Try Googling “Reason Rally” today and you get a tapestry of takes, from NPR’s ” ‘Woodstock for Atheists’: A Moment for Non-Believers,” to Fox News’ “Why the Reason Rally Is Unreasonable.”
The Drudge Report straight-out snubs it, leading instead with: “Dick Cheney Gets New Heart” (talk about a resurrection). Then there’s The Huffington Post’s straight-up “Atheists to Gather for ‘Reason Rally’ on National Mall”; someone there did their search-engine-optimization homework, but it’s been more than 22 hours since anyone updated it.
This blog probably won’t appear in your search results. Yet this blogger was there, in proud attendance with my hippie husband on a gloomy, rain-gummed day … and not entirely for rational reasons.
Sure, we were enthused about the lineup of speakers, including the original and inimitable zoologist Richard Dawkins. My 1980s copy of “The Selfish Gene” remains the most dog-eared title in my collection or, as one speaker put it, “We’ve read them so often the pages stick together.” Oo-er … Another big draw: Tim Minchin, the madcap-genius songwriter who seems an irreverent George Carlin-esque comic for this generation.
What made our selfish genes go all gooey and emotional was seeing our daughter — who is a founding president of a Secular Student Alliance chapter on her Northwestern University campus and who’d traveled all night by bus to be there with a cadre of friends — stand up for something she believes in: non-belief; rational thought; self-actualization; herself.
Our daughter, the THINKER!
Could we find her amid 20,000 people? Even in a sea of like-minded folks of every stripe and rainbow, she stood out.
I confess I mostly videotaped Tim Minchin (footage to be posted separately), and didn’t properly “cover” the event. But as a member of the Mainstream Media, I was drawn to the fringes, those areas of the Mall where not everyone was so like-minded.
Despite its Tower of Babel feel, the discourse was refreshingly civil. Nothin’ evil. What else might one expect from a crowd of open-minded, science-stoked, reason-soaked thinkers?
(Click video link, at top — where you see the Christ banner — for a few video clips, including exchanges between the godless and the God-fearing counter-protesters who violated the rules and left their designated area to witness.)
Don’t let those other publications tell you it was all militancy or mockery on display. As with any rally, slogans were in fashion, stark differences delineated, some offense intended, but most done here with cleverness and humor. What stuck with me: Every speaker spoke of love for his fellow man and the planet, of morality, of doing good for goodness’ sake, of truly being a friend to the friendless.
Exiled Muslim-born Taslima Nasrin, who has fatwas on her head for speaking out for women’s rights and today is without a country, can tell you that. She looked out over the crowd of secular humanists and, voice cracking, thanked them for making her feel at home.