The reports are trickling in

Take heed, world: despite miserable weather, the Reason Rally drew a good-sized and wonderfully diverse crowd, exactly what we all wanted.

"We are here to celebrate our belief in reason, science and the power of the human mind," comedian Paul Provenza said from the podium as raindrops fell. "We are here to say to elected politicians … that there is a base for them to stand on to stand up to the religious right."

That brought a cheer from the crowd, estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000 people — a sharp increase over The Godless March on Washington, another atheist-themed rally held 10 years ago in the same spot that attracted about 3,000 people.

Also visibly different was the composition of the crowd, which was largely under the age of 30, at least half female and included many people of color. Ten years ago, the crowd was mostly white, over 40 and predominantly male.

You missed it? You can watch Richard Dawkins, Greta Christina, Taslim Nasrin, and Tim Minchin already, thanks to all those gadgets people were aiming at the stage.

The Washington Post has a reasonable review, while that goofy clueless babbler Cathy Lynn Grossman has an awful one, although it does have a nice picture of Jen.


  1. raven says

    I’m not the first to wonder.

    Why very early spring?

    I’m told by people who live in Washington DC or near there that summer isn’t a good time. Too hot and humid. I’ve seen it that way in summer and other times it was just warm and sunny.

    Seems like late spring or early fall would be a better time.

  2. NoVaRunner says

    The weather was miserable but the company was great and the speakers awesome. Any plans to make it annual? That would be fantastic.

  3. Mary says

    As to the size of the crowd, I heard from some people in the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel elevator that the park service estimated 25,000. Random people in the elevator ought to know…

  4. says

    Yeah, I wasn’t there. Sigh.

    Also, agreed with Ophelia @5. How many people have been pushing back, for how long, over inclusiveness and generally making this not an Old White Male Movement?

  5. sc_42032cef73176c9867e45905c22e998c says

    The rule of thumb in public relations is that one letter equals around 10 people of like mind. A rally increases that by a factor of ten, and in this case I would increase it another factor of ten because of the travel requirements. So in effect you just represented around 300,000 people. But that is 300,000 people motivated enough to take positive action. Assuming that only 1 in 100 are so motivated (my rule of thumb), that’s roughly 30 million likeminded people in the US, or about 10% of the population. Nice to see the increase in non-white-male demographics too.

  6. paulgorman says

    Maybe this is me just being european but “people of color” sounds a bit racist. Also it’s missing a ‘u’.

  7. puzzlecraig says

    The boyfriend and I made it down to the Mall under our “big gay umbrella” :) just before PZ went on, and we stayed through Eddie Izzard. We enjoyed the speakers, and it was heartwarming to see so many diverse atheists out on such a cold wet day.

  8. Patricia, OM says

    Damn, being on the other coast I just couldn’t afford the trip, but maybe some of you *stars* will be at the FFRF convention in Portland, Oregon this coming October.

    The numbers sound great for so crappy a weather day. Well done everyone that went!

  9. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Maybe this is me just being european

    That appears to be your problem. ;) Wikipedia does say it’s primarily an Americanism.

    but “people of color” sounds a bit racist.

    For plenty of folks here it is the preferred self-descriptor.

  10. anshela says

    I hope there is another one. I would have liked to attend, but couldn’t make it this year.

    Some of those articles reminded me of something that happened years and years ago. I was maybe 9 or 10 and had just moved to a new school. On my new bus, there was a girl everyone avoided. They told me various things about her — I can’t remember what they all were, but the most predominant one was that she had lice. One day, I sat by her and asked her about it. She told me the real reason everyone shunned and bullied her: She didn’t believe in God. My own beliefs were fuzzy at this time — I’d never really considered it one way or another (though this was probably the point where I began to) — but it didn’t particularly bother me.

    Unfortunately, much as I’d like to say this is a story of true friendship prevailing, I’m ashamed to say that I eventually gave in to the majority and stopped sitting by her, as well.

    I hope that, somewhere, that little girl is now a thriving woman who knows that she is no longer alone.

  11. sc_ef01767e57882ced3597766c4cf15f8a says

    I hope Eddie Izzard’s 30 minute set shows up on You Tube – it was absolutely brilliant. He’s the funniest standup comedian of the 21st century.

    A great afternoon with universally great speakers. Nate Phelps was probably the most moving moment.

    The next one will be even bigger.

