US atheists rally urged to mock religious

Atheists at the "Reason Rally" in Washington (Photo: Christian Post)

Originally published in Christian Post

WASHINGTON – Thousands of atheists showed up at the National Mall Saturday for what they believe will be a game-changing event for secularists. Though the Reason Rally was billed as a celebration of reason and a “coming out” event for atheists, as opposed to an anti-religion one, some viewed it as the latter.

“They said it wasn’t going to be anti-God but all the signs are. So it doesn’t fit because they’re really not rallying for reason. They just say they are,” said Tom Gilson, a writer and missions strategist.

Richard Dawkins, author of the best-selling The God Delusion, was the most anticipated and well-known speaker at the rally.

In his brief address, Dawkins encouraged fellow atheists to ridicule those who claim to be religious.

Exemplifying how he would approach religious persons, Dawkins said, “Do you really believe, for example if they’re Catholic, that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ?”

“Mock them, ridicule them in public,” he urged. “Don’t fall for the convention that we’re all too polite to talk about religion.”

Gilson, who blogs at thinkingchristian.net, believes the rally was inappropriately titled. Participants were rallying not for reason, he argued, but against religion and for secularism and the separation of church and state.

He also argued that atheists “have no business claiming the brand of reason” because “they don’t reason very well.”

“For them (atheists), reason means ‘don’t believe anything that doesn’t have empirical evidence.’ But reason also means being able to start with a premise or some evidence, move through a line of thinking and arrive at a conclusion without stumbling upon fallacies that lead you to a wrong conclusion.

“Over and over … again, you’ll find fallacies in their thinking.”

“Why are they calling themselves the reasonable one? It’s that they have their own definition of reason and it’s not a good enough one,” he added.

The Christian blogger believes atheists can “get away” with saying “it’s unreasonable to be a Christian” because of how Christianity is portrayed in the media.

“I don’t think the message of Jesus Christ in its truth, in its sensibility is getting into the media very effectively. I think that the vast majority of Christianity in the media is distorted.”

Gilson was among a group of Christians who were passing out free bottled water and summarized versions of True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism.

He wasn’t there to protest or counter-demonstrate, he emphasized. Rather, he wanted to offer a humble and non-disruptive response to the rally and engage with anyone who wanted to converse.

Separate from Gilson, several other Christians were present at the rally and took a different approach from the “True Reason” team who were advised to walk away from any heated conversations. Around half a dozen people identifying as Christians held large signs telling people to trust in Jesus and actively debated with atheists individually.

Meanwhile, a few members from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church reportedly showed up to protest but were run off by a large group of rally participants, according to one observer.

Philip Ness-Thomas, one of the Christians holding a large Jesus sign, acknowledged that Westboro is not part of real Christendom. “They forgot the love, the mercy, and hope,” he said of the Topeka, Kansas, church.

Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps, recounted his conversion to atheism at the rally.

“When I left that place (Westboro Church) on the night of my 18th birthday, I left with a mind trained to judge and hate. I left with a certainty that I had displeased God and would be punished for it,” Phelps recalled.

Though he tried returning to religion and sought the God of the evangelical Christians, he still had doubts. He fully embraced atheism when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred.

“All around us today is the evidence that we’re not alone in our convictions, that the supernatural need not be invoked for humans to have morality and purpose,” he said.

Dawkins believes they are reaching a “tipping point” when closeted atheists will all “come out.”

“There are too many people in this country who have been cowed into fear of coming out as atheists or secularists or agnostics,” he noted. “We are far more numerous than anybody realizes.”

28 Comments

  1. lol @ interviewing a dude from a christian blog who thought that reason rally was ‘mean’ and then writing an article about it.

    • Seems a “reasonable” strategy to include a Christian perspective when you are writing for a Christian publication. Don’t you think? Also, he doesn’t actually say the rally was “mean”. He reports on what the keynote speaker, Richard Dawkins had to say — viz. riducule religious people. He also offers some interesting insights about the nature of “reason”.

      • No, he didn’t report on what Richard Dawkins had to say, he reported on the group of words that most offended him when removed from context.

        In fact the entire keynote centered around challenging ideas while respecting the persons, and challenging those non-believers who call themselves ‘religious’ because it’s just a default answer, even when they don’t believe.

        • Hi Michael. I wasn’t there, so let me accept that Dawkins did have something more reasonable to say. But I did a quick search and found that other reports on the event also led with his exhortation to mock religious people. Mockery of Christians, certainly is nothing new. Jesus was mocked and crucified and as he died he asked his Father to forgive those who persecuted him as they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:24). I was an atheist myself for many years but 25 years ago I came to believe that Jesus did indeed pay for the sins of all mankind and offers an eternal relationship with God to all who believe in Him. Through much study and life experience since then my faith has grown stronger. I do respect and accept that others will differ. That is why, as the editor of this South African Christian news portal, I welcome diverse views. Thanks for your contribution.

