Reason Rally Throws New Atheism Under the Bus

June 4th is the big day for “Reason.”  Or so we are told.  The truly interesting development is how the Reason Rally appears to indicate the further demise/decline of the New Atheist Movement.

1. The first Reason Rally truly came across as an organic, grass-roots development. This Reason Rally comes across as something that was forced; put together by a select few atheist organizations, mostly tied to Richard Dawkins, in a top-down fashion.

2. While Dawkins has been heavily promoting this rally for months, organizers will be lucky if they can fulfill 25% of their fund raising objectives. According to the Reason Rally web page,

We have to raise $100,000 to make Reason Rally 2016 a reality.

It sure looks like the atheists were lying.  It’s less than 18 hours away from the start of the Reason Rally and so far, they have raised only $22,408.66.  Yet I’m sure it will still be a “reality.”

3. Some of the major voices in the New Atheist movement – Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne – are not scheduled to speak at the rally. In fact, neither Harris or Coyne have been promoting the rally. Could it be that the Reason Rally is part of the process to throw New Atheism under the bus?  It looks that way.

4. The key speaker was supposed to be actor Johnny Depp, who does not have a history of making any anti-theistic or anti-religious claims. Depp had to withdraw from speaking at the rally after his wife publicly accused him of beating her.

5. Consider some excerpts from a recent CNN story about the rally:

a. the rally’s attendees and speakers include people of faith, notably such legislators as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).

Huh?  Will Dawkins refer to them as “faith-heads?”  Or will be on his best behavior to hide his bigotry for the sake of the movement?

b. The last Reason Rally, held in 2012, may have had a much more excluding vibe, Liddell said. “Some of our speakers were anti-theists and anti-religion.”

This year, she said, the focus has shifted to secularism. “We need to ally with people who share our goals. It’s not an ‘atheist vs religious people’ conversation.”

Whoa!  So Lydell admits the bigoted nature of the original Reason Rally.  So is she truly distancing herself from such bigotry or she trying to do a better job of hiding it this time around?

c. Larry Decker, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, said his group has scheduled meetings with more than two thirds of the members of Congress, whom they hope to lobby on behalf of secular values. ….Decker himself identifies as an unaffiliated Christian. But even so, “I really feel more comfortable in this community,” he said.

Let’s add this up.  The Reason Rally appears to be organized by “accomodationists” and has two “people of faith” as speakers.  The focus on religion has been greatly diminished to be replaced by a focus on climate change and abortion.  The fundraising objectives have been an embarrassing failure and some of the lead speakers in the New Atheism movement have been shunned by the rally and, in return, have made no effort to promote the rally.

All in all, despite how the rally is spun, I think it both fascinating and hilarious to see the bold pronouncements and posturing of New Atheism being shunned by the second installment of the Reason Rally.

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19 Responses to Reason Rally Throws New Atheism Under the Bus

  1. TFBW says:

    $24,201.79 and counting. They may well breach the 25% mark before the day is out. I just donated two cents via PayPal to do my bit for Reason.

    Will Dawkins refer to them as “faith-heads?” Or will be on his best behavior to hide his bigotry for the sake of the movement?

    Several of the participants, including Dawkins, are described as “video address from X”, which I suspect means pre-recorded video to be played back at the event. If so, they’ll have him well under control.

  2. Crude says:

    Several of the participants, including Dawkins, are described as “video address from X”, which I suspect means pre-recorded video to be played back at the event. If so, they’ll have him well under control.

    Dawkins: Hi kids! Welcome to the Reason Rally! [laughs]. I’m busy working on my next book and can’t attend! So now, I turn things over to my bestest buddy in the whole wide world (Mister Black)! I want you to treat (Mister Black) with the same respect you would give me. Now here’s (Mister Black).

  3. TFBW says:

    His bestest buddy Lawrence Krauss is scheduled to be there: he gets a 15 minute slot somewhere in the middle.

  4. Kevin says:

    Haha good Simpsons reference

  5. Dhay says:

    > In fact, neither Harris or Coyne have been promoting the rally.

    So far as I can tell, even Richard Dawkins and his staff haven’t been promoting the rally. I had a look in the RDF site’s News section, going as far back as the end of April, but apart from linking to, and reproducing part of, a post by Hemant Mehta about Ray Comfort being told he couldn’t mass-evangelise at the Rally because the police would consider large numbers of evangelists a demonstration and keep them separate — apart from that, the recent publicity given to the Reason Rally by the RDF is … is zero.