  12. SammyK says

    PZ! It was great to see you speak the the Reason Rally today! Admittedly, I was kinda hoping for another one of your usual amazingly-awesome biology talks for some reason. :)

  13. says

    Good to see the event is getting fairly broad media coverage, although I have a suspicion that a lot will be made of Dawkins’ “contempt for religion” remark. Anyone have a video of PZ’s talk yet ?

  14. heironymous says

    Loved it. Great speech, PZ. (Although my personal favorite deadly sin is Pride).

    As to the weather in DC early spring, all this week it’s been fabulous. Over the weekend, we got this. (My wife and I were prepared though.) We didn’t catch all of it (babysitter required) but we caught most of Tim Minchin through Eddie Izzard.

  15. Patricia, OM says

    So when are the videos of the baby BBQ and orgy going to be posted?

    Inquiring minds are ready to leer.

  16. says

    Hoorah! It sounds like everyone had a splendid time, despite the weather being basically predictable (how about June, or even November, next time?).

    PZ: rlly? Linking the HuffPo for actual info? Come, now . . .

  17. colonelzen says

    I’ll be mildly amazed if I don’t come down with pneumonia. In more than six hours that dampness gets to you, and at around 2 in the afternoon it started getting noticeably colder.

    PZ you need to take better care of yourself too! Your voice sounded strained and gravelly; you really do need to plan more down and decompress time into your travels.

    — TWZ

  18. cyberax says

    I’ve been reading the Pharyngula blog since before it become popular (since about 2006, I think). And I generally live in Ukraine and Russia, I bet not many people read your blog from where I live :)

    By a lucky coincidence I was at Washington DC today on business and I’ve managed to visit the rally. However, I’ve missed PZ speaking by about 1 hour. Grrr.

    Any chance to catch PZ tomorrow?

  19. Ray, rude-ass yankee says

    Had a major fanboy moment when I got to meet and (briefly) talk to Jen McCreight while she was walking around with the sign in her picture.
    While talking about the rally to some folks I was with, I hope I was able to turn a few people on to FreeThoughtBlogs in general and Blaghag and Pharyngula in particular

    So. Much. Awesome.

  20. Rieux says

    Ultimate quote-mine from the Rally:

    “We need intelligent design.”
    – Richard Dawkins

  21. Rieux says

    sc_etc. @ 17: yes, I agree about Nate Phelps. He’s not nearly the polished presenter that several other of the speakers (not to mention an otherworldly being like Minchin) are, but he had the crowd in the palm of his hand nonetheless, solely on the grounds of content. Harrowing and spellbinding.

  22. says

    Apologies to Mark Twain, and all the Linguists who might be listening:

    Yeah, yew “new” atheists shur ain’t as tough as we wuz in the ole days. I ‘memeber back in the ole days when Mr.Dr. Sagan was a-cummin’ on the tee-vee my ol’ Pap says to me, “Son, hold up this here wire closer to the ol’ silo, so we can get a better picture.”

    I done what Pap said, ‘cuz Pap said it, bein’ a good boy and Obedient.

    That Dr. Sagan, he shur wuz a clever feller, and he taught me a thing or two, too. Pap tole me that he was a Jew-boy, and to pay that no never mind. He sez Jew-boys is just like us,but particular.

    They ain’t got no truck with mayonnaise, fer instance.

    Anyways, me and Pap watched Mr. Dr. Sagan back then, and it always stuck with me how wonderful the world is, without making up damn-fool stories about it.

  23. Conor Sans Pantaloons says

    I wish everyone could have been there, it was an insane amount of fun. Everyone was so engaging that I hadn’t noticed my soaked pants until Bad Religion finished…mostly due to 8 hours of standing in the rain and a little from periodic excitement pee. PZ, fantastic speech, one of the few more aggressive speeches of the day, loved it. And thank you so very much to the random gentleman who gave my friend and I a couple of parkas, that was an extremely kind gesture. It was a very heartwarming day, to stand in a crowd THAT big of like minded, smiling and diverse people. Best day in a while, hope to go to many more in the future.

  24. says

    Ultimate quote-mine from the Rally:

    “We need intelligent design.”
    – Richard Dawkins

    I agree. That’s wasn’t too bright, Mr. Dawkins.

    Here’s another one:

    “We are here to celebrate our belief”

    — comedian Paul Provenza

  25. DLC says

    Yup, by all accounts an event worth going to. something I hope to see more of in the future.

