Johnny Depp, Margaret Cho & Thousands of Atheists Descend on DC for the Reason Rally
Guest post by Joe DeLong
Religious conservatives Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry all believed their god wanted them to be President this year. They’ve all since dropped out of the race as a giant oompa loompa with a reverse comb over leads their party off a cliff. Does this mean their god changed sides and feels the bern or could it be their god wasn’t there to begin with?
In June, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, thousands of atheists will come together for The Reason Rally (info here) to celebrate that they are unencumbered by dogma and ritual and that no invisible sky daddy tells them how to vote. They’re here. They’re non-believers. Get used to it.
The first Reason Rally was held in 2012 on The National Mall and was hosted by comedian Paul Provenza who returns to host this year. “It’s a party not a protest, says Provenza, “the idea is for people to see all these people and look at the amazing time they’re having and that the amazing vibe and spirit of all of this is the antithesis of what people think about when they think about atheists and non-believers. They think we’re just this side of Satan.”
A Pew Research Poll shows that 23% of Americans now identify as non-religious. That’s a 7% increase since 2007. Are Americans turning their back on god because of the natural disasters he’s causing since we’re now ok with gay people getting married? What other explanation is there for the flooding of New Orleans other than it’s supposed to be Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve? Maybe the church is losing because of bad marketing. Are good christian role models like Sarah Palin hurting their brand? You betcha. Or maybe the reason more people would rather sleep in on the last day of the weekend instead of waking up early and putting on their Sunday best is this: they don’t see anything to believe in.
Even though non-believers are coming out of the closet more and more they’re still far behind religion in one aspect: organization. Not believing in something isn’t necessarily a motivating factor to get people together. Hosting for the second time, Provenza understands this challenge, “Trying to get a bunch of non-believers together is like herding kittens. Most freethinkers, most non-believers tend to be sort of individualists.”
Estimates of the crowd total from the first Rally in 2012 vary from 20,000 to 30,000. The line-up included Bad Religion, Eddie Izzard and Adam Savage from Mythbusters who all took the stage among notable scientists and authors. This year, however, one of the biggest movie stars in the world will be there: Johnny Depp. “One of the important motivations of the Reason Rally is to come out to identify as non-believers.” says Provenza, “We know that they’re out there they’re just not identified and so bringing people like Johnny Depp and other celebrities into the picture does give attention and also helps people to embolden themselves. It encourages people to take on the identity of a non-believer to not be in the closet about it.”
Celebrities like Depp and Margaret Cho and Bill Nye will certainly elevate the Rally’s profile (and ensure some super creative protest signs from the Westboro Baptist Church) but there’s a lot of behind the scenes lobbying of elected officials by the Rally organizers and Provenza himself that you don’t see. For too long our laws have been the power bottom to the churches angry top. Now it’s time to flip the script. Facts over faith. “It doesn’t have any place. It doesn’t serve any greater purpose,” says Provenza, “It’s certainly not a way to drive public policy and expect that it’s going to be fair and inclusive. It’s all nonsense.”
That nonsense is deeply embedded in legislation being proposed today. Just look at the so called religious liberty bills that pop up all across the country. The old adage of ‘love the sinner hate the sin’ has become ‘love the sinner hate the sin and refuse to bake them a wedding cake’ otherwise Jesus will put them on the naughty list.
“It’s heinous.” Says Provenza, “It’s all an attempt to fulfill their own illusion that this is a christian country.” That point is why the Rally is being held again in the heart of the Capital. He adds,”The object is for people to have the strength in their own lives to stand up and say ‘You know what? I don’t believe and I don’t want to play by these rules and I take issue with this christian right’ and that will translate into politically undermining, to a certain degree, the power base of the christian right because when lawmakers realize that there is a broad base of people who will support them if they defy the christian right then things will change.”
Make no mistake the Reason Rally is not anti-christian. It’s not anti-anything. It’s simply pro reason. “We’re loving life” says Provenza,”We’re loving each other, we’re loving anybody that comes in this fold and we’re not bad people.”
As for the true believers who’ll be there on the sidelines praying for the souls of the doomed attendees Provenza hopes they pay attention to what’s being said on stage and just how happy people can be without the threat of eternal burning in a lake of fire hanging over their heads, “You’re never going to convince a fundamentalist christian there is no god,” he says, “they’re going to have to find out on their own.”
The Reason Rally takes place June 4 in Washington D.C. Go to ReasonRally.org for more information.