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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. Michael

    Sooooo stupid.....first off, why do atheists need to congregate? To talk about how there is no God? That conversation is over in 30 seconds! There's no atheist bible, so what else is there to talk about? I was an atheist for a long time, and then my father died. He was actually excited about going to heaven. Who was I to tell him otherwise? Never met someone who had that kind of joy in living and dying. I needed that, so I changed, and for the better....:)

    March 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Balls McGhee

      wow, you are dumb. you father is dead and not in heaven. the quicker you realize that, the better off you will be.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • GorlakTheSpaceINvader

      Excited your father died ? was he mean to you ?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Michael

      No, my father was happy to be going to a better place. That comforted him. Not stupid at all.

      And how will I be better off knowing there is no heaven? No logic there at all....

      March 23, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Atheist

      Why do religious people need to congregate? It's so ridiculous! So they can sit around and pat each other on the back for maintaining their smug ignorance against the face of logic and reason? Why do you need churches? You could do that stupid crap at home!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Michael

      @atheist – you complain about a "right to assemble", but it's wrong for religious people to do the same?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Religion and faith are not the same thing. Religions congregate to perpetuate themselves (but then so do academic interest groups - like biologists or physicists). Faith .. anyone can believe something (God) and there is no need to congregate.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  2. Luke

    Oh for christ's sake.......these people don't have equality?

    March 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Atheist

      No we don't while people like you act like we have no right to assemble.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      They have equal rights (and always have had them) to congregate and do whatever they do .. they have not been THAT interesting to others. They are trying to be relevant (which they are not). I cannot imagine anything more irrelevant than to go to a baseball game and yell at baseball fans that baseball is not a game. Their big frustration (it seems) it that nobody cares if they refuse to believe in God (like a little kid who refuses to eat his spinach). They make themselves into social crazies lite PETA and Greenpeace and "Occupy" whose only relevance is to annoy everybody else. (tantrums)

      March 23, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  3. RightTurnClyde

    Coming out? Hardly. They are not "hiding" in a closet as other sub-publics may have been. They boldly insult anyone who is not like them. They do not care whom they may offend or whether anyone likes it. They'll insult anyone in any crowd and in any company. They have never been in hiding .. no way. They think they have license to hate and they boldly hate everybody (equally).

    March 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Balls McGhee

      and your post is filled with love and harmony?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Love and harmony? What have they got to do with it? Love who insults me? (well I do not hate them .. that takes energy I do not want to expend) ... No I do not love them (I am not a preacher) I am starkly aware of them (they make themselves boldly known - and they are angry and insulting). Harmony? Not from them (and other haters).

      March 23, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  4. Roy

    Ha...In Asia missionaries are converting people to Christianity by giving them money and in western countries people are becoming atheist. Just fun to see this. My message to missionaries – it is easy to convert a poor uneducated person but it is impossible to convert atheist . You are just killing yourself, think about it...

    March 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Al

      Very nicely said...

      March 23, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  5. Rainer Braendlein

    Look at science:

    According to "the second law of thermodynamics" the entropy (=mess) increases always.

    It is a natural law that the chaos increases, if there is now spirit, which makes order.

    Daily life shows that disorder increases, if we don't make order.

    Thus, every human being, animal and plant must have been created by an intelligent spirit. It was the Spirit of God.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Atheist

      Stop trying to do science with made up hoodoo religious BS. You're wrong and you know it. Leave science to the scientist and theology to theologians. Wow and you morons say we bash Christians, then you all come out to bash the atheists? How about you go read your bible and leave us rational grown ups alone?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Absolutely - even simpler - everything has a cause. Matter does not simply occur (poof). SOmething causes it - ultimately something CAUSED 173,000,000,000 suns to exist and all of their solar bodies (planets) - that is a lot of material .. enormous actually .. and it did not just come into existence "poof" by accident. There may have been a "big bang" but ONLY AFTER the material had been caused .. by the Omega cause ... the Prime Mover .. the Creator Being .. GOD.. God caused it.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Chris

      I'm probably the only person here that understood what you just said. Sadly, the point you're trying to make couldn't be communicated in a few lines.. and there are far too many lemmings around that get their "facts" from television and think that makes them "scientific".

