A Personal Reflection on Attending the Reason Rally in 2012; Agenda for the Next Two Weeks

A personal reflection on attending the Reason Rally on March 24, 2012. I attended in the depths of a faith crisis and it became a pivotal point in my life. It was at the Reason Rally that I found some answers to myself. It was at the Reason Rally that I pursued truth. This is the first post of several as I plan to attend the Reason Rally again to listen, observe, and reflect on my faith crisis.

Atheists aren’t angry because we’re selfish, or bitter, or joyless. Atheists are angry because we have compassion. Atheists are angry because we have a sense of justice. Atheists are angry because we see millions of people being terribly harmed by religion, and our hearts go out to them, and we feel motivated to do something about it.”

Greta Christina at the Reason Rally

“On my way to the Reason Rally”

March 24, 2012 Facebook post

O Lord, you have examined my heart  and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!7  I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!8  If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans,10 even there your hand will guide me

Psalm 139: 1-10 NLT

reasonrally

John Piper explains why a woman submits to domestic abuse “for a season.”

In early March of 2012 I decided to attend the Reason Rally which was going to be held on the National Mall of Washington, D.C. It was penned to be the largest gathering of atheists, secularists, and freethinkers in the United States. During this time in my faith crisis I had a number of emotions going through me. Some of those emotions included the following:

  1. I thought I was done with Christianity and couldn’t work through the problem of evil. Part of me thought I should accept the fact as to what I was going to become. Part of me felt like I was in denial about who I was.
  2. Part of me felt like I was desperately grasping for straws because I didn’t want to be an agnostic. Part of me wanted Christianity to be true as I wanted my life to have meaning.
  3. Part of me was sick over fundamentalism. After all I drank the John Piper Kool Aid and often asked myself…”what the hell were you thinking?”
  4. Then another side me liked the atheist material I watched on Youtube. I watched Christopher Hitchens and The Thinking Atheist and more and I drew form it. Literally I loved it as it inspired me.

To write all this sounds schizophrenic but those are the feelings I had at the time. To be honest with you guys…I thought my life was going to go the skeptic route. I wasn’t hopeful of where things were going. I just had a couple of people who I was interacting with on the Christian front – Andrew White, James Crestwood, Scott Van Sweringen, Dee Parsons, Danny Risch, and one other person. Despite all this I wasn’t too optimistic in the end. It was against all this that I decided to attend the Reason Rally in the efforts to find myself and in my quest to search for peace. During this time I was in so much emotional pain, as the faith crisis was difficult and traumatic. Unless you have had one you will never know what it feels like. To those going through one uncertain of how things will go…I deeply empathize with you. When it came to being confrontational on a scale of 1 to 10, I was probably a 15. If you doubt me I can hook you up with James or Scott who can tell you stories of aggressive texts, emails and more.

 

March 24, 2012

That Saturday morning I posted on my Facebook that I was going to the Reason Rally. I was bold and I declared it to the world. I have the update up top leading the post for today. That Saturday morning was cold, dreary, raining and damp. I dressed for it but I realized that it was going to be colder than I thought. A partial line up for the event included speakers such as Jessica Ahlquist, Greta Christina, Dan Barker, Nate Phelps, Herment Mehta, David Silverman and Richard Dawkins. Depending upon the source I would later learn that 10,000 to 20,000 people would attend. Like I always do when I go into D.C. I ditched my car in Pentagon City Shopping Mall and rode the Metro and got off at the Smithsonian Station. When I came up from the Metro onto the mall I saw some Christians passing out tracks. As I started to walk to the event I had wondered in my mind if I was going to see evangelicals protesting the event. Despite the miserable weather the crowd was lively, bold and engaging. It was also diverse in age, sex, and since you had people standing in a light rain you also had the truly dedicated. I saw signs mocking religion, touting the necessity of the separation of church and state, promoting science, or calling for Christians to get off their ovaries. It was unpleasant outside as I listened to speaker after speaker talk about the dangers of fundamentalism and religion.

At the rally I listened to Hement Mehta speak where he challenged fellow atheists to run for office and help change the dynamics. That talk was followed by Jessica Ahlquist. Jessica successfully sued to have a prayer removed from a high school auditorium in Rhode Island. In the process she dealt with harassment, death threats, hate mail and was calledan evil little thing.” Many evangelicals responded to her with pure hate. In her speech she explained why she became an atheist and took the stand she did. She explained why she became a plaintiff for the ACLU and she also called all of the people at the rally “evil little things.”

