Thinking Christian

Thinking Christianity for church, home, and community

Come To The Reason Rally!

Posted on Feb 20, 2012 by Tom Gilson

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series True Reason

They’re billing it as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history:” the Reason Rally, in Washington D.C. on March 24. They’ve lined up Richard Dawkins as their headline speaker, but he’s just one of many atheist stars this show will highlight.

In the meantime I’ve joined up with a handful of Christian thinkers and leaders planning to bring Christians to the Reason Rally for the purpose of sharing quiet conversations with Reason Rally attendees, offering bottles of water to the thirsty, and letting them know of a new book that will take an extended look at atheism, Christianity, and reason.

(You’ll hear more about that book–an exciting project, really–around March 10.)

New Atheism and Reason
It’s fascinating to me how the New Atheists have chosen reason as their main brand image. It’s clear that they have. Sam Harris (who appears not to be on the schedule) is the co-founder and CEO of Project Reason. Dawkins heads the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The atheistic Center for Inquiry’s mission is to “foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.”

Over the next several weeks we’ll have opportunity to look at how well that fits the New Atheist reality, and whether they have chosen wisely in taking that name up as their brand. I have my doubts about it.

Join Us There
Anyway, I’m inviting you to come join us at the rally. You can obtain information and sign up at the new True Reason website. We’d love to have you with us!

Please notice that we are not planning this as a counter-demonstration, but rather as a quiet presence. We don’t think there will be any need to raise our voices, and we have no desire to disrupt their program or proceedings. We want to share a few things with those who want to talk, and we won’t press ourselves upon anyone else.

See also these other bloggers’ posts on the Reason Rally and TrueReason.org:

Series Navigation (True Reason):Reason Rally: Supremely Reasonable? >>>

28 Responses to “ Come To The Reason Rally! ”

  1. Doug says:

    “‘Come now, let us reason together’, says the Lord” – Isaiah 1:18

  2. Brandon says:

    Hmm… This seems like you’re going in there with the idea that these people are going to be somehwat curious about Christianity and will want to ask questions and possibly be open to conversion. This… just isn’t the case, the people attending this event are very confident as atheists. I wouldn’t expect too much.

  3. JAD says:

    Brandon,
    Arrogance is not the same a confidence.
    But you are right we shouldn’t expect too much.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Right. Brandon, the leaders of this group have had plenty of interaction with atheists and atheism. I’m pretty sure we’re going there with our eyes open and our expectations in line.

  5. Mike says:

    Whatever your intentions, this will come across as confrontational. There’s no real foundation to believe that a large number of atheists at an atheist event, listening to atheist speakers will want to have a ‘quiet chat’ with a bussed-in group of believers. Nor will they especially jump up and down with excitement at the prospect of discussing a book that is more than likely going to mock their refutation of belief. I doubt you’re going to change anyone’s mind. If anything, you’re just going to reinforce an already negative perception of believers.

  6. SteveK says:

    Mike,
    People from all walks of life come to these events. People from all over the globe visit DC and will likely stop by to see what is going on – maybe just to listen to the music. I’m willing to bet the True Reason group will have plenty of people to talk to.

  7. Mike says:

    Steve,
    Sure people from all walks of life do come to these events. That’s not in dispute. I was commenting on the idea that if a bussed-in group of believers come wanting to have discussions with atheists, it may be seen as unwanted intrusion. It’s an event for a growing demographic of atheists. These people see the religious point of view every day – they know it, they’ve heard it, they’ve argued with it. I’m not so sure they’ll all be happy to see it again during an event dedicated to atheists. That’s all.

  8. […] From “the Thinking Christian” (they do love to pretend it’s all perfectly reasonable, don’t they). In the meantime I’ve joined up with a handful of Christian thinkers and leaders planning to bring Christians to the Reason Rally for the purpose of sharing quiet conversations with Reason Rally attendees, offering bottles of water to the thirsty, and letting them know of a new book that will take an extended look at atheism, Christianity, and reason. […]

  9. Lukas says:

    So, would you be ok with an atheist showing up at your church and “preaching” to the congregation about how the bible is unreliable and self-contradictory?

    Only to those who are interested, of course, and in a quiet tone of voice?

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    Lukas, yes. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t.