      March 23, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Stopabortion

      Hey Atheist, have you watched " I SURVIVED...BEYOND AND BACK"???, it is just a sample...but a lot of science involved...

      March 23, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      There are also major problems with the atheist notion that life just "happened" by accident. We cannot find any instance of life just happening and we have searched for it. We have dug beyond the dinosaurs and the amoeba and found no instance of life spontaneously happening. We have sent apace probes and recovered moon rocks and searched Mars. Meteorites burn up upon entry .. too hot. A "scientist" too a wild-guess in the late 1930's and said "well life must have formed in 'coacervates' of bio-chemicals (bubbles of cellular chemicals) .. well that does not happen. Life cannot be created and it does not spontaneously happen. So where did life come from? (not "out there" and not here either).

      March 23, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Lee

      Re: 2nd law of thermodynamics. The 2nd law of thermodynamics applies to closed systems, of which the earth is not.

      Re: First cause arguement: Something coming from nothing is exactly what your holy book says. Regardless, just because we don't know exactly how something happened does NOT mean we should jump to the conclusion that magic was involved. That is the arguement from ignorance fallacy.

      Re: Life from non-life: There is plenty of evidence indicating that the building blocks of life are found naturally and that it is very possible, if not probable, for life to emerge under certain conditions. But even if all that were not true, we can't jump to a magical conclusion simply because we don't know how something happened.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Gumby

      LOL!!! I love it when fundies brainlessly gibber about thermodynamics. Another AnswersInGenesis copy-paster.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Gerry

    Hope maher and his boyfriend are there, atheists are 85% gay according to the AMA and are the number one reason for the spreading of AIDS and they do practise a form of religion called Buggery!! They never like to meet face to face, always from behind!!

    March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Balls McGhee

      so how was you BJ from me yesterday? you still owe me 50 dollars.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • LMAO

      "Hope maher and his boyfriend are there, atheists are 85% gay according to the AMA and are the number one reason for the spreading of AIDS and they do practise a form of religion called Buggery!! "

      Lying is a sin according to your rule book. It's funny because most gay people are Christians. DUH!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Atheist

      Wow, what a bigoted idiot! Too stupid to dignify with a response. This is the ignorance of the faithful in the light of day. Look how stupid your comments are.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Gumby

      Obvious troll is obvious.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  7. Debbie

    When the atheists die, they will become believers but a second too late. I believe in God and Jesus Christ. If this bunch of idiots would sit down and read the Bible, they would read about everything that is happening today. The Bible is not a fictional book. No church or organization should be in their view Saturday. Believers need to block all roads to the area (a few blocks in every direction) and let them blow their smoke up each other's rears. It is time for Christians to get off their rears and fight back at our government to get our rights back. We have been bullied long enough. If this country doesn't get back to God, it is doomed.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Chris

      Ok, it is exactly self-styled "Christians" like you that are the reason for atheism. To think I was knocking the atheists just a minute ago.. you fundamentalists are all alike, theist and atheist.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • LMAO

      "Believers need to block all roads to the area (a few blocks in every direction) and let them blow their smoke up each other's rears. It is time for Christians to get off their rears and fight back at our government to get our rights back."

      This country was founded on the separation of church and state for a reason, so nut jobs like you can't run our gov't on a fairy tale. Your bible has been proven not to be a historical book.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • GorlakTheSpaceINvader

      And if you where born in a different time or place you might believe in Zeus or Allah

      every notice people believe in what their parents do ? if there was one true religion dont you think it should be fair
      and not bound by where or when you where born ? ( an all knowing god should have thought of this, maybe ill
      sell my services to him )

      March 23, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Atheist

      Wrong!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Balls McGhee

      its really funny to hear a woman defend christianity. you are EVE, the cause of all sin, you are treated terribly in the bible, and in real life by every single religion. if muslim – you must wear a head scarf, if christian, you must be subordinate to your husband, and so on. you need to enter a theoretical battered womens shelter

