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.”
Atheists.. "god doesnt exist. But were going to pay 300 grand to prove we do" .. What a pointless task. I dont think people have any trouble believing atheists exist. I think the athiests missed that point..
How could anyone miss it? You keep posting it over and over? Just like your religion, keep repeating the prayers until you actually believe them.
No, actually you've missed the point: from George H.W. Bush saying that atheists aren't American to the current far-right preaching about the evils of non-believers, it is important for atheists to take a stand and demand equality. African Americans did not truly gain equality until they demanded it via protests. The gay movement has made great strides but, again, they had to raise their voices as well. Ditto women's rights. The point is that you don't get treated fairly until you have the guts to stand up and demand equality.
I think some people just want to avoid understanding.
The rally is for solidarity. We don't want to be considered the equivalent of rapists on a moral level any more. We don't want to be condescended to when we tell people of our lack of belief. We don't want the myth that morals come from a holy book or religious upbringing any more, and we certainly want to stop the abusive indoctrination.
Most importantly, we want parents to teach their kids to make their own choices and have the skills to decide for themselves. Otherwise they will grow up letting others decide for them.
Poor Crad..... you're fixated on this 300k. Does your pastor need new shoes or something? And you're trying to paint atheism as a religion. You probably think Disney Land is an actual country.
Why does the link say "Atheist Lawmakers Lying" with no reference in this blog? Was this edited?
Faux News linking to this site?
See you at the National Mall on Saturday!
These people are turning atheism into its own religion, and before long we will be killing each other over whether it should be called the American Atheist Alliance, or the Unified Atheist League.
Then there will be battles over why people use tables when they have perfectly good tummies to eat on. It is a dangerous path.
No they're not. They're just looking for recognition as opposed to be being treated as second class citizens.
I thout being an atheist meant not believing in god, not seeking 300 thousand dollars worth of acceptance?
all the children of abraham, jews, christians, muslims, hating and killing, brilliant !!! there are over a thousand religions in africa, alone, that make more sense.
I wish I could attend this rally. I'm an atheist. I've come out of the closet to my family and my friends who are all fairly religious and it was a hard thing to do. They still don't really get it or accept it. I hate feeling as if I've done something wrong and am a "bad" person. That's why I've always had so much empathy for the LGBT community. I've have a ton of gay friends and never gave it any thought until someone in public points it out. I'd rather be a gay atheist than a believer any day.
I hope they have a rally on the west coast!! If they ever do I'll be there flying my "atheist" flag!
From a gay Atheist, thanks! :-)
So.blowing 300 grand to march down the street will make you feel like you arent wrong about your beliefs? Sounds like a crutch to me
“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase
Of all of the supposed virtues, faith is the most overrated – Chistopher Hitchens
Faith may be over-rated but what happens if Christians know the Truth. When you are standing in front of my heavenly Father, be sure and let him know I told you He was real.
Smith, don't pull that Pascal's Wager nonsense on us. What if the Muslims are right? Then you're screwed, aren't you?
I highly doubt that, keep your faith though. I have nothing against it but quit pushing it on us.
H. Smith. Chill. Actually I'm not real. I just exist in your mind. Oh..and that extra time you spend in washroom? I can see what you're doing. You will go blind if you keep that up.
How can you be sure the "heavenly father" won't have to answer to me?
I suppose that if Christians knew the "Truth" (good thing we're not absolutists) then i supposed that I'd want to be standing in front of a Supreme Being with a life of intellectual honesty behind me and not professing a faith that i was adopting as an insurance hedge. But that's just me....
"When you are standing in front of my heavenly Father, be sure and let him know I told you He was real."
Do religious people even realize when they're being arrogant and self-righteous? Do they care? Do they even understand that this, above most other things religion brings to the world, is what Atheists despise about religion?
All we ever ask is that you keep your beliefs to yourself, but you just can't, can you? You're so convinced of your own superiority that you feel obligated to force the rest of us to believe as you do....and even when you finally realize that you can't actually force that on others, you pretend that it doesn't matter because to you we don't have a choice in the matter....we MUST believe.
It's quite an impressive self-reinforcing delusion that religious people get themselves all caught up in though.
One day everyone will know the Truth. Christian's are "pushing" the Truth because we don't want anyone to suffer the consequences for their unbelief. For most of us, we are doing it out of friendship and love. By the way, true Christians think the same thing you do about the Westboro Church.
What if the Christians are not the chosen, and the Muslims or Hindus got the real plan to get to heaven?
faith noun: 2. belief that is not based on proof -dictionary.com
They are polar opposites and therefore do not coexist. It's a nonsensical statement but keep right on posting it.
"For most of us, we are doing it out of friendship and love."
I guess that answers my question.....they don't actually know when they're being arrogant and self-righteous.
Read the books "Evidence Demands a Verdict" with an OPEN mind and then we can talk.
What appears before you eyes, your ears and your touch is what it is as it is sensed, a possible illusion but what lies in your heart can be only felt and exhaled by words spoken or printed , not even in a illusion which makes the passion of religion so dangerous!
Pascal's Wager: the philosophical notion that, given the best and worst of all possible outcomes, it is wisest to be a Muslim.