    I did a site check, and found there’s very little about the Reason Rally, full stop: rally

    The second entry down, “Who would rally against Reason?” initially looked new (31 May 2016), but it turns out to be a slightly amended reproduction of a Washington Post article Dawkins wrote before the 2012 rally (amongst other things, making explicit it was deliberately being held in an election year); I cannot find the article linked or advertised in News, nor anywhere else on-site that I can see (although three Dawkins fans have added their comments), so it is hardly a prominent or timely promotion of the 2016 rally.

    The Reason Rally must be promoted in the Events calendar, then, mustn’t it, what with the Rally having the RDF listed as a major sponsor. But no, the RDF Events calendar for June 2016 is blank, nothing important enough to mention is happening in June.

    Dawkins has damned the Rally by faint praise, I’d say.


    That “Who would rally against Reason?” is a fascinating article: has anybody in the USA ever actually rallied “against reason”, or against whatever “Reason” with an initial capital is — the supernatural Platonic Form, perhaps, of which all Earthly instances of reason are imperfect copies (Cue laughter at the results of the “Socratic Method”) — ever? But Dawkins goes on to explain that the following “Alas, plenty of people” would — not might — rally against reason, characterised as people who would say:

    1. “I don’t trust educated intellectuals, elitists who know more than I do. I’d prefer to vote for somebody like me, rather than somebody who is actually qualified to be president.”

    Actually, nobody except a rich and ambitious politician gets to vote for “someone like” themselves; everybody else gets to vote for a rich and ambitious politician, someone with very little resemblance indeed to themselves; er, aren’t all politicians elitists in practice; and who is “actually qualified to be president”, what counts as a suitable qualification — Peter Boghossian’s Plato’s Republic’s Guardians, an elite who by decades of studying geometry and rhetoric learn how to discern the Form of the Good, perhaps?

    2. “Rather than have them learn modern science, I’d prefer my children to study a book written in 800 BC by unidentifed authors whose knowledge and qualifications were of their time. If I can’t trust the school to shield them from science, I’ll home-school them instead.”

    “Modern science”, more fully explained, turns out to be the theories of the evolution of life, man and the universe. I note there are YEC’s fully functioning in their chosen profession (hence, obviously, their education and successful qualification in modern science) as scientists, engineers, doctors etc.

    3. “When I am faced with a mystery, with something I don’t understand, I don’t interrogate science for a solution, but jump to the conclusion that it must be supernatural and has no solution.”

    This has been the lamentable but understandable first recourse of humanity for most of our history. We have grown out of it only during the past few centuries.

    Ah yes, until the Enlightenment, a mere three or four centuries ago, there was no agricultural revolution (crop-growing), no Bronze or Iron Ages, no inquisitiveness or experimentation at all — except through dire necessity. Bollocks, and he knows it. This is sheer disinformation.

    In fact: much as the absence of a blood-stained shirt, one that would be blood-stained if the suspect had cut the victim’s throat, tells us the suspect didn’t do so, so does the absence of a rally that would — we have Dawkins’ word for it — happen if there are people in categories in 1, 2 and 3 tell us that either these people don’t exist, or perhaps that there’s too few of them to form a rally. So the whole is bollocks. So much for reason, as allegedly used by Dawkins.

  6. TFBW says:

    The second entry down, “Who would rally against Reason?” initially looked new (31 May 2016), but it turns out to be a slightly amended reproduction of a Washington Post article Dawkins wrote before the 2012 …

    He rehashed the 2012 article? Wow, they really are phoning it in this time.

    Raised so far: $24,356.81

  7. notabilia says:

    I agree with the basic point you make here: the “Reason Rally” should be for atheists only, not for moronic cultists and their accommodationist friends.
    Still, there should be some righteous religion-bashing from the more aware comedian-types, much more than would be the case at the Adolf Trump lie-athons your side giggles itself silly over.

  8. Dhay says:

    notabilia > … the “Reason Rally” should be for atheists only …

    It’s for the Reason Rally organisers to decide who the Rally is for and what it’s about. I get the feeling that even the 2012 Rally was really about secularism rather than atheism as such, and that it effectively got hijacked by New Atheists.

    PS: I rather like your nicely cynical blog. Did Michael Shermer really talk about what I’ll short-cut re-phrase as Economic Darwinism in his 2012 Rally talk?

  9. Dhay says:

    Regular updates from the CFI, if you’re interested:

  10. Kevin says:


    Fully agree that only atheists should be at the Reason Rally, in the same way that only vegetarians would be at the Steak Rally.

  11. Kevin says:


    In your blog post about the ironically named Reason Rally, you lament the concept of having to listen to the guest speakers who are functioning as leaders of the movement. You then say

    “Atheism should be in rebellion against the undemocratic format, where supposed nobody/dummies are subject to the lecternists of the registered personality trademark.”

    So is it that you agree with Michael when he says that modern atheism is not simply “lack of belief” in God? Or is there something inherent to not believing in God that also leads to rejection of celebrity status granting speaking privilege?

