Showing posts with label Reason Rally. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reason Rally. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Feature - The March of Reason

TGIF! If you are planning to watch a movie tonight, why not consider putting the film linked below on the schedule. It is entertaining, fast-paced and will definitely give you plenty to think and talk about with your family and friends. I've been actively following the rise of Christian fundamentalism in North America for over a decade, but I was still surprised and shocked by some of the revelations this documentary uncovers. It isn't speculation or fear-mongering. There is minimal editorializing: nearly every word in this film comes straight from the sources' mouths - whether the source is an atheist rally attendee, a Republican legislator, a famous scientist or a Christian fundamentalist. The words of Nate Phelps, estranged son of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church patriarch Fred Phelps, are particularly moving especially considering that as he spoke on the Washington mall that chilly afternoon, he knew he was being watched, judged and hated by the people who should have been closest to him - his own family.

On March 24, 2012, thousands of atheists, humanists, rationalists and social justice activists gathered on the mall in Washington DC for a first of its kind event: a Reason Rally. Estimates of the size of the Reason Rally crowd ranged from 20,000 to 30,000 people. Individuals traveled on their own time and on their own dime from all over the country to attend, to listen to rational speakers and to sound the alarm that the principle of separation of church and state is under attack.

The American Constitution is a precious treasure, the envy of the world. The First Amendment of the Constitution, which enshrines the separation between church and state, is the model for secular constitutions the world over and deserves to be imitated the world over. How sad it would be if in the birthplace of secular constitutions the very principle of secular constitutions were to be betrayed in a theocracy. But it's come close to that. Richard Dawkins, Biologist, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.

Unlike the religiously-fueled, corporate-backed rally organized in the late summer of 2010 - where thousands of the approximately 85,000 attendees arrived by the busload, their travel organized and paid for by their churches - the Reason Rally was barely acknowledged by the mainstream media. Beck's scripted and stage-managed "grass roots" event enjoyed enormous media attention and prime time publicity on every major news outlet, while the Reason Rally - which actually was primarily a grass roots event - was largely ignored. Only after the event was over did a few media outlets belatedly mention that it had occurred at all. A few noted with surprise that as many as 30,000 godless Americans had gathered peacefully in one place (although they avoided actually giving publicity to any of the ideas the rally was trying to promote), while most simply stated that a rally had taken place and left it at that.

Fortunately, Scott Burdick was on hand filming, interviewing and working hard to preserve a record of this remarkable gathering. He then went home and began work on this documentary film project which would do justice not only to the rally itself, but which would help explain why this rally was so important.

American society is facing an urgently serious crisis. Radicalized Christianity is not simply a growing problem; it has been a growing problem for decades. Because of our cultural taboo against criticizing religion, Christianism has been mostly flying under the radar doing its organizing, proselytizing, infiltrating and undermining secular government and education while presenting the bland face of tradition to the world. Meanwhile, the moderate majority of Americans has been aiding and abetting religious extremism by refusing to consider that radicalization can happen at home as well as abroad.

We continued to believe that religion is mainly a beneficial part of society and that religious extremism is a very tiny fringe element of a mostly benign cultural treasure even as extreme conservatives began to trickle into higher and higher public offices. We persisted in lying to ourselves that the conservatives we voted for were fiscal conservatives who would not impose their religious beliefs on the public through the power of their elected posts. Then we stood by as these so-called fiscal conservatives began to pass bills spending wildly on corporate welfare and tax paydays for the wealthiest Americans (whose financial support they seem to universally enjoy) while restricting civil rights, limiting personal liberty (especially for women and minorities), scoffing at social justice and denying equal rights to many groups of citizens - all justified by their Christian faith.

Faith is a vice pretending to be a virtue, its lies and errors and frothy nonsense deluding us and distracting us from action. There's no salvation in wishful thinking, only inertia. Faith is the enemy of reason. It's the barren refuge of the vacuous, the fearful, the frauds, and the obstacles to accomplishment. P Z Myers, Biologist, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.

