This weekend, atheists and secularists of all kinds gathered together in Washington, D.C., for the second Reason Rally (the last was in 2012). The meeting was cultural, political, and pluralist — but united against the influence of faith in public life. While the organizers were fair and less anti-faith than you might expect, many of the signs and speeches proved rather confrontational.
In addition to the vibrant — and sometimes angry — expressions of atheism, some Christians sought to reach these lost souls in ways that proved less than winsome. One man tried to argue against evolution, and another walked around in Old Testament garb carrying a Bible.
What follows is PJ Media’s list of some of the craziest sights at the Reason Rally, on both sides. Be prepared to be offended.
1. The Ten Commandments are evil and un-American.
This man in a wheelchair sitting right on the edge of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall of Washington, D.C., holds a controversial sign attacking the Ten Commandments. Because he was fairly close to the stage, and the event was loud, I did not get a chance to interview him on the meaning of his sign.
Given the circumstances of the atheist/secularist rally, I would expect the man to argue that the first four (or three) commandments, which told the Israelites to “have no other gods before me,” to “not make any graven image,” to “not take the name of the Lord in vain,” and to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” are anti-American because they restrain free speech, and trample on freedom of religion (or rather freedom from religion).
On these points, he would have a good argument, but American Jews and Christians interpret these commandments as applying only to themselves, and not as general moral precepts for non-believers. In terms of honoring God, they apply to everyone — but when Jews and Christians refer to the Ten Commandments as the basic norms of morality, they do not include these four explicitly religious dictates.
Next Page: F*ck your faith!
2. F*ck your faith.
This man walked in a pack of atheists along the sidewalk. He stopped to speak to a group of people and here he is in dialogue.
3. A pair of anti-Christian signs.
This man at the Reason Rally held two signs mocking the Christian faith. The sign attacks God as a senseless tyrant, who kills himself in a sacrifice “to myself, from myself, to satisfy my own requirement and to save you from the hell I was sending you to; and forgive you of a sin committed by someone else thousands of years before you were born.” The small phrase right after those words reads “‘Nailed’ it!”
These signs twist Christian doctrine to mock God. The Christian faith rests upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The teaching of the Fall says that the first man and the first woman broke God’s law and that every man and woman since has been less than perfect — some speak of everyone “sinning in Adam,” but each person is guilty of their own sins against God. The sign says that God’s wrath is only due to the sin of Adam and Eve. While that first sin introduced sin to all humanity, each person is condemned for his own sin, not for one “thousands of years before you were born.”
This sin separates men and women from God, and only an act of God can unite them with Him. For this reason, God sent His son to pay the penalty for our sin, and in paying that penalty, Jesus provided a way to reconciliation with God. If you deny the evil of sin, this seems tyrannical, but if you understand the nature of sin — not just bad deeds but deeds that separate someone from the source of all good — it makes sense.
Next Page: Kickball with the “Non-Prophets.”
4. Check out this sports t-shirt.
This friendly man shared that his kickball team is full of secularists, and they chose to name themselves “The Non-Prophets.” I thought it was a rather funny name, and he also showed me the back of the shirt — his jersey number 666.
I asked him if he liked Babylonian gods (the historical reference of the number “666,” which was later identified as the number of the devil), and he jokingly said yes.
5. Time to believe in and love each other instead of an imaginary friend named “God.”
This man argued that religious people waste their love and resources on God when they should be loving and raising money to help each other. When I spoke with him, he said that it’s a travesty for Christians and other believers to give money to churches when there are starving kids in Africa. I asked him about the atheist non-profit groups at the Reason Rally which were also raising money, and he admitted that they are also a distraction.
He admitted that many religious people do serve the poor, but he claimed that love is a limited resource, and that if people give love and worship to God, they are not able to do the same for other people. Naturally, many faiths — especially Christianity — encourage believers to love and serve the poor, and believers take their service of others as a means to serve God. By no means are these things truly in conflict.
Next Page: How not not respond to atheists at conferences like this.
6. The anti-atheism truck.
This truck was parked near the Reason Rally in an attempt to reach atheists and secularists through negative enforcement of ideas. The scriptural warnings and crazy photos plastered all over the truck show how negative and tone-deaf many Christians can be in addressing those who do not believe in God.
7. The fool hath said.
Right next to the truck, neglected on the side of the road, was a sign quoting Psalm 14:1, “The fool hath said in his heart ‘There is no God.'” Not only is this sign the opposite of subtle, it also fails to address any of the atheists’ arguments against religion or their basic dignity as fellow Americans.
These kinds of ad hominem attacks make Christians look like the insensitive bigots many make us out to be, and in so doing they damage the cause more than any atheist rally. Christians can and do embrace science and reason (indeed, I argue these largely developed from the Christian faith), but believers like this lead atheists to think of all believers as anti-reason.
8. The Old Testament Prophet.
This man attended the Reason Rally to preach to the heathens. I doubt he got too many avid listeners.
Next Page: Atheist booths — this is a conference, after all.
9. The “Tree of Knowledge.”
Many conference booths featured a “Tree of Knowledge,” a Christmas tree with atheist books instead of ornaments. In one swoop, these secularists mocked Christmas and the Bible story of the “Tree of Knowledge of good and evil,” from which Adam and Eve eat in the first sin.
10. Good without a God?
The American Humanist Association booth touted that you can be “good without a god.” But what kind of good can you be? You cannot be holy without a God, but holiness doesn’t seem to be part of their equation.
Next Page: A few more booths, a few more insults to faith.
11. Black people can be atheist, too!
The Black Nonbelievers made a splash at the Reason Rally, showing that secularists aren’t all spindly, young, pasty white guys! Hurrah for diversity.
12. I support reason, science, and secular values in _____.
All throughout the Reason Rally, people were holding these signs, meant to be personalized, saying “I support reason, science, and secular values in _____.” Some people wrote their home states, and “Rhode Island,” “Pennsylvania,” and “California” each made their appearances. Many attendees were from the West Coast.
13. Keep your theocracy off my democracy!
These signs also featured prominently among attendees. Secularists wanted the religious to “keep your theocracy off my democracy,” and signs argued that the U.S. Capitol Building is not a church.
Naturally, these attacks miss the point. Many conservatives use Christianity to defend their values on diverse issues — from opposing abortion, to teaching the Bible and religion in public schools, to acknowledging the faith of many of our Founding Fathers.
There are good, secular reasons to support these things: conception is the beginning of life for a fetus with discernible unique human DNA (male or female by biology), religion is an important influence for people across the world and throughout history and understanding it is important to understanding religious people and our heritage, and many of the Founders were deeply Christian and argued for freedom due to their faith.
It is important for Christians to articulate their beliefs in the public square, but it is also important for them to make it clear that their positions are not based on blind faith, but a reasonable one. This is how we combat a confused secular ideology — with rational appeals, not angry insults.