Fellow Huffington Post contributor, Nathalie Rothschild, recently wrote an article titled, Why The Reason Rally Isn't Worth Coming Out For. The article appears to be a deliberate attack on atheists. She did all but call us "uppity" for organizing the Reason Rally. I will take up the mantel of defending humanistic atheists and present my case for why I think the Reason Rally is worth coming out for.
Rothschild implies that only gays need to come out of the closet and that there is no societal pressure for atheists to remain closeted. This is flat out wrong. There is a huge cross-over demographic between the LBGT community and the greater community of reason. This of course is in no small part due to the fact that so many religious believers in America consider homosexuality to be a sin. The Bible even calls it an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27) punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13). The pressure to keep gays closeted comes from the exact same people who hate atheists.
Don't take my word for this; be skeptical. Go to the Reason Rally in DC on March 24th and talk to some gay atheists. Some of them will tell you that it was harder to come out to their family as gay and others will tell you that it was harder to come out as an atheist. It will probably be about 50/50. So why is it difficult to come out as an atheist?
Aside from the third of Americans that consider themselves evangelical/born again, even within the mainstream of America, many families consider religion to be an integral part of their cultural identity. This is especially the case within Catholic and Jewish families. In fact, many atheists who come from a Jewish background still identify as being Jewish despite their lack of belief in Yahweh.
But on to the discrimination! Yes, atheists face a great deal of discrimination and fear of discrimination for being outspoken about our lack of belief. Again, don't take my word of it; be skeptical. You can look at stories that have been in the news like the insults and threats that 16-year-old Jessica Alhquist received for standing up in favor of the Separation of Church and State or the recent "controversy" involving Miley Cyrus's tweet of a quote from A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Krauss. But don't even take that on faith, experiment. Come out as an atheist to your friends, family, and co-workers (even if you really do believe). Consider it a challenge. See what happens. Play the role of an out of the closet atheist for a week or so.
This isn't fear mongering. Many atheists fear having their families disown them, losing their jobs, or simply being harassed by the religious. More than that, we do have politicians like Rick Santorum who are running a campaign on Christian privilege. Even President Obama has been hostile toward atheists with his policies of expanding the Department of Faith Based Initiatives and more recently bending over backward to give exemption from the law to the religious on issues like contraception insurance coverage.
Don't think that Rick Santorum is the only politician who believes America is and ought to be a Christian nation either. You would be hard pressed to find just a handful of Republican politicians who would disagree. Democrats are better, but even they have a few Christian extremists in their ranks. Plus, many are so afraid of being perceived as not Christian enough that they rarely speak out in favor of secular values and take every opportunity to promote Christianity even symbolically.
That brings me to the Reason Rally and why it is worth coming out for. Christian Right organizations boast that they can make or break a candidate. When they take a stand for or against an issue, politicians are more likely to pay attention to what they have to say. Atheists, Humanists, secularists, and other people of reason have a voice too. We need to demonstrate that voice and let the politicians know that we are out there and that we vote too.
When a politician justifies his or her political position merely with a reference to their faith, we have to make it clear that there will be a price to be paid. "Homosexuality is a sin" is not a sufficient reason for denying equal rights to gays.
One of the reasons why I am going to the Reason Rally on March 24th at 10am at the National Mall in DC is to send a message to the politicians that they should consider our opinion because we have a strong voice too. Rothschild wants to call this "Identity Politics" and that's fine with me. We need to let politicians know that atheists vote and we may not vote for politicians who don't have our interests in mind or who exclude us instead to embracing the values we all share.
Rothschild claims, "It seems, in fact, that the very thing that irks today's atheists about religious people is that they have a strong, unifying vision of good society and that they are willing to live by it, well, religiously." No, that isn't what bothers us at all!
There are two things that bother us. The first is that this "strong, unifying vision of the good society" is wrong. Second, it bothers us that these religious believers want us to live by their religious inspired rules by trying to impose their religion into laws... religiously. That really irks us. If we wanted to live in a theocracy, we would move to Iran. Interestingly enough, these same politicians who are quick to speak out against "Sharia Law" are often the same politicians who try to impose a theocracy here in America; but I digress.
The Reason Rally is also going to be a great people to meet other secular minded individuals. Atheists not only often live in the closet, but we often live isolated from each other. It's hard meeting other atheists in a nation dominated by religious believers. That is why there is such a large atheist presence on the internet. So the Reason Rally is a great place to make new friends. It's like our mega-church but without the irrational beliefs on insufficient evidence.
Instead of some pastor preaching to us, the Reason Rally is going to have lots of great speakers to inform and inspire us... plus, some great entertainment. If you don't care about anything else, the entertainment alone is worth coming out for. Bad Religion is a great band, Tim Minchin is hysterically funny, and Cristina Rad is awesome... and that is just a few of the great speakers. American Atheists's president David Silverman said it best when he called the Reason Rally the "Woodstock for the secular community."
Best of all, the Reason Rally is free! How can it not be worth coming out for?