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    Posted March 24, 2012 by
    Washington, District of Columbia

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    Thousands gather in DC for Reason Rally - Largest Secular Gathering in History


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     JoyfulGypsy says she had been planning to attend the Reason Rally for a long time, and over the weekend she found herself at the heart of the rally in Washington, D.C. She says she was one of thousands of people at the rally, and the large turnout surprised her because of yesterday's rain. Overall she thought the rally was entertaining and positive, and she had the chance to meet people from all across the world. "It was a rally where people could be honest about their beliefs," she says. "A lot of people are worried about coming out about their beliefs because they are afraid society will ostracize them, and they just go along with society. But this was a rally to support people with alternative beliefs, support and empower them and show them there are a lot of people with the same beliefs."
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    Approximately, 30,000 secular activists and supporters from across the United States and around the world, gathered Saturday, March 24, 2012, in the Mall area in Washington DC for what is billed as the largest secular gathering in history.


    The all-day event featured speakers such as British comedian Eddie Izzard, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), the first openly atheist member of Congress, biologist and writer, Richard Dawkins and many others.


    Highlights of the Reason Rally include a performance by Tim Minchin and the band "Bad Religion," and a tribute to the late Christopher Hitchens.


    Organizers say the purpose of the event is to forge connections among people who embrace a god-free lifestyle and to show the American public that the number of those who don’t believe in a god is growing.


    The goal is social and legislative equality, as there are many stigmas against atheists.


    In a piece for The Washington Post’s On Faith blog, Dave Silverman, president ofAmerican Atheists, wrote: “While the Reason Rally is a non-partisan event with attendees from all along the political spectrum, it is a statement to Washington, to our elected leaders, and to the rest of the nation that non-believers are a legitimate political segment of the American population.”


    According to the American Religious Identification Survey in 2008, the number of people who claim no specific religious affiliation had grown to 34 million, 15 percent of the U.S. adult population. A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted in 2008 yielded similar findings.


    “What is lost, what is flying under the radar is that there is a growing and mushrooming atheist movement in the U.S.,” said Rick Wingrove, chief executive of Beltway Atheists.


    The rally began at 10 a.m. and will be held until 6 p.m. on that part of the Mall between the National Museum of American History and the Agriculture Department. The event is free and open to the public.


    Photos by Lulis Leal
    March 24, 2012

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