For all of those networks and newspapers who annually pretend the March for Life does not exist, we shall see if a Washington rally by thousands of atheists is considered equally as "newsworthy." Don't empty your wallet betting on that. Advertised speakers at the March 24 "Reason Rally" include Congressman Pete Stark, author Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion"), comedians Paul Provenza and Jamie Kilstein, "Mythbusters" co-host Adam Savage, the rock band Bad Religion and the hip-hop artist "Rational Warrior a.k.a Tombstone Da Deadman," and Jamila Bey ("former editor and producer for National Public Radio").
NPR and MSNBC have already noticed. The CBS DC website carried this promotional headline: "'We Are Stronger’: Atheists To Hold Massive Rally On National Mall Next Month.” One would hope reporters would ask where the bar is set when the Reason Rally website boasts: “Join us for the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history.”
Atheist bloggers Hemant Mehta and Greta Christina are also listed as speakers. The CBS story began:
Thousands of atheists are expected to attend the Reason Rally next month in Washington, D.C., an event that organizers hope will unify a large part of the secular community. On March 24, the National Mall will be populated by those who sympathize with atheist perspectives, generally defined by an absence in belief of deities or other religious icons.
The website for the event states that organizers aim to encourage participants to claim their identity as what they call “secular Americans,” to dispel stereotypes, and to rally for legislative equality.
David Silverman, a chair for the Reason Rally Coalition and president of American Atheists, said that participants are motivated by positivity.
“We’re not going there to complain, we’re not going there to fight,” he told CBSDC. “[We want to] celebrate the fact that we are growing, we are stronger, and we are taking our place in American society.”
Candice Leigh Helfand's story is indistinguishable from a press release, and there's no comment from religious believers anywhere in the article. It even lets Silverman tout he's a Republican, and claim that America is stuffed with tens of millions of atheists:
“There are 40 to 50 million atheists [in the United States]. About 40 to 50 thousand are involved in the movement,” Silverman said. “That’s one-tenth of 1 percent [of the movement actively participating].”
...The location and timing of the rally are not coincidence – the Reason Rally hopes to make its own impact on the 2012 elections by injecting a discussion of separations between church and state into the national dialogue.
“We need people to ask the tough questions, and they’re not. What’s more important: the Bible or the Constitution? Do they want theocracy? Do they want Christianity as the official religion, and if so, which version?” Silverman stated, adding that despite his Republican affiliation, he feels himself without a candidate that supports his beliefs. “Hopefully what we’ll do is get people talking about what … atheists and secularists think.”
Superseding the importance of political activism, though, is the movement’s passionate desire for true equality.
“There are more atheists in the country right now than Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists combined and doubled – that’s a lot of people, and we are the most hated … for no reason other than pure and simple religious bigotry, spurned by ignorance,” Silverman said. “Ignorance is killed by awareness … we want to put many faces to [atheism], so people will understand us better and tolerate us more.”