I have been intrigued with the Secular Movement since I saw this sign from the freeway put up by the San Diego chapter of the Coalition for Reason.
The organizations that supported the Richard Dawkins lecture were:
San Diego Coalition of Reason
Humanist Fellowship of San Diego
Rational Thought at UCSD
Secular Student Alliance at SDSU
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Kahal Am – Humanist Jewish Community of San Diego
San Diego New Atheists and Agnostics
San Diego Association of Rational Inquiry
Secular Families of North County
Camp Quest West
I zoomed into the depth of downtown and saw the picket lines right away. One said, " Richard Dawkins is the Jerry Springer of Athiests." The other one I saw said,"You mean all this came from Nothing?" There were lots of people milling around but no loud arguments. However the atmosphere was charged. Dawkins addresses many subjects that are controversial such as taking religion out of government; abortion and euthanasia as a right, eugenics as intelligent design and an unwillingness to debate Creationists. He will be meeting with Religious leaders for debate but just doesn't have time and patience for the nuts.
There was a ten dollar charge to get in but some fellow offered me his ticket for fifty cents and I took it. I sat next to a man who talked to me about his life. We both had fathers who taught us to THINK. I got tears in my eyes remembering my smart daddy who played games with my brain and encouraged me to be an independent thinker. Thanks Dad.
The Golden Hall filled up and overflowed which was nice to see. I felt I belonged and I haven't had that feeling very often in my life. There were mostly younger people there and lots of couples. The John Lennon song "Imagine" was playing as we waited for the first speaker and I always get chills listening to that song. There were silly sayings and cartoons projected on the screen too.
The first speaker had long blonde hair and a lovely voice. She told of the rally for Secularism in Government in Washington DC with 30,000 people in the rain. Her organization is the Out Campaign.
- Reach out and talk to others about atheism and help spread a positive view of atheism
- Speak out about their own beliefs and values without feeling intimidated, thus helping people realize that atheists don't fit stereotypes and are a very diverse group
- Keep out, meaning to promote the idea that religion should be kept out of public schools and government, and that nobody's religious agenda should be allowed to intimidate
- Stand out and become visible in their communities and become involved.
The second speaker was a lawyer and politician but we were encouraged not to hold that against him. He wrote this book. I liked his passion about making Christian Organizations conform to Government regulations to protect children. Horrible stories about abuse in Church run day care where there are no inspectors.
About this time a man stood up and loudly demanded to hear Dawkins speak. Everyone booed him and pretty soon the main speaker appeared. I was not close enough to get a good look but I immediately loved his voice. Measured English with a touch of fierce sarcasm and a great deal of intelligence. He launched right in to a very complicated lecture on intelligent design, the folly of most of the ten commandments in this age and morality.
There followed a question and answer session which I thought was very brave of him and the first person was a religious person who started to preach about love and how Jesus had died for Dawkin's sins and forgave him. Everyone started yelling but Dawkins answered the fellow and calmed the situation down. His point is that you don't have to believe in the Christian religion to be a good person. Forgiveness and love are available to all humans.
The second question was about the possibility of an atheist running for office. Dawkins said he thought Jack Kennedy might have been an atheist but in those days you couldn't say that at all. Kennedy barely got elected being a Catholic. When you ask a Catholic if they really believe that the wafer and wine truly become the blood and flesh of Jesus most people falter. He also mentioned that we have Romney running for President who believes a man was inspired to start his religion by finding some gold tablets and translating them with a stone in his hat.
Another questioner asked Dawson if he encouraged mocking Believers. Dawson answered that he tried to respect the person but not their beliefs and that we should call people out on what they believe and not be shy about taking a different point of view.
Someone respectfully asked him if he was inspired by psychedelics in his theories and he laughed. "Regrettably no." he said. We laughed.
Designer babies, bodies and races were briefly discussed. I was not sure how his arguments on legalizing abortion made sense. I am still pondering how a fetus cannot feel any more pain than a pig or lamb that we kill and eat. I also wonder about the fact that he said to ask where is the soul of identical triplets was after the single cell divides. He refused to call an embryo a baby. He also said we should have the choice to assisted suicide.
There was a reception for him in a fancy area of town after the lecture for people who contributed one thousand dollars or more to his lecture tour or one thousand five hundred for a couple. They also encouraged people to go next door to a keg bar and get acquainted and maybe help in spreading the word that Religion is not necessary any more in this world and just causes trouble.
His books sold out in the lobby and there was a line for his autograph as I left the concourse. The pickets were gone and people seemed energized by his talk. I liked all the young, hopeful energy in the crowd. It gave me hope in a future where intelligence rules. I think he is very brave to stand up to the religious right and every other major religion in the world. I hope he has a good security system.