Annie Laurie Gaylor’s remarks at the Reason Rally
Mark Twain once said heaven for climate – hell for company. And how’s this for good company?
It’s awe-inspiring to see so many unabashed atheists — and agnostics — who aren’t afraid of burning in hell, or of making our voices heard.
I’m Annie Laurie Gaylor. As a third-generation freethinker, I co-founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation with my mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor. Anne was a true firebrand for feminism and freethought. Anne’s experiences in the early 1970s battling for legal abortion opened our eyes to the absolute necessity of keeping religious dogma out of our civil laws — especially laws affecting women.
FFRF has grown from two of us to nearly 24,000 dues-paying members. FFRF is a national state/church watchdog and our message is: Beware of dogma. Once religion gets into our government and our social policies — watch out!
Lawrence Krauss kindly mentioned FFRF’s full-page ad in The New York Times this week, talking about how Congress discriminates against atheists, and very specifically one atheist — Dan Barker! This ad’s also running in this weekend’s USA Today and look for the ad in tomorrow’s [Sunday, June 5] Washington Post. FFRF’s election year message is: “I’m an atheist and I vote.” See if you can spot our message now up in 70 nearby locations right here in downtown D.C. — where legislators can’t miss it.
FFRF is fighting to buttress that besieged wall of separation between state and church — because we know it’s the only barrier standing between us and theocracy.
FFRF has seven attorneys on staff, who ended 240 major violations last year alone! Last year, we also won five significant state/church lawsuits, such as: removing a Ten Commandments monument from a public school in Pennsylvania; stopping teachers in Georgia from forcing kindergartners to pray and from telling a first-grader her mother was a “bad person” for not believing in God.
FFRF has 14 ongoing lawsuits in court including eight suits filed already this year to stop government promotion of religion. This spring, we won a federal court victory against prayers at public school board meetings. This week, we just won a federal lawsuit stopping a really outrageous violation — removing Christian crosses from Texas police cars.
We’re not a Christian nation — our Constitution is godless.
Unfortunately, reactionary religious lobbies threaten our constitutional rights. The latest assault is the campaign to legalize discrimination — to allow someone else’s religion to trump your civil rights. Tell your congressperson to support the “Do No Harm” bill amending the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act that brought us that horrible Hobby Lobby ruling, cosponsored by our speaker today, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, one of my heroes. Civil rights shouldn’t be dependent on your zip code —and fanatics shouldn’t be allowed to drive our social agenda or run Congress.
We’re here at the Reason Rally to tell Capitol Hill and candidates about secular citizens — the fastest growing segment of the population, to act on our concerns: civil liberties, equality, science education, climate change and its root cause — overpopulation, as Bill Nye laudably points out, reproductive rights, and that all-American principle of separation between state and church.
When you vote this year, you’re not voting for president — you’re voting for the next Supreme Court justice. We must break the 4-4 court deadlock so reason and compassion can prevail in one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
We invite you to become a part of our essential work to educate the public about nontheism, and to get religion out of government — by joining us at FFRF.org. And now, Dan Barker wants to tell you a story . . .
Dan Barker’s statements at the Reason Rally
That’s right. I am suing Congress.
Did you know that almost $800,000 of your taxes are spent each year for chaplains to open Congress with prayer? That’s more than $2,000 per prayer!
Although a quarter of Americans are nonreligious, all of the prayers have been blatantly religious, almost all Christian.
Shouldn’t the House of Representatives be representative?
Many of those prayers are delivered by guest chaplains. Over the years, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked Congress to allow me to give a secular invocation.
As many of you know, I was an ordained Christian minister. I preached for 19 years before I saw the light. After examining my faith with reason, I finally threw out all the bathwater and discovered: “There is no baby there!” There is no evidence, no argument and no need for a god. I just lost faith in faith.
But I did not lose my desire to participate in government.
Last year we finally found a member of Congress who agreed. My representative, Mark Pocan, asked House Chaplain Father Pat Conroy, a Jesuit priest, to allow me to open Congress with a secular invocation.
The chaplain turned me down.
An atheist cannot solemnize government, he said, because the prayer needs to address a “higher power.” I replied that in this country, there is no power higher than “We, the people.”
In this country, there is no religious test for public office. I told him that although I cannot invoke a supernatural spirit, I can invoke the “spirit” of the Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, who put “Common Sense” over dogma, and reason over faith.
The chaplain still turned me down.
So the Freedom From Religion Foundation has just filed a lawsuit against Congress for discrimination, denial of equal rights, and violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
James Madison said there should be no chaplains in government at all, and we agree, but if there are, they should at least be inclusive.
In my book Life Driven Purpose, I declare the truly “Good News” that we atheists offer the world: There is no purpose of life. There is purpose in life.
In my newest book, GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction — which Richard Dawkins asked me to write — I show that the God of the bible is not a creature we should base our government on, much less worship or admire.
As Dawkins said: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Part 1 of my book is “Dawkins was right,” with a chapter documenting each of those 19 nasty adjectives. But Part 2 of the book is called “Dawkins was too kind,” showing that God is also a pyromaniacal, angry, merciless, curse-hurling, vaccicidal, aborticidal, cannibalistic slave monger.
Any country based on the bible is doomed to divisiveness, cruelty and irrationality. Our government should not be praying to that god or any god.
It’s time for pious politicians to get off their knees and get to work!