home
RSS
March 22nd, 2012
06:36 PM ET

Atheist rally billed as 'coming out' moment for nonbelievers

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.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

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.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Politics

soundoff (3,073 Responses)
  1. Rim

    The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins should be mandatory reading for everyone. Especially people in our congress.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Fufu

      Who wants to read about the ringling bros circus?

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • clarify

      The movie with Charlton Heston was great!

      March 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  2. joey

    [Creeds] have been the bane and ruin of the Christian church, its own fatal invention, which, through so many ages, made of Christendom a slaughterhouse, and at this day divides it into castes of inextinguishable hatred to one another.
    – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Whitmore, June 5, 1822

    March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Fufu

      Creed is the bane of modern rock music.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Chris

    SNARKY COMMENT HERE

    March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Fufu

      Insulting response here.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Patrick

      Emotional backlash followed by a leading questions here.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • mandarax

      attempt to demonstrate that I'm smarter than both of you here.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      pointing out obvious known errors and misconceptions that will be ignored and repeated by future postings here.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Big Joe

      Ad hominem attack on all of you because I can't prove my argument or disprove yours here.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • NeonKnight

      Genuflection to ward off demons possessing prior posters

      March 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  4. AJR

    "If you could reason with religious people there would be no religious people."

    March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  5. Chris

    *Snarky Comment*

    March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  6. Earl

    Go for it Mr. Dawkins don't be afraid of anybody.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  7. Eltrip

    Great, not only do I have to put up with door to door religious nuts, now I have to put up with other idiots trying to counter them. Just shut up about your beliefs and leave me alone. I have no use for either.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • mandarax

      Did someone force you to read this article and comment against your will?

      March 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • MEPHI1114

      THANK YOU FOR SAYING IT.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  8. PumpNDump

    Lets see if any of the religious wingnuts here produce ANY peer reviewed, academically accepted proof/evidence that "jesus" ever existed. It's a myth.

    http://godisimaginary .com/

    March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • GodPot

      I agree, but whats with the name? Sound's like a Nevada chicken ranch abortion clinic...

      March 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • dwtruth

      Hey pumpndump, try Jewish historian Flavius Josephes, Roman historian Tacitus and the Jewish targums for starters.....

      March 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  9. We are AMONG you!

    Dear followers of a 2000 year old, unsubstantiated fairy tale myth. Some of us use reason and logic. We are among you. Keep your OPINION to yourself. :D

    March 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Fufu

      Only room for one opinion here, eh Mao?

      March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  10. MennoKnight

    Want to tick off an Atheist, point out to them the FACT that they look and act like a religion.

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, what is it?

    March 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • mandarax

      ...it's your social construct of a duck.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • PumpNDump

      Just a bit of a moron, aren't you? Lol

      March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Mark White

      Except that it isn't a fact.
      The answer is it's a duck.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • We are AMONG you!

      Hi, atheist here. I'm not sure how your comment was meant to inflame us, but since you believe in fairy tales, I'm sure you believe in your comment also. Thanks for your concern over our well being though.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Adam

      Except for, you know, the dogma.....

      March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Mike D

      And what's your ploy here? If you point out that atheists are doing things religious people do, such as gathering and letting the world know what they think, guilty. Do you think by pointing that out atheists are going to tuck their heads in shame and go away?

      We're not going away, sunshine. We're going to take our long overdue place in the public square and we're going to have our say, whether you like it or not. If you can't take it, plug your ears.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Patrick

      It is something that looks, walks and talks like a duck. Duh. Maybe it is a Kardashian.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Rim

      Maybe if you applied this to humans and apes you'd understand evolution a little better.

      If it looks, walks, and acts like a duck then it probably just shares a common ancestor with ducks.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Patrick

      the key point of religion is that you have a god figure. Athiest are acting like an organization, which religion is as well. The key component though is the lack of a magical being that determines how one should live their life

      March 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      See what I mean? Pretty ticked.

      Your fairy god is chance without purpose or cause.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Claude Gothic

    If God wanted to be in public places, couldn't he use his all-powerful awesomeness to put himself there??

    March 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • c

      He does and He is. You just have to look for Him. Like in the smile of a child, the song of a bird, the breeze through the trees.....