      March 23, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Gumby

      Debbie nicely displays the hatred and stupidity of Christianity.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  8. Steve

    Atheism is regarded in a negative way in this country because of people like Bill Maher who make fun of things that many people hold very dear. Even this guy makes it sound as if being intelligent and educated means you can't be religious. This type of arrogance annoys those of us who are religious. I have a very good friend who is atheist, he respects my beliefs and I respect his non-belief. If more atheists were like him and we're protesting at nativity scenes, the American people wouldn't have a problem with them.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • SpacePhD

      Most Atheists are like your friend. Thinking that all atheists are like Mahr is like saying all christians are like Glen Beck.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  9. Maziar

    If anybody shows me one single scientifically defendable sign of a “creator”, I may consider looking into converting. But I suggest you “theists” do not waste your time. You won’t find any.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Stopabortion

      There is no worst blind that the one DOESN'T WANT to see or deaf that the one that DOESN'T WANT to listen.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Atheist

      Religious and Stupid does not beat Atheist and Educated. Sorry bible children but you're living in a fantasy dreamworld that mommy and daddy drilled into you as babies and you still believe. Don't forget to put that tooth under your pillow and the tooth fairy will give you a shiny quarter in the morning.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  10. GenXcynic

    What we need is for everyone to stop the "Holier than thou" crap and stop debating personal issues in public. We have very real problems in the world that need human intervention. Endlessly debating things like abortion and marriage laws keeps the focus from the here and now. God does not need the Tea Party (or the US Gov't) to assist in doling out punishment. In other words, it's not religion or politics we need, it's LEADERSHIP and CRITICAL THINKING!

    March 23, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  11. Brad

    I'm a non-believer but rallying in one way is a silly as rallying against alchemy or astrology. I can see politically that we need to be more concerned about having major leaders (or potential leaders ) of the free world having access to the launch codes and also believing in the end of days and an afterlife. How I do miss Christopher Hitchens since his passing as I am sure he would be speaking tomorrow and providing the thoughtful insights of all of the invited guests. I just hope it just doesn't turn into some sort of religion-bashing spectacle. We're better than that.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Steve

      I'm fairly sure that every president since the invention of atomic weapon has professed a religion and therefore a belief in the afterlife. You make it sound as though that belief makes them incapable of rational thought. This is the reason that many people do not think highly of atheist. I don't ask you to agree but don't act as though being religious is a mental illness. Some of the greatest minds in history have professed a belief in God. If your comment was geared more towards extremists than I agree, extremists often time are very dangerous and would definitely concern me if given that kind of power.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  12. GorlakTheSpaceINvader

    These humans still wear robes and pray to a god, they will be easy prey muahahaha

    March 23, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  13. Greg

    I hope its a big turnout!!
    lets a pray for a nice day !!
    If our nonbeliefs catch on who will fight our religous wars? Oh the horror.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  14. Gumby

    Nothing like a post about atheists to bring out the drooling uneducated white-hot hatred of the religious. Ha ha. Keep it coming, godbots. The more you flap your gums and spew your lie-filled propaganda, the more people will see just how awful Christianity really is. Thank you for helping the atheist cause.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • GorlakTheSpaceINvader

      Actually its quite the reverse, the lower the IQ of the person the deeper their faith

      what does that tell you, i know it tells you 2 + 2 = 3 ( thats why your religious )

      March 23, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Chris

      You're the one that's name calling – and I don't see any "white-hot hatred" directed your way. Hypocrisy, anyone?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • GorlakTheSpaceINvader

      Sorry i mis read sounded pro religion ( need to put glasses on b4 i start trolling )

      March 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  15. Chris

    Yawn. There are more important things to be concerned with than your strident, fundamentalist, belief in unbelief. Atheists are no better than the religious zealots they mock, other than the deep irony lending a slightly farcical touch.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Lee

      Someone has to stand up to the theocrats

      March 23, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  16. Sam

    This country was founded by agnostics. Franklin and Jefferson were firm believers in separation of church and state. In America, we have a ton of different people with different religions. Christianity is not the only one. That is what a lot of Americans want! True equality. Stop making laws based on The Bible. We need true separation of religion from our law. "In God we trust" was added in 1957 by the way. The founding fathers would be so disappointed in us...