    I would be very happy with an atheist doing that, except that the word “preaching” doesn’t fit (more on that in a moment). I’m very happy with the atheist who is doing it at our church. I’m very happy that my son and he have become friends, and I’m very happy that I’ve been to Starbucks with him a couple of times. He hasn’t been preaching of course, but he has been conversing with those who care to do so.

    We have no intention of preaching at the Reason Rally. I don’t know why you used that word, and I really don’t know why you put it in quotes, as if quoting someone here. If you run into a street preacher at the Reason Rally, or anyone raising his voice, it won’t be one of our group, and we’ll be advising such people that it’s discourteous and wrong to be disruptive that way. We won’t press ourselves on those who don’t want to talk. We’ll have non-disruptive conversations with those who do want to talk.

    Do you live near southeastern Virginia? You’re cordially invited to my church. Use the contact form to let me know when I can expect you, and of course I’ll have to let you know which church and when and where to find us.

  11. Lukas says:

    I would be very happy with an atheist doing that

    Well, at least you’re consistent, then. Still, we might not feel the same way and since it’s our event, that should count more.

    We have no intention of preaching at the Reason Rally. I don’t know why you used that word

    Because when a christian talks to an atheist about religion, that’s what they tend to do.

    You’re there because you disagree with the central purpose of the convention and you will advertise material that expresses that disagreement.
    The True Reason site even says:
    “We are going there to share Christ person to person as opportunity arises”

    That sounds an awful lot like preaching to me.

    I really don’t know why you put it in quotes

    I did it because preaching usually has religious implications and so is not really appropriate to use with reference to an atheist, but I couldn’t think of a better word.

    We’ll have non-disruptive conversations with those who do want to talk.

    Perhaps you will. Pardon me if I’m a bit doubtful. In my experience, the christian view of what’s polite differs significantly from my own (at least for some christians).

    You may behave quite politely and decently, but you should expect some resistance. Many will view you as intruders, so don’t be surprised if you’re encouraged to insert various objects in various places.

    In my opinion, your mere presence counts as a first strike against you, since that’s not what this gathering is about. This is specifically for atheists to get together amongst themselves, to socialize and inspire. It’s not meant as a debate forum. You don’t fit in there.

    If I can be perfectly honest, many atheists have also learned to distrust christians. It’s not at all uncommon for (some) christians to use dishonest tactics in their attempt to attack and smear us. An oft repeated concern on this subject specifically is that you will attempt to provoke hostile reactions from atheists and use that as a propaganda tool a la “look at those mean atheists. We just wanted to talk to them.” It wouldn’t be the first time.

    What I’m trying to say here is that if you’re really interested in pleasant conversation, this was probably not the best way to go about it. You’ll have your work cut out for you.

    Thanks for the invitation, but I’m not American. I won’t even be able to attend the Reason Rally, myself :(

  12. Michael says:

    Many atheists were once Christians who became atheists because they actually took the time to read the bible. The Christian group won’t be able to tell them anything they don’t already know.

  13. Chris P says:

    I’m sure if we walked into a Roman Catholic or Mormon service and started “sharing quiet conversations” we would instantly become very unwelcome.

    I have not heard of any atheists doing this in the past. Strange that the Christians think it is OK for them to do it. A distinct lack of ethical behavior.

    “hey – lets go and annoy the atheists – just for grins”

  14. Chris P says:

    Hey – you could do better than Dawkins – you could get your God to show up.

    That would work – instant conversion.

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    Chris, you’re representing reason, right?

    A reasoning person knows that arguments from analogy only work in relevantly analogous situations. This is a standard principle of reasoned discourse. The Reason Rally and a church service are non-analogous in relevant ways, especially in that a rally on the National Mall is a place where quiet non-disruptive conversations are not unexpected.

    A reasoning person knows that to argue against another person’s position while taking only part of that person’s position into account is to commit the fallacy of the straw man, and thereby to violate a standard principle of reasoned discourse. We have made a commitment not to disrupt the proceedings or program. That commitment is stated more strongly at the True Reason site than what I have done here, but I did mention it here.

  16. Doug says:

    Many atheists were once Christians who became atheists because they actually took the time to read the bible.

    Funny, that. Because it is equally true to say that:
    Many Christians were once atheists who became Christians because they actually took the time to read the Bible.
    The crazy thing is that both groups of people were reading the same Bible. I guess the two were either looking for different things in it, or found different things in it!

  17. Joe Distefano says:

    I’m an Atheist who used to be a Catholic with 12 years of Catholic school, and I’m going to the Reason Rally. I thought I might give you my perspective.