The persistent belief that Christianity is a benign - even beneficial - force in society, coupled with the undeserved deference we all pay to religion, has been the key to preserving an environment in which insurgent, extremist Christian fundamentalism has flourished. We have allowed Christian conservatism to destabilize our political system, gut our social safety net and tear down the wall of separation between church and state. Acting through its political arm, the Republican party, the unholy alliance of corporatism and religion lobbied and succeeded in forcing measures through state legislatures and Congress which have increased ideological polarization in the country and widened the gap between rich and poor to a yawning chasm, while cementing in the public mind a false relationship between providing a social safety net and losing our personal liberty.

Christian conservatism has demonized anyone who dares to suggest that as a society we may have a duty to fulfill a social contract. By falsely equating the ideal of an American society where every man, woman and child can be guaranteed access to the tools to achieve a decent life with some sort of jack-booted nazi-socialist ideology, conservatives have succeeded in making social justice issues political kryptonite. They have demonized non-Christians (and especially non-theists) as the evil perpetrators of that imaginary ideology, forcing anyone hoping to run for public office to evince public religiosity lest he or she be tarred with the "godless, evil" brush, thus circumventing the 6th article of the Constitution which is supposed to protect candidates for public office from any religious test. They have stoked racial tensions and hammered on false linkages between race and crime, godlessness and evil, humanism and nihilism while denying the true link between gross inequality and all of social problems we face today. We are living through a civil cold war - brought about by the rampant social injustice and gross economic inequality which conservative policies have encouraged.

Atheists aren't angry because we're selfish, or bitter, or joyless. Atheists are angry because we have compassion. Atheists are angry because we have a sense of justice. Atheists are angry because we see millions of people being terribly harmed by religion, and our hearts go out to them, and we feel motivated to do something about it. Greta Christina, Writer, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.

Christian fundamentalists despise America. They hate the ideals upon which the American republic was built. They dishonor the founding principles which protected this country from theocracy by establishing a secular government and barring any religion from wielding power over the civil rights of the people. They deny and try to rewrite the history of the revolution that sought to liberate this fledgling nation from the yoke of authoritarian religion thus enabling the closest thing to a truly free society ever known to humankind to be born. They have plotted and worked unceasingly to dismantle everything about America which made it a beacon of hope in the world - the Constitutional protections against authoritarianism - because everything America stands for conflicts with the authoritarian demands of their theocratic ambitions.

The greatest threat to the United States does not reside overseas. It lies in wait within our own borders, deep inside our most trusted communities.  The most determined and implacable enemy of American liberty, justice and equality is American Christian fundamentalism. We've been sleeping with the enemy for decades.
It is time to wake up, America!

I have concluded through careful, empirical analysis and much thought that somebody is looking out for me, keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less than I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I'm capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me and I've concluded after careful consideration that this person keeping score is me. Mythbuster Adam Savage, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.

Here is part one of The March of Reason.  I will be posting the other four parts as Friday features, but if you cannot wait to see them on this blog, the link to Scott Burdick's youtube site is below the film window. So far, only parts one and two have been uploaded there. I will be following his progress closely as he finishes the rest of the documentary and will post the remaining parts as Friday Features as they become available. Check back here to be sure not to miss them!


Documentary produced by Scott Burdick

Thanks to the Friendly Atheist for bringing attention to this excellent work!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reason Rally Coverage - Part 3

Could next year's Reason Rally look like this?  Hell yeah!

Hate to be dragging this out over days, but some video links have been hard to come by.  P.Z. Myers helpfully provided a link to video of his talk at the Reason Rally this morning.  Until now, these videos had been scarcer than hen's teeth.  There is going to be an official spiffy Rally video released later, so I can sort of see why it has been so difficult.

But here's the thing:  the excitement is out there right now.  We need to use that energy to spread the encouraging message that was sent to closeted atheists everywhere on Saturday now.  The official video will be great, I am sure, and I will certainly be buying a copy of it (or downloading if it is freely accessible - which I hope it will be (are you listening Reason Rally organizers?).

First up,  P.Z. Myers, the tentacled overlord of Pharyngula fame (blog link on the right).

HuffPost's recap of the rally, with photos.

Julian Baggini published an atheist "manifesto" in the Guardian (U.K.) which I have not yet read in full, but which looks meaty and interesting. There is a 'Series: Heathens Progress' above the author's byline and under the Guardian banner which gave me a momentary thrill.  Could heathenish writing actually have scored series status in the U.K. media?  Excellent, if true!

