Coming Saturday to the National Mall: "Woodstock for nonbelievers"

C’mon. You didn’t think I was going to let this luscious bit of traffic bait pass unposted, did you? Atheist Woodstock? Good lord. I may have to take weekend duty just so I can liveblog it.

I’ll be there in spirit. Er, so to speak.

Paul Fidalgo, communications director at the Center for Inquiry, said that, despite appearances, this isn’t a rally about believing in nothing. There’s actually an agenda involved — and that includes current politics, the 2012 race and President Barack Obama…

Among the issues: international anti-blasphemy laws, the recent clash over contraception and the Republican presidential race.

“The right has so commingled themselves with religion,” Fidalgo said. “I will say that I do find it interesting that in an election season in which the main issue is ostensibly about the economy, that in recent weeks it’s been issues surrounding religion that have become so central.”…

“It’s a celebration,” Fidalgo said. “It’s not a protest. It’s not a complaint. It’s not a March on Washington where we’re picketing anything. It’s a celebration of the fact that the secular movement is really starting to come into its own. There are more people who feel free to come out and say they’re nonbelievers or secular humanists and those numbers are growing. People are less shy about it. This gives us a chance to make ourselves known and put ourselves on the national stage and say, ‘We’re here, we’re a large group, we’re active, we have a positive agenda.’ We want you to know we’re your neighbors, and we’re not scary.”

Fidalgo insists that there’s no partisan bent to the event (he specifically grumbles about Obama attending the National Prayer Breakfast), but given that Richard Dawkins has an op-ed in today’s WaPo singling out Santorum, Palin, and Bachmann as “politicians who flaunt their ignorance as a vote-winning virtue,” I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that there will in fact be a partisan bent to the event. In fact, follow that link and read Dawkins’s entire column, noting how he promotes the “Reason Rally” by singling out the types of people who he thinks wouldn’t want to attend. It’s terrible, terrible messaging, infused with the sort of sneering self-congratulation that colors popular stereotypes of atheists. (Fidalgo acknowledges that “Americans do have a bad impression of their atheist neighbors.”) On the day of a major rally on the Mall, the tone should be pure inclusion — “show up and give us a chance,” etc. Instead, this. Every identity movement has elements of “we’re just like you” and “we’re not just like you and we’re darned proud of it.” A little more of the former would go a long way, RD.

Here’s the official schedule, which will include a video tribute to Hitchens. And here’s an unofficial YouTube vid touting the event that seems to capture the flavor well enough.

Update: Just noticed this on the schedule. Dude?

06:00 pm
Close and Hugs
With everyone.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023