  26. radpumpkin says

    Silverman may have gone a bit further in his rhetoric than he intended. In a thundering call for “zero tolerance” for anyone who disagrees with or insults atheism, Silverman proclaimed, “Stand your ground!”

    Unfortunately, of course, the phrase “stand your ground,” is in the news this week as the legal cover for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last week. Under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, George Zimmerman could claim he feared Trayvon, a teen armed with iced tea and Skittles, would harm him.

    Silverman meant a verbal, not a literal, call to arms here. Still, the line didn’t draw applause as his other take-no-insults charges did.

    Urgh, who writes like this? I understand every journalist will have some bias, but this is just painful reading.

    Anyway, I’m quite disappointed I couldn’t make it, but I’ll try to view as many speeches/presentations/rants as I can find.

  27. etienne says

    Highlight of the morning…

    Tim Minchin’s Pope song being translated into sign language. I swear I never laughed so hard in my life. Oh and Richard Dawkins was good too, lol.

  28. Kaylakaze says

    What really pisses me off is how many news stories or comments on them say things like “What purpose can they have to rally if they don’t believe anything?” and “Why are they so angry?” and “If they don’t believe, that’s fine, but why do they have to make a big deal about it?” Look, motherfucker, it’s called LISTENING! Listen to the words that are fucking coming out of our mouths and keyboards AND YOU WILL HAVE YOUR ANSWERS.
    (okay, I’m a little pissy. I went like 40 hours with no sleep, and since only managed about 7, and am sore from trying to sleep on the bus plus long walks to and from Union Station and standing. At least I sat down for most of the rally.)
    The rally itself was fantastic. I am surprised, though, that no news stories are complaining about how many times the word “fuck” was used (especially considering how loud the speakers were and all the children at the museums nearby) or about there being a mosh pit on the National Mall.

  29. Kaylakaze says

    Tim Minchin is actually DMCA blocking his performance when posted on Youtube. WTF!?

  30. sc_ef01767e57882ced3597766c4cf15f8a says

    I thought the crowd size was reasonable considering both the weather and the fact that there was almost zero publicity. I live in the DC area and I only know about it because I read PZ’s blog. I mentioned it to a few friends, and nobody knew anything about it.

    Even so, the crowd size compared favorably to some of those Tea Party rallies a few years ago that were trumpeted coast-to-coast on Fox News.

    In other words, the potential is there to make these events much bigger. I assume this is just a start.

  31. NoVaRunner says

    @41 Kaylakaze:

    The rally itself was fantastic. I am surprised, though, that no news stories are complaining about how many times the word “fuck” was used (especially considering how loud the speakers were and all the children at the museums nearby)

    We had our seven-year-old son with us yesterday and made our way closer to the front to see Bad Religion. We didn’t quite understand what was about to happen when Jamie Kilstein came out to fill some time while the band was setting up. Oh, my. Then again, he did say “kids leave now…”

    Fortunately our son has not repeated anything he may have heard. It’s pretty hard to keep a kid’s ears covered while you are busting a gut laughing…

    It was great yesterday, it really was. We met a fellow from Tennessee who came up for the rally and also the American Atheists convention today and tomorrow. We saw Jesus riding a dinosaur. We got a little damp, saw some great speakers, and and a generally fantastic time.

    Proud moment of the day: when my son and I were walking toward the exhibitors’ tent and he said, “Yeah, I’m pretty good without God.” Yes you are, son, yes you are.

  32. Kaylakaze says

    @44 It wasn’t just that but Tim Minchin and Eddie Izzard, plus signs, and just overall no one seemed to be restricting their use of language. Which is fine with me, but I was just worried about how it’d be reported.

  33. Nemo says

    Even so, the crowd size compared favorably to some of those Tea Party rallies a few years ago that were trumpeted coast-to-coast on Fox News.

    There was a Tea Party rally yesterday at the Capitol, BTW, and annoyingly C-SPAN chose to cover it instead of the Reason Rally. And it came first on the local D.C. news: “Hundreds gather at Tea Party rally”, followed by “Thousands of atheists…”. Do the reporters not see something wrong in that ordering?

    I ran into some of the Tea Partiers, right alongside some people from the Trayvon Martin rally, as I left the RR.

  34. jamesevans says

    tomfrog says:
    25 March 2012 at 7:26 am

    Audio of the great Eddie Izzard at the rally

    (intro by Tim Minchin ;) )

    I’ve been scooped on Pharyngula with my own upload! You people are good. Here are the links to all three parts of Eddie’s bit:

    Part 1:
    Part 2:
    Part 3:

    Sorry about the crappy slide show (in a rush to post, I even forgot to rotate some of the pics! Doh!) instead of warm, personable video, but I didn’t want to bring the good cam out in the rain. I’m sure event staff will be posting beautiful video of all speakers/performers soon enough anyway.

