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.”
Prayer changes things .
Prove it. And I'd love to hear you reading the Old Testament to children and then telling me atheism is unhealthy.
Not any more than just believing really hard that something will or won't happen. You don't need to throw a made up deity or his supposed son into the mix.
This posting is from a spam robot. There is no-one of faith behind it.
That billboard should say "There is no good without God". Without an absolute moral standard, all we can do is make up what is good and bad. Good luck with that as it doesn't workso well.
"God" is not an absolute moral standard, as not everyone believes in him.
True, we absolutely do need moral standards, but they don't have to claim justification by any one (out of many) religous schools of thought. An atheist can conduct him or herself just as morally as a "true believer".
Human morality is far more complex than the simplistic duality you just described, Mike. It is entirely possible for humanity to follow morals within some divine babysitter telling us what is right and wrong. In fact, if there is no god, humanity has been doing it for millennia.
Christian fallacy #293: If you're not a Christian then you are immoral
By your logic Mike any society that is not christian should be in chaos. That is simply not the case.
Morals and ethics evolved from the success of the group, basic anthropology, no religion required.
Absurd. With thinking like that it's obvious your lack of critical reasoning skills allow you to believe in the boogie man.
Or we could use our intelligence to rationally decide what is right and wrong, instead of basing those decisions on a heavily edited book that is very out of date.
What's you evidence for there being 'no good without god"? So much killing and taking away freedoms in the name of religion. Where is the good in your fairytales?
Since there is no God, there has never been a morality imposed by him. Somehow we've made it alright anyway.
When did absolute good require a collection plate and TV ministries?
As an atheist, I find this whole business repugnant. The entire concept of atheism is that you don't believe that there is a God. These shenanigans do nothing except portray us as a "group"...which makes it look like we're trying to promote atheism as a religion. That makes us look stup!d.
This is nothing more than an event to capitalize on atheism for profitability...they're trying to create a brand so next there'll be t-shirts, coffee cups, etc to be sold and money to be made.
It's patheticly transparent.
Atheism has now been adopted as a new religion.
The purpose as I see it is to attempt to garner at the very least respect for those who choose not to believe and at the most bring people into the "reasonable" fold so that we might have one less bigot or one less creationist so in turn the people they touch will be free to think and love like they will without fighting the overbearing thesis perspective in our society
He who has the last laugh: Saying that Atheism is a religion is like saying not playing poker is a hobby.
I think you're missing the point. As a fellow non-theist, I've run into many non-theists who came to that place kind of how they came to like art rock, odd political figures like Ron Paul and people generally disliked by others. In other words, they like to be different. It's a perpetual college antiestablishment worldview that follows them forever.
It sounds like you're resenting the rallies, as if atheism is all about "being different" or no being part of a group. No, we simply don't believe in the religious myths that permeate our culture. What's wrong with making a statement - collectively - in favor of our belief system, and call attention to the fact that yes, we ARE shunned and discriminated against in the hyper-religious US.
I applaud people brave enough to rally for atheism. Maybe they can pull that off in New York or DC. You would NEVER see that happen in Arizona, where I'm from, or in many other states. I'd fear for my life, marching the streets of Phoenix for atheism. Literally. People carry guns out here and they don't mess around with those without respect for their bible.
The point is that they gather and evangelize as if they were a religion.
They aren't evangelizing any more than people who fight for women's rights or the Treyvon Martin rallies in the last week. It's to create awareness about a point, not evangelizing about a god or gods.
Amazing how the hatred and fear comes out of a group of people who espouse "love thy neighbor." Freedom of religion includes the freedom to not believe. Atheism deserves equal recognition under our laws.
"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
– Mahatma Gandhi.
Good Point John,
We all know what happens when "WE" attempt to convert people.. you get the crusades, inquisitions, The removal of culture from the American Indians...Jesus Christ never told us to "WAR" and destroy people to convert them just tell 'em how much in detail God loves them and leave them with the option to accept or reject. There is no way under the sun that a man or woman knows what another person is going through or thinking, but we leave that to a omnipotent God who'll touch people in a His own unique way.
@goobernutt – according to the bible, we don't choose to accept or reject. I'll let you read it yourself: Rom 8:21-30, Rom 9:15-16, Rom 9:21, Rom 9:11-13. Unless of course, the bible is wrong.
@Truth – God's Omnipotent – but we leave that to a omnipotent God who'll touch people in His own unique way. You tell 'em what Jesus Christ said, and leave it at that and you tell 'em in sincere love. If Jesus Christ came not to judge the world, then who do we think we are judging the world? Like I said, Crusades, Inquisitions etc...Man, not listening to Jesus Christ, but using his own rules of judgement. II Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. The problem is we want to be judge, jury and executioner. We have a problem with God's longsuffering towards the world and want to exact our own justice which makes us no better then the people we are trying to witness the "The Good News" to. Never understood how you spread the good news with bullets, swords and murder? That my friend is an oxymoron and it won't fly with God as He doesn't contradict Himself regarding salvation.
Wish I could be there ... so tired of the god fanatics trying to push their religion on everyone - time to let folks know that not all of us are overcome by the god delusion.
