WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSDC) – Thousands of atheists are expected to attend the Reason Rally next month in Washington, D.C., an event that organizers hope will unify a large part of the secular community.
On March 24, the National Mall will be populated by those who sympathize with atheist perspectives, generally defined by an absence in belief of deities or other religious icons.
The website for the event states that organizers aim to encourage participants to claim their identity as what they call “secular Americans,” to dispel stereotypes, and to rally for legislative equality.
David Silverman, a chair for the Reason Rally Coalition and president of American Atheists, said that participants are motivated by positivity.
“We’re not going there to complain, we’re not going there to fight,” he told CBSDC. “[We want to] celebrate the fact that we are growing, we are stronger, and we are taking our place in American society.”
The idea for the rally was born several years ago, from a national meeting of similar minds and their desire to help their movement grow in both strength and number from their current standings.
“There are 40 to 50 million atheists [in the United States]. About 40 to 50 thousand are involved in the movement,” Silverman said. “That’s one-tenth of 1 percent [of the movement actively participating].”
Bookending that weekend are other initiatives to further engage those in the secular community and beyond, including a national lobbying day before and a national convention afterwards, all in the hopes of maximizing the impact of the weekend.
The location and timing of the rally are not coincidence – the Reason Rally hopes to make its own impact on the 2012 elections by injecting a discussion of separations between church and state into the national dialogue.
“We need people to ask the tough questions, and they’re not. What’s more important: the Bible or the Constitution? Do they want theocracy? Do they want Christianity as the official religion, and if so, which version?” Silverman stated, adding that despite his Republican affiliation, he feels himself without a candidate that supports his beliefs. “Hopefully what we’ll do is get people talking about what … atheists and secularists think.”
Superseding the importance of political activism, though, is the movement’s passionate desire for true equality.
“There are more atheists in the country right now than Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists combined and doubled – that’s a lot of people, and we are the most hated … for no reason other than pure and simple religious bigotry, spurned by ignorance,” Silverman said. “Ignorance is killed by awareness … we want to put many faces to [atheism], so people will understand us better and tolerate us more.”