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Reason Rally message muddled

April 10, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012, Washington Mall was crowded with non-believers, atheists. While atheists represented about three to five percent of the American population, thousands were expected to attend the “Reason Rally,” which was also dubbed “Woodstock for Atheists.”

According to Reason Rally organizer David Silverman, president of American Atheists, the event would’ve drawn up to 30,000 people. Famous atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Eddie Izzard, and rock group Bad Religion were there to encourage closeted atheists to “come out.” Hemant Mehta, who wrote a blog called The Friendly Atheist, said atheists needed to take cues from the gay rights movement to reduce the stigma against not believing in God. Some atheists, however, worried Saturday’s Reason Rally could’ve been divisive. Since everyone who attended the rally had their own agenda, the purpose behind it seemed somewhat muddled.

What were some of the arguments atheists had against religion? An atheist was a person who denied or did not believe the existence of God. Most atheists felt that the Bible was of questionable accuracy, as it was written thousands of years ago by many authors who were recording oral tradition that existed many years before. Thus, any claimed “truth” in it was of questionable legitimacy. It wasn’t that The Bible had no truth in it; simply that any truth should’ve been examined before being accepted.

Many atheists felt that because any passage was subject to “interpretation,” any claim that a passage “meant” one thing and one thing only was not legitimate. It’s just one example of how atheists became increasingly assertive — arguing not only that religion was false, but also a threat to civilization. For me, religion, like atheism and politics, only became a threat to civilization when it was taken to extreme measures.

Dan Barker and his wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor, both co-presidents of Freedom From Religion Foundation, saw a world being torn apart by religious fundamentalists of a “They had Christians against Muslims against Jews. They’ve made incompatible claims on real estate in the Middle East as though God were some kind of omniscient real estate broker parsing out parcels of land to his chosen flock. People were literally dying over ancient literature.”

Jeff Hebert, author of  “Atheist FAQ, Why Do Atheists hate God?” said there were three reasons for this:

1. Dangerous Actions Religion was seen as giving followers the right to commit unlawful, immoral, or otherwise harmful acts against other human beings. Regardless of the existence or non-existence of the god worshiped in that religion, the acts themselves were deplored on their own merits. Religion was regarded as something that encouraged such behavior than other belief systems, and as such should’ve been avoided.

2. Corrupt thought processes Religion was seen as promoting non-rational, non-scientific, non-logical modes of thought that lead to less than desirable social consequences. One example often given was the effort to replace the scientifically solid theory of evolution with Biblical “creation science” or “intelligent design” in public classrooms. This lessened the ability of students to think critically about the world around them, in turn weakening the United States ability to compete in the scientific world.

3. Their ‘truth’ Strong atheists believed there was no god, and by allowing significant social institutions to continue, promoting any deception was distasteful. In general it’s better to be truthful than otherwise, and this was just one of the more prominent examples of culture promoting lies.

IsThatLatin, author of, Wrong In Their Mind Tanks: Why Atheists Hate Religion, said they [atheists] hated every other organized religion. This was easy to explain. They hated what those religions represented and the actions they supported and propagated.

Randall Baumer, professor of American religious history at Columbia University thought the challenge was for people of faith to be true to the principles of the faith. He also thought the challenge was in returning and reclaiming the real principles of the faith, so that people showed respect toward one another. This was impossible because Barker and Gaylor viewed religion as a global threat due to the amount of violence from opposing factions. The purpose of the “Reason Rally,” was, according to David Silverman, not in tweaking the faithful but encouraging hidden atheists to take heart. They wanted to put a ‘friendly face’ on atheism. Hemant Mehta, author of a blog called The Friendly Atheist, said that atheism had an image problem in that they were seen as belligerents, mad and angry, ready to fight. They were never seen as pleasant or approachable.

In 2007, the Freedom From Religion Foundation people feared President Bush’s implemented ‘faith based’ government programs as a violation of church and state, or the ‘high wall’ theory found in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

God chose certain people to burn for eternity and they had no say in the matter. If they brought in heaven and hell, my counterstatement would’ve been that if there was a god, I would hope that he judged people on their actions (i.e. morality) rather than their superficial beliefs or practices. Morgan Matthew, author of Quick Arguments Against Religion, stated that morality did not come from religion.

Many atheists used logic and rationality to inform their lives and their actions, rather than religious texts. The Bible wasn’t simply an ideal abstraction; in Western religious traditions were found many stories about what God had done or commanded believers to do. Often such actions were contrary to basic moral principles; at the same time, God was described as the source of morality. How could this have been? These were important questions because religious theists in the West believed both the truth that God was the source of morality and claimed that God committed or commanded atrocious acts which people today would’ve been repulsed by. What God commanded was moral, the Bible was accurate in its description of God’s actions and commands, and there were certain acts (like rape, murder, and slavery) committed or commanded by God that were immoral.

The Christian was convinced of his or her position based on faith. An atheist couldn’t share this experience, but when a believer turned to God, God gave them His Spirit, which gave them confidence that God exists, that Jesus is God, and that they were regenerated (Matthew 16:13-17). Faith was the basis for the atheist’s non-belief in God. The Bible describes faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) When an atheist rejected belief in God, he rejected any source of confidence beyond his own level of reasoning or understanding. The thinking atheist would’ve been constantly questioning the origin of the universe, would have been confused regarding morality, and unsure of his own destiny and purpose in life. The Bible said, “by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:24). And again, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13). (See also Romans 8:16; Col. 2:2-3; John 20:31).

Romans 1 explained that so-called atheists, among others, actually “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Rom. 1:18-19). How has God shown Himself to them? “His invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, had been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. They were without excuse. The atheist put his faith in science or self. He presupposed that science or self were trustworthy places for his confidence. This non-believer believed in his own testimony. The Bible, however, confronted this tenuous belief system; “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater” (1 John 5:9). God’s testimony was found in Jesus–an indisputable historical figure. As C. S. Lewis summarized, Jesus was one of three things. Either he was a 1) subversive liar, 2) or a raving lunatic, or 3) He was actually who He claimed to be–the Son of God. Which one was he? The passage cited above goes on to say, “Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:10).

There wasn’t much to worry about because there was no spoken creed with which to disagree (except perhaps for “staunch” atheists, whose only belief was that there were no gods). No atheists were organized into lobbies, interest groups, or political action committees (at least none that exercised strong power). This was unlike the many groups that lobbied on behalf of various religions. Finally, an atheist would’ve been the least likely elected President of the United States. This would’ve made everyone secular and religious uncomfortable.

The biggest obstacle for atheists was that they did not believe in God. Rather than walking by faith and not by sight, they leaned on their own understanding that logic and rationality provided them in organizing their lives. If anything, the purpose of the reason rally, like Woodstock, was to make a statement to the rest of the religious world. Their statement was somewhat muddled. Those attendees had their own agenda. Some wanted the same rights as gays or homosexuals when they came out. Others wanted to put a friendly face on atheism. Which met with opposition. The fact was that the event occurred.









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