By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – A coalition of atheist and secular organizations are coming together on Saturday to hold what is being billed at the largest gathering of atheists in history.
David Silverman, chairman of the event committee and president of the American Atheists, said the rally is aimed at uniting atheist organizations and letting the religious know that there are nonbelievers among them.
“We need to stress to the theists that we are here,” Silverman said. “Atheism is growing in all 50 states. What people don’t seem to understand is all we demand at American Atheists is equality.”
Silverman initially told CNN that the rally would draw anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 people to the National Mall, and the National Park Service has planned for 30,000 people. With thunderstorms forecast for Saturday, however, Silverman told CNN on Thursday that he expects somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people.
The cost of the event is around $300,000, Silverman said, but philanthropist Todd Stiefel, Founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, is supplying half the money.
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The rally has been a catalyst for protests by the Westboro Baptist Church, a group well known for its picketing of funerals of American servicemen and servicewomen. Westboro Baptist has been granted a permit for the “grassy area between 14th and 15th” streets, according to Carol Johnson, a communications officer for the National Park Service.
Though a press release for the reason rally touts 17 groups planning to protest, only the Westboro Baptist Church has applied and obtained a permit. Johnson said rally organizers have notified the Park Service of other possible protest groups, but none of those have applied for a permit.
The rally's long list of speakers and presenters runs the gamut from intellectuals to celebrities to comedians. The event is headlined by Oxford professor and author Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins, who is widely regarded as the most respected figure in atheism, is lending his voice to this event because he says freedom for atheists is “constantly under threat from people who would like to turn this country into some sort of a theocracy.”
“The Reason Rally is part of an effort to combat the attack of the theocrats,” Dawkins told CNN. “There is in this country at the moment a great revival of atheism, and the number of atheists in the country is much larger than people realize.”
Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital
At a press conference for the event, Silverman was adamant that the rally won't be the last. He didn't say whether it will be become an annual tradition, but he intends a higher profile for atheists in the future.
“The next step after the rally is all eyes on the election,” Silverman said. “We want to post hard questions to the candidates.”
Dawkins, too, related the rally to politics.
“The nonbelieving constituency has not been vocal enough, and it therefore has been politic for them to be ignored by their congressmen, by their senators,” Dawkins said.
Directing his comments at Congress, Dawkins said, “You have been neglecting them, overlooking them and riding roughshod over them as though they didn’t exist. Well, they do exist and they outnumber some of the other lobbies that you have been so assiduously sucking up to all these years.”
The America Atheists also are holding their annual convention in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Secular Coalition for America has scheduled its “Lobby Day for Reason” on Friday.
The weekend is part of a larger blitz by a coalition of atheists to “win” equality in American culture, Silverman said.
“We are the last group against whom it is politically correct to be bigoted,” he said. “That is something that needs to change and I am very confident that we will within 20 years.”
So... protesting against something that you "Dont" believe in. Boy.. inst this productive. I am about as religious as the man in the moon... and have never felt compelled to really act on it... I have never felt discriminated against. I just dont understand the motivation. I dont understand the need to organize such a group. Why cant these people just make their way through this world believing whatever it is they believe?? Why the need to organize?? why the need to protest?? Such acts now... have only classified you as nutty as the religious right. Nothing better to do I guess.
How about all those religious people going out there to protest the protest?
Are you saying Richard Dawkins is NOT a sky fairy!
He sure sounds like one.
Typically I'd agree, but are you aware of Rick Santorum and those like him? Are you aware there are powerful congressmen who have literally stated they do not believe in global warming or that we need to do anything about it because "God promised Noah after the flood that he'd never harm us again"?
I normally say "live and let live" as well, but the would-be theocrats aren't playing by the same rules.
How about not having those stupid Christian invocations at public events. I'd prefer none at all. If you want to pray, go ahead, but keep it out of public events.