  2. Robert Harrington

    I am glad to hear that the young Nate Phelps left that hate filled group! Personally, I am agnostic, and I believe in affording everyone the right to believe in whatever way they wish. Parading around in favor of your system of belief and making comments against others is just counter-productive in my opinion.

    • Hi Robert,

      Can I point out that if one believes that others may believe whatever they wish, you are obliged to allow those from the “hate filled group” to do what they doing, wouldn’t you say? I’d say parading around your views against the “hate filled group(s)” are just counter-productive in my opinion.

      Can you see why this argument just doesn’t work. You seem to cut off the branch you sitting on.

  3. I think it’s more than fitting that Westboro Baptist Church and Richard Dawkins appear at the same venue for exactly the same reasons: to disparage other people for not thinking and believing the way they do.

    Maybe we can lock them all in a room together and hope that they keep each other occupied for an infinite length of time. This would leave the rest of us to work out our differences amicably and allow us to continue tolerating each other in spite of our differences.

  4. Well, Dawkins make a fair point. When a person literally believes that a wafer they’re eating has changed into the flesh of a human, they are not of sound mind. Certainly not all atheists are reasonable or even literate. However, Christianity by its very nature lacks the ability to reason. Don’t get me wrong, a person can be a Christian and still be a genius. However, Christianity is, by its very nature devoid of reason and rational thought. Belief in god is idiotic and worthy of mockery.

    • You seem to lack a working understanding of the concept or definition of “belief”

      I can “literally believe” lots of things and still be of incredibly sound mind. I “literally believe” there is more than one ounce of soda in the can sitting in front of me. Until I pick it up and measure it I can’t know for sure.

      If I choose not to pick it up and insist on saying that I KNOW FACTUALLY that there is 1 ounce of soda, you may then rightly suggest I have psychological or emotional issues.

      But if I merely keep insisting I BELIEVE there is a certain amount of soda, only an idiot or a fool would argue with me. How can one argue an inarguable position?

      Belief, by it’s very definition, is not rational nor is it reasoned. It is a BELIEF.

      Your critical thinking skills are highly flawed, and perhaps even defective, if you insist on promoting the idea that holding a belief is: A) Some type of statement of measurable fact. (Hint: It is not) B)a position statement that can be argued with facts. (Another hint: It can’t)

      Any person skilled in debate knows the most basic groundwork in making an argument is to define one’s terms. That does not mean you can manipulate or radically alter the standard definitions and meanings of commonly accepted terms.

      Belief is, according to the OED: an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.

      The person believing Accepts Without Proof. They know that’s what they are doing. Yet you insist on continuing to argue FACTS with them.

      Now who is worthy of mockery?

      • Still you, Karen. Your definition of belief has two consequences: Either anything you believe has to be something that can’t be proven, and is thus irrelevant (by eliminating any way to empirically measure any different effect that could be caused by your belief), or it has to concern things that CAN be proven, but that you will discount despite that proof. In your example, if you believe there is an ounce of coke in that can, it’s easy to test your belief and determine whether it is consistent with truth. We would reasonably expect that anyone with a stake in how much soda is in there would do so, and, unless we’re crazy, we would accept the results of the observation. Religion wishes to make itself exempt. Whenever that exemption just relegates God to the tiny gaps of the universe that have no effect on life, that’s fine (although we would question why someone would believe in something that has had no observable effect). However, when those beliefs DO have real-world effects (like considering life to begin at conception), belief gets in the way by obscuring real observations. This is the skeptic’s complaint, and it is legitimate.

        • I don’t believe in God(s). I just don’t care for sloppy thinking or for overbearing bullies.

          “Whenever that exemption just relegates God to the tiny gaps of the universe that have no effect on life, that’s fine (although we would question why someone would believe in something that has had no observable effect). However, when those beliefs DO have real-world effects (like considering life to begin at conception), belief gets in the way by obscuring real observations. This is the skeptic’s complaint, and it is legitimate.”

          And here we are in complete agreement. But Dawkins does not say that. He says: “Do you really believe, for example if they’re Catholic, that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ?”

          How, exactly, does that affect anything in the real world? What consequences does that BELIEF have, in praxis, to anyone other than the believer?

          When you people decide to stop resorting to juvenile attacks on others just because they believe and think differently than you, you will have a lot more supporters… like me for instance.

          The agnostics and atheists I know wouldn’t give “new atheists” air if you were suffocating. You have veered off the path of reason and into mocking diatribe. You act like a group of chimpanzees trying to move up the social ladder of their group by beating their chests and threatening to run through a creek with a big, noisy branch…. oooo scary.

          So, when you grow up and actually adhere to the tenets of your world view, I’ll give the movement as a whole a little more respect and consideration.

    • That is not what we literally believe. It’s purely symbolic, and its purpose is to focus on what Christ did for us.

      Making fun of someone for thinking there’s something bigger out there is a jerk move. I agree with what Karen said before you, our differences should be resolved, if they can, amicably. Bullying someone into not believing in God is just as bad as shoving religion down their throat, which you atheists hate.

