There were several speakers at the Reason Rally that I had not heard of before, which was fine for me since I’ve been to enough conventions that I’ve heard many of the well-known speakers many times before. It was good to hear fresh voices. One of my favorite talks was the guy from Hollywood Squares, John Davidson. (Yea, I had to look up his name since before the rally I had not heard of him.) He talked about how he’d been an atheist though much of his career, but spent most of that time hiding that fact. He talked about how he’d turned down a gig once because the sponsors wanted him to either pray or sing a gospel tune at the end of it — though he didn’t tell them why he backed out. It was very interesting to me to hear the ways that being a closeted atheist had affected his life and his career. It was only fairly recently that he came out as part of the Openly Secular project.
The walk to the Rally from our hotel was long, but fun. Ed and I were wearing our “LouAville Atheists and Freethinkers” shirts which got a lot of notice and comments and also signaled to all the other rally people to where we were going. We had some good company and interesting scenery on the way, including a pass right by the Washington Monument. I’d seen it from a distance before, but never so close up.
We arrived at the Rally at about 10:30am, about 1/2 hour after the official start time. Once we got there, we found a nice grassy shady spot under the trees alongside the reflecting pool and settled in. We were far enough from the stage to just barely be able to see what was being projected on the large screens, but we had no problem hearing everything as long as the sound system didn’t glitch.
Another top moment for me was when Penn Jillette did a duet with the singer who had been berated for being an atheist on Ecuador’s Got Talent. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen the video, Google “atheist on Ecuador’s Got Talent. She shows some amazing composure and courage though the whole ordeal.)
And I loved yelling “ATHEIST!” with about 15,000 other people during Dave SIlverman’s talk, too. 🙂
I was at the Reason Rally in 2012 so I can’t help but make a few comparisons. The 2012 rally had a more tightly packed crowd, and more of a “We’re here, we’re atheists, get used to it!” type of feel. More like what I’d expect of a rally. The 2016 Rally had a bit more of a toned down feel which was more like “We’re here, we’re atheists, now how do we make the world a better place?” vibe. There was a large crowd, but it was spread out — especially at our distance from the stage — and we were able to sit on our blanket on the banked area and still see the stage. This time I am a mom, and I welcome the more “family friendly” aspect of the rally. As the movement matures it becomes not only about knocking religion off its pedestal (though that aspect is not going away) but also about the scientific and humanistic concerns like social equality and climate change. I think this is a good thing, and a sign that the moment is maturing. After all, atheism is only about the a rejection of the claims of theism, but atheists — real flesh and blood atheists — have concerns that go well beyond that.