Left to right: Ari Stillman, the Prophet Jeremiah, me, Ms. Ashley, and Eli Bosnick
There’s some debate about whether or not Reason Rally 2016 was a success or not. Hemant Mehta recently wrote about several factors that may have had something to do with why there were only around 10,000 attendees compared to the estimated 30,000 that went to the first one, and while he brings up several good points, I still think it was a success. I didn’t get a chance to hear all the speakers, but the ones I did hear–David Silverman, Lawrence Krauss, Cara Santa Maria, and Bill Nye–were fantastic. But the main reason why I say it was a success was because, to me, it was a family reunion.
Ever since I started the Bi Any Means podcast and writing for The Humanist last year, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with countless bloggers, writers, podcasters, and activists online. Reason Rally was my chance to finally meet them all in person. And let me tell you–I’ve never felt more welcome ever in my life than I did this past weekend!
Friday night before the Rally, I had drinks with the folks from No Religion Required, The Gaytheist Manifesto, Bill and Suzy from Bar Room Atheist, Eli Bosnick of The Scathing Atheist, Korrine of the Ehtheist Podcast, Heretic Woman from Beyond the Trailer Park, Wyatt Matthers from Atheist Avengers, Andrew Garber from Atheist Roundtable, Phil Ferguson, Shelley Segal, and a few others. We hugged, we drank, we laughed, and we took selfies. On my way back to my hotel room, Chris Stedman walked up to me and said, “Hey, Trav!” I hardly got any sleep that night from trying to process the fact that all the people I hear on my iPod week after week are actually real people!
Then came the Reason Rally where I met even more awesome people:
Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist podcast. Nicest guy in the world!
Jessica Xiao of the American Humanist Association
Adam Collins (who is a damn good kisser)
Me, Derrick, and Ms. Bea Haven from Promoting Secular Feminism
And that’s just a handful!
Near the end of the Rally (right when Nye was spreaking, actually), Jenica and I talked about how, while the speakers were great, the event was more than just hearing a bunch of people saying cool things on stage. It was about meeting online friends in person for the first time, and making new friends. It was about not feeling like the token freak, like I told Stephanie. It was about being surrounded by people who feel just as strongly about separation of church and state as you do. It was about being in a safe space where no one judges you based on who you are. As Bobby C would say, it’s about family. Bobby often says the atheist community is family, and based on my experience, he’s right.
And that’s why I can’t leave the atheist movement. Despite all the assholes online, the community in general is extremely welcoming. Groucho Marx once said, “I’d never join a club that would allow me as a member,” but based on all the love and support I received this past weekend, I’m glad to be a part of this family.