Considered the largest secular gathering in all history, the Reason Rally took place at the National Mall in Washington D.C. on March 24th, 2012, and Free[SAY] was there. The overall message of the rally was that atheists do have a strong population and that we, just as any other people, deserve our voices to be heard. It was also a day to celebrate being part of our group, and to celebrate our identity as atheists. We are often misunderstood as a group, and the Reason Rally was an excellent way to show our true faces and what it means to be atheists.
Free[SAY] began travelling from Toronto on the Friday night before the event and arrived in Washington D.C. the next morning. We checked into our hostel which was small and cozy (with bunk beds!) for our group of nine. We were looking forward to this event for months. As soon as we heard the events date announced we instantly began working out how we could bring our campus group of atheists to the rally. We had never attended such a huge, historical event before. So naturally, we were very excited and proud to be a part of it. We were so anxious to find out what it would be like to be a part of the rally.
Even though it was raining lightly, and it was slightly chilly, when we arrived at the event by metro, I was stunned by the crowds that had attended. It was announced that there we were among 20,000 people altogether! What an amazing turn out. Nothing else could describe the emotions I felt being in such a wonderful crowd of people. What especially moved me was knowing that we were all connected by one seemingly simple idea, the idea that we are without a god. It was beautiful and most importantly, powerful.
To know that I was side by side with people who honour reason, rationality, science and knowledge felt amazing. To know that we were not being judged by our rejection of religion but instead we were accepted, understood and celebrated for it. We embraced our atheism will full force.
It was great to hear the speakers messages, not timid or ashamed, speaking about the rejection of superstition, and about the atrocities that religious ideas can bring about. There was also humour, music, and poetry. Most of all there a feeling of respect. Respect for the equality of all people regardless of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation or ability. Everyone was welcome to take part in the rally.
The messages were about the education of people about reason and science, about protecting our governments from fantasies and superstitions. It was about being moral without religion, without a god above us.
In the end, the idea that Free[SAY] took from the Reason Rally was that we as atheists should be proud of ourselves, and that we should stand up against those who bring religious ideas and actions that are harmful to our society. That we should not be afraid to be atheists openly.
The Reason Rally was like the grand coming out party for atheists. At least for myself I can say that it was the first big secular event I had attended, and it will be an important part of my life forever. It was certainly an awesome way to finish Free[SAY]’s year!
Here is a great photograph of our group with the Washington Monument behind us.