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!

The Crazy [Atheist] Card

I have been reading comment sections about atheists, and I have noticed something both surprising and unsurprising. Male atheists are less likely to be called “crazy” than a variety of other derogatory adjectives. For instance, Richard Dawkins is much more likely to be “stupid” rather than “crazy.” On one secular blog, a writer contrasted a prominent male atheist with a female atheist to examine the differences between a new atheist and an apologist atheist. When I searched for the word “crazy,” it was used seven times in the 26 comments, not appearing once in the actual body of the article, and the word was used in reference only to the female atheist.

Crazy is a word commonly associated with emotion. Since women are stereotyped as being more emotional and emotion is considered irrational, the opposite of what atheists strive to be, and irrationality is lethargic, incorrect, crazy, this makes crazy a convenient word to keep handy in one’s rhetoric. For some women, crazy is one the worst things you can be, like bitchy, slutty, or my personal favorite—bossy.

We need to figure out how to argue against the crazy card, especially when it is used by theists but also when talking among fellow atheists.

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The crazy accusation is a form of gaslighting. Telling someone that their feelings or thoughts are incorrect, that they don’t have the right to feel or think a certain way, is a form of manipulation. Minimizing another person’s thoughts is an attempted method to control that person. If that person is no longer able to rely on their own mind, then that person must rely on someone else to determine how they are supposed to feel or think.

Calling someone crazy is a direct attempt to control that person—the way that person thinks or the way that person feels.

I suspect many people do not know what they are implying when calling a woman crazy. It’s an easy card to play. Reflexive, even. People also accept the crazy explanation as adequate without much question. Sometimes, calling a woman crazy is how a person communicates one of the following: “She felt a certain way, and I did not want her to think that way.” or “She was upset about something, and I did not want to deal with it.”

It’s more difficult to use introspection and specific language to communicate the issues at hand. Let’s look at some examples.

Instead of: “Person X is crazy!”
Try: “Person X is a born-again Christian who opposes gay marriage and the study of evolution in the public school system.”

Instead of: “Person Y is crazy!”
Try: “I cut off Person Y in traffic, and Person Y followed me home and shit on my porch.”

Instead of: “Person Z is crazy!”
Try: “I am not voting for Donald Trump.”

What communicates the issue better? What creates a more productive dialogue? The speaker loses nothing by thinking critically about the words used. Furthermore, the speaker’s friends, who might be mentally ill or bipolar or autistic, are less likely to be hurt by the use of specific language. As advocates of rational thinking and skepticism, should we not always attempt to create more productive dialogues?

Crazy is also a highly effective way to argue with a person, because it completely changes the topic at hand. The topic is no longer about what the person is saying. It’s about how the person is saying it. The crazy card redirects the conversation.

To bring this home,

If you want to call someone crazy, don’t. Use introspection and specific language instead.

If you hear another person call someone crazy, be skeptical, and ask them for specific language. Card denied.

If you are called crazy, recognize the speaker’s attempt to control you and redirect the conversation. Do not be persuaded.

I am jealous of these male atheists who are called so many creative derogatory names. I want something of my own. Call me godless. Call me shortsighted, wicked, a hell-bound harlot, Satan’s spokesperson, an arrogant cocksucking heathen, anything but crazy.

The Meanest Scientist I Ever Knew

Whether I am reading a book on the history of bees or looking at a particular map of the United States, traces of Charles Darwin continue to swell into conversation. For those who have a predilection for visually compelling forms of communication, here is an infographic on Darwin created by Charles Trujillo that has proven to be good reference material as of late:

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Last summer, for admittedly the third time, I picked up On the Origin of Species and read it alongside The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Reading On the Origin of Species wasn’t necessarily a transforming experience, but there are passages that still surface:

“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

When I read Darwin, I found philosophies referencing body positivity and anti-nationalism. Even the perhaps more boring paragraphs of the book did not compare to the outright tediousness of passages in the Old Testament. Tonight, I hope you look at your bodies and smile, because you are the vision of perfection. Or at least, you are in maddening pursuit. Happy Darwin Day, friends!