "Whether people call themselves atheists, agnostics, secular Humanists or any of the other terms used to describe their god-free lifestyle, secularism is coming out of the closet," reads the rally's website.

"According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey," the organizers continue, "the percentage of people with no religious affiliation grew in all fifty states. The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society."

Organizers say the point of the rally is not to bash religion - which, incidentally, atheists know more about than believers, according to a poll - but to focus "on all non-theists have achieved in the past few years" and to motivate "those in attendance to become more active.

The rally has three goals: to encourage atheists and secularists to come "out of the closet," to show that atheists do not fit any particular model - they are all races, ages, and persuasions - and to demand "legislative equality," that is, the actual ability to run for office and be elected.

The first open atheist in Congress, Calif. Democratic Rep. Pete Stark, will also send a video message.

In terms of the diversity of atheists, organizers are hoping to show that secularism and non-belief are not simply, as the stereotype goes, for middle-class white people. Indeed, one of the groups mobilizing its members to go to the rally is the Black Atheists of America.

Soldiers who fight for America will also be at the rally, fighting this time for their own freedom to believe - or disbelieve - as they choose. There has been a long struggle by atheists in the military who are looking to break evangelical Christianity's hold over the American armed forces. Their efforts have so far been met with resistance by the top brass.

Additional speakers include scientist Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion); Tim Minchin; P. Z. Meyers, comedian Paul Provenza, James Randi, high school atheist Jessica Ahlquist, rock band Bad Religion, and others.

Photo: Flickr

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  • Militant American Atheists? When are any atheists, "Militant" as in picking up a gun or resorting to violence. I can think of many occasions where Christians are Militant as they kill abortion clinic doctors or murder in the name of Jesus. Being armed with your 2nd Amendment is pretty Militant but being passionate about promoting logic and reason in the face of a religiously dumbed down culture isn't fair is it now?

    Posted by Jason, 03/18/2012 10:22pm (3 years ago)

  • Atheism is simply non-belief, or non-faith.

    The fact that shamans in a trance and buddhists in meditation or other people deep in prayer exhibit similar brain-wave patterns does not mean we are hard-wired for religion, just that we have the ability to be in a relaxed mental state, whichever way we achieve it.

    Atheists thinking about atheism do not exhibit those patterns, though they may after practising relaxation.

    To use a faulty analogy to make a point is deceitful. Yes, if the TV is on or off there is still a TV. We can see that. However we can believe or not believe in Flying Purple People Eaters. Non-belief in them is not a result of their existence, except in the imagination.

    And this is where the analogy falls down. With god we are contemplating a CONCEPT, a construction of the imagination, thought up to explain to primitive minds the world around us.

    Unfortunately, the "credibility" of God has been largely protected from attack over the millennia by fear of death, both the fear of one's own death which can be assuaged by a belief in god and the oxymoron of an "after-life". and the fear of being killed by believers or the official governments of believers.

    That is very powerful stuff.

    Certainly, atheists can get passionate when "challenged" to "disprove" the existence of a God who exists only as a figment of the imagination. It is the ludicrousness of the demand when combined with the earnest, insistent determination of the believer that fuels the frustration and the passion.

    It is quite a herculean task to convince a believer that his concept of God is just that, a concept, when he has possibly spent his entire life confusing it with reality. He has been overwhelmed by osmosis of the religious culture he has surrounded himself with, reinforced by the hypnosis of the constant rituals and prayers, and "validated" by his own subjective assessments of whether prayers have been answered or whether god works in mysterious ways (including not usually answering prayers) to the point that his circular validation process is both satisfying to him and yet essentially meaningless.

    Never-the-less, without proof of any god's existence, he must remain firmly as a concept.

    In other words, imaginary.

    And if he is only accessible to a "believer", then that is the overwhelming, conclusive proof of his non-existence.

    Posted by Rol, 03/13/2012 10:00pm (3 years ago)

  • His name is Tom Harkin, not Charles.

    Posted by Seymour Joseph, 03/13/2012 3:45pm (3 years ago)

  • This is beautiful and a huge step forward for humanity to not only "come out of the closet", but the dark ages also. Progress and humanity

    Posted by Martin Stevenson, 03/13/2012 1:40pm (3 years ago)

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