Richard Dawkins called on atheists to “ridicule and show contempt” toward religious people at a Reason Rally in Washington this week. The event, billed as the “largest gathering of the secular movement in world history”, had thousands of non-believers and speakersÂ—like misogynist and known mocker of Christianity, Bill Maher and Rep. Pete Stark, whose outrageous behavior has been documented repeatedly.
David Silverman, Reason Rally organizer and American Atheists president, “revelled in the group’s reputation as the marines of atheism, as the people who storm the faith barricades and bring “unpopular but necessary” lawsuits.” Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta urged people to “run for office, any post from school board to Congress to dogcatcher,” according to an article in USAToday.
It would not be offensive to have a gathering of like-minded people to engage in secular discussion and activities relevant to their non-belief. What is offensive is actively encouraging hatred for people who believe in something greater than themselves. Why would any speaker encourage anyone to mock and show contempt for people that they do not even know? Is this not akin to racism? Is it a “Reason” rally? Or an anti-religion rally? According to a recent article, “this rally is not simply about protecting the rights of non-believers, but about the inferiority of religious belief.”
Is there not an irony in speaking out against intolerance while being intolerant? Richard Dawkins’ foundation’s mission is in part, a “quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.” Perhaps the atheists, by encouraging “ridicule and contempt” for believers, are closer than they think to those who may invoke God to bring wrath upon those with whom they disagree.