Rally for Reason

There have been a few irresistible developments since the start of the year worthy of mention and now with summer fast approaching I’m hoping to give some attention to these stories.

In March of this year thousands of people gathered on the National Mall for the Reason Rally, one of the first large public gatherings of secularists, atheists, and other free thinkers.  A landmark event for that movement.

As Richard Dawkins told the Washington Post, “I think the moment may have come in America, for a kind of tipping point, the world thinks that the United States is a far far more religious country than anywhere else in the western world and maybe it is but maybe that’s all a bit of a myth.”

Event organizers say that over 30,000 people gathered on the mall, although most news reports put the number at 20,000. Here’s a link to pictures from the rally so that you can judge for yourself.

If you read a lot of the literature and public messaging for the event you’ll notice that many speakers singled out fundamentalism for special criticism (think Family Research Council and Religious Right). The rally even included Nate Phelps, son of the notorious Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, who, with more than enough justification, denounced the fundamentalist faith of his family.

As you might expect many in the religious community sounded the alarm about the rally here, here, and here.

I am not sure that secularism, or atheism is here to stay as a political movement, but here’s a few observations that I think help fuel, propel, and unite the movement:

  • A disgust of fundamentalism, in particular politically minded fundamentalism.
  • A foundational belief that people would be better off using reason over faith.
  • A hope that reason and self-interest would come to guide local and national policy.
  • That practicing compassion without self-benefit is harmful and delusional.

Whether atheism grows as a political movement will depend largely on how Christianity can help bridge the gap in my generation–remember that 20% of my generation are non-religious but of those 75% are spiritually minded. Will the non-religious in my generation see Christianity as a politically¬† destructive force? The answer to that question will help determine if groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation gain a popular and growing foothold in the years ahead.