    I’ll upload other audio (Dawkins, Krauss, Savage, etc.), including PZ’s speech, as soon as I can. And I’d promise to post the links, but you guys will probably beat me to it. ;)

  35. nancymartin says

    I so wanted to attend. Unfortunately, I broke my foot a few weeks ago and didn’t think it was a good move to be standing for any length of time. I’ll be hitting the video when they are out.

  36. jamesevans says

    Kaylakaze says:
    25 March 2012 at 10:03 am

    Tim Minchin is actually DMCA blocking his performance when posted on Youtube. WTF!?

    Yeah, andrsib’s vid has been yanked. The fuck is that? Let’s hope some moron YouTube moderator with a trigger finger is to blame, and not Minchin or his label’s lawyers, or some other way that implicates him more directly. Whatever the reason, if it continues after we were all encouraged at the rally by Provenza to “YouTube the shit out of it,” Minchin, despite being absolutely brilliant, can be told he’s not welcome at future rallies, thank you very much.

  37. says

    When you first said “wrath” during your speech I though I heard “rap” – which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but I didn’t quite see the relevance. I quickly realized my mistake of course, but not before a mental image had formed of you yanking off your cowboy hat to reveal a set of dreadlocks, then launching into a beat-box/rhyming routine.

  38. scifi says

    Thanks PZ. I wanted to be there but I had a heart procedure. The one by Dawkins was great.

  39. heironymous says

    When you first said “wrath” during your speech I though I heard “rap”

    I heard that too – especially in context right after the Rational Warrior performed.

    I expected PZ to bust into his NWA routine…

  40. scifi says

    I call them as I see them. PZ made some really stupid statements that Jesus was an invention, so I addressed them. His area of expertise is Biology, religious history is mine. He should stick to what he knows.

  41. janine says


    Religious history is your field of expertise yet you think the gospels are independent accounts, the Josephus account was not a fraud and Paul verifies that Jesus existed.

    You are a funny person, Syfy. I call them as I see them.

  42. scifi says

    You are a sick pup.

    Aratina Cage,
    Its about time someone takes you holocaust deniers to task. If you did your due diligence you would know that what I say is not BS. Enjoy your fantasy world.

  43. Kaylakaze says

    Holocaust deniers? WTF?

    And a random thought: I’m currently watching UFC. Can we please get an outspoken atheist fighter to beat down these overly pious fucktards?

  44. ibyea says

    I just came back from DC. Meeting some of you guys was pretty awesome. It was really fun!

  45. janine says

    You are a sick pup.

    I will be highly amused by your attempt to prove why this is so.

    Please, Syfy, explain.

  46. janine says

    Want to know what else I want you to explain?

    Its about time someone takes you holocaust deniers to task.

    Who here is a holocaust denier?

    I am beginning to think you you are an expert at historical religion, you seem to have a talent for seeing things that no one else is able to see and are unable to explain what is there.

  47. ursulamajor says

    I spoke to three policemen that were stationed next to the group of Xtians near the porta-potties.

    Me: Any troubles yet today, gentlemen?
    Cop 1: No. We really don’t expect any.
    Me: Why not?
    Cop 2: Because this is the nicest crowd we’ve ever had here.
    Cop 3: That’s because it’s the smartest crowd we’ve ever had.
    Me: Wow. Thanks guys!

  48. Conor Sans Pantaloons says

    @65, ursulamajor: Haha, that is fantastically good to hear. Of course we don’t hear about these kind of interactions in most of the reports on the rally.

  49. tlicharvakan says

    It was a great crowd. I’ve been to a lot of rallies on the Mall, and I question whether there were more than 6000 there at any one time, but the quality made up for it! The organizers did a fabulous job. Good sound, nice screens, fantastic lineup of speakers.

  50. says


    If you did your due diligence you would know that what I say is not BS.

    ORLY? Then WTF is this:

    Its about time someone takes you holocaust deniers to task.

    That’s weapons-grade BS if I ever heard it, just about like everything else you write.

    Again, the only reason you pollute these other threads with off-topic whines is because you have already been refuted soundly on the threads actually dealing with the whines of cranks like yourself.