  12. Michael says:

    LOL. $24,939.81

    They never hit 25% of their fundraising goal.

    And they we not telling the truth when they claimed,

    We have to raise $100,000 to make Reason Rally 2016 a reality.

    We now have empirical evidence that the organizers of the Reason Rally are liars.

  13. TFBW says:

    Funds now stand at $25,039.81, meaning that they reached the 25% mark — which still counts as an abysmal fund-raising failure, of course. But hey — congrats on reaching the 25% mark, guys. I’m proud to have contributed my two cents.

    We now have empirical evidence that the organizers of the Reason Rally are liars.

    I think that the charitable interpretation is that they are simply incompetent. If that nice round figure of $100,000 was realistic (a big “if”, under the circumstances), then someone’s left to cover a $75,000 shortfall for the cost of running the event. This is solid empirical evidence that the organisers of the Reason Rally are hopelessly out of touch with reality. Seriously — these people think that they are in the sweet spot for making public policy, and they can’t even manage a $100K rally without a 75% budget shortfall. For pity’s sake, keep them out of public office.

    I’d also like to tip my hat to Dhay for his observation that, “it was deliberately being held in an election year.” Indeed. Why have a rally once every four years? In election years? In Washington DC? Where the total event is actually a four-day schedule, of which the third day is the rally itself, and the first two are “advocacy days” where they “meet with legislators on Capitol Hill?” Politics, politics, politics. “Reason” is just a politically-spun label like “Democrat”, “Republican”, or “Libertarian”, bearing scant resemblance to the actual contents, which in this case are more accurately described as “anti-religious”. The whole thing is just a political propaganda exercise.

    The first rally actually felt somewhat grass-roots, as though a large number of atheists really did want to get together in public and have an all-day hate session against religion. Now it seems to be that a core group of wanna-be anti-religious political activists are using the event as a means to rope in recruits and bolster their apparent numbers — and not doing a terribly good job of it, if their flaccid fund-raising efforts are any indication.

  14. Dhay says:

    I’ve now had the chance to look through the CFI’s live update site, which gives short potted summaries of the main speakers over three pages (so far) on the usual last-posted is at top basis.

    It bolsters the impression that the Rally is intended not as a religion-bashing exercise * but as an attempt to promote certain secular political values. The summaries show a number of speakers making a point of needing to join with like-minded religious people to achieve those political aims.

    Some speakers’ addresses were not summarised, and one of these was Richard Dawkins’ five minute video address. Nothing of interest there, then — blessedly, knowing his tendency to rant if given half a chance, and his history of so derailing the 2012 Rally that nobody remembers it as a politically themed Rally but as a bash-the-religious themed Rally. Big name, no summary: I’d call Dawkins quietly passed over, this time round.


    * “… is intended not as a religion-bashing exercise.” Though I note in the Rally’s Code of Conduct that:

    The Reason Rally Coalition recognizes that mockery of religion occurred at Reason Rally 2012, and we welcome such discussion.

    Weasel words, there: the obvious end word would be a repeat of “mockery”; to call it discussion, when those who could “discuss” with the mockers are not expected to be present — certainly not after the hate speech of the 2012 Rally, plus there’s the question of whether one ever does or even can discuss in any meaningful sense with mockers — is less than frank, is less than willing to identify hate speech as what it is; would they accept such against the LGBTQ community — I think not. But the 2016 Rally’s Code openly “welcomes” such speech.

    The Rally’s not wholly reformed yet.


    The shortfall in donations was realistically never going to stop the 2016 Rally going ahead; to cancel at a late stage would have created enormous debts; as Macbeth (amended) put it, “I am in [debt]. Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.”

    But from my limited knowledge of such events as annual Camps, the organisers need a surplus at the end of each event so that there are the finances to pay the up-front costs of the next; will the organisers continue with a proven loss-maker? So the 2020 Rally is at threat of being unaffordable.

  15. Dhay says:

    > In fact, neither Harris or Coyne have been promoting the rally.

    Nor even celebrating or reporting on the Rally.

    There’s a solitary Jerry Coyne blog post jumping on Ken Ham for making a silly tw**t about the Rally, but that’s it.

    Sam Harris has said nothing on his blog, and there’s nothing I can see in recent tweets.

    Richard Dawkins currently has no post on Facebook about the Rally success you’d expect him to post about, and on the RDF site, just on the Home page (where I have finally found his 2012 article re-print’s link) a “Question of the Week” dated 1 June asking which speaker etc his readers are most excited about — two replies, both from ‘bonnie2’, neither reply actually liking anything.

    Even Dawkins isn’t promoting or celebrating the Rally, by the look of it.