None of us would be here without the pre life or after life. All things natural point to God. Open your eyes and take a look around. It's just easier for some people to do nothing. If this group of people believed that there is a God they would then be known as believers and therefore would have to make change to their lives and worship God which usually requires their time and added effort. What i don't understand is how these people can be so blind as to the absolute perfect organization of the universe and the natural order of mother nature on this earth. Do businesses just get up and start operating and grow by themselves. No. Think about it. Somebody starts the business, somebody organizes the business. somebody staffs the business. What would happen if there wasn't that person there to plan and start that business would that business exist. Answer No. So just from that, how can people possibly think that BLAM this earth and universe just happened. I would call that a lot more crazy to believe that without organization perfection just happens. Someone has to organize, look at your own lives what happens if YOU don't organize your life, it's a mess, it's caos. It's just plain laziness. If you go with churches and/or religion create war and turmoil in this world your right because all but one are created of man made philosophies mixed with teachings of Christ and we all know the philosophies of man are riddled with flaws. Again just look around. Our goal is to find the needle in the haystack or the one which teaches Jesus Christ's true doctrine because those teachings are of God not man therefore once again it must be perfect and correct. it
Atheists: "There is no such thing as right and wrong. Outside of religion being the devil."
Who said atheists don't think there is right or wrong?????? We just don't believe in sky wizards, we live i reality.
Who said atheists don't think there is right or wrong?????? We just don't believe in sky wizards, we live in reality.
I'm an atheist, and I've never heard an atheist say there was no such thing as right and wrong. Where did you pull that put of?
No, there's definitely right and wrong; we just don't need sky fairies and wizards to tell us what they are.
Ah this old chestnut, the most ironic, false and self-defeating of all the zealot arguments.
news flash. Every single moral you have, every rule you follow in civilised society, is a secular humanist law. All the laws we currently have came out of the age of reason, a backlash against centuries of secular 'moral' rule known as the dark ages. BECAUSE these morals came out of secular humanism and rejection of theological morality, they are recent. It crtainly wasnt divine morality that eliminated slavery, or allowed women to vote and own property: these are against the teachings of the bible. Every modern first world moral came from secular humanism, and a rejection of the horrific, bigoted violent 'morality' of the bible.
"Fine", a zealot might say, "but what about the core principles of modern morality, like 'not killing? Those exist today and are in the bible".
Firstly, you zealots did a pretty poor job of following that one for the last 2000 years. but then cherry picking the 'morals' of the bible you wish to follow is part and parcel of the standard hypocricy of religion. Ignore the 90% of the rules that you find inconvenient, and follow the 10% that happen to suit your desires. Do you think eating shellfish is an abomination? Do you think slavery should be legal and acceptable? Why not, those are Biblical morals!
Secondly, yes a few key morals like 'not killing' do exist in the Bible. So here is the challenge. i DARE you zealots to find one 'good' moral of the bible, just ONE, that does not also exist in codes of laws written long before the bible was ever dreamed up. just one.
Then how can you seriously claim ANY morality comes from your silly fairy tale?
Atheists do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do. We do the right thing without the need of a magical sky-daddy threatening us with eternal torture if we don't do the right thing.
So which of us is doing the right thing for the right reason?
If God created man in his own image and likeness... then why don't we all look the same? When they say "image and likeness" it means that we were created not in "looks" but with the ability to love and care for others as well as an inherent desire for good to come out of all things.
If Jesus is Lord, then who was he talking to on the cross? Most people, even atheists are aware of the father, son, spirit trinity so there's your answer.
If he's all powerful, then why allow himself to be killed? This is the best question of them all, because he HAD to. There was no other way for him to save humanity. In fact, he even prayed that it should not happen. He knew that he was going to be arrested and killed even before it happened.
If he said he was coming right back, then where is he 2000 years later? Good question
Jesus was a Rabbi teaching his followers Jewish law, so why do Christians hate jews and judaism? You are really mis-informed about this. If a "true" Christian "hates" somebody, then they are not really Christians. Scripture even says that if a man claims to be a Christian and hates his brother he is liar.
Why do Christians go on about love, understanding and tolerance, but then turn into bigoted, hateful idiots when their beliefs are challenged? Again, more misinformation. You must be reading too much about Westboro. There are people in my church who are multi-racial and gay. Everyone loves each other unconditionally. Again, if someone says they are Christian and "hates" someone, them they are not Christians... they are bigots.
