Let’s End the Silence

This is a guest post by Ronald A. Lindsay, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Inquiry.

…You know the numbers and trends as well as I do. A very conservative estimate of nontheists in the United States is ten percent of the population. Moreover, every survey shows these numbers are growing.You’re also aware of the stigma that is still attached to being an atheist. All too many Americans think nonbelievers are immoral, mean-spirited, joyless individuals. For years, poll after poll has confirmed that nearly half of Americans would not vote for a person for president merely because that person is an atheist. Close to half of Americans would object to their child marrying an atheist.Stereotypes and prejudice exist for more than one reason. Some people are bigots and will remain bigots no matter what. But one reason many Americans harbor prejudice toward atheists is that they know about them only through what they have heard from their minister or priest, some right-wing politician, or perhaps some fatuous media personality such as Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly. Rarely have they heard from atheists themselves. Many of them remain in blissful ignorance of the fact that nonbelievers are among their friends and colleagues—or even close relatives.Why? Because too many of us are silent.Many atheists are still afraid or reluctant to have their skepticism become known. They’re concerned that people will think badly of them, will shun them.This silence is its own enforcement mechanism. Atheists don’t speak out because of the prejudice against them and one reason for the persistence of this prejudice is that atheists don’t speak out.Fortunately, many nonreligious are no longer willing to “pass.” Finding their voice, they are letting others know that they don’t believe in a god—and that they are leading happy, fulfilling lives. And, yes, they are trustworthy people who know right from wrong and act accordingly.But more of us need to shake off our complacency and come out. The political season is upon us and politician after politician is bending over backwards—or engaging in less seemly bodily contortions—to placate the Religious Right. Moreover, it’s not just GOP candidates who are giving in to pressure from the religious. President Obama has not delivered on his campaign pledge to reform some key provisions of the government’s faith-based funding program. (Reform? Hell, it should be abolished—but don’t get me started.) Again, there’s no mystery why he hasn’t done so. If not enough of us give a damn, why should he?The Religious Right is not bashful about exerting its influence, which is out of all proportion to its numbers. Meanwhile, too often we are off in the corner, mute and sitting on our hands.We’re a minority, but not a miniscule minority, and we should stop acting like one. Our situation is not going to change unless we make it change.The Reason Rally — on the Mall in DC on March 24 — is an unprecedented opportunity to show America that we’re here, to let our voices be heard loud and clear. Virtually every major secular organization in the United States is participating in this event. We occasionally have our differences (we wouldn’t be freethinkers if we did not), but we’re all united in this effort because we understand its importance. We can effect change, but only if we stand together.Join us in DC. End the silence.

Bad Religion and a Welcome Donation!

Two major updates to report:– The band Bad Religion will be joining us at Reason Rally for a one-hour performance immediately before the closing remarks!

Their hits include “Sorrow,” “Infected,” and “21st Century (Digital Boy).” We’re excited to have them on board!– The Stiefel Freethought Foundation has made a $200,000 donation to help cover the costs of Reason Rally!
“I am proud and excited to support the Reason Rally,” said Todd Stiefel, founder and president of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. “I look forward to seeing everyone there.”…“The momentum and support behind this nationwide event is growing, and with Todd’s generous donation we can only continue to grow our program and provide an even larger message of good news to the masses,” [organizer Dave] Silverman said. “From music, to comedy, to great speakers, the day will surely be one of unifying fun and energy.”

You can read more about this news at the Press Release page!

Welcome to the Reason Rally!

The Reason Rally is an event sponsored by many of the country’s largest and most influential secular organizations. It will be free to attend and will take place in Washington, D.C. on March 24th, 2012 from 10:00AM – 6:00PM at the National Mall. There will be music, comedy, speakers, and so much more. We hope you can join us! Please poke around this site for more information, stay tuned for frequent updates, and let us know if you have any questions! Speakers include:

Dr. Richard Dawkins

Author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, and more; Founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Tim Minchin

Musician, composer, songwriter, actor, comedian and writer.

Eddie Izzard

Actor; Comedian.

Adam Savage

Co-host of Mythbusters.

Jessica Ahlquist

High school activist and successful plaintiff in the case of Ahlquist v. City of Cranston (PDF).

Taslima Nasrin

Author of more than thirty books, including Lajja (“Shame”); Prolific activist for gender equality, free thought, and human rights.

Paul Provenza

Host and producer of The Green Room with Paul Provenza on Showtime and producer of the movie The Aristocrats (with Penn Jillette)

James Randi

Founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation; Creator of The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge; Magician (known as “The Amazing Randi”).

Lawrence Krauss

A highly regarded international leader in cosmology and astrophysics and author, most recently of the New York Times bestseller A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing

Bad Religion

Legendary rock band fronted by singer/songwriter Greg Graffin.

The full list of speakers can be seen here.

Also, there will be a Camp Quest tent at the rally, so bring your kids! The tent will be geared toward children 5-15, with craft projects and games.

Need a Hotel Room for the Reason Rally?

The Hilton Garden Inn in Washington, D.C. is offering a special rate for Reason Rally attendees — 50% off their normal rates! ($149/night instead of $299/night)Even better: Check out the name of the room you’d be staying in…

Book yours while they’re still available!

PZ Myers Voices His Support for the Reason Rally

PZ Myers recently sat down for an interview in which he discussed his support for the Reason Rally and why you all should make plans to come!

In summary, this is a chance to show the government that we’re a large and cohesive community with certain goals we’re passionate about achieving. The Reason Rally will also put a human face on atheism.One of the weaknesses of the atheist movement has always been fragmentation. PZ thinks it’s important that we agree on a common core of values and get together to pursue those goals. His purpose at the rally is to emphasize the connection between atheism (and its championing of evidence and reason) and science. PZ decries the influence of religion on politics — people claiming they have answers when their beliefs are unfounded.PZ says that the Reason Rally will show that there is a constituency that will not settle for platitudes, that will demand concrete and physical steps toward solutions, and for that reason, he thinks it will have broader appeal than just the atheist community.”This is the Reason Rally for pragmatism and real-world solutions. And that will appeal to a large number of people.”(Thanks to Megan for the helpful summary!)