The “Reason Rally,” held in Washington D.C. in 2016, 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).
However, in what must have been a disappointment for the organizers, only a few thousand attended. One atheist commentator, Hemant Mehta, said that, “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 shows his surprise saying 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.” Mehta forwards several reasons why he thinks the turnout was so poor (3).
Chiqui Guyjoco analyses some of Mehta’s reasons,
“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).
Clearly indicated here is the importance of celebrity atheists for attracting attendees. Perhaps that would be a better justification than Mehta’s first one which attempts to explain this by a lack of publicity which would seem unlikely considering the online advertising by the likes of Richard Dawkins and other atheist podcasts, shows, and media. The event was also advertised on CNN (5). One analyst provides a good analysis of Mehta’s justifications for the low turn out (6).
A YouTube channel run by an atheist with the account name of Thunderfoot was particularly scathing in his examination of and commentary on the event (7). While viewing the Reason Rally’s stream he noticed it maxed out at only 600 live viewers. This would suggest that the event had little appeal to not only attendees but online viewers too. What many suggest added insult to injury was the rally did not manage to raise the $100 000 it hoped to, in fact only achieving a quarter of that.
Thunderfoot shows his negative view of atheism’s brand appeal by referring to its (once) leading names,
“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?”
Answers to this question will likely depend on who one asks it to, but it is clear that the rally was underwhelming in hindsight of its goals. It struggled to attract many people despite being held in a public and easily accessible locations. It also struggled to raise funds and it had a small online viewership.
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.