What is Reason Rally?

I met with my banker—the quintessential charismatic too-tall banker who always wants to shake my hand several times and give me another line of credit—and for the seventh time, I got a blank stare when I said I am going to Reason Rally and need to budget. In most of my conversations, with atheists and theists alike, I have mostly encountered questions about the rally and its origins.

What is Reason Rally?

Reason Rally is an event that promotes secularism and religious skepticism in Washington DC. Speakers—everyone from Bill Nye to Margaret Cho to Johnny Depp—will take the stage to discuss secular ideas. There will be entertainment and music. Some notable atheists are not attending. For instance, Richard Dawkins is not attending due to health reasons. This year the rally will be held on June 4th at Lincoln Memorial with a whole program of events around that time.

Does this rally happen every year?

Nope. The last Reason Rally was held in 2012, and it has been considered the largest secular event in world history to date. However, the reports on how many people actually attended are unofficial.

What is the purpose of the rally?

Attendees have different ideas about what the purpose of the rally is. Everyone will likely be attending for slightly different reasons. Some of the topics at the forefront of the rally will include LGBTQ equality, climate change, and women’s reproductive rights. One of this year’s goals is to promote effective sex education rather than abstinence-only sex education, which has been correlated with increased teen pregnancy.

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Someone might say the purpose of the rally is to question and celebrate secularism. Another person who is attending the rally may say that the purpose is to make politicians cater to reason as much as they cater to the irrational ideas of theists.

Is there religious backlash at the rally? Or is this a dangerous event?

There are religious protesters, and I feel like most secular events have the possibility of danger. Nonetheless, some people consider Reason Rally a child-friendly event. In that regard, the rally is not dangerous.

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I do have some reservation about traveling alone as a young woman. Many of these fears have been worsened over the years, because of a negative experience at the American Atheists convention in 2015. Reason Rally does have a Code of Conduct that lists information for anyone experiencing harassment, but that won’t necessarily stop men from disrespecting my “no.”

Why are you going to Reason Rally?

There are a number of practical and logistical reasons for my attendance. I try to go to one atheist event every year. It’s tremendous fun and always intellectually challenging and satisfying. As the rally is approaching, I find myself becoming both increasingly nervous and excited. Here is to my hoping my poor car is up for the trip.

More questions? Leave me a comment in the section below!

Holiday Shopping For Your Token Atheist Friend

The holidays can be an unsettling time for atheists. Once when talking to a family member who is aware of my atheism and verbal about it, she asked: “Does it bother you when you get Jesus stuff for the holidays?” The truth, yes and no.

As self-proclaimed resident holiday gift adviser, here are my guiding rules on how to shop for heathens:

  1. Don’t give your atheist friend anything religious.
  2. Avoid gifts that use “Christmas” or “Xmas.”
  3. Coffee is good. Atheists like coffee.

Most of the following gift ideas center around secular thought, reason, and science.

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Giftcards to Amazon.com or Target can be personalized by packing it inside a secular greeting card, such as this card featuring Charles Darwin or this “Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season” card from Center for Inquiry. The Center for Inquiry and other secular organizations have a lot of great items for atheists around the holidays. Personally, I have always wanted this “Heresy Makes For Progress” t-shirt. (Size small, please.) T-shirts can be fun. Just don’t buy anything too outwardly offensive, mocking, or with Comic Sans. To play on the safe side, I would recommend sticking to humanist gifts around the holiday season, rather than the more antagonistic options.

I like to suggest minimalist gifts for the holidays, such as this “Freethinker” vinyl sticker or black-and-white Carl Sagan magnet. If you think your friend would appreciate some weird socks, check out these wicked Einsteins from Socksmith. (Who doesn’t appreciate weird socks?!) Skeptical coffee mugs and science-shaped cookie cutters are solid small gift ideas.

Literature can be either a good or a really bad gift idea. Many atheists have strong biases about who they like and don’t like in the realm of secular literature. Prominent atheist thinkers have come out with books in 2015, but not all atheists appreciate these writers. Secular anthologies can also be tricky for reasons involving representation. The best gift will reflect some aspect of the token atheist’s belief system. It’s entirely reasonable to ask your friend, “Which atheists do you look up to?” or “Do you have any favorite scientists or public figures?” This will allow you to narrow down potential shopping flaws. Unlike religious literature, there is no single book binding secularism or novelty edition of said book that can be given to an atheist. Finding the right literature will require careful thought and some background research.

If unable to narrow down a book specifically, I would recommend purchasing a yearly magazine subscription from a predominantly secular publisher. Maybe support the Skeptical Inquirer or Scientific American? Magazine subscriptions are wonderful for the shopper who has waited until the last minute to buy a gift. Some atheists are also touring right now in the United States. Tickets to hear Neil Degrassi Tyson locally or another secular thinker can be an excellent last-minute gift idea.

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild offers an array of religious and non-religious products that are ideal for both adults and children. (I can think of nothing that I would have loved more as a child than an Albert Einstein Little Thinker Doll, except for maybe another Australian Shepherd puppy.) Royal Bobbles has some neat stuff as well, like this glow-in-the-dark Marie Curie figure.

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For the secular art lover, consider making a purchase from Amy’s store, Surly-Ramics! Her work is high-quality and ships quickly. She also runs sales on a regular basis, so feel free to check out her facebook page for more information.

While this entry may seem rather silly or tediously materialistic, it’s important to me. The holidays are challenging for atheists as they are for many people. Having a loved one, relative or friend, give a gift that acknowledges your belief system, particularly a belief system that is adverse to the holiday season, can be one of the most uplifting things in the world. That copy of The Origin of Species may not seem like a big deal, but for an atheist who has felt outcast from his or her family around the holiday, just that small recognition can be an enormous gesture of inclusion and hope.

So leave that Dr. Bronner’s soap on the shelf, and order soon to get your packages before the holidays are here. What are you hoping to get this year for the holidays? Share your thoughts/wish lists in the comments section.