    • I tend to differ. I think that to believe that you are so unique as are others and then to believe that when you die the lights just go out is idiotic. I don’t believe however it is worthy of mockery. I do believe that anyone may believe what they want to believe. I believe in Jesus. Mock me if you will but I will not mock you back.

  5. I’m not persuaded by the atheists or the fundamentalists. Both lay claim to the reasonable answers. And, well, isn’t that the problem – they are reasoning in a vacuum. Reason is not the scientific approach – empiricism is. Truth lies in experience, not thought-twiddling. The scientific tools of religious inquiry are prayer and meditation. The proof is direct, personal experience. Subjective? Oh, yes. But valid in its realm, which IS the personal and subjective. And repeatable: the testimony of the saints of all religions – i.e., those who’ve carried out the experiment – is the same, even across religious “borders.” St. Teresa of Avila claimed that God is experienced at the top of the head – the Crown Chakra of the spiritual scientists of ancient India. The atheists and fundies can get back to me once they’ve completed their research, using appropriate tools.

    • Religion is philosophy without the questions.

    • One question runbei. Has your premise, that empiricism is the only means of laying our hands on truth, been tested using the scientific method? Surely if I make a claim and the very premise doesn’t hold up to the conclusion I’ve just made then my argument would be invalid. (eg. if I said: I can’t type a comment longer than five words.)

  6. p.s. Dawkins is a poseur – when challenged by scientist Rupert Sheldrake to review his experiments which suggest the primacy of consciousness, not matter, Dawkins flatly refused. A dishonest, cowardly response. See http://www.sheldrake.org

  7. Dawkins is a publicity ghoul with an important message – Theists are delusional fruitcakes looking for special treatment to practice their entrenched form of bigotry without challenge… While I get his point, his delivery tends toward the extreme.

    Sheldrake is a flake who is quite successful at fleecing mouth-breathers with less sense than a stunned carrot.

  8. Most reasonable people will agree that there is scientific proof that the placebo effect is real. If someone is capable of believing in a god, then there is good reason to believe that they may receive a placebo-like effect from their belief. Why rob someone of that? I am an atheist because I have to be one. I can not choose to believe in a god any more than most adults can choose to believe in Santa. Although religious belief is a the root of a LOT of suffering, so are political beliefs. I say that one should seek freedom from all belief and seek understanding instead. Belief and faith are merely measures of desire… a desire for something to be true. Otherwise, you would refrain from accepting something as a truth and hold it as merely possible.

  9. I’ll listen to Mr. Dawkins when he stops sleeping with Mr. Garrison.

    Talk about naive and stupid… Dick, you take the marblecake.

  10. An idea created to scare a culture into subservience in order to grow rich and remove the possibility of disagreement upon pain of death is no way to raise a child, especially when that idea is 4000 years old and has proven its repressive and discriminitory ways. All religion is a cop out and ancient money making political scheme. All those who believe it are truly deluded. I pity you all.

  11. He says that the “message of Jesus Christ” is distorted in the media, and that’s what makes christians look bad. But even in that statement he elicits exactly the sentiment that puts non-christians on the defensive. The attitude of moral superiority, the attitude that non-christians just “don’t understand Jesus” or else they would renounce their beliefs in favor of christianity.

    It’s got nothing to do with the media. It’s in the bible. The first commandment, that all christians should believe all other gods and religions to be false, and the principle of salvation only through Jesus, that all members and worshippers of those gods and religions deserve to be tortured for eternity if they don’t convert to christianity.

    You Christians act like defenseless civilians under attack by a tyrannical army whenever someone so much as speaks ill of you in the media. But in truth you are the ones who declared war on every other belief system on the planet; a war of eradication.

    • Hi J.

      I hear what you saying. I don’t think its media per say that is giving Christianity it’s bad rap. I do however think that there is this “thought climate” that contains a notion that no-one can claim to see and know the world the way it really is. Christianity claims to see and know the world the way it really is. So these two ideologies don’t sit well with each other. I’m not entirely sure why they think that we can’t see and know the world the way it really is. Maybe someone can help me with this.

  12. This is my problem with these so-called “New Atheists.” They’re just turning lack of belief into yet another religion. How about you SHUT UP AND LIVE AND LET LIVE! We don’t want Christians telling us how to live, HOW DARE YOU tell them?! Hypocrites and jackasses, particularly that Dawkins character. If it weren’t atheism it’d be some other movement, he just loves the attention. The fact that I don’t believ in god doesn’t mean I have to be a dick about it.

    • Hi KP,

      I think you are exactly right(even though I’m a theist myself.) Surely if Atheism were true and there is no God, then in the final analysis nothing really matters. Not even atheism. So why even talk about it or get others to believe in atheism. In fact one could argue that theist have no choice but to believe since, if you going to believe some kind of naturalist explanation for the cause of the world, you are stuck with only natural (read material) causes for anything. So your theism or atheism would possibly be caused by something genetic.
      Anyways, I could go on and on. Well done on seeing this inconsistancy.

  13. ……….. only a fool believes there is no God !!

  14. Jesus cannot be denied even if we try, for if we deny Him The Rocks will cry out. Amen

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