Are agnostics invited?
For many, Atheism is a result of the ridiculous picture presented by the worlds religions, who have distorted the understanding of God. In my opinion God exists, but who could believe what the religions teach. The reality is much more palatable.
God exists and does what?
It's about time. Stand up for what you don't believe!!! ;-)
90 something of humans are born non-gay. ALL humans are born as atheists. Coming out is not only an inappropriate analogy, it's also a completely unnecessary negative image one. Gives the religiously insane one target to attack two completely unrelated innocent groups
5,000 people?!?!?! LOL, the one little church I go to attracts more than 5,000 on an average Sunday.
There are over 300 million people in the U.S. Sounds like someone has their work cut out for themselves.
Give them time to grow their ranks. It was not all that long ago in the history of humankind that speaking such things as they do would mean death. I fail to see the humor.
It is time to stop padering to the minorites in our population. If your an Atheist, good for you. Turn your back on worship or a public prayer, just keep your mouth shut and have a little curtousy for those that do wish to participate.
He who has the last laugh: No free speech rights for Atheist ... brilliant!!!
Collection plates have great marketing experience and expertise behind them. Don't you feel guilty if you pass, especially in a pew with your friends and neighbors watching??????
No, you don't want "EQUALITY"... you want to take away the rights of EVERYONE else who does believe in God. It offends your very delicate sensibilities to have to live in a world where people talk of God so you want to destroy anything and everything to do with someone else's belief. Very "evolved" thinking you have there.
Are you serious? Give me an example of an atheist movement to take away any of your rights.
No, I completely support your right to believe in whoever or whatever you want, and to participate in any religion that you choose. But, I DO NOT support your right to try and impose it on me.
Really Gordon, how about prayer before a football game or at a high school graduation. Those are foremost a freedom and a right that you and your friends wish to abolish. You don't have to paticipate in them, leave the rest of us alone.
How are you so repressed? Because you aren't supposed to pray aloud in school or something? Why do you need to attract attention to yourself through your religion? If god knows so much about you, he knows when you are worshiping and praying – whether it's out loud or not. No one can keep you from your religion. It sounds like you are more offended that you can't be as narcissistic as you want to be.
Praying for the injury bounty not to work against your players?
OK, the atheists decry the atrocities of a few fanatical religious followers (and use that as a rationale for disbelieving in God). In other words, their argument is against organized religion, not God. But what has atheism given us, really? Selfish hedonism? Does the world need more of that? Isn't the "Me" generation enough?
Care to explain how atheism has given us "selfish hedonism"?
I do believe that an honest look will show you many, many, selfish hedonists who are (or at least claim to be) devout followers of some religion or other.
Atheists don't have collection plates. What has religion conned from you over the years?
A 'few" is a number between 3 and 10. As in, you have "a few" brain cells.
BRC challenges, "Care to explain how atheism has given us 'selfish hedonism'?" You have got to be kidding me. Hedonism itself is defined as "is a school of thought which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain)." In other words, no ethics or morality are required. If there is a school of ethical atheists, they are a rare exception to the rule. As a general rule, theists believe that we can rise above our selfish nature; atheists believe that we can indulge our selfish nature. Again, this is a general rule of thumb; there are exceptions.
tony scibbles: "Atheists don't have collection plates. What has religion conned from you over the years?" Please read my post. You are confusing theism with religion. There is a difference. Note to myself: "use smaller words when writing posts; using big words apparently confuses many."
The question should not be whether God exists, but “what does God mean to you?” Everybody believes in God, but in what form? I think the most tension has revolved around what anthropomorphic (human) characteristics that God has.
No they don't.
Put them in a plane at 30 thousand feet in a bad storm and turbulence. Bet the average Athiest says a prayer then.
To "He Who Has" – if you put religious people into planes at 30,000 feet, they crash them into buildings.
Billions and billions don't – And those are just the ones who died before Christ was born. Then there are all the trillions of animals, birds, insects who are just the ones alive today.
What do you believe in .Everyone does believe in something
True. I, for example, believe you are wrong.
Do you know "everyone?"
I believe Jesus is the Savoir of Man Kind sent by the Father for the forgiveness of sin.
Since I started increasing my knowledge and growth in the "Word" my life exploded, it is apples and oranges in comparison. I had lots of questions, I have recieved my answers, and God is by faith alone. Now you are in darkness, I will pray for your light.
Father in Heaven,
I speak to you through Jesus Christ. Please grab these people by the heart and make them into winners of souls.
Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.
– Christopher Hitchens
Of course you believe in Jesus, you live in a nation that was founded by people that believe in Jesus. The media of your nation uses word like "miracle" or "faith" when referring to incidents that are completely unrelated to matters of religion. In effect you are conditioned by your environment and the history of your nation to lead toward Christianity in the same way someone in Israel is conditioned to lead toward Judaism or someone in Iran to Islam.
If you decide you love Pepsi it is most likely because you have tried Dr Pepper, Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew and decided on your own tastes and experiences that Pepsi is for you. However 99.99% of the theistic world have chosen their faith based upon zero introduction to any other faith which means your faith was not actually a choice which also means professing your faith is completely invalid because it comes from a place of ignorance of every other faith out there.
