Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why we need the Reason Rally

Four years ago, Madscutter and I attended the first Reason Rally in Washington D.C, as well as the American Atheists convention that followed. It was an amazing weekend, and a bit surreal to be surrounded by literally thousands of atheists. I had this feeling of kinship and belonging that made me realize just how "taboo" atheism still is in normal life. Though most of my family is generally accepting of my lack of belief, and most of my friends are also atheists, it can still be difficult to navigate society as a non-believer.

A non-practicing lapsed Catholic is still perceived as "good" because you know, at least they believe in god. Atheists, until very recently, have sat at the bottom of the list of various identities that the general public would be willing to vote for in a presidential election. We now rank above Muslims (thanks, Trump), and Socialists (thanks, Bernie), but should an openly atheist candidate ever attempt a run at being president, discrimination against non-believers would reach a new high (and the candidate wouldn't win).

So stubborn are the faithful who attach morals and values directly to a belief in god, and attempts to convince them otherwise is not something I've ever seen succeed. Conversations about this can be interesting though, because if a person close to an atheist truly believes that faith is needed in order to be a good person, but they think said atheist is good, that means that they're either wrong or they don't believe this person is an actual atheist. Generally, it's the latter because people really hate being wrong.

The second Reason Rally is this Saturday, and though I wanted to go, I had decided not to for various reasons. Then, a few weeks ago I happened upon an article on a religious site about plans an evangelical group has to come to the rally to protest, try to convert atheists, and of course, to evangelize. This effort is being led by Ray Comfort (of banana fame), and the article treated this as a bigger deal than it merited. It also contained false information that wasn't major, but I have no patience for shitty news reporting, so I commented on the article, and this is what happened:

Note: the blacked out text is my real name - my Discus account was using my information from Facebook. I have obviously since changed this, and it's probably not particularly hard to figure out my real identity, but you know...I have to pretend.

So, that's the response I got just for correcting facts in an article. I didn't attack Christians, faith, or say anything that merited such an insane reply. It didn't piss me off  - it was too perplexing to get mad about, but it did highlight how much events like the Reason Rally are needed. We need to continue to work on changing the public's misconceptions about what atheism is (and isn't), and to combat the persistent hate and discrimination many atheists experience.

So, tl;dr - we'll see you at the Reason Rally!

P.S. I'm going to bring a banana with me to try and get Ray Comfort to sign it. Wish me luck!

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