“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase
An omniscient "God" would know *precisely* what proof is acceptable to each and every one of us individually.
An omnipotent "God" would be able to provide it.
An all-loving "God" would do so.
Read the books "Evidence Demands a Verdict" with an OPEN mind...
If YOUR mind is OPEN, you are not finished until you read:
Real Deal – Your reply goes right back to my quote by Stuart Chase. No matter what, it will never be enough for you to believe in God and Jesus. Also, looks like you got an "A" in Logic class. I'd rather fail Logic and believe in something that matters for eternity.
I find this a bit disconcerting. One reason I chose atheism is due to the lack of mandatory meetings.
They call Sunday the day of rest but still they go and bug Jesus while he is trying to watch the damn football game.
Seriously, I like having my Sunday mornings to sleep in.
Where does this say mandatory?
Exactly. I thought the whole point of atheism was to be free from religious activites. Blowing 300 grand to march down the street while one can be at home sleeping in or doing some housework sounds very odd.. The real athiests are probably embarrased
To me, I didn't have a choice really....it was logically inevitable that I would be an Atheist.
But this is not "mandatory", just as much as church isn't for the religious. The difference is that if you choose not to attend the Reason Rally, you won't get a huge guilt trip for missing it the way you would for missing church!
yeah but they serve free wine and crakers at mass...
I guess you could call me an atheist but I am not sure I was ever " in the closet" over it. I just don't give a lick about it either way. I am, however, often very upset by theists attempting to use their views to regulate how we all live. Religious people often feel that their god and their beliefs in the righteousness of their cause gives them the right to define society. The current debate over birth control is a case in point. What do their beliefs have to do with other people's private lives? Why do they think that their dogma has to be the way society is structured? That is what the Taliban and it's ilk do in their societies and we don't want that here, do we?
Very nicely put
If people created religion then they modeled it after their own personal beliefs. There is no mention of the pill in the Bible. One man decided it was a bad thing and he's blatantly ignored by most of his followers.
Thank you, Jack Watcher. That is exactly the problem.
Conservatives are not telling people they can't use it, we are against being forced to pay for it.
@ ladyfon – The cost of prescription meds will be covered in the individual premiums.
Or else – I demand that none of mt premiums be used to provide care or prescriptions for fundamentalist christians. If you need pills or a doctor, pay for it yourself, or better yet, just be happy that you're going home to Jesus sooner.
I am assembling my SMITE list. Please submit your referrals for my consideration before the rally begins. Thank-you
(poof– off into the clouds)
Hey god, been a while since you actually performed a 'miracle'. What have performance anxiety now that there are such things as Cameras?
You finally got it up last night.
God – thank you for allowing Kim Kardashian get hit with a flour bomb!
@pushing back: lmfao
What a load of crap.
Religion? I know.
Qs, exactly.. It really does look like religion doesnt it? Blowing 300 grand to march down the street and proclaim your beliefs
A Christian's reasoning: Only a very powerful god could so effectively conceal all evidence of his own existence, therefore god must exist.
You haven't read very much, have you?
Nj bob. That is like the reasoning of a 4 year old. What in the world are you talking about? Ad by the way, i see evidence of god everywhere, including the conversations i have with "it" every single day..
@Crad - You are conversing with yourself!
A question of genuine interest, how do you speak to "God". Does it reply?
@Crad - I'll bet you and god are in complete agreement nearly 100% of the time, right?
You are aware there are many other forms of communication than human english correct? I know you think god is a big giant sitting on a golden throne with a beard on a cloud that talks like thunder... But thats your goofy belief, they sold you a bad bill of goods.. So you mock me for it? Weird. And my communication with god isnt about agreement or disagreement. I dont ask for things or wish on him like a genie. Once again, thats your corny beliefs. You guys are so off base and then you mock me for your silly interpretations of what god is.. Its so sad.. Really
You said conversation, that implies speaking. IF it is something else, fine, describe that something else. I wasn't mocking you and said nothing inflamitory. Honest question, how do you communicate with the being you believe is "God", and how do you recieve a response?
The same way two particles communicate. Instantaneously, outside the framework of time. A conversation with god isnt a back and forth, and the word "conversation" is only used in terms of semantics, as i have no other way to label it. Its a form of communication that is without words or ideas, and outside the boundries of time constraints. It is prayer in its truest form. No matter what i say it would sound "crazy" to the nonbeliever, and im smart enough not to waste my time trying to argue. Ad yes, everything about these posts has implications of mockery. Once again, words arent always needed.
Percieve mockery if you wish, none was implied. I disagree with you, and my mind is incapable of accepting your premise without you being able to provide any evidence (saying it's so complex it cannot be explained is not evidence). I am not a person of faith, but I have nothing against faith. I am all for it in fact; but I am against religion. So, when I asked how you communicate with your perception of "God", it was innocent curiosity. Many people are capable of pursuing information purely for the sake of the information, without any agenda. IF you are unable or unwilling to accept that, your loss.