Canada's National Post has published a story about Richard Dawkins' talk at the Reason Rally.

The Friendly Atheist made a herculean effort and posted a Rally recap with his impressions, photos and videos.

USA Today published a hatchet job using every atheist trope the hopelessly bigoted Religion writer could cram into the piece. I only include such verbal excrement in the interest of fair and balanced reporting. :-/

Video of Tim Minchin has been really hard to find online, but Kylee Sturgess (Token Skeptic) managed to find this one from UStream (David Singer). The first 58 seconds are broken (perhaps Penn Jillette broke it, heh) but then it works and Tim Minchin's bit comes right after:

Video streaming by Ustream

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reason Rally - Highlights Video

Reason Rally Coverage - Part 2

Continuing the roundup of all the media coverage and blog posts I can find about the Reason Rally.

Greta Christina and Taslima Nasrin (via UStream, David Singer):

Video streaming by Ustream

Links to articles in print and online:

Godless and proud...  WTOP Washington DC radio

The Chicago Tribune has a good Q&A piece with Nate Phelps which is worth reading.

Global Post internet news feed has a brief article.

Interestingly, Al Jazeera (mentioned in comments downblog) posted a brief story with video.

The Washington Post story with photo slideshow is one of the better ones.

The Atlantic posted a story mainly focused on Richard Dawkins' involvement in the rally.

More video:

Mythbusters' Adam Savage:

UP With Chris Hayes - Atheism

Link to the show.

This deserves its own post.  Check out the link here to this morning's program on MSNBC, UP with Chris Hayes.  The segment is entitled Atheism,  and may have been inspired by the Reason Rally yesterday in Washington DC.

Chris Hayes' guests included Richard Dawkins, Jamila Bey, Stephen Pinker and others, including a Christian pastor, Mike Aus, who came out as an atheist.

This is television that matters.  Kudos to Hayes.

The link goes to a page with lots of links and video with the entire program broken up into manageable segments.  There are also links to related interviews and stories.  I haven't finished it myself yet (parenting duties, don'tcha know), but I look forward to finishing tonight.  I did not want to wait until then to post this, though.

Link, again.  Enjoy!

Yay! Reason Rally Coverage! Part 1

Reason Rally 2012: Attendance reports vary: 10,000 - 20,000 according to parks district.

Washington Post article 'Godless' rally for recognition...

Greta Christina's exhilarated and uplifting post on the Reason Rally here.
"If you came to the Reason Rally, and you do just one thing for atheism that you haven’t done before? If you tell one person that you’re an atheist? If you start wearing atheist T-shirts? If you start crossing “In God We Trust” off your money? If you start hanging out with your local atheist group? If you organize one event with the local atheist group you already hang out with? If you donate money to one atheist organization? If you run for public office as an out atheist? If you start re-tweeting things about atheism?
If you do just one thing for atheism that you haven’t done before… this movement will be radically changed."

Mythbusters' Adam Savage's excellent speech here.

Nate Phelp's speech:

Richard Dawkins (via David Singer):

Video streaming by Ustream

Saturday, March 24, 2012

No Rally Coverage

(Update: Reason Rally coverage! Here and here and here and here and here! Go read and celebrate!)

I cannot believe this.  I have been searching all over the internet - on every news service I can think of, as well as google and similar - and I cannot find a single current news story or article about the Reason Rally.

Right now on CNN - on the NewsRoom, no less - two anchors are discussing bagels.  Bagels!  This right after a gripping story about "the Tupperware lady - a stay at home mom who has tips..." .

Nothing to see here (file photo)
WTF?  WTF?!   Does CNN actually consider bagels and Tupperware - along with recycled stories from the previous week - more newsworthy than the fact that thousands of marginalized citizens have gathered on the National Mall,  rallying from all over the country to send the message that we are here?

The lineup of speakers is impressive by any measure.  Even gutless CNN has featured many of them at various times - Richard Dawkins, P. Z. Myers, Bill Maher, Tim Minchin, Eddie Izzard, James Randi, Dan Barker and many others.  Were these people lined up to speak at some other sort of event, it would certainly be newsworthy.  But, they are speaking at an explicitly atheist/humanist rally before thousands of people:  and the media reaction?  Crickets.

Back to CNN.  Now, a brief blurb on the anti-Affordable Healthcare act protest in Washington today.