If you are going to be an atheist at least read up a little bit about what you are bashing. I have more respect for an atheist who reads the bible and understands the tenets of Christianity than someone who just spouts off uneducated opinions.
If we all came from Adam and Eve, why are there so many different races?
Hmmm....come to think of it, everyody in my neighborhood and family do look a lot like Noah :-)
Most athieists have indeed read the Bible, and most came up thru childhoods steeped in relious education. it is precisely BECASE they have read the Bible that they now reject it.
“When they say "image and likeness" it means that we were created not in "looks" but with the ability to love and care for others as well as an inherent desire for good to come out of all things.”
Guess it didn’t work since religion has killed more people than any other cult. Then when you factor in that so many millions are starving to death every day –guess the selfishness and greed of people surpass believing in your rule book.
“ people, even atheists are aware of the father, son, spirit trinity so there's your answer.”
Proving he was delusional since he was actually talking to himself.
“ There was no other way for him to save humanity.” Supposedly your god created man, knowing it was going to become screwed up then sacrifices himself to himself to reconcile his mistake – wow that is one stupid god.
“ There are people in my church who are multi-racial and gay. Everyone loves each other unconditionally. Again, if someone says they are Christian and "hates" someone, them they are not Christians... they are bigots.”
Then there are a lot of Christian bigots walking around.
Many atheists in the Western world came from a Christian background. I myself was brought up as a Roman Catholic. I dare say that many of the atheists I have met are far more knowledgeable about Christianity than most of the Christians I have met. I have read the KJV version of the bible all the way through, on my own, without being led by some preacher who cherry-picks verses to make one point or another. I have not spoken to a Christian yet who has read their bible in its entirety, which means that there are many many people who claim to be "bible believing" that do not even know for themselves what is in it.
Also, before you criticize atheists for not studying Christianity before rejecting it, you should look in a mirror. Have you studied all other religions on planet Earth – or even the specifics of all the various Christian sects – before settling on your avowed beliefs? My guess is probably not. How then would you know that Buddhism or Hinduism or voodoo are not true if you had not studied them? Practice what you preach. Most people fall into their belief systems, not through critical analysis or comparison (a scientific approach) but rather because they were born into it.
You yourself reject all religions but one. I reject only one more than you.
Most Atheists know more about what is in the bible than any christian. It's called know thy enemy. I am always amazed at how little christians know of what is in their own bible. That's because they don't want to read it, too lazy. They want some guy on a pulpit to tell them what to believe is in it and what it says. Most of the time the preachers are lying to their sheeple. Don'y you ever wonder why christian leaders like to refer to the people who attend church as a Flock of Sheep? It's because sheep go where told and do what they are told without question.
Science builds modern jet planes.
Religion flies them into buildings.
Adolf Hitler, the lifelong Christian who spent most of his time fulfilling the primary goal of the medieval Christian church (exterminating Judaism), was subject to over 40 assassination attempts in his career. He survived every one, and only three really came close. As Hitler himself openly admitted, he could not possibly have survived all these assassination attempts without the grace of god on his side.
So after protecting Hitler, god sat back and ate celestial popcorn while Hitler committed mass genocide against Jews, but also dozens of other groups and unfortunates in the count of millions.
But wait, god wasnt done. When all those poor slaughtered jews arrived in the afterlife, god lets out an evil chuckle.
"You think THAT was bad? sure Zyklon-B might seem pretty nasty, but you see, none of you believe in JC, the son I had tortured to death on earth. So as a punctuation mark to your torturous genocide at the hands of Hitler, I'm going to send you all, good and bad, men and women, innocents and evil, to eternal torture screaming in hell.
But dont forget, I am a pure good and loving god!!"
Wasn't Hitler's mom Jewish? So in turn, that makes Hitler Jewish.
No, thats a myth (propagated during the war). Hitlers mother was not Jewish.
Isn't the Pope German? TAX all RELIGIONS!
