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. Danny Hunt

    Atheists vs. Science & Logic (sections from an article)

    Life, the patterns of life, and the force behind life, the life force or God, what creates life are observable but Physicists and Mathematicians cannot measure them or apply their mathematics to it due to their limitations or scientific limitations and therefor this life force and God does not exist according to Atheists but the gravity force exists simply because Physicists and Mathematicians can measure this force, speed, acceleration, mass, but still do not know what it is or what creates gravity, it is also based on observation.


    Richard Dawkins arguments are through a comparison of Creationists vs. Darwinism, the ignorance linked to religion.

    According to Dawkins, Darwin made it possible to be an atheist. One of the issues between Creationists vs. Darwin has been the perfection of evolution or the designs of living things, the perfection was created by God vs. the perfection was created through evolution.

    Issue, Richard Dawkins praises science when some religions may feel threatened by it.

    Stephen Hawking (Hawking's Radiation)

    Stephen Hawking's recently published a book about God not creating the Universe based on the fact that time as we know it did not exist before the big bang.

    He recently lost a $100.00 bet when the God particle was discovered, The Higgs boson.

    Atheists vs. Science & Logic

    This article is about science and logic vs. the atheists based on science, scientific observation, logic, the limitations of science, and looking at both the past and the future.

    This article is about evolution, Darwinism, being a part of God, a force that pushes things to evolve, and Stephen Hawking's argument is linked to the limitations of science or knowledge.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  2. Irreligious not atheist

    Why is atheism the default of non-believers? Why is the absence of freedom of expression preferable to the presence of it? Why is nothing preferable to something? Why do atheists sue when christians put up their religious icons, and yet christians do not sue for every place we do not see a religious symbol? Why is it atheists pushing for equality why not Hindus, Wiccans, Moonies, spiritualists, Budhists and Taoists? There are worse things in this world than religion ladies and gentlemen..and that is silence..government enforced silence.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  3. Vj

    Richard Dawkins you are a winner when it comes to chastising western ideology, but be careful in making the claim of knowing the truth until you can muster up the courage to debate the eastern Vedic philosophy(vjsingh.com) as propagated by Swami Dayanand.

    November 15, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      So, do you or your idol have a novel, and successful, proof for your, or any, god, or are you just another delusional liar?

      November 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Vj

      Of course I have the proof which was acquired after many years of study (research) and practice. Like me, do you have the desire and the time to go after the proof?

      November 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  4. 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 4:52 pm |

    Richard Dawkins,

    here is the MERCY of GOD to you, and thus the ultimate CURE for all your delusions!



    October 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  6. Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind (Fact)

    Ok i challenge all atheist/non-believers to a simple small short mature intellectual debate. I claim that there is a GOD, Higher Power, Intelligent Designer/Engineer, and Creator. You claim that there isnt a Creator and everything is a coincidence. (If what i say about your claims are wrong please correct me) Here are the rules: No THEORIES and no BIBLE VERSES. Proven known facts ONLY, none requiring faith. I simply ask that you consider my facts as i will yours. I will provide 10 facts in defense to my claim and you can list as much as you will.

    1.The perfect unseen order of our solar system.
    2. The accurate and precise distance of our sun and it's perfect compatibility with our moon. Its unfailing rising and sustaining power.
    3. The engineering of the earth in every aspect.
    4. Nature, it's power, beauty, and contributions.
    5. Natural law.
    6. Creatures, all of their different abilities, bodies, and behaviors.
    7. The extraordinary and intelligently designed human body and mind.
    8. My user name. Jesus indeed had the most influence and biggest impact on this world than anyone in all of time.
    9. Due to how orderly and precise creation is, the chance of the big bang theory or coincidence happening is statistically 0. Scientists have come up with approximate numbers that far exceed the trillions, but these numbers are made up from their theories which is why i didnt paste the number. As of right now the chances of life forming from nothing is statistically 0.
    10. Time & Life (consciousness)

    Please be respectful and list your facts.

    October 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • nonbeliever

      the misunderstanding in this situation is that of not understanding what scientific theory means. They do not mean that they are taking what is a guess, that is a hypotheses. a scientific theory means that they have collected a large ammount of information and observable fact and have compounded that to an understanding. these ideas are not usually considered rigid as the more people research the more is understood about scientific theory.
      Gravity is also only a theory, even though there is substancial obvious information for it it is not a rule as it could, in some far stretches of the universe differ.
      This points out that everything that you explained as being only aplicable to god, which is an explanation given because no other explanation is seen, saying this is amazing so god did it, is nowhere near close to looking at these phenomena, observing and collecting the data on it and saying this is our best understanding of it to date.
      belief in god means you dont look further, scientific theory means you try and disprove yourself to find a better understanding when you have an idea

      October 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Vj

      How about "a simple small short mature intellectual debate" with some one smarter (vjsingh.com) than you?

      "The perfect unseen order of our solar system."
      How is it "perfect" when the Bible still insist the earth is 6000yrs old and flat and the sun is moving?

      November 15, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  7. icon pack

    I am sorr,y that I interrupt you, but you could not give more information.


    September 22, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  8. Business mastermind group

    Thoroughly enjoyed that . Living in North Scotland, locating great content can be hard Your site is Ace, I'll retweet and tell others.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  9. Cisco Switches

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    September 6, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  10. Marcello

    Richard Dawkins: Exhibit A for what it means to be educated into imbecility.

    July 31, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Besides attempting to a comic, or maybe a sage, can you explain the meaning of your observation?

      August 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      I suppose you would say the same about Darwin, Einstien, etc. Not much of point there little Marcello

      August 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      "Richard Dawkins: Exhibit A for what it means to be educated into imbecility."