    March 23, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • BibleBeliever

      Oh contrar, this country was founded on Bible Believers not agnostics. Our whole system of governing was/is based on the Ten Commandments. Moses sits front and center on the Supreme Court building for a reason. The PURITANS came here to get away from the state religion of the King of England. In order to hold office in this country you had to be a Christian and take what's called a Test Oath which states your loyalty to God, the Son and Holy Spirit. How interesting that NONE of this is taught in schools ergo atheism abounds!! Uh, huh!!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Real Deal

      BibleBeliever,

      The Ten Commandments:
      1: Have no other gods – NOT A LAW
      2: Make no graven image – NOT A LAW
      3: Don’t take the name in vain – NOT A LAW
      4: Honor the Sabbath – NOT A LAW
      5: Honor thy father and mother – NOT A LAW
      6: Thou shalt not kill – NOT UNIQUE TO CHRISTIANITY (long pre-dated it)
      7: Thou shalt not commit adultery – huge number of Christians commit adultery by LEGALLY remarrying
      8: Thou shalt not steal – NOT UNIQUE TO CHRISTIANITY
      9: Thou shalt not bear false witness – NOT UNIQUE TO CHRISTIANITY
      10: Thou shalt not covet – NOT A LAW

      March 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  17. Denise

    Athiests are simply looking to be recognized as a group with an alternative voice. Athiests do not try to recruit people to their belief or frighten them with the threat of Hell if they don't believe or browbeat anybody. Athiests simply want to exist and be recognized.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Observer

      Atheists do appeal to believers by calling them irrational, ignorant morons. Works as well as you might expect.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Sean

      "Athiests do not try to recruit people to their belief or frighten them with the threat of Hell if they don't believe or browbeat anybody."

      Im pretty sure that mocking people who believe in a god and shaming them by telling them the things they believe in are pure fairy tales, makes your statement above a lie.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Observer & Sean – Atheists don't recruit. We explain. The vast majority of atheists are former theists. Theists become atheists when they come to understand that their religion is built on a house of cards.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  18. Peace!

    Separation of the sheep and goats.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  19. Mike

    Hmm, I have to choose between a movement based on science and 21st century logic or a religion that convinces everyone that there's an invisible man living in the sky that has ten things that I shouldn't do or I'll be cast into a pit of fire and torture for the rest of time... and yet he still loves me... Think I'll take that first choice. (BTW: baptized and raised catholic, went to college and found out it was BS).

    March 23, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Denise

      Ironic – also baptized and raised Catholic, even went to a Catholic university (which I enjoyed even then, despite already being an Athiest.) I find it stunning that religious folks love to quote from a book written by man about the love of God who is so judgmental. Odd, to say the least. Appreciate your comment.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • TREVONBACH

      MIKE, AT LEAST MENTION CARLIN WHEN YOU STEAL FROM HIM. BRILLIANT AS HE WAS, YOU ARE NO GEORGE CARLIN.

      SEE YOU AT THE RALLY!
      III

      March 23, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • J

      I find that most who are atheist when questioned actually really do believe in a god of some kind. The problem for most is that they need a resolving of the big "why's". Like for instance, "If there is a God why does he permit suffering." "If there is a God why did this bad thing happen to me, if he loves me? If there is a God when do I get to see the big evidence that convinces me? Without a satisfying answer to those why's most people turn away to seek something easier to live with. Without those answers it just easier for some to turn to atheism, because for them it makes the most sense. But for real, the answers are out there.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  20. pooh2

    "With thunderstorms forecast for Saturday, however, Silverman told CNN on Thursday that he expects somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people." lol God had his say:)

    March 23, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Observer

      The faithful will turn out in spite of the rain.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Sam

      Not God, science. Are you saying God meant to kill all the innocent people I the recent tornadoes?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • irunner

      God had his say? I've never heard him. My catholic upbringing turned me against organized religion. My education and world travels turned me into an atheist. Give me one gram of proof there is a supreme being!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:42 am |
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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.