Shouldn't Bill Maher be there? lol
I find it a bit hypocritical of Christians going against their "book" to protest against something and passing judgement on others.
Those that "believe" think they know jack. Atheists take the stand that "there is no jack". Agnostics respond that if there is a Jack it is unknowable by our kind and, as such, reject the "words of man" (as revised over and over by man) as actually coming from "Jack".
Yeah, hit the nail on the head.
Rather ironic when atheists treat their non-believe as it's own religion.
That is as silly as thinking that OFF is just another channel on your television.
Yes, relying on beliefs is totally factual and solid. I see your point. That's why I praise Zues – just as believable as any other god(s).
CHEESE FOR EVERYONE! Oh wait, no, cheese for no one. That can be as much a celebration as well if you don't like cheese.
and how, might they ask, are they treating atheism as a religion? It seems that here all they are trying to do is be recognized as a demographic.
"and how, might I ask" - excuse my typo.
*non-belief, and you could'nt be more wrong.
Let the atheists and westboro baptist loonies have their own country. We'll give them New Jersey.
I say we kick out the Christians or put them in mental hospitals.
Spoken with a majority-rules mentality that backed the Inquisitions and other force-fed religious beliefs on the masses. Mighty nice of you to give us a state as you choose.
It's insulting and proves your ignorance to put atheists in the same category as the West Borough Baptist Church. A group of people who have no belief in a higher power and gather together with like minded people are not loonies. You rarely see a group of atheists protest religious events in public. You want to know why? Because atheists believe that people have the freedom to their beliefs. We are simply trying to stop the religious bigots in this country from trying to create laws based on religion. If you think it's ok to run the country based on religious beliefs verses what is fair by the law you better be careful, because you are quickly becoming the minority, which means we can take your religious rights away just as quick as you try to limit ours as atheists. You are proof why religion needs to have a mussel put on it in this country. Want to know what countries have the highest quality of life, are happier, and doing better financially? The ones that have the highest number of atheists...FACT!!!!!
So angry NR! You must already live in New Jersey.
What are these guys complaining about, they're not being slapped around like the gays, Muslims, and sometimes the Latinos so why are they going out, protesting, and demanding "equality?"
Since the dominant and reigning mythologies of the day are all secular, it's tantamount to wealthy, white, country clubbers bawling discrimination.
I didn't realize "Latino" was a religion ...
Try holding public office and admitting you're an atheist. States are now passing laws requiring scientific facts like evolution to be dumbed down and taught alongside "intelligent design" as if they were equal theories. But yeah, reason and non-belief aren't under attack.
Can you please name an atheist President? Can you please name more than two atheists in Congress? Didn't think so...
@Brett: Jefferson and Franklin are answers to your questions. Politically, people aren't "allowed" to be atheists because it scares people into questioning their veracity. Ironically, it's just the opposite – disclosed atheists says they're athiests, i.e., the truth. Further, over the millenia, has been caused by the ones claiming religion
My 95 year old Dad says that if there were really a god he or she would have made man without a mouth or an a.. hole!!
When I listen to the politicians spew their right wing religious views I am often reminded of his words
I hope the Westboro' church threatens Zimmerman
Zimmerman don't attack people who threaten him! He only attacks harmless and unarmed black kids going about their business! Overgrown crockadile look-a-like!
Florida, of course, just allowed students in public schools to make one minute "inspirational" speeches on campus. These bozos are thinking something along the lines of why jesus is so wonderful. I wish some precocious sixth grader would recite Mark Twain's prayer about war : something like dear god help us to cut out the livers and hearts of our enemys and smash their towns and destroy their families forever and ever, amen.
It would serve these hypocritcal blow hard born again flag waving service avoiding Florida politicians right.
Richard Dawkins and Pat Robertson. What's the difference? None at all. They're both pompous, self-righteous zealots who want to impose their notion of sure truth on the rest of us.
Dawkins can be extreme, it's true. But the fact remains that the mistrust and inequality atheists have to deal with is immense, particularly since we're living in the 21st century.
only Robertson tries to force his beliefs on everyone else.
