No purity tests needed for Reason Rally

With only a few days until the big event, there’s a few people fuming about some of the guest speakers coming to the Reason Rally. PZ Myers is upset that Bill Maher will be there because of some of his anti-vaccination statements in the past. Also in attendance is Senator Tom Harkin, a Catholic and a believer in alternative medicine, who plans to address the crowd. Myers is convinced that the very name of the Rally should discourage any person who holds some kind of foolish belief from speaking.

Problem is, if we did that, it might discount most of the crowd. In fact, it might mean that no human could ever hope to meet the criteria of being truly rational, and everyone should probably just stay home. Why? Because humans suck at being rational.

We aren’t a rational species to begin with. Decisions we make tend to be driven by emotion, and if our higher brain (our flaunted prefrontal cortex) does have something to say about it, it tends to only service our emotions by crafting elaborate rationalizations. (You can read all about this in the book: “The Upside of Irrationality“) This explains why extremely intelligent people can believe in utter nonsense: clever minds can rationalize well enough to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. The rest is easy; since we all have a natural bias towards any opposing views (who wants to spend all that effort changing your mind?), they will never be exposed to the flaws in their thinking.

Problem is, it would be hard to find someone who didn’t at least share some of those tendencies. I’m not sure everything I believe in is squeaky clean of the subtle manipulation of a mind which craves certainty and clarity. Are all my assumptions true (at least more conducive to reality, given our current understanding)? In Michael Shermer’s new book “The Believing Brain“, he explains how our awareness of our own biases often makes us overestimate our capacity to look beyond them. In other words, even when we think we have a handle on our irrationality, it tends to only make it worse. Is that what I do as well?

It’s all the objections to this I find irrational. The Reason Rally is a bit of an oxymoron to begin with: swept up by the emotion of the crowd, how can anyone hope to act rationally? The whole purpose of this meeting is a “prep” rally to encourage people to think for themselves, to question their own cherished assumptions, and to hold no truth as sacred. Are we now making purity tests for what constitutes a rational mind? There’s something I profoundly dislike about that idea, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so.

What do you think?

Comments (6)

  • avatar


    Absolutely agree. Why do you think we created a perfect human in the form of god(s)… ?! We are not perfect, but I think what many in the secular community are doing right now about this rally is actually shooting themselves in the foot. We are not perfect if we were we’d be
    god(s)…Why are there so many of the nonbelievers looking at this in shade of only black and white, haven’t we learned it’s not that simple….?

  • avatar

    The Doubter

    We are all capable of allowing ourselves to be fooled into believing certain flawed ideas, in the first instance we must recognise this capability and the how we are all guilty of applying the confirmation bias to validate our own opinions.

    The fact that a reason rally has become a reality is significant in its own right and reflects a need by a group with a common interest to speak out. I am all for healthy discussion and critical debate, but in this instance the importance of this event should not be undermined at this time by showboating or inward squabbling, this will only play into the hands of the religious that would like nothing more than to see our movement disintegrate from inside forces. That is why religions are so effective, that they demand complete subjugation and no dissent from their followers……………if non-believers want to have internal dialogue/disagreement let’s do it after the event!

    All the best for the event……..if you are attending, have a blast and make a statement….the world will be watching!

  • avatar


    I agree with you. It’s an outreach program people! Be smart!

  • avatar


    “this will only play into the hands of the religious that would like nothing more than to see our movement disintegrate from inside forces”

    First, I like some of the refreshing admissions made here so my comments are not solely based on this particular article.
    I can only speak for Real Christians and not for false religions, fake so called christians who use religion to control, assert power, and portray self righteousness. These people are actually fighting against Christ. It should be accepted that real Christians agree with many of the points made on religions because, obviously to us, all of them are false.
    Just to qualify before I speak–Most real Christians see evolution as a decent explanation and most who don’t haven’t studied it. You must understand many dont feel the need to– as they know God created everything already. Obviously some are afraid as well and that’s understandable.
    This is why Christians dont venture into the fields of origins (Cosmology etc)–as they have no curiosity of the mechanisms God used. So to claim those who dominate the “Origin” fields of study are mostly atheists as some kind of proof–as if they all *became atheists because what they learned is intellectually dishonest or just wish making. It should be quite obvious that “Mechanism” might not be a love for Christians who are already certain of their Agency and that it *may be for those who are Naturalists. If honest, you must realize that some Christians will not listen to a thing the naturalists say when they equate mechanism with agency, propose absurdities like multiverse, deny freewill, deny the definition of nothing, accept absurd probabilities only for the Constants, inflation, atomic cohesion, abiogenesis but not for any other thing in reality–only those which suggest a Creator. Even the Big Bang was fought tooth and nail when the answer could have came sooner if myopia wasnt where naturalist lived.
    No dye can be rolled heads a thousand times, an extinction level asteroid WILL impact earth, a universal common ancestor is at least 10 to the 2,860th power times more probable than having multiple ancestors—So effectively zero odds mean nothing in regards to Creation but are applicable everywhere else.

    How can it be blamed that this small branch of Christians dont trust atheist driven Origin conclusions. Try and see things from the other side instead of just thinking people are stupid.
    On to the quote above in the article….
    Real Christians are not interested in seeing someones dream being crushed–they are interested in your well being as they know the blackest darkness is awaiting unbelievers in the end. This highly charged doom portrayed in the last sentence is made to shock. I say it because its the reason there is an atheist “movement” in the first place.