The person I most wanted to hear was Greta Christina. I had consumed much of her Youtube videos on atheism and liked her. I read her blog and kept up with her during this time. Greta Christina reminds me of the atheist version of Emma Goldman… passionate, bold articulating herself and speaking her mind. In a moving speech Greta Christina listed all the reasons why atheists have a right to be angry. Point by point she listed all the abuses, problems, corruption that Christianity left in its wake. Early in the talk Greta Christina roared about how she was angry that there were evangelical preachers who teach women to submit to their physical abuser in marriage. I clapped and cheered thinking of John Piper’s teaching of how a woman submits to her domestic abuser “for a night,” which by the way is the reason why I have his video leading this post. During her talk the crowd responded with warmth and affection for her. She went on and talked about the Catholic church covering up child sex abuse and the scandal that followed. When she spoke about the child sex abuse scandal I thought of the allegations of Sovereign Grace covering up child sex abuse. I contemplated some of the stories I read at SGM Survivors. After a well received talk Greta closed out her speech by saying:

Atheists aren’t angry because we’re selfish, or bitter, or joyless. Atheists are angry because we have compassion. Atheists are angry because we have a sense of justice. Atheists are angry because we see millions of people being terribly harmed by religion, and our hearts go out to them, and we feel motivated to do something about it.”

At the rally I sent out a couple of texts baiting some of the Christians I knew. One got angry with me and sent me a terse text. Andrew later told me he thought it amusing. Meanwhile James Crestwood sent me a text warning me and said that I was going to become so full of anger and hate. But here was the thing…I agreed with a lot of what I was hearing. When Greta Christina spoke I nodded my head an agreed with her. She was right to call out corruption in Christianity. I saw all the corruption and it drove me. The fact that I was being invited to Sovereign Grace which was hemorrhaging allegations of criminal activity just drove me. It was like pouring gasoline on a fire. I was ranting and raving about the corruption in Christianity and then I was being invited to a denomination bleeding stories and allegations of horrific abuse. I was disgusted that I once thought so highly of John Piper and asked myself “what the hell was wrong with you?” So when Greta Christina spoke I concurred greatly with what she said. Her thoughts perfectly captured what I thought about evangelical Christianity.

During this time I stopped and looked at some of the tents and booths they had there. They had atheist and secular organizations passing out literature. As I walked through the tents I saw something that bothered me and grabbed my attention. I saw some paperwork and advocacy for doctor-assisted suicide and end of life options. It hit a nerve in me for the following reason. My Dad was fighting a brain tumor. His fate was unknown. My Mom would call me from time to time and cry on the phone about what was happening. I wasn’t ready to lose my Dad yet, and when I looked at some of the paperwork about doctor assisted suicide it greatly bothered me. I wondered if this was a knee jerk reaction to the way some Christians are stuck on battling abortion and waging the culture wars. Due to the cold and rainy weather I stopped and steeped inside one of the Smithsonian’s and wanted to get a snack and get warm.  

A Shift in my Thinking and a New Problem

After the break I popped back outside and something changed and I had a slow realization that dawned on me. I realized I had traded the fundamentalism of John Piper for someone like Richard Dawkins or another person like him. I realized that fundamentalism exists in many forms. It also hit me that atheism and agnosticism are also a faith system. I know some are going to disagree with me, I am not trying to be difficult. Its what I realized after I went back out of the Reason Rally. Here is what happened…I chucked religion and then I found myself in a new one, and I was getting up to my eyebrows in a different one. For me I was crushed and frustrated plus I had a new problem on my hand. I still had problems with Christianity and pushed back from it, because the problem of evil still was a legitimate reason to reject Christianity. However, I realized in wanting to reject religion I found myself in another one. I was back at square one. So the challenge was this…I couldn’t believe in Christianity, but I realized that atheism/agnosticism had problems also – so where does a person go? This opened up a new door that was deeply troubling and frustrating and I wondered where I do go from here? I was so uncomfortable over this development that I left during the time Richard Dawkins was speaking. It wasn’t because I was upset at what he said. I was upset over where was I going to go from here?

I walked over to Capitol Hill and swung by James Crestwood’s apartment. He let me in and the next thing I remember was sitting in front of him and facing him. He asked me questions. But I was numb. Today I can’t remember what we spoke about and that deeply troubles me. But I remember him looking at me and me just sitting there in a daze trying to process everything that had happened. Eventually I left and I saw a Catholic church around the corner. I went in and sat in the back. I remember sitting in the pew thinking to myself, “Dave what is happening to you?” I was in total misery and angry over faith and what had happened. I didn’t want a faith crisis. I was actually jealous and pissed off that others were not. Why did the problem of evil crush me and yet others were indifferent to it? I sat in that Catholic church and as mass started I reflected on how March 24, was a day of extremes for me. It was extreme because I participated in the Reason Rally and now I was sitting in a back for a Catholic church trying to make sense of everything. Emotionally I was exhausted and angry. I didn’t want any of this to happen at all…none of it.  I knew I needed a resolution and I knew this chapter of my life needed to end. But I didn’t know what to do! I had problems with God and I saw that atheism and agnosticism also had problems. I felt stuck and I felt angry. Publically I still proclaimed myself as an agnostic but in the course of time I would have problems and tension in saying that as well. I was anxious to have this over and be done with everything. As mass went on I decided to leave and in the early stages I left and walked out. I decided to go home.