So sorry not to high five you over your belief in Jesus, but mythology is still mythology just like all the other deities out there that one exists nowhere in any historical record and is merely the expression of many mythological allegories that have existed long before and long after that one was purported to have walked the earth and then flown up into the clouds for everyone to see (yet for some reason nobody ever made an historical record of and in which somehow still did not convince everyone around he was the son of god.... I mean honestly how often does a guy really fly into the clouds?)
I'm glad that you believe as you do, and that your beliefs bring you peace of mind and a sense of fulfillment. However, I do not share your beliefs, and want the same right to hold true to that which I believe in as I grant to you.
You're another arrogant christian...which in itself is an oxymoron.
If having faith in the Christian god means that I have to spend eternity around the Westboro Baptist Church, I'll choose hell; or, at least heck. Heck will at least have booze.
The Westboro Church is no more representative of Christians than Nazis are of Germans.
I have full confidence that you consider yourself a logical person, but your so-called "logic" is known as the classical logical fallacy known as "denying the antecedent": For example, "If Queen Elizabeth is an American citizen, then she is a human being; Queen Elizabeth is not an American citizen; therefore, Queen Elizabeth is not a human being.
Well, you too; and them, and them, and them, and, woah, especially them; and them, and them...you get my meaning.
WBC is an abomination for all people, Xians or not. That is why most of the most vocal critics of WBC are Xians making it clear that these deluded and hate-filled people have as much to do with Jesus as Adolph Hitler did. Just because you try to associate yourself with a group by claiming membership doesn't mean you are part of that group.
I'm sorry if basic logic seems out of reach for you but this does indicate why there is poo on your face.
Wish I was going just so I could see Bad Religion play.
I wonder if Prof. Dawkins will mention that after years of research the Vatican scientists have finally successfully crossed a pickle with a deer to create a Dill-Doe . The new hybrid will be shipped out to all Catholic priests by mid-May.
Oh, come on. That's just a phallus-y.
I'm sure the priests will send you back wheb the receive you.
I used to think I was an atheist but years of contemplation makes for the realization that agnosticism is more my speed. It's arrogance to assume there is nothing greater than ourselves out there just because we can't see it. The universe is a big place. What if we are just a sub-atomic particle of a larger being — maybe somewhere deep inside this greater being's kidney? What if that being is something like a dog or a cat rather than a self-aware sentient? It can't be proven any more than the various religions can prove the existence of their versions of afterlife reward/punishment scenario. As far as I am concerned, there may well be a greater power but he/she/it is no more aware of us than we can be of a sub-atomic particle in our own self-contained little universes defined as a human body. Imagine little solar systems with flourishing civilizations wondering the same things deep inside my pancreas ...
Another question: If we ever meet intelligent life on other planets, I wonder what belief system they will have? Will they have their Jesus, Mohammed, or whatever? Will they be monotheists or believe in many gods, or no gods at all?
You're right to not be an atheist as an atheist cannot believe in aliens because there is no proof of aliens.
I am an Unitarian-Universalist. (testing).
I believe in an afterlife. I believe that consciousness is not a property of matter or matter-organized energy. I do NOT belive in a hell for all, and a heaven for none. These -holies- first say there is a hell of eternal agony, and then work to shut the door to heaven against as many as they can !
Your reply is the very reason why the Reason Rally needs to exist.
Unitarian-Universalist? It rarely occurs to oneself that one's ideas are hardly unique until others spring forth with their own. I've heard of Unitarian but not the rest of it. Still, I believe dead is dead though maybe whatever essence we had that made us who we are simply drifts back into some cosmic pool to be used again somewhere else. Maybe that's afterlife. Will that essence be aware? Will it wear the clothes it died in? Who knows. I can't prove or disprove any of it. It's just fun to think about.
The biggest non-event of the year in my book. Who cares about this? Quit wasting your news space on this tripe, CNN. This should fall into the entertainment section not the belief section since atheists do not believe in anything.
Who says we don't believe in anything? I simply don't believe in the existence of mythological, supernatural, anthropomorhic "gods".
You cared enough to write a reply.
Actually, this is the BEST place for the article.
founding fathers that did not believe in god, start with Benjamin Franklin. He said that he wished the country had more light houses and less churches because light houses at least had a purpose. Thomas Jefferson wrote his own bible leaving out most of the new testament because he believed the story of Jesus was a crock. Washington also was not a true believer. I am sure there are others but those are main ones that I know of.
They believed in God...they were Deists. They were not Christians.
Your claim is historically ignorant.
Ben Franklin was a deist (a removed God but one that exists) as best as can be determined.
Madison certainly believed in God and his own letters attest to the fact (http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/8/Letter_from_James_Madison_to_Frederick_Beasley_1.html).
Jefferson believed in God although not a supernatural Jesus. That is why he helped provide bibles and other needs for church missions.
Engraved on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. are the words of our third President:
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Obviously Jefferson believed in a Creator God.
The founders weren't atheists.
Amazingly, many of those who claim, "reason, science and facts" seem ignorant of all three.
Jim is 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.