To Respect Reason Rally Attendees As Thinking Individuals

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From the very beginning, the True Reason group I am helping to lead has made it clear that we are not going to the Reason Rally to badger, bother, harass, interrupt, or disrupt any person’s enjoyment of the day. I believe I have re-stated this commitment almost every time I have spoken of our plans to be there. Yet still we get comments like this one:

We have no issue with anyone who wants to come and stand there with a sign without being disruptive to our rally, but if Christians are going to badger us with unwanted proselytizing, we will consider it hostile. We are merely asking religious persons to respect our wishes to be left alone to enjoy our rally. We do not want debate. That can be organized for another time.

One level this person is asking us to do exactly what we have promised to do. On another level, we cannot believe that those who say “we don’t want debate” are speaking for everyone, for we are confident that Reason Rally attendees do not all think the same thing about everything.

We think it very likely that in a crowd of up to 30,000 (the last estimate I’ve heard) there will be some individuals who will be interested in respectful conversation, at a location on the National Mall where it won’t interfere with others’ experience of the Rally. They are the ones with whom we hope to converse.

17 Responses

  1. AgeOfReasonXXI says:

    Is it really so hard to accept that religious people are not welcome at a rally purported to be a celebration of reason over Iron Age dogma and superstition?

    If you want to convince secularists they’re wrong about your faith, showing up at their rally is not the way to do it. If you’re looking for a debate a la William Lame if-reason-turns-against-my-faith-so-much-the-worse-for-reason Craig style, that’s not the place or time. You may not like the experience

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    “Purported to be” indeed. The point of our True Reason book is that atheists’ portrayed image of “reason” does not match reality (http://book.truereason.org)

  3. AgeOfReasonXXI says:

    And by the way, you don’t crash someone else’s party and demand respect

  4. Doug says:

    @Age
    Ya know, if you had called it “the Atheist Festival”, I’m betting that you’d have that exclusivity you’re dreaming of. But when you pretend that the drawing card of the event is “Reason”, then don’t be surprised if people actually capable of reasoning don’t picture attending as “crashing the atheist’s party”.

  5. AgeOfReasonXXI says:

    ‘ The point of our True Reason book is that atheists’ portrayed image of “reason” does not match reality ”

    so? if you want to make that point across, have your own “True” Reason Rally and have fun. hey, you can even invite Richard Dawkins to debate Craig…again
    I can assure you few, in any secularists, will show up. But you can still organize another bus ad campaign complaining that those atheists are just too scared to show up at your venture

  6. AgeOfReasonXXI says:

    ” But when you pretend that the drawing card of the event is “Reason”, then don’t be surprised if people actually capable of reasoning don’t picture attending as “crashing the atheist’s party”.”

    you seem to hung up on the name “Reason Rally”. sure, atheists see themselves as champions of reason, but I’m sure Christians like yourself, who do not appear to be some sort of hopelessly ignorant fundamentalists, would fancy they are the reasonable ones. so the particular name doesn’t matter. it’s still a secularist gathering, and as it’s been suggested, not really a debating event

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    AOR, you say,

    you don’t crash someone else’s party and demand respect

    It is a public event on the National Mall, for one thing, and I have not demanded respect, for another. I have only said that we plan to talk with people who want to talk with us. I have also pointed out that it seems strange that Mr. Silverman thinks we be concerned about security objecting to anything we plan to do.

    I assure you (as I have said umpteen times before) we plan to respect the proceedings there, both on the large scale and on the individual level, so in view of it being on a large an expansive public venue, I don’t think anyone needs to describe this is as “crashing.”

  8. Patrick Reynolds says:

    You are of course welcome to come to the event and participate. No one can or will try to keep you out. The concern is that some of you might follow the examples set by your fellow believers at the Westboro Baptist Church. I have read posts on other similar Christian sites where Christians have put together similar rallies and gatherings and have objected to atheists being in attendance.

    Atheists are going mainly to listen to the speakers as well as get to know other atheists better and are probably not interested in someone trying to convert them back into the fold.

  9. AgeOfReasonXXI says:

    well alright, I guess your group is not the kind of people to show up wearing T-shirts that read “Repent or Burn” or something of the sort, so perhaps “crashing” is a bit strong.

    in any event I’d be curious if you and your friends manage reason any secularists out of their beliefs and have them accept Jesus at an event like the “Reason Rally”. I’ll probably be following your blog posts after the event to see how you’ve done 🙂

  10. Doug says:

    reason any secularists out of their beliefs

    Freudian slip? 😉

  11. peterc says:

    Patrick said,

    “The concern is that some of you might follow the examples set by your fellow believers at the Westboro Baptist Church.”

    You know that Westboro was actually invited to the Reason Rally by the organizers?

  12. TCC says:

    peterc: By a sponsor (the National Atheist Party, and a minor sponsor at that), not by the organizers, and there has been some pushback because of it.

  13. peterc says:

    my mistake. thanks for the clarification.

  14. Patrick Reynolds says:

    My understanding is that the estranged son of the leader of The Westboro Church has been invited to speak. Unlike daddy he is an atheist.

  15. hidden101 says:

    Tom,

    I made the comment you quoted in your post because the first thing I read about your initiative was the post about David Silverman saying you would not be welcome.

    I felt the need to clarify. Now that I have read your response, I understand your goal and I can tell you that I would be happy to shake your hand if I saw you at the rally and wish you a good and peaceful day.

    I will say though, that if some of the Christians making comments here are going to show up and be as disrespectful as they have been on this forum you may have some hostility on your hands.

  16. Robert O'Brien says:

    Is it really so hard to accept that religious people are not welcome at a rally purported to be a celebration of reason over Iron Age dogma and superstition?

    At least this person has enough sense to refer to the Iron Age instead of the Bronze Age! I give him/her credit for that, although, IIRC, the NT extends beyond the Iron Age.

  17. JJ Reardon says:

    I couldn’t attend the RR, (I live in Japan) but you know what Mr. Gilson, if it was just you and a couple of buddies showing up to talk with atheists, that would be fine. It’s the fact that you want to organize a bunch of christians to come in force and proselytize the same old, day in and day out message of Jesus. It’s not like we’ve never heard the ‘good news’. It’s sooo obvious to see your creationist tactics, such as ‘oh, it’s on public land’ and ‘we’ll just talk to those who want to’. Don’t make excuses. You get to preach Jesus’ message every day of the week, so when we have our event, don’t make trouble. How could you not support a peaceful event that promotes reason, rational thought, and science? I’m going to straight up accuse you of trying to convert those young minds who haven’t really given atheism or christianity much thought. It’s just like the christians who try to push Jesus on young children. Get em’ before they start thinking! I’m not being hostile, just reasonable.