The crowd seemed relatively small. Relative to what? I’ve attended three rallies in DC since moving back into the area. Two of them were in 2010: the Glenn Beck Rally to Restore Honor and its counterpoint, the Daily Show & Colbert Report Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. The Beck one had large enough crowds to seriously disrupt the Vienna and Franconia/Springfield Metro stations, while the Daily Show/Colbert event basically shut down central Washington, DC. This event? It seemed to barely generate a hiccup. There were likely more people who came out to the city for the first Saturday of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
And rallies themselves seem a silly concept to me, in hindsight. I mean, the Daily Show/Colbert event was more about being a comedy show while this and the Beck event were proper rallies. But rallies, by definition, seem to be about preaching to the quire. So standing out there in the cold, wet weather listening to people shout about “we’re atheists!” seemed a waste of time. Yes, we know we’re atheists, that’s why we came. Rallies exist to validate a group’s ideals by repeating them to the group. The Beck people gathered to talk about how because they have faith (and religion was a strong component of that event) they’ll make the future better (and tacitly stating that their opponents lacked religion.) Which made the reason rally the polar opposite; because the attendees didn’t have faith they were better positioned to make the future better.
Which I think was my major problem with this event. It came out too anti-religion. Personally, I would have been more interested in an event more pro-science or at least just pro-secularism. There was a tent at the event which featured booths for organizations such as Recovering from Religion, Hispanic American Free Thinkers, and American Atheists. All of these groups stressed how their defining quality was that they were not religious (if not anti-religious.)
It’s all about marketing.
You don’t win friends and influence people by only being about being against something. That only enforces an “us vs. them” mentality from those you’re trying to win over. Is your goal to gain acceptance from the religious people or to destroy their religion? Because treating religion like it’s something that requires something that can be characterized as a detox program–not unlike how some religious people seek to “cure” homosexuality–is a bad way to go about things. It may seem naive, but as a group (and a rally, by definition, is about unifying a group and giving a single voice) the … atheists? … need to rise above that kind of behavior. Maybe not for moral reasons but as a matter of presentation. As was pointed out numerous times by the event’s speakers, atheists are not exactly in a strong position politically of socially. This requires them to have to go about things in a less confrontational manner, a stand up fight simply can’t be won in this way.