Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reason Rally

There's apparently a Reason Rally put on by secularist organizations this Saturday in Washington, D.C. Some people have been very mocking and sarcastic about it all, but I say more power to them, for the same reason that I've said before that organizations to get atheists in touch with each other are actually a good thing: human beings aren't really capable of thinking alone. We are social in our very reasoning; show me people who think they can rationally handle the big questions on their own without any help from others and I will show you complete idiots. To be sure, your own reason can get you some ways, but reasoning on your own is inefficient and dangerous. We need people whose criticisms of us we can trust, people to keep us honest; we need people who can point out obvious things we, for whatever reason, missed; we need to be brought face to face with people who agree with us for radically different reasons than our own; we need to be forced to see things from other people's points of view, even on matters in which we are in agreement with them. Even a genius functioning alone is not, in the long run, a match for a group of moderately talented friends, whose friendship is what Aristotle calls a friendship of excellence or virtue, who are passionately devoted to truth, not merely in their own quirky ways (for even our well-intentioned quirks may sometimes lead us astray), but cooperatively. This is true regardless of the position in question, and atheists are no exception.

A rally really doesn't accomplish any of this on its own at all, almost every rally being just a mob of people who want to be able to say they were there and a bunch of speakers who like to think they are more important than they actually are, but it still can further good relations that might. It makes people meet people they wouldn't ordinarily meet and (moreover) it forces people into contact not merely with their heroes but also with people who make the same claims but are obvious cranks and kooks -- and any rally on any topic will bring such people out. That's something people need to be faced with, too; and it's certainly not just rational people who claim to be rational -- that would be nice, but, of course, anyone who thought that the mark of rationality is claiming to be for reason, even for the kind of reason one prefers, would need to face the inevitable disillusionment as quickly as possible. So one can reasonably hope something good will come of it. Apparently the line-up includes Tim Minchin, Bad Religion, and Eddie Izzard, so at least parts of it can be reasonably guaranteed to be fun. Given a few of the speakers there's bound to be a lot of pomposity, but as long as it's in-house and not being shoved in my face, I've no problem with that, either. And, frankly, if atheists and freethinkers threw big parties with Eddie Izzard more often, other people wouldn't dislike them so much.

So, honestly, I hope it all turns out well. As I said, given some of the people involved I'm sure there's some irrational pomposity involved, blowing it up into something no rational person could possibly regard it as being (just calling it "Reason Rally" was bound to attract such people); but I only get annoyed when people are irrationally pompous in my face. They can be as pompous as they want among the likeminded or when addressing their fellows.

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