      I think I smell a disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer".

      September 20, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Byronr Hinckv

    Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful information specially the ultimate part 🙂 I care for such info much. I was seeking this particular information for a very long time. Thanks and good luck.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  12. Last Call

    Your stuff is old, this atheist started years ago with Madalyn O'hair which tryed to pull everything religious out of the school in name of satan and it ended up with school have metal detecters now just to get in. Top it off her son became a minister. So there is still hope for you.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      And Martin Luther was a notorious anti-semite. Shall I automatically assume that ever denomination after that is also anti-semitic?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • jungleboo

      If "under God" was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance only in the 1950's, and Ms. O'Hair took offense and launched a lawsuit, making history with her complaint, what is improper about her concerns? Please?

      August 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  13. Last Call

    I am always amazed that atheist,gay,lesbian all have to have somekind of rally to prove something. Married people dont have rallys, christians dont have rally. It is because there are so few of you that you have to get them together to prove its ok. These rallys never prove anything.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • jungleboo

      coo coo

      August 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  14. Dyslexic Dog

    Mr. Dawkins. Thanks for being a voice of sanity in this country of the christian taliban.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  15. Dyslexic Dog

    David Silverman, you are a hero. Keep fighting the good fight.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Suresh

      I think each of us must fully BELIEVE in whatever syetsm or theological view or belief we choose or deny otherwise we can\'t feel secure in our own FAITH about it, can we? I think it\'s just human nature and it should be OK with everybody else as well that we feel that way.There is no explaining away feelings, emotions or faith they are to each of us whatever they ARE.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  16. Sampson

    Atheists dont have any morals do you realize that Jeffery Dahmer was a H0m0 atheist?? Hitler was also a atheist and Stalin.

    July 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • PAUL


      July 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      Dahmer was Christian, Hitler was catholic. Nice try.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  17. Sampson

    Atheism is a religion just like any other religion in fact the atheists are so dumb they dont even realize this. In fact atheists are just about the most religious zealots there are. They dont even have common sense to realize what they are saying to them it seems to make sense

    July 20, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Atheism is a religion just like any other religion in fact the atheists are so dumb they dont even realize this."
      It is unsurprising that a believer is incapable of understanding the simply logic behind atheism. You have to be particularly dense to equate atheism with religion.

      Not collecting stamps isn't a hobby. Bald isn't a hair color. Not believing obvious bullshit isn't religion.

      Atheists don't believe in mythical beings. Atheists don't worship any deities. Atheists don't have regular ritualistic ceremonies. Atheists don't warn others of hell and damnation if they don't change their evil ways. Atheists don't go door to door trying to convert. Atheism is the exact opposite of religion. It's the absence of religious delusion.

      You said, "In fact atheists are just about the most religious zealots there are."
      Feel free to believe whatever nonsense you like. Stupidity isn't illegal. I couldn't care less what you believe. I don't care what you believe until it starts to interfere with my life. If you keep your delusion to yourself, you won't hear from me.

      You said, "They dont even have common sense to realize what they are saying to them it seems to make sense"
      That what atheists say only seems to make sense to atheists says more about how close minded believers are than about the abilities of atheists. If believers had the ability for logic and rational thought, and the willingness to apply it, they wouldn't be believers.

      July 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Sampson

      You don't know what I do, You have closed your mind to any thought that takes time to learn. You are a immediate gratification junkie You will never have any depth as person with this way. You through your own decisions have effectively limited your options this is religious, this is believing in a god "YOURSELF"

      July 22, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Your initial post made no sense whatsoever, and yet you've topped yourself in this one.

      You're an arrogant twit who thinks you have the all the answers, and now you're ticked off because Lin handed you your ass.

      July 22, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "You don't know what I do, You have closed your mind to any thought that takes time to learn."
      It's pretty obvious what you don't do. Whether you are unable or unwilling to apply logic and reasoned thought, I don't know. I know that I've come to my position through thought and a willingness to learn. Can you say the same?

      You said, "You are a immediate gratification junkie You will never have any depth as person with this way."
      If you equate mindlessly following your preacher as having "depth", you are correct, I will never have that. I can't help it but question the obvious bullshit that religion is.

      You said, "You through your own decisions have effectively limited your options this is religious, this is believing in a god "YOURSELF""
      My decision to question illogical positions and refusing to believe the blatant nonsense about imaginary friends has expanded my options. I am in no way shackled to an ancient myth. I am free to explore the world around me without having any religious blinders on.

      If you feel so strongly that there is a creature that you call your god, feel free to present a compelling argument. Feel free to present your evidence. Feel free to make your case. I am a sucker for cold hard facts. Without them, all you have is a fairy tale. All you worship is the Tooth Fairy by a different name.

      July 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Thank you Lin CA. Well-reasoned post.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Poorna

      They're a tad more obedient. When god said, no fruit' they might allcauty have listened.How incredibly stupid were Adam and Eve anyway? They messed up on one stupid rule then for awhile there were no rules, then God started cranking out one law after another until we got the 650 or so rules that we have in the Bible today.Why did God pick the stupidest, most disobedient creature on this earth? Why did he pick humans, the most curious animal on earth, to submit to temptation? He picked at our weakness by putting the fruit in the garden.At least a dog might have the obedience to stay where he's told.If God wants blind faith, obedience and submission, he picked the wrong species. If he wants doubt, curious inquiry, scrutiny and skepticism, he should pick humans but this is obviously not what he wants.I'm sorry, I didn't realize God couldn't train dogs. Question withdrawn.

      November 8, 2012 at 7:42 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.