Freethought Today · June / July 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Reason Rally leaves many ‘optimistic for the future’

While the crowd at the June 4 Reason Rally may not have been as big as anticipated, the message still resonated among the thousands who were there.

"I left the rally feeling optimistic for the future when I saw so many people passionately fighting for science, secularism, and reason," wrote Matthew Facciani on his "According to Matthew" blog on Patheos.com.

Lyz Liddell, executive director of the Reason Rally Coalition, opened the event.

"We say to our families, our communities and, ultimately, our government, which meets just at the other end of this National Mall, that we exist, we are good without God," she declared. "We can bring about social change and we are a growing voter constituency."

Dozens of people spoke at the rally, including Bill Nye "The Science Guy," illusionist Penn Jillette, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Bobby Scott of Virginia, and, of course, FFRF's Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. (See page 17 for their speeches.) The Reason Rally was hosted and funded by several secular and atheist groups, including FFRF.

Observers noted the crowd was smaller than during the first Reason Rally in 2012, when an estimated 20,000 people attended.

NASA scientist Carolyn Porco told the crowd the only way to address issues in the governance of our nation is not to "pray the problems away, but to think the problems away."

Brenda Germain, a member of the group Military Atheists and Secular Humanists of Fort Bragg, was at the rally with her husband, an Air Force veteran.

"We're tired of watching our politicians pandering to the religious and ignoring us as if we don't even exist," Germain told CNN Wire.

Liddell said the presence of two U.S. representatives, along with Maryland congressional candidate Jamie Raskin, was significant.

Raskin, a state senator who is culturally Jewish, noted that alliances between "progressive religious reformers of all faiths and secular humanists" have changed America by advancing justice and freedom in movements related to abolition, women's suffrage, labor and environmentalism.

"We must tell the world of how America broke from theocracy and religious war by protecting both freedom of thought and freedom of worship," Raskin said. "Both secular government and religious liberty [were protected] simply by the ingenious act of separating the church from the state."

"A pluralistic, secular government is the only way to ensure that all individuals have the freedom to follow the religious path of their choice," said Gabbard, who is the first and only American Hindu elected to Congress. When Gabbard ran for Congress in 2012, her opponent argued that she shouldn't be allowed to serve because her religion doesn't "align" with the Constitution.

Laura Duncan, 57, of Taylor, Mich., came with her friends from Michigan Atheists.

"It's just really nice seeing people who think the same way you do after being isolated for 50 years," Duncan told the Religion News Service.

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