  16. Dhay says:

    I don’t normally read Hemant Mehta’s blog, so I have just found this bit of perspective on the finances there, from Lyz Liddell, the Executive Director of the Reason Rally:

    Reason Rally 2016 will cost about one million dollars to execute. Since just this past November, we have raised an unbelievable sum — over $900,000 from over 2,000 supporters — toward that goal. We just have a little less than $100,000 to raise to meet our goal.

    So the cost was about one million dollars.

  17. TFBW says:

    So … there is a certain amount of information missing from their $100,000 fund-raising efforts. Just as well they secured 90% up front, given the results on the last stretch. I was wondering, given the number of atheist organisations involved in the process, why so little funding was forthcoming. Answer: they didn’t mention 90% of it.

  18. Dhay says:

    At the bottom of the Reason Rally website’s home page is: “Heard any unreasonable statements lately? We have! And we think it’s time to Speak Up for Reason!”. Underneath is a quotation box saying:

    “Corruption is inevitable”

    And a final “SPEAK UP FOR REASON”.

    That’s the quotation everybody sees, but by scrolling right (or left) you also get to see, instead of “Corruption is inevitable”:

    SOME SAY “Men deserve to be paid more than women”
    SOME SAID “The world is flat”
    SOME SAY “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”
    SOME ASK “What gap between rich and poor?”
    SOME SAY “Cheating is OK if everybody does it”
    SOME SAID “Saddam Hussein caused 9/11”
    THE BIBLE SAYS “Kill adulterers”
    SOME SAY “Some women are asking to be raped”
    SOME SAY “Trickle down economics works”
    SOME SAY “If kids promise not to have pre-marital sex they won’t have it”
    SOME ASK “What climate change?”
    SOME SAY “An eye for an eye”
    SOME SAY “The death penalty only kills the guilty”
    U.S. CONSTITUTION SAID “Blacks count as 3/5 of all other Persons”
    SOME SAY “Prisons prevent crimes”
    18th AMENDMENT SAYS “Prohibit alcohol”
    SOME SAY “The planet is only 6,000 years old”
    SOME SAY “Women don’t need the same rights as men”
    SOME SAY “Bribery is a part of doing business”
    THE BIBLE SAYS “Stone the gays”
    THE SUPREME COURT SAYS “Corporations are people”
    PEOPLE SAID “The sun revolves around the Earth”
    SOME SAY “The middle class is doing fine”
    SOME SAY “The War on Drugs is working”
    PRESIDENT BUSH SAID “Mission Accomplished”
    SOME SAY “Santa is real”

    I take it the reasoning person’s answer-in-general is supposed to be a consistent disagreement with what’s “said” in each of the above; if I got picky, I could probably find inadequacies in any of these slogans; but – picking the particularly low-hanging fruit:

    As notabilia (responder above) has pointed out in his blog, the arch-skeptic Michael Shermer is also a strong advocate of the free market, and allegedly advocated a Darwinian free market at the 2012 Rally – he certainly had elsewhere. So it looks like “Trickle down economics works” is apparently a SPEAK UP FOR REASON speech that a Reason Rally speaker has made.

    “What climate change?” is a rational and scientific question, a call for the production of actual evidence, and an essential preliminary to any rational and scientifically informed decisions subsequently made. I think the sloganeers could and should have written some more sensible slogan on this topic, but couldn’t be arsed to apply rational thought to creating a Reason Rally slogan.

    I’m British, so largely ignorant of US legislation; but even I know that the 18th Amendment was repealed soon after it was enacted, and I knew that as a child. With that “Prohibit alcohol”, the sloganeer and anybody gullible enough to take it seriously is ignorantly thrashing at a target that disappeared long ago. Are Reason Rally attendees and sloganeers not well-informed enough to know, of their native country’s laws and history, what far-off British children do know. Is the Reason Rally seriously asking its attendees to SPEAK UP FOR REASON with “Allow alcohol” as the goal of that “rational” speaking?

    I note that this 2016 Rally – likewise, initially at any rate, before New Atheist hijacking, the 2012 Rally also – was intended to be primarily a political rally, a rally standing for the values and political aims of its attendees (or organisers, anyway) hence against the values and political aims of their out-group opponents … opponents characterised as people who would (along with some other very strange and unlikely alleged probable declarations) say “Santa is real”.

    I ask you. Are these opponents real? Are the “Reason Rally” sloganeers and supervisors rational?

  19. likalaruku says:

    Reason Rally screwed themselves over by not only completely losing their message by extending it to “equally marginalized allies” who had their own separate agendas, but by having a ridiculous code of conduct that contradicted itself.

    Pretty much every Youtuber I watch who happens to be egalitarian atheist would have been tossed out or booed out of the event because they are notoriously unpopular with BLM & feminists.

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