      March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • mandarax

      But why would you have to look for him in indirect places of your own choosing? Why would he be so cryptic?

      March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • booboo

      if i close my eyes that doesnt mean the room has no lights on.. think about it

      March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "if i close my eyes that doesnt mean the room has no lights on"

      Is a chair really a chair?

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • c

      Fine, dont' look for Him, its no skin off my nose. I happen to see Him in everything and I am comforted by that. I am a lot more happy with Him than I was without Him. That is what works for me. I dont get worked up or angry if it doesnt work for someone else.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Patrick

      He is not in those places, I looked.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Patrick

      "I dont get worked up or angry if it doesnt work for someone else."

      Yet you just posted that comment...?

      Do you ever wonder if you are deluding yourself into the belief out of a desire to believe in a deity, or to be happy? Do you believe in him because of some logic, or out of desire?

      March 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "I guess God was a lot more demonstrative back when he flamboyantly parted the seas"
      – Bad Religion 'Don't Prey On Me'

      March 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Mike

    I think that there are TONS of "closeted" atheists out there. The social stigma that comes from the community, especially in the Bible belt are just too costly to “come out”. I own a small business, but if I were to were to wear my “non-beliefs” on my sleeve, I would be out of business in no time.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • mandarax

      I think bringing an end to that is part of what this is all about.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Mavent

      Oh, that's a load of bullsh!t and you know it. There's no "stigma" attached with not believing in God. I couldn't tell you if anyone I work with does or doesn't believe in God. What there's a "stigma" attached to is being an annoying loudmouth. There's a reason why it's generally accepted that religion and politics are the two things to avoid in casual conversation.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Patrick

      Thanks, Mike, that is exactly the kind of stuff atheists have to deal with, and why we need this rally.

      I wonder why folks are getting so emotional about our gathering? Do they feel threatened?

      March 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • David

      Mike is quite correct. I live in Louisiana. Christians rarely carry on a conversation without some mention of their church or religion (ex. "I saw Bob at church this past week and he looks like he is getting over a cold"). It's like a code for "Don't worry; I'm one of you."

      On the other hand, if someone asks me, "where do you go to church" and I reply "I don't" they will always follow up with something like "oh, are you still trying to find the right church" or "we have a great men's group at our church." They continue prodding until they find out what you are. If you are Atheist, they then remain polite, but become less friendly to you. You don't belong to the club and are a lesser person.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  13. David

    I can only hope that one day Christians will stop persecuting Atheists.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  14. wcovenant

    "What people don’t seem to understand is all we demand at American Atheists is equality.” You’re looking at it all wrong. Equality is not something to attain and say you have it. Equality is really a path that takes you to your destination. The path of equality is lit by Freewill and choice. What is the American Atheists path of equality? That is your real question; for the Christian, the path of equality is to re-establish a relationship with the Creator through Jesus Christ His Son and share the news. Don’t take the detour, you’ll get lost and be put into slavery by organized religion.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Answer

      Show your god. Offer the evidence. Not just your emotional ties based upon your fears of death.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • wcovenant

      Answer
      You have to walk the same path I did to see, I have walked down the paths of atheists, organized religions, unorganized religions and humanism, total dark and empty. All these other paths were mere detours that left me hungry and thirsty, this path is different. If I told you that the ocean was down this path and brought back things you never saw before, what would be your first reaction, no way could this be right, I would say look for your-self. All it would take is a little journey and you could see for yourself. What do you have to lose?

      March 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  15. Mavent

    Since your average Atheist doesn't appear to be too bright, let me explain what people mean when they say "Atheism is a religion." They mean "Religions and Atheists are both groups of people who feel superior about themselves and hateful towards those who don't share their opinions." Since we don't see anything "magical" about religions that would somehow make them different from similar groups of atheists, we say "atheism is a religion". This upsets atheists, because they feel themselves to be magically different from, and inherently superior to, other people. Besides being stupid, atheists lack a sense of irony.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Atheist

      Were you born this dumb, or did you have to work really hard at it?

      March 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Adam

      Religion is social systems whose participants avow the belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.

      Atheism is the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of unsubstantiated dogma.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Patrick

      Who is "we?" Is the "we" going to start in on a racist tirade next?

