By Rick Wingrove, Published: March 22 | Updated: Friday, March 23, 3:00 AM
On Saturday, March 24, 2012, the National Mall in Washington will play host to what is expected to be the largest gathering of atheists in history. Dubbed Reason Rally, it will be attended by thousands of atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and non-believers of every stripe. It’s being called Secular Woodstock. Music will be provided by the band Bad Religion.
But, the rally will be more than a soggy mosh for the religiously unpersuaded. Reason Rally will show that all the cool people are atheists now and that the days of consent by silence are over. It’s an appeal to millions of hidden atheists to come out of their closets and join the fun.
Not to overstate the case, but Reason Rally has been 2,000 years in the making. For most of the last 20 centuries, atheism was highly lethal. There were always plenty of non-believers, but Darwinism actively selected against the outspoken. Religious dissent was brutally discouraged and driven underground. The scope of non-belief is only now becoming apparent.
A large public gathering of atheists is a relatively new thing in the world, enabled by two pivotal events in human history: the U.S. Constitution and the invention of the Internet. The Constitution guarantees that the rights of the irreligious are exactly equal to the rights of the aggressively pious. The Internet had Christians and Atheists arguing over evolution in ALL CAPS by the end of the first day
The Constitution gave us the rights but the Internet gave us the voice. After two millennia, atheists had a way to find each other and to demonstrate that we are not the hell-bound, baby-eating monsters that the preachers warned you about. It turns out that we are everywhere and we are here to stay. We are your friends, family, neighbors, plumbers, politicians, and your IT guy. We are patriotic Americans who love our country and do not, as is often suggested, have to move to Russia.
Instead, we are just going to have a big party on the National Mall.
To put it in perspective, the rally is not likely to rival the sea of people at Obama’s inauguration. But, it’s not the numbers that make Reason Rally an important event. It is the spectacle of thousands of deity-free Americans, on the Mall, carrying smart, funny signs and listening to the notorious evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, explain why reality is important.
According to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, over 75 million Americans are not Christians. Over 50 million of those have no religious affiliation and profess little or no belief in a supreme deity. These are the “Nones” and their numbers have doubled since 1991. The few thousand godless Americans you will see on the Mall are just the tip of a large iceberg - with a Darwin fish on the side.
Reason Rally will give a heads up to those who have been reluctant to recognize the mushrooming numbers and the growing political presence of secular Americans. There are millions of us, with legitimate concerns about government endorsement of religiosity. Likewomen and birth control, we deserve a seat at the table when the adamantly religious are deciding our fate.
Reason Rally is happening because it’s time for Secular Americans to be seen and heard, to defend science, and separation of church and state. We’ll be on the Mall because it’s time to push back against the creeping theocratization of America.