Finally!  Coverage of events in Washington DC today!

But wait!

Unbelievable. Still not a word breathed about the much larger Reason Rally.

Let's review: Not a word all day about the Reason Rally - a large gathering in Washington DC on the national Mall, featuring dozens of prominent speakers and performers and attended by thousands of freethinkers, atheists and humanists from all over the country.  Contrast this with the repeated coverage of the pro-religion rally against the president's Affordable Care Act, giving airtime and publicity to the position of those opposed to Healthcare reform.

Fair, balanced, honest journalism?  I think not.

Is it really much of a stretch to say that this country has lost any true fourth estate?  The integrity of journalism in this country has long been in question,  as blatantly propagandist "news/entertainment" organizations (e.g. Fox) have sprung up all over the cable channels.  Still, a few networks still claim to be actual places of real journalism.  CNN, the major networks (CBS, ABC, NBC) and PBS still claim to stick to actual objective journalism.

Let's examine two similar events and the media response to them.  Last year, when the famously fractious and divisive Glenn Beck held his religious rally in Washington, there was blanket coverage across all major media outlets.  Today, when a similar-sized crowd of people converges on the capital to speak for the marginalized, the oppressed and the threatened in our society - absolute, total silence.  Worse than silence: they air filler stories about "Twilight", "Tupperware" and "Bagels" as if there is simply nothing newsworthy going on today.

The loss of reason and common sense in the public sphere is something that has concerned freethinkers for a long time.  Only recently have people begun to notice and worry about the loss of the fourth estate.  A free press is one of the cornerstones of any free democratic republic. It helps to check the abuse of power by the government, by the wealthy and by the well-connected. When the media itself is owned by or kowtowing to a few powerful groups, the society has lost an important voice for justice and security.

Reason Rally Today!

Today is the day! Atheists, freethinkers and people who value truth and science will be pouring into Washington DC and filling the national Mall with the sounds of great music, inspiring speakers and intelligent conversation.  The Reason Rally has arrived!

I will be watching the various news outlets for coverage of this important event.  Other, patently stupid events received huge media coverage, so I expect at least as much media attention for the Reason Rally.

Whatever happens, though, it is sure to be an exciting day for the participants (estimated crowds could be as large as 30,000-50,000 people!) and an eye-opener for those closeted atheists in the rest of the country who still think they are alone.

NPR's Woodstock for Atheists (March 23, 2012).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blarney At The Reason Rally?

I have a ton of work to do today (writing is my work of choice, but today it is physical work away from the computer which must be done!),  but reading P.Z. Myers' post this morning made it imperative that I post a "Heck, yeah!" post.

The Reason Rally is set for next week in Washington DC.  It has been the source of great excitement for people who care about science, justice and equality in this country.  Many of us have been thrilled to know that voices will be raised in defense of scientific rigor,  including medical science.  Further, many people expect that the rally is also meant to be a signal to right-wing hardliners that their anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-humanity agenda does not enjoy total, unopposed support in this country.

Best of all,  there is the fervent hope that closeted atheists, social moderates and people everywhere who have been cowed by the apparently overwhelming power of fundamentalist religion will take heart - and hopefully take action - when they see that there is a movement out there full of people of courage who will speak out for social justice, equal rights and protection from religiously-motivated oppression.

It turns out though that, in an apparent effort to attract a larger audience to the Rally, organizers have included some speakers whose credentials as "freethinkers"  are problematic at best and totally dishonest at worst. I don't think it will completely ruin the Rally, and I hope this strategy brings the event more attention than it alienates. But still, I agree with P.Z.:  There ought to be higher standards!

As a woman, I am appalled that Bill Maher - who routinely disrespects women -  is going to be a prominent speaker at the Rally.  Simply being atheist is not, in my opinion, an adequate credential to speak at an event which is meant to promote support for accurate science as well as social justice - reasonable goals, if you will.   Maher is known for pointing out the silliness of religion - poorly, in my opinion, and not effectively - but he is also known for being a shameless promoter of alternative medicine woo and anti-vaccinations.

