Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reasons for Reason Rally

Reason Rally: a reason to stand in the rain
(I took these pictures)
On March 24th, 2012 there was a Reason Rally in Washington DC.  The idea was to celebrate reason, science, and the atheist community. Despite the rain, free thinkers from all over the country participated in numbers to rival Glen Beck's rally the year before last.  There were plenty of clever signs (my favorite: "let's have a moment of science"). Some people dressed like Jesus.
Or Jesus riding a dinosaur:
not quite Mario and Yoshi

 Or wore flying Spaghetti monster hats:
noodles for your noodle

While entertaining, these signs and costumes were not the main point of the Reason Rally.
Here are some of the main messages from the first half of the rally.

1. Separation of church and state (Jessica Ahlquist, Taslima Nasreen)
This is by far the most important message of the atheist movement right now.  With Rick Santorum publicly saying that JFK's statement "church and state should be completely separate" made him want to vomit, the threat of theocracy has become all to real. 

Jessica Ahlquist, a highschooler who won a lawsuit to have the prayer banner removed from her school spoke early in the day about the way non-atheists in her school treated her and how a congressman even called her 'evil little thing'.  It is unfortunate that lawsuits like hers are needed to preserve the freedom of religion. 

Taslima Nasreen, an exile from Bangladesh, really drove home the dangers that can come from not maintaining a separation of church and state illustrated through Islam.  She explains that you can be arrested for simply saying that you do not believe in god in her home country; and that the religious leadership of her country allows policies that oppress women as 'slaves, objects, and baby-making machines' It is easy for even religious Americans to see that the Islamic theocracies are not compatible with equal rights, freedom, or democracy. It is frustrating when people don't see that a christian theocracy would be equally oppressive. 

2. Atheism is not a religion (Bill Maher, Tim Minchin)
Another important point is that atheism is not just one of several religious choices. 

"Atheism is a religion the way abstinence is a sexual position" Bill Maher
Atheism and the following of 'reason' involves a fundamentally different way of thinking than a religion.  That is, skeptics and atheists use evidence and science to form their beliefs and are willing to change those beliefs if new evidence appears.  Religion on the other hand is based on believing something without (and often in spite of ) evidence. As Tim Minchin says in his poem "Storm":
"Science adjusts is views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved."

Watch the whole poem with animation accompaniment here:

3. Skeptics are not Cynics (Michael Shermer, The Amazing Randi)
The heading says it all.  Being skeptical does not mean you are cynical and see the bad side of things.  Skepticism is simply not believing something until you have a reason to.  You can be an optimistic skeptic, hoping for the best, hoping a new treatment will work, but not believing that it works until you see evidence.  I would argue that scientists are almost all (and should be) optimistic skeptics.  Scientists wouldn't do their experiments if they didn't expect something out of them. 

Similarly, skeptics are not unhappy, and scientists are not incapable of awe. As illustrated in my favorite xkcd comic of all time, scientists see deep beauty in the world as it is. 

The natural world is astounding and awe-inspiring, why gild the lily or perfume the violet with the supernatural (summary of Tim Minchin).  You don't need to think that god created it to see the beauty in a flower, the wonder of a neuron, or the delicacy of the fly proboscis.
(source) (I did not take this picture)
 I had to leave the rally early, so I don't know how the second half shook out, leave a comment if you have something to add. 

© TheCellularScale


  1. Very nice report from the rally! Thanks!

  2. Ha! I love your Jesuses pics and your disclaimer that you did not take the fly proboscis pic! I wrote two long posts about the Rally, but my blog is from my religious perspective AND Tim Minchin-centric, so idk if you're into that kind of thing. (I did come across your blog by searching Rason Rally UU.)

    1. Your blog is interesting. 'A free and responsible search for truth and meaning' is my favorite principle, but I am surprised you found this blog searching "Reason Rally UU" I am glad you like it.

  3. That looks like a lot of fun!