It’s not very often we see this many people come together under one banner to show the nation there are a lot of non-religious people out there, and we don’t all fall into the “angry older white guy” stereotype, and we want to see church/state separation upheld, and we don’t want to be ignored anymore. The fact that we have people on the stage who hold views we find unreasonable or objectionable just shows we’re not a uniform group.
If we want to get attention for a rally like this, we need big-name celebrities to attend. We need politicians to speak. Sure, we can have a rally with PZ Myers and only the people he wants to invite, but it won’t draw the same numbers and it won’t get the same level of attention.
You can argue that the Rally needs higher “standards,” but you’re missing the point. This isn’t just about us. This isn’t just about spreading science and atheism. This is about drawing attention to our movement. This is about getting media attention. This is about getting all those people not attending the rally (or who don’t even know there are so many other atheists out there) to notice us and maybe — just maybe — get the courage to come out of the closet or attend a local atheist gathering.
Personally, I’m indifferent to the whole shebang. I might go, since I’m only a few hours away, but I’d be most looking forward to seeing Tim Minchin, if anything. My greatest fear is that it would just be hours of standing around in unseasonably warm weather, listening to live versions of those boring “Why I Am an Atheist” stories. Either way, I’m pretty sure there won’t be any historically significant, MLK-style speeches, so, yeah, some people could stand to ease up on the ideological purity tests. The atheist movement, such as it is, does not have to spring forth upon the national consciousness fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s forehead, displaying perfectly proportioned diversity and a uniform message.
The sad thing is, I happened across the link to this post on another blog, where it was accompanied by an all-too-predictable snarky comment about the number of older white guys who got invited to speak, with the obvious implication that this is prima facie a bad thing. Well, you go to rallies with the prominent atheists you have, not the ones you wish you had. The old white guys are not the issue, dude. Also, dude, old white guy is not the preferred nomenclature. Elderly Caucasian-American, please.
Seriously, if you want to protest every single injustice and inequality simultaneously, there’s probably an OWS encampment nearby. Stick to the basic rah-rah-atheism theme for this particular event, and save all the identity politicking for later.
Speaking of effective messaging, though:
If one of the Republican presidential candidates wanted to voice his support for our right to assemble, and our right to not believe in god, and his belief that we’re just as American as religious people, I hope we’d give that person a mic, too. Because more Americans need to hear that message.
Already happened, actually. Come to think of it, that guy’s schedule seems a lot more open these days; maybe someone should check and see if he’d be willing to reprise his statements. For that kind of entertainment value, I would definitely attend.