The Reason Rally was held March 24 on the Washington DC Mall. There’s little to be said about it that hasn’t been said already (especially here), but I took a number of photographs I thought I’d share.
I took some pictures of speakers. First we have Shelley Segal, who came all the way from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Christina Rad (perhaps more famous as ZOMGitsCriss), YouTube atheist. In this case I ran into her offstage. She came all the way from Romania.
Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, also has written, performed and published three CDs worth of freethought music (two albums, one of them with two CDs in it), and he played a few of the songs for us.
A few people I know have said they didn’t care for Dan Barker’s style of music, and I am sure it would seem dated, overly cheerful, or too much like elevator music to people growing up today, and even to many who grew up when I did. (To which I authoritatively rebut: bullshit.) But whatever you think of it, you cannot deny it has one virtue over, say, the rock band Bad Religion and that is that the vocals are as loud as the instruments so you can hear the lyrics. And when it comes to this sort of music, that’s important; there is a message in those lyrics. Most rock music, especially when performed live, might as well be instrumental for all that you can hear of the singer.
(On the other hand Tim Minchin was quite audible, to the horror of some who have seen his performance on tape. But as he himself points out, if you are more horrified by the fusillade of F-bombs in his lyrics than you are over the topic of his song, you have a problem.)
Finally, Richard Dawkins, all the way from the UK:
The crowd was probably largest when Dr. Dawkins spoke, and I managed to lift my camera up above my head and get a decent shot of the crowd.
And as long as we are on the subject of crowds, here are a couple of shots of just regular atheists. This first one was a good take off on the Che Guevara fashion (which I loathe; the man, like all self-proclaimed Marxists who actually attain political power, was a brutal murdering thug)
Hmmm, if my mom ever saw me with this sign, she’d say “so what?” I have the fortune to be a third generation atheist on my mother’s side.
There was a “Christian Zoo” as many of us attendees called it, where various Christians set up to counterprotest. I pretty much would have avoided them, but some more argumentative types (AronRa, Thunderf00t) went to go engage them.
And of course some people took their signs with them to visit the Christian Zoo.
I got photographed a few times, by people who could not resist the irony of my “Thank God I Am An Atheist” button.
Domes, Monuments, etc.
As I said before, the rally was held on the Washington Mall, between the capitol and the Washington Monument, much closer to the monument. I put on the telephoto lens and got this shot of the dome:
Here is a shot of the top of the monument, getting into the clouds. The whole day was overcast or drizzling or raining.
It would have been interesting to take a crowd shot from the top of the monument but it is still closed for repairs from the earthquake.
Past the obelisk of the Washington monument you could see the Lincoln Memorial:
After the rally was over, I walked to the Lincoln Memorial. I think it’s a fantastic piece of architecture and of course Lincoln was a pivotal figure in history. Although he did not originally intend to end slavery, that is what he did and we can all be glad of that.
[Edit, 03 Apr 2012: I can’t resist pointing out that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same exact day, 12 February 1809.]
After that, I walked to the Jefferson Memorial, which is well off the Mall. This shot was taken from across the Tidal Basin, at about sunset:
[Edit, 03 Apr 2012: I also can’t resist pointing out that Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Hitchens were both born on April 13, though this time not in the same year (1743 vs 1949–a 200 year difference would have been cool and I like to think Hitchens would have appreciated it if it were so, but it’s 206 years).] [And for nitpickers the cautious who will try to claim that due to the 11 day shift between calendars that happened in September 1752, they don’t really have the same birthday, TJ’s birthday is NS (Gregorian) not OS (Julian) so you can decide for yourself whether they are the same or not based on whether you think an imaginary birth certificate is more important than trips around the sun–they are the same in terms of trips around the sun.]
Jefferson was a deist, a believer in a benevolent creator of the universe that then bowed out and let us live our lives to the fullest if we would only get out of our own way and let ourselves do it. I am not sure if that makes him a freethinker in the fullest sense of the word, but I am sure he valued freedom itself. He was definitely a secularist, a believer in the separation of church and state (he originated the phrase “wall of separation” in a letter to a Baptist church while president). He wrote the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom, the precursor to the first amendment.
Jefferson’s statue (a bit out of focus). The inscription running around the inside of the dome (you can see part of it in the background) reads “I have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind mof man.” This was written in a letter to Benjamin Rush in 1800, the year that Jefferson was elected President of the United States.
Jefferson was not particularly proud of being President; his tombstone lists three accomplishments and being president was not one of them. But writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was. And so was writing the words below.
These words (from the Declaration of Independence) have inspired people for over two centuries, and the ideals they espouse, to the extent that we have followed them, have propelled the United States to a position of eminence in the world. But now I fear that the words and the ideals have been forgotten. Those inalienable rights are pitched overboard in order to pursue false “rights” to the fruits of other peoples’ labor.