The administration of the Reason Rally is encouraging people to write about why they are going to the Reason Rally, why the Reason Rally is important to them, who they are looking forward to, and a good story. Here's my piece.
Update: I won VIP seating! Thanks, admins!
Many in the secular movement wonder what they can do to be active. Despite this being 2012, some can't be publicly open about their atheism lest they are shunned by family members, face discrimination, and encounter bullying. Some believe that there is no good reason for persons to be open about their atheism and challenge the claims of the religion. "The fundamentalists," they say, "are the real or only problem...and nothing can really be done about them." This myth needs to be dispelled because atheists can contribute to the movement...and they don't have to be open activists to do so. Simply supporting a local atheist group, writing blog posts, supporting other atheists, and so much more can be of great help.
In the last three years or so, after questioning my Roman Catholic upbringing, coming to the conclusion that my religious beliefs were not justified, and realizing that organized religion is responsible for a great deal of harm in the world, I knew that I had a duty of sorts to be open about my atheism and speak for those who don't or can't have a voice even though I was a student at a Catholic college and had religiously inclined family members. The hate mail from family members came. I encountered hate from students at my college. This, though, did not deter me, but rather empowered me. Hate mail, I contest, proves my point and gives enough reason for atheists to be public about their non-belief. The only way, it seems, to counter the hate against atheists is for atheists to be open about their non-belief and insist that discrimination, hatred, and bullying is unacceptable.
In December of 2009, I was dubbed the 'third most hated person in Luzerne County' for challenging the constitutionality of a religious holiday display of a local courthouse and received a slew of hate mail from community members who are so-called 'moderate' or 'liberal' Catholics. After the smoke cleared, the religious displays were taken down and eventually included in a larger, more inclusive display.
Thinking that Luzerne County would have learned its lesson, the group for which I am a co-organizer of, the NEPA Freethought Society, was denied an opportunity to have an educational program for secular prisoners at a county prison despite various religious representatives providing services for religious prisoners. Equal access, it seems, doesn't need to be the case when atheists are involved.
More recently, my request to put a bus ad simply containing the word "Atheists." that was intended to be the most inoffensive atheist bus ad ever was denied. I was told that the ad was "controversial," "would spark debate about public issues," and "attacking religion."
One doesn't need to look far to see that atheists, to many, are considered to be second-class citizens who don't have the same rights as everyone else. It's okay, it seems, to discriminate against atheists. Unfortunately, atheists need to fight extra hard to have the same opportunities as others. Thankfully, the online atheist community has proved to be a powerful force and a supportive community for me and many others. Alone, we may be weak, but together we can be very strong, put pressure on public officials, and spread the word about various problems atheists face.
Enter the Reason Rally. This is a wonderful opportunity for fellow secular individuals to meet face-to-face, network, be in the presence of like-minded supportive individuals, and so much more. An event like this allows everyone to celebrate and note the various victories we've shared in recent years in our budding community. The star-studded lineup is even more reason to attend.
With the help of others in the NEPA Freethought Society's leadership team, I helped organize a trip to the Reason Rally so fellow secularists in my area can attend - and so I can share this wonderful opportunity of attending the Reason Rally with others. I'm really excited to attend the Reason Rally this weekend - rain or shine...and it would be all the better in a VIP seat.