|Category:||Interview - Internet||Publish date:||3/9/2012|
Greg Graffin on the Reason Rally
What kind of person goes to a Reason Rally? Atheists, agnostics, nontheists, nonbelivers, humanists, naturalists, the list goes on. The Reason Rally is a meeting of secular organizations to celebrate what it means to be separate from religion. Held on March 24th, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Reason Rally will be the largest secular event in American history with speakers including Richard Dawkins, Dr. Greg Graffin, Tim Minchin, Dr. PZ Myers, James Randi, Adam Savage, and a performance by Bad Religion.
As this is the first collaboration of this scale, many people question what kind of event The Reason Rally will present; will it be a chaotic religious rebellion, an anarchic uprising, or an angry immoral occupation? The Reason Rally officially states its purpose is to promote and advanced secularism. The ideas of secularism appeals to many, though the notion of advancing those principles tends to cause concern. This concern is plainly portrayed with people’s negative reaction to the word “atheist.” Many have given it a threatening connotation that relates atheists to immoral, angry, God-hating radicals. However, the very word itself means nothing more than a rejection to the belief of God. The atheist community is more commonly referred to as “secular,” meaning either the complete separation from religion or the neutral state of not allying with any particular religion.
The Reason Rally’s website states three main goals of the rally: to encourage secularists to declare their support of a God-free belief, to dispel stereotypes, and to table for equal legislative representation. To clarify, this will not be a religion bashing festival. As the secular community is threaded with science and reason, the rally will call upon the Scientists and the Freethinkers of our generation to address the growing population of people who associate themselves as secular. I was fortunate enough to interview Dr. Greg Graffin of Bad Religion in order to better portray the type of person attending the Reason Rally. I would like to extend a personal thanks to him for taking time out of an already busy schedule including a tour of Australia to respond to my queries.
Sarah North: Why are you participating in the Reason Rally?
Greg Graffin: We thought it was a good gathering of people who want to stress that reason should characterize the citizenry of this country, not affiliation with some religious group or socioeconomic stratum or any other criterion besides the willingness to engage in reasonable debate that is informed by rational knowledge.
SN: What are your goals in regards to speaking at the Rally?
GG: I haven’t gotten an assignment yet for my speech, but as in any gathering, it should be entertaining and rather brief, after all, I have to perform a concert also!
SN: I know in your book, Anarchy Evolution, you state that you never try to force your opinions on others, was there any experience with religion people who motivated this?
GG: No, I just think it’s ittational to assume that others will empathize with you on certain things, on other things there will be more understanding, but in my case it’s better to educate rather than preach. Agreement should come from common conclusion rather than persuasion.
SN: What obstacles do you face as a Naturalist?
GG: None really in terms of philosophical obstacles because we live in a secular society that is pretty uninterested in the implications of a Naturalist worldview. But there are obstacles trying to live more sustainably within that naturalist worldview, one obstacle is that it is much easier to buy mass-produced industrialized food than it is to buy healthy locally grown food, for instance.
SN: How do you find solutions to those obstacles?
GG: I spend a lot of money at the local farmer’s market, but why is that food so much more expensive than a fast food restaurant.
SN: How do you approach celebrating Christmas?
GG: Like any good American—I buy my kids presents and make spiced cider and my wife cooks a big feast—we buy local Christmas trees and we focus on the togetherness of the season. There are no images of Christ in our house, but I sing “Come All Ye Faithful.”
SN: Do you have any advice for young nonbelievers facing controversy from religious followers?
GG: Try to find a community outside of the church, it that’s not possible try to find the most rational and open people within your religious community—many of them aren’t from from nonbelief—a lot of my religious friends are really “soft atheists.”
SN: How do you answer people who ask you why you don’t believe in God?
GG: Usually I say I have no reason to believe in God.
SN: What is the most important thing in your life?
GG: God, country, and my bank account, in that order. Just kidding. I would say waking up each day having learned something about love and giving from the day before.
SN: How do you vote as a nonbeliver? With candidates practicing their religion in their politics, are you able to find the lesser of evils, or do you not vote?
GG: I vote for whoever sounds the most reasonable—regardless of their talk of God and the like. It’s been so long since the Republicans have had a generally reasonable platform that my choices have been very easy since I started voting.
SN: What is your response to the people who are protesting the Reason Rally on the grounds that we are poisoning the minds of the youth?
GG: My response is that I play in Bad Religion. I’ve made a career of “poisoning minds” as you say. In fact, in a little over an hour I have to go to the venue here in Sydney, Australia and do more of it tonight. But all I’ve ever heard from fans (and that includes parents and their kids alike) is that they have been inspired to learn more and care more by listening to our music. I think therefore, that the Reason Rally—like Bad Religion—can be very inspirational. The critics have only their fears as a basis of criticism. They are looking for a scapegoat because they feel like they have lost control over the thoughts of their kids, or that they want their kids only to be inspired by the things that were forced down their throats when they were kids, or because they can’t tolerate letting young people create their own criteria for what is reasonable. In this case then we shouldn’t be surprised and in fact we should accept our role as the dissenters who “poison” the youth of this intolerant society.
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