“Atheists, non-theists, secularists and others who say they believe in reason, not God, gathered Saturday on the Mall for the first Reason Rally, where they pledged to stand up for their beliefs in a society that they say sometimes views them with skepticism and distrust…

“Organizers said the aim of the rally was twofold: to unite individuals with similar beliefs and to show the American public that the number of people who don’t believe in God is large and growing.

“‘We have the numbers to be taken seriously,’ said Paul Fidalgo, spokesman for the Center for Inquiry, which promotes scientific method and reasoning and was one of the organizations sponsoring the rally. ‘We’re not just a tiny fringe group.’

“According to the American Religious Identification Survey in 2008, the number of people who claim no specific religious belief was 34 million, 15 percent of the U.S. adult population.”

“Many people do not understand that it is possible to lead a meaningful, happy life as a heathen, but we maintain that it is and can point to any number of atheist philosophers and thinkers who have explained why this is so. But such meaning and contentment does not inevitably follow from becoming a heathen. Ours is a universe without guarantees of redemption or salvation and sometimes people have terrible lives or do terrible things and thrive. On such occasions, we have no consolation. That is the dark side of accepting the truth, and we are prepared to acknowledge it. We are heathens because we value living in the truth. But that does not mean that we pretend that always makes life easy or us happy. If the evidence were to show that religious people are happier and healthier than us, we would not see that as any reason to give up our convictions…

“We believe in not being tone-deaf to religion and to understand it in the most charitable way possible. So we support religions when they work to promote values we share, including those of social justice and compassion. We are respectful and sympathetic to the religious when they arrive at their different conclusions on the basis of the same commitment to sincere, rational, undogmatic inquiry as us, without in any way denying that we believe them to be false and misguided. We are also sympathetic to religion when its effects are more benign than malign. We appreciate that commitment to truth is but one value and that a commitment to compassion and kindness to others is also of supreme importance. We are not prepared to insist that it is indubitably better to live guided by such values allied with false beliefs than it is to live without such values but also without false belief.

“Our willingness to accept what is good in religion is balanced by an equally honest commitment to be critical of it when necessary. We object when religion invokes mystery to avoid difficult questions or to obfuscate when clarity is needed. We do not like the way in which “people of faith” tend to huddle together in an unprincipled coalition of self-interest, even when that means liberals getting into bed with homophobes and misogynists. We think it is disingenuous for religious people to talk about the reasonableness of their beliefs and the importance of values and practice, while drawing a veil over their embrace of superstitious beliefs. In these and other areas, we assert the right and need to make civil but acute criticisms.”

“Then Dawkins got to the part where he calls on the crowd not only to challenge religious people but to ‘ridicule and show contempt’ for their doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist, which Catholics believe becomes the body of Christ during Mass.

“That was a step further than Craig Lowery, a Dawkins fan, said he’s willing to go. Lowery, of Washington, D.C., applauded but admitted he’s not a confrontational atheist, saying:

“‘I might make fun of them in my head but I wouldn’t say it. Most people, religious or otherwise, are good people.'”

Via the Daily Caller. Content warning.

Via Reason TV.