 

Musings on Atheism and The Next Two Weeks

There are a number of things I want to touch on here. First in my life my faith crisis was huge. I am still processing and thinking of it in new ways. Given the length, scope and size I still write about it so as to try and unpack what happened from differing angles. For me going to the Reason Rally in 2012 was momentous. It was apart of my story, and its where I was able to find myself. Its for that reason that I am going to attend next weekend here in Washington, D.C. This time I want to go and observe, write, and contemplate what I am hearing and reflect on it in the context of my faith crisis that I had. I am also hoping that I could talk, befriend, and get to know others who attend. I will see if that happens.

These are my thoughts when it comes to atheism. I believe many Christians misunderstand atheists and skeptics. I think many don’t know how to relate, how to have friendships with, or get to know them. I like to write about this topic and I do so knowing that while these posts are my lowest performing posts, I believe they are some of the most important. There are lots of blogs dedicated to either Christianity or atheism. Heck there is an entire Patheos atheist blog section. But there are not a lot of blogs that that crate a bridge that allow for people from differing sides of the spectrum to engage. I really don’t see that and that is a gap I am trying to fill. That is why I go back and forth from differing topics.

I honestly love the skeptical crowd and here’s why. I find them to be deeply intellectual resourceful, and beautiful. I love their commitment to truth and science. I myself am also committed to truth and science. I am the son of a physician and grew up in a medical family where science was very important. I myself am a firm believer in evolution and recognize the role that science plays. I like the way that skeptics think and engage. They strike me as left brain people in how they look at things. Its a completely different way of thinking than I think many in the Christian faith just don’t get. That’s part of the reason why I think many atheists and skeptics are misunderstood. I would like to prove in the course of time that we can indeed relate and exchange ideas in the course of time. The other thing that deeply impresses me about atheism is I love their commitment to education and knowledge. Its fascinating in that in the atheist camp you have some highly educated and knowledgeable scientists, philosophers, and others of education that seldom find in evangelical Christianity. Now in the Catholic sphere this is not so much an issue. But many evangelical Christians tend to be hostile to education and often view it as a threat.

There is one other point that I would like to raise and it comes about from my personal experience with fundagelcialism. I think atheism in many ways provides a refuge for those who are hurt or wounded from fundamentalism. Now the only problem that exists with this is that you can run into fundamentalism in atheism, just like Christianity. Actually fundamentalism is more of a mindset than anything else and can be found in many facets of life. But how can people grow or heal in a system that is chock full of systematic and systemic problems? Its for that reason that for some to heal and grow they may need to remove themselves from the Christian faith for a number of years. The very real problem is that many people are getting hurt today and the Christian faith is not  safe for many people. Part of the reason why I like to write about atheism is that I find many of these topics linked in the end. Its become a vicious cycle that needs to break. That’s why I direct most of my posts toward my camp. There are some issues you will see here at this blog. Christian discrimination against atheists and secular humanists is a very real problem. I intend to write about it and shine a light on it. Its my goal to challenge, call out and inspire my camp to act a hell of a lot better than they currently are in this area.

At this blog I want to be flexible in what I write about. For example when T4G happened in Louisville, I spent a week writing about that issue. Since the Reason Rally has been planned for a couple of years and on the agenda for a while, its time to devote some resources to it. So for the next two weeks I plan to write a number of articles that deal with atheism, secularism, and more. I am looking forward to the next two weeks as there will be a lot to stay and explore. Many of the atheist posts I write I deeply enjoy because I get to think in such a different format. That said I hope you enjoy the next two weeks. Take care guys as always I love you!  

3 thoughts on “A Personal Reflection on Attending the Reason Rally in 2012; Agenda for the Next Two Weeks

  1. I remember commenting on Ahlquist’s site quite a while ago, from which I learnt a lot.

    Personally, I think she was a teenager simply wanting a bit of notoriety and enjoying the attention it gave her. The feeble prayer at the school hardly necessitated ‘getting religion out of the government’, it was harmless enough, and in no sense ‘establishing a religion’.

    I also realised that atheists who commented there always had to have the last word. They were also very gullible. Now I do not doubt that not all evangelicals react or relate to atheists the way they should: Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence. However, it soon became clear there were atheists, probably former nominal Christians who knew the jargon, posting hateful things in order to give Christianity a bad name. Christians do not swear and curse. So I take the claim to being subject to ‘Christian’ hatred by and large with a pinch of salt. ‘Religious’ unbelievers – may be.

    This is hardly surprising, as given the premise of atheism, there is no moral obligation to tell the truth, no obligation to love your neighbour as yourself; you will never give an account if you fail to do so. No God, just the blind, pitiless indifference of a material-only universe.

    However bad the language, if the poster claimed to be Christian, this was readily accepted – a complete absence of anything remotely resembling discernment. The no true Scotsman fallacy was invoked if you protested against this; but of course, not everyone is a true Scotsman!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Eagle, I don’t have much time to respond right now, but just wanted to say that I’m so glad you did this post! Ok, maybe more later — headed to the park with the hubs and the kiddo. = )

    Like

  3. Pingback: An Email Exchange with Bryan Loritts in March of 2013 Helps Shine Light on the Alleged Cover Up of Rick Trotter’s Voyeurism in Fellowship Memphis | Wondering Eagle

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