Saturday, March 31, 2012

Like the Constitution, We’re Good Without God

    On Saturday the 24th, I traveled into DC to attend the first Reason Rally, a sort of celebration/call to action for folks like myself who believe in the rule of law and reason, as opposed to superstition, rumor, and whatever drivel Glen Beck crapped out of his mouth last night.  After having our previous President say that I wasn’t a real American, it was nice to have a bunch of patriotic fellow rationalists together in one place to show that not only are non-religious people Americans, but we’re motivated and not going away.  And I have to admit a certain swell of pride when secular members of our armed forces brought out the flags of the services and of the United States, and we collectively said the original Pledge of Allegiance.

(Not from the event, but it looked a lot like this)

    The event itself was a bit uneven, with several highs and a few dragging bits.  One nice aspect of the overall schedule was that everyone was on for only a few minutes, around 10.  This kept people from going too long for the most part, though a few people still managed to make their presentations drag somewhat.

    The highlights were Richard Dawkins, who spoke rather eloquently about some of the things that make the US Constitution as special as it is; James Randi, who is like an ancient secular leprechaun; and Adam Savage of Myth Busters.  I also enjoyed presentations by Hamant Mehta, Jamila Bey, Fred Edwards (how is this guy not in movies?), Victor Harris, and Nate Phelps (yes, related to Fred Phelps).   And host Paul Provenza was a gas.

    The first few hours were quite inspirational in a way, with a lot of call to action and encouragement for political action.  And a general call to come out of the atheist closet.  As was brought up on more than one occasion, secularists are the ‘fastest growing but least trusted minority in America.’  And chances are, we’re not trusted because a lot of people simply don’t get us.  I’ve heard on more than one occasion that it doesn’t matter what someone believes, simply that they believe in something (the implication is that that something must be a supernatural something).  I find that sentiment more than a little troubling.  But whatever, it was nice to see a whole bunch of people who think that evidence should be the basis of belief, and not old books or mystical revelations.

    One of my fellows observed that for the next event, she would prefer that things be a bit more ‘professional’ and family friendly.  I can’t disagree.  For a meeting on the national mall, I’d prefer the swearing of which there were a couple extreme patches, be kept to a minimum.  Though I agree with the Tim Minchin song lyrics, that if the F-word offends you but religious organizations protecting pedophiles doesn’t, then perhaps you should look into getting your priorities straight.  However, I still think the overall event would have been stronger had a few people kept a more polite tongue.

    As the day went on, there did end up being a few too many mid-level speakers going over the same handful of subjects that would hit the cutting room floor in a video version for sure.  It got pretty cold and rainy, I wasn’t properly dressed, and we were all getting pretty hungry.  So, after Eddie Izzard did his bit, we headed out.  Heading into the Metro station was a bloody nightmare.  It’s the busiest I’ve ever see it.  We got the idea to go back a stop and try there, but then the train ended up being crammed full of people and we figured it would be easier to just walk to our destination.  So, after a brisk walk through DC, which I enjoy doing once in a while, we ended up at the Mad Hatter, an Alice in Wonderland themed pub some of our group had heard of.  Well, for themed eateries, it was pretty lame.  The theme consisted of some movie posters and food names…the end.  That said, the food was actually pretty good and shockingly inexpensive for in town DC.

    Overall, a good day.  It gives me hope that there are still Americans out there who believe in the principles of the Constitution, not the pulpit; the rule of law, not mythology anthologies assembled by ignorant savages.  There are still people who believe in the vision of some pretty extraordinary men who understood that mixing gods and government is now and always has been a recipe for disaster.  We know what governments ruled by religion look like.  We have plenty of examples.  I’m glad  I’m not the only one who wants a return to the best of American values like E Pluribus Unum, instead of the post-War usurping ‘In God We Trust.’  And my grandfather fought fascism without needing to say ‘under God’ in his pledge, so why can’t we?  If you want to live in a country where religion is more important than reason and law, I’m sure Saudi Arabia is nice this time of year.


    On a personal note, though I don’t understand it, I don’t actually have a problem with people who hold religious beliefs.  But like sex, I think it should be kept behind closed doors and among consenting adults.  And again like sex, if clubhouses are set up for its practice, they should be taxed like any other business (and if you don’t think religion is a business, you’re only fooling yourself).

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