I attended a portion of the Reason Rally yesterday in Washington DC. It drizzled or rained gently most of the time, which cast a bit of a damper on the proceedings but people were in good spirits. The crowd that attended should dispel the notion that the nonbelievers movement consist of old, white guys. It was gratifyingly diverse in all categories (gender, age, and ethnicity) with the large majority being young people. I felt like an old fogey and that was great, just as it should be.
I spent a lot of time wandering around looking at the people who were attending, reading the clever and amusing signs people were holding up and the t-shirts, checking out the resource tent, and listening to the arguments between the religious protestors and the nonbelievers. Unlike the signs that one sees at religious or pro-war or Tea Party events, I did not see a single misspelled or grammatically incorrect sign, unlike this widely ridiculed one from a pro-war rally. (See here for more funny signs.)
The resource tent featured booths by nonbelieving groups and even I was surprised by the number of such organizations. It seems like groups are sprouting up everywhere to meet all kinds of needs in all kinds of niches.
The arguments that I heard between the religious protestors and the nonbelievers were courteous and respectful. I listened in to one between a couple of young nonbelievers and a guy holding a sign and was impressed with the sophistication of the points put forward by the nonbelievers. I was hoping to engage with the Westboro Baptist Church folks but they seemed to have left by the time I got there. I have written about this group before (see here and here). They strike me as exactly the kind of group that a comedy sketch team would put together to show the absurdity of religion and for that reason alone I have a fondness for them, despite their ghastly message.
The highlight for me was comedian Eddie Izzard who was, as always, a riot. His routine used a bit of material he has done before but a lot of it was new for me. I love his seemingly stream-of-consciousness approach where he strings together things that are random to great comedic affect. It looks spontaneous but you know that this is because of his expert delivery masking the careful preparation. For those who have never had the pleasure of seeing Eddie Izzard perform, here is a clip.