Reason Rally 2012

March 27, 2012

Me with PZ Myers

This weekend, I attended the Reason Rally in Washington D.C. This was the largest gathering of atheists and rationalists in history.

Now there’s a lot of debate about how many were actually in attendance, with reported numbers ranging between 5,000 and 30,000. Now I can say with strong confidence that it was a lot more than 5,000. And allegedly, official park figures suggest it was around 30,000, while others are simply asserting their own numbers based on their own personal guesswork.

Me with AronRa

In any case, it was a wonderful event. I got to meet numerous people I admire while sending Washington a message that they can no longer afford to ignore us. Throughout the day, American Atheists President Dave Silverman spoke to the crowd. And while I’ve often been critical of Silverman in the past, he was fantastic on the day. Other great and memorable speakers included Adam Savage of the Mythbusters, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Penn Jilette, Eddie Izzard, Jamie Kilstein, former Westboro Baptist Church member Nate Phelps, Youtube atheist Cristina Rad, and many more. Other YouTubers in attendance were Thunderf00t, AronRa, Ashley Paramore, and ProfMTH. The audience was also treated to musical performances by Tim Minchin and Bad Religion.

Of course, with the single largest gathering of atheists, it was inevitable that religionists would crash the party. Though to be fair, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) was actually invited by the National Atheist Party, a controversial move that wholeheartedly support. The WBC are a joke and are also hated by, well, everyone. Goading them into attending not only increases media attention but also almost guarantees the press will be positive towards us as it’s hard to look like the bad guys when placed next to the funeral-picketing, hate-mongers of the WBC. While repulsive, I’ve often said that the WBC are not only one of the least violent religions in the world as well as that they practically do our job of showing the problems of religiosity for us by simply continuing their usual antics.

I personally find the WBC so non-threatening that I actually wanted to have my picture taken with them. Unfortunately, however, they kept their distance, possibly to keep their kids from hearing Nate Phelps, the prodigal son of the Phelps clan. I never even saw them. I did, however, get to interact with other evangelical groups such as those representing a ministry calling itself “True Reason.” I had a semi-lengthy discussion with one young member of that ministry and tried to teach him a little about moral philosophy. I also managed to get my hands on a DVD copy of Ray Comfort’s insipid 180 Degrees video which he markets as his never-fail secret to convincing pro-choicers to oppose abortion in about a minute. The movie is available for free online and Comfort’s amazing tactic is not very persuasive…at all. In fact, I’m so confident his video is not persuasive and does nothing but demonstrate what a clown religious nuts like Comfort are that I’d happily become a distributor of the DVD myself.

All in all, it was a fun event and hopefully the start of a growing political movement by rationalists.

I just can’t help but think what a shame it is that Christopher Hitchens didn’t live to see the Reason Rally because the central message of the event seemed to remind me of a Hitchens quote:

“Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity.”

Surprisingly, despite all the constant in-fighting among skeptics concerning confrontational methods, the Reason Rally seemed to unambiguously support confrontationalism. And I can’t seem to find anyone in the movement criticizing the rally for being undeniably a call to arms for skeptics to get involved in efforts that will help push our message into the mainstream. Hemant Mehta called for attendees to run for public office while the attention given to young Jessica Ahlquist suggested fighting to maintain church-state separation through litigation.

Further, many of the speakers promoted humanist values through governmental policy with few even acknowledging libertarianism. The only mention of libertarian methods I caught was a quick remark in possibly my favorite speech of the day by Adam Savage:

Savage’s speech perhaps best summarized that key message of the Reason Rally:  we cannot no longer afford to stay on the sidelines and be mere spectator of injustice and misinformation. We must unite and fight back against the bullies of untruth who exploit the ignorance of others and cause great suffering in the world.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.30.10

April 30, 2010

1. Atheist who won Ray Comfort’s hand-made vest uses it to promote rationalism – A few weeks ago, Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort made a video advertising that he’d made a vest that we wanted to give away to atheists. It was his latest desperate stunt to get attention. Now an atheist has won the vest and found a very awesome way to use it to promote a good cause. She’s auctioning it off an eBay and giving most of the proceeds to Foundation Beyond Belief! Thanks Ray!

