A Brief Recap of The Reason Rally

March 29, 2012

The Reason Rally was a wonderful event—rain and all.  The Reason Rally was rightfully billed as a “coming out” party and a celebration.  We showed our fellow Americans that we have the numbers and the commitment to be taken seriously—and we had a great time doing so.  The speakers were eloquent, the entertainers were funny and engaging, and the crowd was uniformly upbeat. 

The event was notable for another reason as well: it was the first significant, public collaborative project that involved all the major secular organizations in the U.S. And it was successful! For those (like me) who believe we can achieve much more if we secularists work together, this was encouraging on a number of different levels.

So if you missed it . . . well, you missed a fantastic event.  But DVDs of the Reason Rally will be available soon, and, although obviously they will not provide the same experience as having been there, they should be good. Grab one. 

I had the privilege of representing CFI at the event.  Along with other major sponsors, CFI was allotted four minutes of stage time—not a lot, but I think I made good use of it.  The crowd seemed to respond favorably.  (That said, they were so enthusiastic that they probably would have applauded had I just walked on stage and said “shoehorn.”) 

Anyway, here is, more or less, what I said (more or less, because I improvised and did not read from a prepared text):

It’s fantastic to see all of you here—at the largest gathering of atheists and other nonreligious in U.S. history!

As Paul [Provenza] indicated, I’m the president of the Center for Inquiry or CFI, but I’m not going to talk too much about CFI because we have a whole bunch of information about CFI in our exhibit tent, such as pamphlets, brochures, bumper stickers— and knowledgeable staff who can give you details about CFI’s initiatives and programs. Please visit our exhibit tent if you haven’t done so already.

CFI carries out its work in a number of different areas: we have community groups, campus groups, educational programs, including online courses and a summer camp, publications, such as Free Inquiry; we’re also involved in litigation and lobbying. CFI is the Amazon of the freethought movement. We promote science and secularism in almost every conceivable way.

We’re able to engage in this wide range of activities because we have staff and volunteers who are driven—driven to bring about a United States where science, reason and secular values prevail. And I think this is a goal you share, am I right?

In fact, I think you share most of CFI’s objectives. Maybe that sounds presumptuous, but I think it’s true—and if I outline CFI’s objectives you can tell me whether I’m correct.

Unless I’m mistaken, most of you want atheists everywhere to be able to come out in the open, state what they believe or don’t believe without any fear of reprisal or discrimination. Am I right? That’s what you want and CFI is working toward that objective.

Unless I’m mistaken, most of you don’t want the government endorsing religious beliefs, placing crosses or ten commandments monuments on public land or in courthouses, requiring our children to solemnly affirm this is a nation under a god. You want a government that is neutral on religious matters. You want a government that respects the beliefs of everyone. That’s what you want and CFI is working toward that objective.

Unless I’m mistaken, most of you want government to stop giving religious institutions special privileges. We shouldn’t be providing religious institutions with billions of dollars of public funding for faith-based programs. If it’s a program based on faith instead of reason it has no right to a penny from the public purse. The funneling of public money to religious institutions needs to stop. That’s what you want and CFI is working toward that objective.

Unless I’m mistaken, most of you don’t want religious doctrines influencing our laws and public policy. Religious doctrine has no place in public policy debates about reproductive rights, rights for gays and lesbians, including same sex marriage, stem cell research or any other issues. Everyone has a right to believe in what they want to believe. People have a 1st amendment right to believe in invisible spirits; they don’t have a right to impose on others the instructions that these invisible spirits whisper to them. We need to keep religion out of our laws and public policies! That’s what you want and CFI is working toward that objective—and with your support, working together we can and will achieve all of these objectives.

Thanks again for coming out and joining us today; I look forward to working with all of you in the future.

Let me reiterate this last point. I do look forward to working with anyone who is committed to promoting a secular society. This is an important and achievable goal.