Atheist, mostly closeted, attended Reason Rally on Saturday and suddenly find myself with something to say.
I got back from the event late last night and sent an email to my best friend telling her about the experience. I've decided that it will also do quite nicely for my introduction here. One note for the sake of clarity - I make reference to an article in the email, but I didn't include it here - it shouldn't be too confusing though.
One further note - I cuss a bit toward the middle.
I laughed, I cried, I cheered and chanted. I applauded, and I sang along with Tim Minchin, and with Bad Religion. I bellowed my approval, laughed, cried, cheered, chanted, applauded and sang some more. It was incredible.
(I also had a discussion with a protesting Christian about evolution - it was a short conversation that ended when he explained to me how evolution was the biggest lie science ever told because we couldn't see it happen, it couldn't be measured, it was all a lie; he was utterly sincere. The irony was that we were standing within 100 yards of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where he could go see it, and measure it for himself. It was also the end of the conversation. I don't know how to talk to "that guy".)
I'm still kind of reeling from the whole experience. It truly was amazing, and I'm so very glad I decided, rather impulsively, to go. To have the opportunity to stand, outside, in the rain, from 10 in the morning until 7 in the evening, shoulder to shoulder with people who care passionately about the same things I care passionately about, and speak as a single united voice. Women's reproductive rights, civil rights, gay marriage, LGBT rights, free speech, climate change, women's health care rights, and ultimately, the separation of church and state. In the end, that's the single thread that touches all the things I really care about, and I was dumbfounded to discover, completely by accident, that there are literally thousands of people, who also happen to be atheists, that feel the exact same way.
Whu'da thunk THAT was my missing link? Bear with me on that - yes, it's really obvious now, but I didn't see it for a long time.
I didn't agree with every opinion stated onstage. I didn't expect to, but my disagreements were pretty minor, and usually more an issue of style, or personality, than actual content. Out of 7, maybe 7 1/2 hours of speakers, I might have been at odds for about 10 minutes.
As it turns out, what we all really have in common is our shared belief that MIGHT DOESN'T FUCKING MEAN RIGHT. You don't get to win just because you're bigger than me, or because there are more of you. You may very well be capable of whupping my ass, and I may not be able to stop you.*** But don't mock my intelligence and add insult to injury by telling me it's "God's will".
It was incredible. The article references 8 - 10,000 people. A couple of the Park Service workers told <my son> and I that that their estimate was just over 20,000 over the course of the day, with people coming and going.The really cool part about that? A significant portion of that crowd lived in the region. And they showed up to attend this event knowing full well that it was raining. The rest of us came from across the country, and a small percentage (but bigger than you might think) came internationally. What would the attendance have been with better weather? Or a more central location?
Until pretty recently, my lack of belief was just something I knew, but no longer thought about much. I struggled for years to make my peace with it, but once I finally did, I just let it settle into my skin and stopped noticing it much. I rarely spoke about it to any but a VERY select few who I happened to know were also non-believers. I never made the connection to my political position. I rarely actually even thought the word "atheist" in connection to them, or to me, it was just a recognized, shared non-belief. I simply didn't mention it to any of my friends who weren't atheist, regardless of whether I ever consciously applied the term or not. On some level, I was aware of it, because I don't shut up about anything.
This was incredibly liberating.
And in truth, I'm not sure that I'm coming out of the closet, so to speak, to many more even now. I need to process all of this and figure out what my next steps are going to be. I've found the political thing I'm going to throw myself into, but I'm not in that big a hurry to blow my life up over it. Lots of people have a very negative view of atheism, and I'm looking for a job. So, baby steps.
***Since none of you know me IRL, it's probably helpful to know that I'm 5'4" - everyone is bigger than me. Obvious joke to her, maybe not so much to people who don't know me.
So, there's my introduction. I'll be back tomorrow!