2. ‘Psychic healers’  scam people out of $62,000

“They basically were able to convince the victim that some money she had gotten was cursed money and that somehow that curse had transferred to other money that she had,” said Chicago police Detective Milorad Sofrenovic of the Grand Central area. “They told her that in order to be able to remove this curse, they needed to take this money physically to a shrine in Indiana and with prayers drive the curse from the money.”

Damn that cooties!

For the last time, it's Sea-man!

3. Fake rabbi tricks women into thinking his semen is holy – The story I remember the most from The Decameron was the tale of the priest who teaching a woman how to put the devil back into the Hell. By devil he meant his penis. And by hell, he meant her vagina. This story is a lot lot like that only its a guy pretending to be a rabbi and he convinced women that his semen could heal body and soul. And of course he could pass this holy power to them through touch and by cleansing their bodies. And of course they bought it. Of course, had he not used religion to lure them into a false sense of blind trust, this probably never would have happened. Silly rabbi. Tricks are for kids. But where can I find women this gullible?

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.13.09

December 13, 2009

1. Ray Comfort caught plagiarizing Origin of Species intro – I was reluctant to even bother reporting this story because it was about as irrelevant as that unauthorized use of Imagine in Expelled. I mean there are just so many better things to focus our criticisms on than the fact that the only part Comfort actually contributed his own original content too was not even original. But once PZ Myers decided to report it, I figured I might as well too. It turns out that Comfort stole the first three pages from an essay by University of Tennessee professor Stan Guffey. Also note that those were only part of the Comfort introduction that wasn’t idiotic, tired, and long-refuted creationist nonsense. Guffey is considering legal action.

2. Study finds monkeys have syntax

A study carried out in Ivory Coast has shown that monkeys of a certain forest-dwelling species called Campbell’s monkeys emit six types of alert calls. The primates combine these calls into long vocal sequences which allow them to convey messages about social cohesion or various dangers, including predation.

3. Christopher Hitchens tells the real story of Christmas

4.  Engineered Bacteria Turn CO2 Into Fuel

In a new approach, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have genetically modified a cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide and produce the liquid fuel isobutanol, which holds great potential as a gasoline alternative. The reaction is powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.

5. French justice minister tells Muslim men who force their wives to wear burqas that they’re not welcome in France – That is freakin’ awesome. Why can’t we have people like this running our country. Thatwoman, Michele Alliot-Marie, deserves some kind of metal.

‘The wearing of the niqab or burkha is a problem that affects our ability to live together, the values of the republic and in particular human dignity.

‘For instance, someone who would be seeking French citizenship and whose wife wears the full veil is someone who would not appear to be sharing the values of our country.

‘Therefore in a case like that one, we would reject his request.’

You oppress women and you’re not welcome in our country. Sounds like the height of rationality to me.

6. Atheists save the world against the virus of religion in Marvel comic books

In an issue of The List: Wolverine, the heroes Fantomex (a genetically engineered supersoldier) and Captain Marvel are faced with an army of zombie-like creatures, people who have been infected with an evil virus that can only take over your mind if you believe in some sort of god. So they swing into action, safe from the infection, because neither one believes in gods.

News From Around The Blogosphere 11.29.09

November 30, 2009

1. Michael Egnor & the Discovery Institute expose their anti-science bias – I’ve blogged about Egnor before, linking to the blog debate where Steven Novella refuted his every flawed, ridiculous argument in favor of a “soul.” Now he’s jumping on the so-called “ClimateGate” fiasco, where he insists, like so many other denialists, that a whole lot of private, innocuous emails climate scientists is somehow the smoking gun evidence that global warming is false. Of course he doesn’t pinpoint any statements in any of the emails that would lead any rational person to this conclusion. But who needs facts when you’ve got faith? Egnor proves once again how egnorant he can be.


Is that a serious headline?

2. Uganda proposes death penalty to HIV-positive gays – It suddenly becomes very clear why Uganda is known for having the best medical care in the world. Oh wait. No, it doesn’t. The positive news is that this suggests that maybe not all the Neanderthals did die out after all. Though it’s not really fair to blame Uganda. Stupidity this large can only come from one source:  the U.S.’s own THE FAMILY. I’m looking at you Sen. John Ensign, Rep. Bart Stupak and Rep. Joe Pitts. Can we please lock these psychopaths up now?

3. Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort gave a full interview to the Friendly Atheist – You can read the whole thing in all its idiocy in the link above.

4. The first honest homeopathy product? – As you can clearly read on the packaging, homeopaths have developed the first ever non-drowsy sleep aid. May I be the first to congratulate them on this amazing breakthrough. Good job, guys. Good job.

5. The official wine of woo – Age of Autism took some time off from shilling bogus autism treatments for profit to shill some silly wine site called “Wines For Autism.” Now at first the site might seem fine. It’s supporting autism awareness after all. So how bad could it b–oh:

From witnessing my son’s significant progress I have made it my goal to spread awareness of the effectiveness of biomedical interventions while supporting charities that share my beliefs.

In other words, she wishes to promote those who support her particular delusion and no actual scientific organization researching autism will receive a dime. In other words, she’s going to exploit autism pseudoscience to make money.

It’s sort of like my business where I sell used cars and give some of the profits to cancer research (please note:  cancer research means those promoting trepanning as an effective cancer treatment). Actually, now that I think about it, this whole story makes me feel like bludgeoning my skull with a large stick so that all that stupid can seep out of my brain.

6. Iron Jesus!

News From Around The Blogosphere 11.19.08

November 20, 2009

1. Oprah’s going off the air!! – The Flying Spaghetti has answered my prayers! Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen until 2011 at the earliest and I’m sure it won’t be the last we’ll see of Oprah. But it’s cause for some degree of dancing in Munchinland.

2. California atheist group made to take down sign at tavern meet-up – The Seal Beach Atheist Meetup Group held their meet-ups at a bar called Hennessy’s Tavern. But after at least one complaint, the bar manager made them take down their oh, so offensive sign that read:  “SEAL BEACH ATHEISTS MEETING.”  Here’s the tavern’s contact information. Do with it what you will.

3. Even Christians don’t like Ray Comfort

So, congrats to you Ray Comfort. You have truly surpassed all previous Attie award winners. You have  slandered a man (Darwin), you have made all Christians look like ignorant boobs, and worst of all, you have caused people to question the validity of Christ through your dishonesty. You were in the zone today, my friend.

4. The limey’s are back with a brand new atheist ad – This time it features a couple of kids with the slogan, “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.” And in the background we see a bunch of religious labels:



I love it!

5. Jenny McCarthy is featured on Living Without Magazine – I guess they’re living without is standards and integrity.

6. When is being dismissive justified? – I say NEVER!!!!! Period. That question is too ludicrous to even warrant any further answer than that.

News From Around The Blogosphere 11.18.09

November 19, 2009

1. I’d officially declared tomorrow Defend Evolution Against Literary Terrorists Day (or DEALT Day) but it seems that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron LIED and decided to pass out their vandalized Origin of Species books a day earlier than promised. But I’m still hoping to hear tomorrow that more of them are being handed out at schools because I’d love to chat up the volunteers handing them out.

2. Update on the Iraqi dowsing rods storyAbout two weeks ago, I wrote about the use of useless dowsing rods by the Iraqi military to detect bombs. Well, the good news is that everyone who’s written about it has helped get the story successfully out there in the mainstream media like the NY Times, The Guardian, the Atlantic, and the Rachel Maddow Show, where it will hopefully garner enough attention to ensure something is done to correct the situation.

3. Jesus goes to directly to jail without passing go

A Swedish man claiming to be the Son of God was sentenced to prison for a month for “unlawful driving,” after getting picked up by the cops four separate times without a license over the course of four months.

Man, this guy just can’t stay out of trouble.

Kirk Cameron & Ray Comfort to take their lies to college campuses

September 18, 2009

The latest despicable tactic from the duo who practically invented despicable, Kirk Cameron and Ray “Banana Man” Comfort, is to give away free copies of their own version of Darwin’s Origin of Species with a 50-page introduction filled with creationist nonsense.

What’s amazing is that Kirk couldn’t go even 10 seconds before lying his ass off. Of course kids can pray in public. That’s absurd.

Fortunately, there is a strategy to counter this repulsive tactic. Those students who know better can collect as many of these free books as they can and can remove the offending introduction. In which case, those copies can then be donated elsewhere so that Cameron and Comfort will have unwittingly helped promote Darwin’s work. And that thought makes me smile.