The following is written by Alonzo Fyfe, blogger at the Atheist Ethicist. It is abbreviated due to the limitations of this forum, so I'd suggest you follow the link and read the whole thing.
Fyfe is a writer whom I have followed for several years. The Internet is a wonderful thing. What he writes here is specific to those who attend or write about the Reason Rally, but the lesson is applicable to our every day lives. Please read and enjoy. I leave in the morning on a flight to Washington, DC. I shall attend the Reason Rally and will take Fyfe’s message with me.
Are you going to the Reason Rally next weekend? If you are undecided, I would like to offer a small shove in the direction of going.
If you cannot go, I would still like to recommend that you support it socially (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, water-cooler conversation, comments). I will be doing this – starting today.
I am going to have the audacity to suggest some things to focus on - and to avoid - with respect to the Reason Rally. It is wise to plan ahead. You know all of those things you wish you would have said or done but you didn't think of them at the time? Now is the time to work on avoiding that.
For example, political and social opponents of the Reason Rally are already at work defining the Reason Rally in their own terms. They will seek to minimize, trivialize, denigrate, and belittle the event. They have a political and social incentive to push secularists to the margins of society. Failure to recognize the fact that this gives them reason to act would be naive.
We are already seeing attempts to brand the Reason Rally as a bunch of cry-babies whining about how oppressed they are. Atheists are not being rounded up and herded into gas chambers, sold into slavery, lynched by bands of citizens in white sheets or hoods, or being beaten, tied to fence posts, and left for dead. So atheists should quit their whining and go home. Right?
Now, here is a lesson in how to control another group's agenda. You offer a mass of complaints and protests that define the group in your own terms and assigns to them the identity you want to them to have. Human nature will entice them to respond to the criticisms directly. This is what they will do naturally – unless they are savvy enough to have prepared a different response. When they respond as predicted, you will have been effective at picking the subject of the conversation. In this case, the subject is that of a bunch of cry-baby atheists playing the oppressed card on the national mall thinking themselves the modern equivalent of the Civil Rights movement.
My first recommendation is to be aware of this form of political manipulation and prepare for it.
Have an idea of what you want to accomplish, and do not let your opponent take you off of your message and define the Rally in their own terms.
I would suggest that you go the Reason Rally with the intent of saving lives and reducing suffering that spring from actions founded on beliefs that are simply unreasonable.
This is for the people who suffer and die because they find themselves surrounded by people who accept primitive bigotries and superstitions and who act on them in ways that are harmful.
Yes, the atheists are among the victims - theists have hijacked the Pledge and the Motto and other social and political rituals to create a climate utterly hostile to atheist political candidates. In doing so, they act to reserve political power for themselves and fellow believers.However, atheists are only one set of a long list of victims.
That list also includes the sick and injured - people suffering from any number of diseases and injuries for whom treatments are being blocked by unreasonable people wed to primitive superstitions. Worldwide, these people number in the hundreds of millions - and some of their suffering is extreme. If you attend the Reason Rally, or address it in your writings and conversations, do so with the intent to help clear the superstitions that keep these people from obtaining the medical treatment that would ease their suffering and save their lives.
Do you know somebody who fits this description? If so, you should see if you can get her to the Rally.
We are talking about honor killings and exorcisms to drive out demons, and parents withholding life-saving medical treatment from young children because they have fallen into some faith-healing cult that shuns science and modern medicine. Some of these children die. Others suffer permanent damage. Is this not worth complaining about?
We are talking about committed couples denied the legal and social means to form a life together for no reason other than people from a church they do not belong to think that their God values nothing more than denying these people a quality life. Many of these religiously motivated bigots shun all other discussion and all other issues, because nothing to them is more important than denying happiness to this group of people.
There is news today of religious gangs in Iraq hunting down, torturing, and killing teenagers who even appear gay. (See: CBS News: "Emo" and gay kids targeted, killed in Iraq
Let us not forget the young girls stoned to death for the crime of being raped.
Let us not forget the diseases spreading through Africa and other parts of the world, in part caused by religions that block attempts to promote the most useful methods of preventing the spread of disease because those methods conflict with their primitive mythologies.
We have children growing up ignorant of the real world because their parents want them to continue to accept the superstitions of the Dark Ages and have taught their children to hate and fear science. Because of this, they cannot understand, nor can they contribute to forming a sound social policy on real-world concerns.
Science gives us the ability to predict the future. It gives us the ability to see the trains that are heading our direction before they get here so that we – human civilization - can avoid being splattered all over the tracks. Having such a huge voting block that hates and fears science and denies its conclusions on faith will cost lives and cause suffering. Reality simply will not yield to their fantasies.
We have religious leaders who are seeking access to nuclear weapons who think that their god gives them permission to start lobbing them at infidels. We have other religious leaders who think that they can bring about the End of Days and the second coming of whatever Lord they believe in by bringing about their religion’s version of some great conflict between good and evil – who, of course, think that they are on the side of goodness.
This is only a partial list of issues that are worthy of our concern.
If you are going to the Reason Rally - or if you are writing about it - please do so with an eye firmly fixed on the goal of saving lives, easing suffering, giving people the liberty to pursue their one and only life in this universe untrammeled by primitive superstition. Make those objectives known. And do not let critics and opponents distract you from those worthy goals.
Do not let them change the subject.