The “Reason Rally” (2016) was held in Washington D.C., and was publicized as being the “largest gathering” of atheists, freethinkers and friends in history. According to Lyz Liddell, the executive director of the Reason Rally, “This is the largest gathering of non-religious Americans in history. We’re expecting 30 000 people right here at the Lincoln Memorial” (1).
But, at its very peak, only an estimated few thousand people attended; one atheist commentator, Hemant Mehta, concedes, “Nothing I saw suggested ‘15,000 to 20,000’ in attendance, as organizers told Religion News Service. I’d put the range at about half of that, but we’ll see” (2). Mehta, in much surprise, realizes that this “wasn’t supposed to happen. After all, our community has grown over the past four years, there was no rain this time around, and there were big-name celebrities on the speaking roster.” Commentator Stoyan Zaimov likewise agrees that “Several reports have noted that the attendance was well below the over 30,000 mark that organizers had hoped for,” and that Mehta forwards several justifications as to why the turnout was so poor (3).
Commentator Chiqui Guyjoco explains that “Mehta’s main reason was that the atheist community was not well aware that there was going to be such an event taking place. He also pointed out as his second reason, that although the event organizers tried to hype up the buzz by inviting top celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Margaret Cho, and Richard Dawkins – who were also not able to attend the event eventually – the buzz may have been misplaced” (4).
According to Mehta’s justification it would appear that atheists weren’t really there for atheism as opposed to celebrity atheists. Could atheism survive, or even grow, without its handful of celebrity atheists? And that the atheist community was not well aware seems unlikely given the online advertising by the likes of Richard Dawkins as well as via atheist podcasts, shows, and media. It was even advertised on CNN (5). Sacerdotus I believe is quite on the money in his reply to several of Mehta’s excuses for the low attendance (6).
A popular YouTube channel run by the atheist Thunderfoot was particularly scathing in its examination of the event (7). While viewing the stream of the Reason Rally he noticed it maxed out at only some 600 live viewers. So, not only were there far, far less attending that expected, but it had nearly no online viewership worth writing home about. Even worse for their cause was that the money raised for the event fell far short of its $100 000 goal. It achieved less than a quarter of what they were hoping for.
Thunderfoot concludes that “Hitchens is dead. Dawkins simply doesn’t have the energy for this sort of thing anymore. Harris went his own way, and Dennett just kind of melted into the background… If the largest gathering of the non-religious… pulls in, I don’t know, maybe 2000 people. Is there anything worth saving?”
The Reason Rally evidently failed in several significant ways. It failed to attract many people at all, especially in hindsight of its goal. The event also failed to achieve anything remotely close to its $100 000 goal, nor did it attract a significant online viewership. Thunderfoot not only chastises the event due to low attendance but also due to its lack of racial and gender representation as the vast majority of attendees were white and male. Penn Jillette struggles to get his video media working on-stage and, at most, the speakers receive a tepid applause for their efforts (8). It’s safe to say that the event was quite a failure all things considered.
1. Thunderfoot. 2016. The HILARIOUS SJW #ReasonRally FAILFEST! (00:30 – 00:36). Available.
2. Mehta, H. 2016. Where Was the Crowd for the Reason Rally? Available.
3. Zaimov, S. 2016. Atheists Scramble to Explain Why Reason Rally Was a Dud After Johnny Depp Cancelation. Available.
4. Guyjoco, C. 2016. Atheist Reason Rally 2016 draws hugely disappointing crowd; atheists try to analyze why so few showed up. Available.
5. Thunderfoot. 2016. Ibid (00:00 – 00:10). Available.
6. Sacerdotus. 2016. ‘Reason Rally’ 2016 A Huge Flop: Epic Fail. Available.
7. Thunderfoot. 2016. #ReasonRally Crash n burn. Thanks SJWs! Available.
8. Rensin, E. 2016. American Atheists Are on the Rise. Available.