On March 24th, 2012, 20,000 secularists gathered at the National Mall in the nation’s capital to rally for reason. This may come as a surprise to some readers as the rally did not receive much attention from the media. Wait, 20,000 people rally in the capital and you didn’t hear about it? That doesn’t seem right, does it? Of course there had to be some sort of coverage, a giant news corporation had to at least have one story about it. Unfortunately, no one was unable to convey any actual information about the rally except to list some of the speakers. In an article titled “A rally for nothing in particular,” Fox News informed readers that “Atheism…has no creed, no principles, no philosophy, and can give no guidance.”1 Apparently, Fox News assumed that their opinion about religion was more important than simply covering the news. What Fox News fails to inform readers is that the rally, which was the largest gathering of secularists in history, was a complete success.
The Reason Rally aimed to create a safe environment for people to declare themselves as skeptics, to eliminate incorrect stereotypes about secularists, and promote legislative equality. Although reading Fox News’ portrayal of the rally would lead readers to believe a group of immoral “minions” whom worship Richard Dawkins simply converged to “celebrate, well, nothing in particular” the reality is that 20,000 people joined together to take a stand against dogma, ignorance, authoritarianism, and prejudice. The diversity of the participants was overwhelming: families with young children, college students, elder couples, middle age blue-collar workers, people of every skin color, every income level, every social level…it was amazing, and they all came out to publicly declare themselves nonbelievers. I had the extreme luck to experience the rally from the VIP section as the winner of an essay contest, which afforded me a unique viewpoint of both the members of luminary and the crowd. In the front row of the VIP section sat a family of four: a mother, father, daughter, and son. The children were both quite young and yet the speakers and performers held their attention the entire time, they seemed to really understand and relate with what was being said. Directly behind this family was an elder woman who was delighted by Tim Minchin and found his vulgarity comical. As a college student, it was quite humbling to be surrounded by such a diverse group of people all taking joy in what seemed like one ongoing discussion about why the belief in God is not needed, how we can be good people without religion, and our common goal to return equality by dispelling religion from the government.
Contrarily, Fox stated that “proponents of a society free from religious influence can point to no nation or civilization that was founded upon atheism that we might call even remotely good. The story of those regimes is well documented and may be summarized in a word—murderous.”2 Yet America was founded as a Nation where an individual had the right to religious freedom. Dr. Greg Graffin, who performed at the rally, has previously stated,
Countries with a high percentage of nonbelievers are among the freest, most stable, best-educated, and healthiest nations on earth. When nations are ranked according to a human-development index, which measures such factors as life expectancy, literacy rates, and educational attainment, the five highest-ranked countries — Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands — all have high degrees of nonbelief. Of the fifty countries at the bottom of the index, all are intensely religious. The nations with the highest homicide rates tend to be more religious; those with the greatest levels of gender equality are the least religious. These associations say nothing about whether atheism leads to positive social indicators or the other way around. But the idea that atheists are somehow less moral, honest, or trustworthy have been disproven by study after study.3
In continuation, the article goes on to declare, “If, for instance, you do not believe in God, you are likely to conclude that man is a temporal being meant to serve the state, an eternal institution. This is the view of the communist world. Sacrificing a few million people for the sake of building socialist paradise was always deemed an acceptable price to pay”5. Fortunately, this is completely incorrect, not all atheists are communists and not all atheists believe that sacrificing anyone is acceptable. Man is temporal, therefore, man only has this lifetime to live so each life counts. The idea that the lack of belief in god perpetuates a life given in servitude to the state is like saying that a belief in god dictates a life in servitude to priests. Not every religious person is a nun, monk, or a priest, ect.
It is time to dispel the stereotype that it doesn’t matter how moral you are, if you don’t believe in god then you simply cannot be a good person. Because Fox’s article goes on to state, “But there is something not quite right about all of this. Christianity, whatever the faults of its adherents, has a rich intellectual tradition that has a comprehensive view of life”4. Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus, someone who may or may not have existed around 4BC. Therefore, Christianity’s rich intellectual tradition is rooted in a belief that the Earth is flat, that evolution is a false theory, and a phenomenon like resurrection is at the core of belief. Atheists are not unintelligent, we simply base our intellect off of science: evolution is a fact, the Earth is round, and until science proves otherwise resurrection is a myth.
Ending the article with, “So as the rally for nothingness meets to celebrate, well, nothing in particular, reflect for a moment on the world they would give us. One need not imagine it. It has been done,”6 Fox left me wondering just what society was being referenced. What previous civilization/nation was entirely secular and as a result of that secularism are remembered as murderous communists with no morals? Atheism values human life as they hold no belief in an afterlife of any kind. Because atheism is not a worldview, not every atheist holds the same morals or values. Atheist’s morals come from reason, or more specifically the ability to reason between what is right and wrong with respect to what results from our actions. We don’t need rewards or punishments from an external source in order to be good people. This stereotype that atheists are bad corrupt people is outdated and the hate associated with it needs to stop.