Non-theists don't try to evangelize, they just want to be protected form someone else's religious beliefs being forced on them thru legislation.
I feel that there are parallels between smoking pot and atheism in this country... namely that both are WIDELY underreported. The actual number of potsmokers is undoubtably higher than the official counts. Same goes for atheism. Both have a negative stigma and, as such, people rarely cop up to it for fear of being judged.
Richard Dawkins is a great man in my opinion. His mission it seems is to communicate to all humans to realize and take advantage of the amazing opportunity we have to advance as a race. He's tried for so long to explain that the human race has this chance to make new discoveries about ourselves and the universe. I find it sad that he is so opposed by so many. It's time for us to take responsibility for ourselves and stop killing in the name of God...
You need something to create something. Nothing cannot create anything.
I am organizing a rally for people who dont believe in ufos. Date and time to be announced soon!!!!!
God can't come from nothing, either. Your argument solves nothing. And if you think that god "always was" then you can just as easily say that the energy that formed the universe "always was".
Existence is bizarre and difficult to explain, but saying "god did it" is as sensible as the homunculus problem.
Emotion is the driving factor for religion and belief, fear of the unknown. Intellect is separate and logical.
As a person who rejects the unverifiable, frequently contradictory bronze-age mythology of the common monotheistic beliefs (which often conflict with our modern morals – slavery or genocide, anyone?) I’m glad to see that my fellow rational thinkers are making their presence known. Pity I couldn’t be there this weekend, but I’ll be there “in spirit.”
Uh, belief in a Supreme Being, God or whomever, ain't from the bronze age, bubba. It's from a lot longer than that. If you're going to make a holier-than-thou statement like the above (lol, "holier-than-thou", sorry, couldn't resist) then make it more cogent.
The Bronze age in the Middle East started around 3200 BCE. So this is right around the time your version of a god was cobbled together from other minor deities worshiped by other tribes in the area.
Atheists aren't saying throw God and his message out. The movement is about learning to co exist peacefully without religious beliefs competing with one another and the damage that can be done. Morals, values and ethics are still on the table. I have to admit though, irrational as it may seem, people obey religious laws in order to be rewarded in the afterlife. Take away the afterlife and many will just do as they please.
I think if you take away the afterlife people will throw the unnecessary religious laws out (many already have) such as not working on the sabbath and wearing clothing made of two or more types of cloth. The necessary religious laws are also average laws in most countries such as murder and theft. Most athiests (and really anyone else) won't do these things anyway because they generally follow the golden rule and there are legal repercussions that nobody enjoys from committing crimes.
I am an Orthodox Christian. If, when I die, I find that there is no God nor Heaven, I will be at peace knowing that I've lived a pretty decent life and treated others kindly. But, if in fact I find that there is, I will have pity for you 'attention seeking lost souls'.
@Mr. Nes: So, you admit you believe for insurance? Doesn't God know that then?
None of us would be here without the pre life or after life. All things natural point to God. Open your eyes and take a look around. It's just easier for some people to do nothing. If this group of people believed that there is a God they would then be known as believers and therefore would have to make change to their lives and worship God which usually requires their time and added effort. What i don't understand is how these people can be so blind as to the absolute perfect organization of the universe and the natural order of mother nature on this earth. Do businesses just get up and start operating and grow by themselves. No. Think about it. Somebody starts the business, somebody organizes the business. somebody staffs the business. What would happen if there wasn't that person there to plan and start that business would that business exist. Answer No. So just from that, how can people possibly think that BLAM this earth and universe just happened. I would call that a lot more crazy to believe that without organization perfection just happens. Someone has to organize, look at your own lives what happens if YOU don't organize your life, it's a mess, it's caos. It's just plain laziness. If you go with churches and/or religion create war and turmoil in this world your right because all but one are created of man made philosophies mixed with teachings of Christ and we all know the philosophies of man are riddled with flaws. Again just look around. Our goal is to find the needle in the haystack or the one which teaches Jesus Christ's true doctrine because those teachings are of God not man therefore once again it must be perfect and correct.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.