Then, there is that little problem he has with women. -->

Even more troubling, the Rally has welcomed a video speech from Senator Tom Harkin.  I can understand that Reason Rally organizers would be pleased to have some voices of reason from within the federal government willing to speak at this event, but perhaps Senator Harkin is not the best choice for that.  P.Z.:

"This is a man who takes pride in being affiliated with a patriarchal, hierarchical, medieval institution that oppresses women, celebrates poverty, wallows in its own wealth and privilege, and has actively disseminated pedophiles into communities all around the world…and has worked hard to protect and defend these child rapists. This is an organization that is currently fighting for the right to refuse life-saving care to women, that even opposes making contraception available to men and women, thatendorses discrimination against gay couples.This is a man who pushed through the formation of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative ‘Medicine’, a gigantic boondoggle that sucks federal research dollars out of the hands of qualified scientists studying real phenomena and into the hands of quacks and con artists peddling bogus therapies. This is a man who so poorly understands science that, when his pet quackeries all failed when examined,declared his disappointment because he said NCCAM was supposed to “validate alternative approaches”, and instead was “disproving things rather than seeking out and approving things.”

Yeah. That Tom Harkin."

Interestingly, I was about to defend Sen. Harkin as perhaps a cultural Catholic (I can understand that!) but a Democrat who, like Kennedy, surely keeps his religion out of his office - and could even be, perhaps, a social moderate.

The source which made me want to say "Hang on a sec, there..." was this story in the Iowa paper, Quad City Times. According to the QCTimes, Harkin voted against the so-called "conscience clause"!

But then, knowing that journalistic rigor in news media these days is often subpar, I decided to look for other sources to cite before I let P.Z. have it with my puny outrage.  I found this, but who knows if that source had a liberal bias? heh.  So I went straight to the horse's mouth, so to speak and found this. Well, damn.  Looks like P.Z. Myers is right (again! damn you, P.Z.!).  Although Sen. Harkin did vote to repeal DADT,  there is a whole raft of other legislation that he was on board with which is really only a problem if you are for equal rights for women, and not for privileging religion with the right to deny human beings in this country basic civil rights.

That is a problem when you are organizing a rally to promote separation of church and state, rational approaches to medicine and science and social justice.  To tell the truth, it makes me wonder if these actually are the goals of Dave Silverman, et al.  Or could it be that, contrary to what this post of mine (and P.Z.s and a few others') seem to be assuming,  the goal isn't that the rally was meant to stand up for reason?

It is hard to figure out what is going on, but it seems that we are meant to believe that the organizers of the Reason Rally think getting some fuzzy-thinkers to appear to support this rally will be good for science, reason and social justice.  My blarney-radar is pinging, though.  Could it be that, on the contrary, it is the voices of reason who have been sucked into participating in a rally which may only promote some of the organizers while giving undeserved validatation to supporters of misogyny, homophobia and woo?

I still hope the Reason Rally is a huge success.  But, like others,  I worry that the message is getting fuzzier with the addition of people like this to the roster.  I get that the organizers want to attract a wide audience -  and people sure know who Bill Maher is, after all - but damn it is frustrating that even a Rally for Reason has to be watered down with connections to people who are known proponents of stupid anti-scientific woo and misogynistic / homophobic ideology.

Update: UGH!  Niftyfailure. I have been stuck on the computer trying to understand these confusing bills for an hour. It appears that the Iowa paper may have been correct, but the wording is deucedly difficult to understand.  It appears that Harkin did vote against the Blunt amendment,  but he did it by voting "Yes" to tabling the bill. So the news story says he voted against a conscience-clause -  which threw me when I saw that he had voted YEA on March 1.  Bloody obfuscating congressional launguage.

Now I have to update my post,  but the point remains that Harkin did vote for a whole raft of other anti-choice legislation and privileging of religion.  This quote in the Iowa paper makes me not think quite so badly of him, however:

Sen. Harkin said the measure would undermine the whole health care law. Here's what he had to say this morning, courtesy of Radio Iowa:
“It would allow any employer or any health plan to deny women access to contraception, mammograms, prenatal screenings, cervical cancer screenings and much more,” Harkin says. “It would allow employers and health insurance companies to deny coverage of any health services they find morally objectionable.”
Read more:</blockquote>

I still agree that he is hardly a poster boy for Reason,  but at least he is not quite as bad as I first thought.
But the question remains: why are these people speaking at a REASON Rally at all?