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Atheist rally continues in spite of rain; students highlighted throughout
March 24th, 2012
05:44 PM ET

Atheist rally continues in spite of rain; students highlighted throughout

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN)– Billed as a watershed moment in the atheism movement, a gathering of atheists, agnostics and humanists drew large numbers of non-theists to the Washington Mall Saturday despite bad weather.

Put on by a coalition of atheist and humanist organizations, the rally was touted as the largest gathering of non-theists in the history of the world. Headlined by a number of high-profile speakers, including Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” organizers said the event shows that atheism is a powerful minority in American life.

“We will never be closeted again,” said David Silverman, the rally’s head organizer. “In years to come, the Reason Rally will be seen as the beginning of the end to the religious right’s grip” on American life.

With thunderstorms moving through the area, rain had threatened to dampen the event. However, Silverman and other organizers said they were elated by the turnout, especially in light of the rain.

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

The idea of thousands of atheists gathering drew the ire of religious groups. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a controversial group known for picketing and protesting at funerals of U.S. service members, were in attendance and chanted at the rally-goers.

In large part however, protests were rare and not aggressive.

Silverman had said prior to the event that the rally would not be an exercise in “religion bashing,” but in a number of instances, religion and the belief in God was, in fact, denounced.

Taslima Nasrin, the author of “Shame,” categorized the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a charlatan, a pedophile and a rapist. A wooden cross was constructed in the middle of the crowd and a sign that read “Banish the 10 Commandments to the dustbin of history,” was hung from it.

An iReporter takes on the Reason Rally

Under umbrellas and ponchos, college insignia and fresh faces dotted the rally crowd.

For many of the students in attendance, the event was more than just a large gathering; for them, it was a coming-out party.

“The reason why events like this help is because of the confidence people get in seeing other people that think like you,” said Mark D. Hatcher, founder of the Secular Student Alliance at Howard University in Washington. “It is important to realize you are not alone.”

Hatcher and other atheists have co-opted much of the same lingo used in the gay rights movement. “Coming out” and “in the closest” are both terms regularly used because, according to Hatcher, telling people you are an atheist is comparable to telling people you are gay.

“Being younger, you are especially exposed to being labeled a pariah when you come out of the closet,” Hatcher said.

Rebecca Cunningham, a graduate of the University of Michigan, said that her freshman year at college was that moment for her. Cunningham was raised in a Christian family, but a few months before leaving for school, she started to doubt her belief in God.

Shortly after arriving at Michigan, Cunningham went to a Secular Student Alliance meeting.

“It helped me come out,” Cunningham said. “It was the first group of people that I met who weren’t religious in some form. They taught me that it was OK; they taught me that I was OK.”

Jesse Galef, the alliance’s communications director, said stories such as Cunningham’s show why his group tries to mobilize on campuses.

“One of the biggest things we do at the Secular Student Alliance is connect them [local groups] with a larger movement that is supporting them and giving them a grass-roots presence,” said Galef.

Jessica Ahlquist, a 16-year-old high school student who won a lawsuit against her city for a prayer banner that was displayed in her high school, was also a speaker at the event.

She touched upon the need for more student groups in high schools and colleges during her remarks. After the speech, she told CNN that students are a critical place for the atheism movement to focus its efforts.

“This community is all about bringing people together and talking about a secular future,” Ahlquist said. “I think that future comes from the students.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism

soundoff (1,305 Responses)
  1. Kindness

    Kindness
    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    October 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • TL;DR

      too long; didnt read
      yawn.

      April 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • writey

      I also didn't read it. Can you like suimmarize in a few sentences....time is money.

      July 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  2. drmwlau

    Why, when I post a completed comment, nothing happens? I hope THIS does NOT post.

    June 29, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  3. Jenn

    May God bless them.

    June 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • writey

      May the invisible pink unicorn also send them his/her best wishes.

      July 22, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  4. justme

    just wondering... does it always rain when atheists gather?

    June 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
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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.