I won’t discuss the Reason Rally performances in detail since you can see/hear most of them for yourself on YouTube (one such LINK)
My wife and I arrived on Thursday and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bethesda. After getting in a couple of great runs on the beautiful trails near the hotel and finding some good food, we went to the CFI reception Friday evening. It was my first time standing within three feet of Dawkins. As a Humanist I felt some of the star-struck stuff but as a realist I didn’t act goofy. Ron Lindsay took the podium first. The room was small and uncomfortably warm but everyone was in a good mood and managed to smile while they clicked their cameras and drank there pop or five dollar beer. Ron briefly discussed the significance of the rally and the history that led up to it. He then introduced VICTOR HARRIS, a poet who recited a funny story about two great fizzy yet opposing religions called soda and pop. (I can’t find that on YouTube, but it really was good)
Then Dawkins took the podium. He said that he cannot believe that a country that is so well educated and leads the world in technology and science can have such a statistically significant percentage of its population that believes in the supernatural. He then went on to state that the statistics are likely wrong. He mentioned a survey that showed something like 72% of respondents claimed to be Christian. Those respondents were later asked why they checked the Christian square. They said that they just wanted to show that they were “good” people. They equated being Christian with being good. That’s what it comes down to for many, and we have to change that.
My wife mentioned that she saw Jessica Alquist in the hallway and that Jessica was really nervous. I went to see her and to let her know that she was among friends. What an evil little thing she is, indeed! She was kind enough (evil enough?) to take a picture with me just before she headed out the door. Her nerves would not let her speak tonight. I was so happy to see that she recovered completely and gave a very nice talk at the rally. She said that she saw all of us as evil little things.
The protests were small and easily ignored and the hosts of the rally reminded people that we are here for the free hugs. What was more interesting to me was the passersby who squinted to read the signs that people carried. I saw one guy in particular who, once he realized that the sign said, “Good without God,” just rolled his eyes in disgust - like he was thinking, “Oh man, those people.” I felt a little insulted but realized that he had not likely considered the ramifications of what he must perceive to be benign. I wished he would stick around long enough to hear Greta Christina explain why atheists are angry - she had a compelling list.
I have to admit that one of the greatest acts of the day for me was Tim Minchin. What a friggin’ genius! My iPod has several new tunes.
Probably the saddest part of my experience came after the rally. I was very disheartened to see that the relatively puny little Tea Party rally against Affordable healthcare made the news but I saw nothing of the considerably larger Reason Rally. But I admit it was not a surprise. I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity last year. That rally was larger than the Mall could accommodate. Really - people were stuck in Virginia because the queue to get to the rally was so backed up. My wife and I were lucky to be very near the stage at that one. As huge as it was, it didn’t make any headlines. This one didn’t register a burp on the media seismograph.
Still, we had a lot of fun and it was great to see that we as a group are really nice people.