    I dont say this to scare you. Christ didnt say it to scare anyone–but to simply state a fact of unbelievers destination. Real Christians dont turn to God because of fear, they turn(which is the meaning of repent) because they want God as their father. When we turn and ask about Christ..we receive the truth as a fact.
    I have an IQ of 157. Gifted, they told me, in school. I reveal this because I keep reading on atheist sites, including this one, that you guys claim to be so brilliant but all I see is people who dont want God as their father. I see nothing that points to superior reasoning. I see wish making. I see no difference between the reasoning of drug addicts, porn moguls, and mass murderers. I dont suggest your terrible people at all –dont misunderstand me–I may be a bigger bastard. But your logic is not better than these other atheists.

    Fine tuning, something from nothing, life from the lifeless, consciousness, love, beauty, incomprehensible odds, and Christ’s majestic philosophy all cry out for a person to ask God if its true. At the very least a person could simple say they dont know yet. Never, could a reasonable person ever say there is no God, yet that’s precisely the irrational thing atheists proclaim.
    That alone should define the level of brilliance. This idea that your all so cerebral is just drawing attention to your arrogance as the cause for your particular atheism, instead of porn, murder, or love for crack profits. To use intelligence as your reason–as if the entire world throughout all of human history rode the minibus is yet another portrayal of such myopic reasoning, to say nothing of the fact that your philosophy leads only to a construct of freewill that renders those very opinions the opinions of random particles colliding.

    If your going to be honest–you don’t want God as your father and everything proceeds from there. If you found out, unequivocally, that Christ was exactly who he said he was you would not accept him. You may force yourself to turn because of fear…but that wouldn’t fool God because he knows what you really desire. The world is set up, precisely the way it is, to reveal just that.

    God’s not in the kitchen– so you can take a cookie from the cookie jar if you so desire. If he was in there…you would be coerced into refraining what you really wanted. Atheists have revealed their desires. God setting up a Castle next door to your house wouldn’t change that. If your as brilliant and educated as you say you are you know this. Your schooled on “Divine Hiddenness”. You know Faith is impossible without the existence of Doubt. You learned in History every culture believed in a creator when Christ lived. That no one was trying to convince people to believe there was a god. That it was about *Who was God.

    From your studies you know that in Christianity the scales of justice are considered to have an immovable weight on sins side. Because you reason so well you know Christianity must use another method of salvation because of this weight. You’ve learned that Method is faith in God. That the move toward Christ demonstrates your desire for forgiveness. Through logic you understand you could not make this *move in Faith if God, his rewards, and punishments were known as absolute fact.
    So what is the culmination the superior atheist intellect?
    Demand Scientific Proof

    This is the vehicle God chose. A message that would draw his children to him and leave everyone else to say its all nonsense. Zero coercion. Yes, its sad more are not drawn by the message but God doesn’t make mistakes. No one who didnt get a chance will fall through the cracks. But make no mistake–no one in the western world has a single excuse as they’ve been confronted more than any generation. No one gets to boldly say to God, after death, that he didnt provide enough proof because no one who turns to God and says they will place their trust in Christ leaves an unbeliever.

    People can change though. Time is a beneficial creation–as your thoughts are not set in stone and that’s why real Christians talk to everyone- including atheists. It is solely for their well being. It is pure, with genuine concern. I understand there are many christian pretenders, especially on the internet, that are simply wicked fanatics that have the mentality of a football fanatic spewing out venom to his rival team primarily for masturbation. They fight against Christ, not for Him, so its important for atheists to remember that just as a cop who steals drugs isnt a real cop, and scientists whose conclusions are based on philosophy are not real scientists, that it is unfair to lump real Christians in with those who directly contradict Christ’s teachings.

    It wouldn’t seem right if I asked used Stalin as the basis of my objections. Knocking down straw men all day is also masturbation and there is an absolute boat load of it on these sites that cover up a host of flawed reasoning. When you peal it all back the crux of your arguments seem left to wish making and at the most uncertainly because you have not gone to God himself with your whole heart. You can pile on all the straw you want so you can lessen the thoughts of God’s impending judgment and reenforce your opinion but if bias, wish making, internet football, and most of all Fear of all you’ve said against God and his people you left with very little.
    With respect to “is there a creator” that equation goes against you, in relation to all humans that have ever lived you dont even have a visible slice on histories pie chart—now thats arrogance. With respect to Christ, you have heard but you need to Turn toward him, instead of away, to get that answer.
    Take care guys

  • avatar

    Jo Anna

    Very salient point you make. I agree. However, PZ Myers attempting to draw some kind of line is not a bad idea. Making any such standard absolute however is not the correct approach to the problem he is trying to solve. Think about it for a minute: What better place to challenge people’s beliefs but the reason rally?
    And, dude, spell-check. If you want people to take your words seriously, then reread them before you post.
    Keep up the great work!

  • avatar

    The Doubter

    Hey Jason,
    Interesting comments.

    WIth reference to your comment…..

    “With respect to “is there a creator” that equation goes against you, in relation to all humans that have ever lived you don’t even have a visible slice on histories pie chart—now that’s arrogance.”

    I agree we are all arrogant…….sorry you have to be including as well, your slice of the pie chart is also narrow. 🙂

    No one and I mean no one knows for sure the origins of our existence!!

    I agree entirely that there is a part of me that is defiant and recoils at the thought of a god hypothesis, whether that part was there first I will never know.

    However when I think about being told that I will be damned just for not believing, that regardless of leading a good life with my intrinsic values, showing empathy and helping people……… come judgement day it all boils down to whether I believed or not……….sorry but not acceptable.

    When I look into my relatives lesbian eyes and see that she will burn forever just for being gay, then sorry my friend, if this is some sort of perverted test, well I gladly fail and will defy your god!!

    How does it make you feel that I and countless others will burn forever and forever……….that all those Sikh, Jains, Hindus will burn to because their god is the wrong one…………sorry my friend, I may have only an IQ of 138, so I suppose I will have to bow to your superior intellect, but I not bow to your pernicious god you make excuses for!

    Peace & Love

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