Though, I should say this. Your comments on this topic have generally been agressive, sometimes even derisive, and rarely if ever as a basis for starting a 2 way conversation. Perhaps if you feel you are being mocked, you should try being less combative to avoid drawing fire.
I support this movement too.
So basically Stuart Chase is saying theists have no evidence for God while accusing atheists of rejecting the evidence of God...except even the theists in his cute little soundbite tacitly admit there is no proof.
I think many of us atheists would be willing to believe if someone could only show us irrefutable, conclusive evidence of god's existence, but you'll have to excuse us if we don't find a 2,000 year-old book of Bronze- and Iron-Age myths to be very convincing.
That line is very much mistaken. If my glass of water suddenly turns to Wine. I WILL believe. If the Red Sea suddenly parts and can be video taped, I WILL believe. But do not give me a bunch of crap written by man, edited by man, printed by man and claim it is the word of god.
Nj bob. Nothing you see or hear would be proof enough. Besides. If i could prove god existed how then would you have freewill to not believe in him? Wuldnt that be a bit of a problem?
@ Crad – you cannot have an omnipotent, omniscient god and free will.
Anything that angers the Westbooro Baptist Church is OK with me.
Because thats pret much what the movement is about, angering other people..
@ crad..Certainly working on you eh?SLOWLY NOW..It's not about anger(religious anger is another subject),It's about helping people to stop fearing religious bigotry and expose hypocrisy!!Relax,no-one wants to take away your bible.YET!
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”-Stephen Roberts (My apologies if this quote is attributed to the wrong person)
I understand what the atheist group is trying to do but they may be going about it the wrong way. I understand how it feels to be looked at differently simply because you don't believe in "God" or you don't believe Jesus rose from the dead. My Grandmother-in law is very religious and prays every time the family gets together to eat, I don't say and thing just close my eyes and bow my head out of respect but it still makes me feel awkward.
What's amusing is what they want is "equality." From where, pray tell, do you get the notion that we should concern ourselves with the rights of others? Where in your atheism do you ground such concerns? Lets assume that you're right that religion is a power ploy. Why should religious people stop? And what would be different about the world when atheists get into power? Wouldn't they, like religious people, also concern themselves with remaining in power for their own ends? The problem with atheists appealing to rights is they open the door to metaphysics. And right around the corner of metaphysics is God and thus religion.
Wow when you miss the point you don't mess around.
Passive aggressive comments, Mindlayr, is just another power ploy like atheists propose religion is. You obviously have no substantive comment to give.
With logic like that, it's no wonder you're working at the Qwik-e-mart. Dante would be proud.
And here is the main issue I have with the religious. My concern for others is certainly not based on religion, since i am not at all religious. I believe in the golden rule. And it is do unto all others, be they any religion or no religion. The idea that you have to believe in a god to be a good person is
ridiculous and the height of conceit.
Typical spiralling logic..
Oh jeez – here comes the standard erroneous tagline of bigotry by atheists. This is a typical atheist tactic by LBGT and atheist agendas – attack theists and then claim the thiests are intolerant and bigoted. I have a newsflash for LBGT and atheists – theists telling you they disagree with your beliefs or lifestyle is not intolerance or bigotry.
@TC, no, but attempting to have legislation put in place that makes people who don't follow your religion live by its rules IS prejudiced.
Actually, it is bigotry and intolerance when those theists in positions of power abuse their authority to deny basic civil rights to an entire group of people.
It isn't that they disagree - it is that they attempt to deny civil liberties and rights to these groups.
That is bigotry.
Part of being an Atheist is haveng the ability to think for yourself. There is so agenda driving us to point out the hypocrisy and faults of those "oh holy ones" You guys give us plenty of fodder for that already....
Then you won't mind if we disagree with your beliefs.
I have a newsflash for you. We don't believe in your god.
I've reasoned and I'm educated and I believe that Jesus is the son of the living God.
Why do you insist on contradicting yourself?
They lied to you when you were young and now you don't have the capacity to question or evaluate logically. So instead of doing the hard thing and facing up to the facts you perpetuate the lie and pass along your ignorance.
I pity you and anyone you are lying to to make yourself feel better.
Well then Matt you should have no trouble believing in Zeus or Ra either.
Who cares what people believe? I thought the point of atheism was that you dont believe and you go about your way? I guess its just another religion after all.. Telling other people their beliefs are wrong and yours is right.. Weird
And what reasoning brings you to your current beliefs?
We all have the power of self-deception, even reasoned people. However, your believe is based on unreasoned conceptions. There is no evidence for the existence of a God, but a preponderance of evidence that belief in such a thing is completely unnecessary, superfluous, and even dangerous on many accounts. As an Athiest I try to use rational thought to improve matters in my community, because I care deeply about the people around me instead of emphasising my love for a pretend being that drives a lot of people to war, violence, and perpetuation of ignorance about the reality that surrounds us.
Mark. The very nature of believing in god is within the framework of faith. If you had solid proof that god existed would you them have the freewill to deny that existence under the function of logic? No, you would have no choice but to believe god existed. God gave us freewill, therefore the choice. Proof and god have nothing in common. Proof is only a concept that exists on earth anyway, why would you use that as a standard for a universal concept?
There are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.
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.