    I personally welcome your presence at the Reason Rally as you described. If you’re non-disruptive, let us enjoy our time, don’t push yourselves on us and don’t resort to threats like John 3:18 (like we haven’t heard it a thousand times before) then I welcome you. I’ll probably even come talk with you if I see you. Hey, join us to listen to the speakers – we might learn something together.

    But just like many groups, we Atheists are quite diverse. Not all Atheists will be as welcoming as I am. Some may be rude. I just hope you don’t judge us all by a bad few.

    Some here said you shouldn’t expect to convince any of us Atheists. I agree. I know with me, you have about as much chance of getting me to even slightly doubt my rejection of Christianity as you do selling me snake oil or convincing me cows can fly. I’m sure this will be the case with nearly all other Atheists there, too.

    And I don’t think it’s because I’m closed-minded. Not at all. It’s because I’ve been spending more time studying, analyzing, and discussing Christianity (w/ Atheists AND Christians) for the past several years than I ever did when I was a Christian, and I’ve noticed I very rarely, if ever, hear any new arguments or reasons for belief from Christians. Since I’ve already heard and considered it before, no reason it’s going to suddenly sound convincing when I hear it from you. But I find the topic fascinating and always enjoy discussing it.

  18. Mike says:

    Hello, I’m Mike and I’m an ex-Christian atheist and secular humanist. Like most atheists, I’ve spent a lot of time talking, thinking, reading, debating and analyzing Christianity (as well as other religions) from all angles. So many of the points that you guys bring up at Reason Rally will probably be very old news to us. Of course, you can feel free to bring up some “original” ideas.

    However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing up if you want to engage in respectful conversation. So there we go.

    Faithlessly yours with lots of love,
    Mike

  19. amanda says:

    I hope you honestly go and are respectful. When i first started reading this i thought it was going to be a pro test against atheist. Hopefully you dont turn it in to that you showing up to this would be like a group of atheists showing up to your Sunday worship and the group saying ” oh we just want you to take a few mins to learn about atheism and change your minds” no!!! There is a time and place for everything and i believe your showing up to purposely start something just let it go…..when someone is a well educated atheist NOTHING will change there mind no matter how much you think your “god” is on your side…. be respectful of you do

  20. Doug says:

    when someone is a well educated atheist NOTHING will change [their] mind

    uh-huh

  21. SteveK says:

    What kind of education strengthens a persons lack of belief? I can’t think of any degree program or subject matter that would do that.

  22. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Amanda:

    when someone is a well educated atheist NOTHING will change there mind no matter how much you think your “god” is on your side

    So according to you, atheists are the bulwarks of irrationality and bigotry.

    Cannot say I am surprised.

  23. Johnny says:

    I’ll be attending the Reason Rally, and I hope all believers and disbelievers are welcome to attend. Just read the goals of the event, and make sure your behavior is in line with those goals. The purpose is not to get believers to disbelieve, or to create debates; it is to raise awareness that “America’s most distrusted minority” should not be distrusted or feared.

  24. Matt says:

    An atheist here. I hope to see you there, and I hope that no one believes this is an anti-religious event. We are America’s most distrusted minority, and maybe we can change a few minds. Not make a few believers lose their belief, but simply to undemonize us.

  25. Kurt says:

    There is really nothing I enjoy more than talking to Christians — especially ones from my background of Evangelical Christianity. It’s almost my main hobby. But honestly, I won’t want to talk to any when I’m at the Reason Rally. I hope you are respectful of that. It’s a momentous event cram-packed with content, and even a 10 minute discussion will make me miss something.

  26. Lee says:

    Religion is all UFO’s and Unicorns to me. My typical response to conversion attempts is to break into uncontrollable laughter. Since I enjoy a good belly laugh you’re welcome to try.

  27. danie says:

    I grew up in a christian home, both grandfathers were preachers, parents used to be missionaries. I used to be a christian, a good one, I studied the bible and prayed although I was often severely depressed because of my religion.Then after graduation, I pursued an education that included basic courses of anthropology, biology and astronomy. Through a long painful process I let myself think for myself. I am happy to be a free thinker, or agnostic atheist now. And I am the same, “good” person, even better. I am always disheartened when I’m condescended to from christians who don’t know my story. Or anyone’s for that matter. Let us be.

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