      Where do they get these people? Klan rejects? It is like they don't even read their own writing to see the idiocy.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Mike

      Actually, we see nothing magical about the way we feel, so your argument lacks merit.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • booboo

      atheist. sounded like a logical post. all you can do is insult? bad foundation my man.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Claude Gothic

      You can't prove "Atheism is a religion" by comparing religious peoples' characteristics to those of atheists.
      Your logic is nonexistent.
      Epic faill.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Mark White

      Or, it could be because we aren't religious.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • mandarax

      Mavent, here's a recommendation: learn more, talk less.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  16. c

    To the faithful proof is not necessary to the unfaithful there is never enough proof. It is what it is.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Atheist

      Wrong.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • booboo

      right

      March 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Haha @ "never enough proof". There isn't any. All I ask for is some proof that isn't objective in nature. There has been none so far.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Dave

      proof is a relative term. To the faithful, a cure with no medical reason is a miracle. To an athiest, a cure with no medical reason just means the reason hasn't been found yet. Neither will bend on their beliefs, and both will believe they're right. That's why athiesm is the next mainstream religion, just without Tom Cruise jumping on a couch or getting mad at Brooke Shields.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • c

      I'm the Best. You know Science and Faith can work together, right? But, let me just say this. Science is inconclusive. It discovers new things about the universe every single day. The theory of evolution is a theory, speculatioin, and therefore cannot be considered fact, or it would be called The Big Bang Fact, not The Big Bang Theory. I am not saying that there is not evolution, it seems odd to me. My ten year old asked me if we came from apes why are there still apes and why havent we changed. So there are still a lot of questions. But it is arrogant for me to assume we are it, there is nothing superior to me. That is a little too self for me

      March 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Science is inconclusive"

      Yet the bible has been proven to be just a religious book and not a historical document, so nothing in it is really fact.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      “My ten year old asked me if we came from apes why are there still apes and why havent we changed”

      That just shows your ten year old does not understand evolution. I take it you then corrected them by saying that we didn’t evolve from apes, and that humans share a common ancestor? And that given time and the right conditions we could evolve but that evolution isn’t a continuous changing process that happens just for the heck of it?

      And by the way, evolution and the big bang are two totally unrelated areas.

      “But it is arrogant for me to assume we are it, there is nothing superior to me. That is a little too self for me”
      …….superior? no one is suggesting that mankind if the most advanced form of life in the universe, not sure where you are getting that from, we are simply another animal on this planet, we just happen to control it.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. joey

    The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticism of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from it’s indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence.
    – Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, July 5, 1814

    March 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  18. HeyZues

    As an agnostic/atheist this is stupid. I dont need a rally to declare my belief, thats why im agnostic

    March 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Answer

      The fact is you've already chose to speak up by making a post. The next step is to show it in real life.
      What are you – a coward? You can only do text?

      March 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • mandarax

      I don't get the sense that this is about declaring beliefs so much as inspiring organization and cooperation for a common cause – that of standing up to the power and influence of religion on society and politics.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • booboo

      some people dont need to spend 500 thousand dollars to feel good about their religion

      March 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Patrick

      Agnosticism is a state of knowledge, not belief. Everyone is agnostic by nature. "Gnossis" from the Greek.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  19. Answer

    I love the fact that 'we' atheists bother these zealots. The more rage we give them the better.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • booboo

      so.. let me get this straight. the whole point of spending 500 thousand dollars is to march down the street and cause rage in people? normal athiests are probably embarrased to be associated with you

      March 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Fufu

      I might consider myself a zealot if I take time from work and spend money to travel to a rally for my belief.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Answer

      You can think in your own small ways. Yours is only your own opinion. Remember we all have them.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  20. glyder

    i thought atheists have had their way.god has been removed in many public places.worked well huh.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Rinsewind

      If you mean government owned property, then only to a certain extent. That's as much to recognize that people come from many faiths (including those that do not believe in the Judeo-Christian god) as it is to recognize that some people do not subscribe to any religion. Here in Oklahoma, though, I would say the removal of "god" from public places is rather limited, and I would venture to guess that this holds true in many other places.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.