The Reason Rally has been self-billed as “the largest secular event in world history.” Atheists gathered yesterday in Washington D.C. to rally in support of secularism. I am all for their freedom to do this and even encourage it. I am always for someone bringing their “beliefs” into the light of day for those beliefs to be examined. (I say “beliefs” because several of my atheist friends would rail against it this term, though it holds).
However, I cannot respect the Reason Rally’s proactive invitation of Westboro Baptist Church to be the face of Christianity. The decision to invite Westboro Baptist Church was not done in ignorance, but utterly disingenuous. It is akin to doing a multi-faith conference and saying, “We need someone to represent Islam, but who could we call to we make sure it is not seriously considered? Let’s call Al Qaeda.”
The decision to invite Westboro reveals a degree of fear or a lack of commitment to reason. Are the Reason Rally not confident their belief system will stand up to the best philosophical thinkers within Christianity? Why wasn’t William Layne Craig, Alistair McGrath, or other faith “heavyweights” invited? Anthony Flew would have been delicious had he still been living. I have lots of atheist friends and others with whom I interact. When dialoging with them, I want them to put forward their best thinkers, even if those thinkers responsibly assail my belief system full force. The Westboro crowd neither thinks nor acts responsibly.
The invitation was admittedly done as a publicity stunt. It is unfortunate that the conversation between those of faith who utilize rational philosophical argument and those rationalists who claim to eschew any need of faith was not better fostered. Maybe the Reason Rally was not the best public square in which to have this conversation, but inviting Westboro Baptist ensured it would be even less so. If the atheists want to change their image, they should engage the best Christian thinkers, not the worst.
So, my atheist friends, let us have the best possible dialog possible in the the arena of the civil public square. Please feel to comment.