FEBRUARY 20, 2012
An advocacy group that is pushing for atheists to be more civil said today that it applauded the announcement this weekend by atheist scientist P. Z. Myers that the "Rally for Reason," to be held in Washington, DC on March 24, will not include guillotines. Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group "Citizens for A More Rational Atheism" (CAMRA) said this was a huge concession on the part of Myers and others involved in the Rally.
Cothran said his group had no reason to disbelieve Myers, but said that CAMRA would be watching developments leading up to the rally. "This is an encouraging development," he said. "We think it could lead to the development of atheism with a human face."
Cothran said his group had recently expressed concerns over the nature of the Rally for Reason this March. "Other than all of the Soviet military parades that took place during the 20th century, the last large build-up of atheists was the French Revolution, and it wasn't pretty." Cothran pointed to the "Festival of Reason," an atheist event held at Notre Dame in November of 1793 which apparently descended into the lascivious and depraved, as a cause for concern.
"It was events like this that became so embarrassing the Robespierre finally put a stop to it. You know you're in pretty bad shape when you become too depraved even for Robespierre," he said. "And if atheists embarrass themselves again, there will no Robespierre around this time to stop it."
He said he hoped that in addition to swearing off the use of guillotines on the Mall, rally speakers would elevate the level of invective from that which they have employed in recent years. "We have been quite disappointed in the quality of atheist rhetoric," he said. "Much of the vituperation leveled by atheists such as Myers is not appreciably more sophisticated than elementary school bathroom insults."
"Our group is willing to help try to come up with a linguistic symbol system for atheists like Myers," said Cothran, "to allow them to express snarls, growls, and bellows in various intonations so that they can better express the exact meaning of their thoughts. This might help us better communicate with them and try to improve their level of communication. We know the primitive insults hurled by Myers play well with the people in the comboxes of websites like Myers' Pharyngula, many of whose verbal remarks are logically indistinguishable from grunting, but there are a few of us who would really like to improve the level of debate above the neanderthal level."
Cothran, an author of several logic textbooks widely used around the country, said his group was even considering setting up an exhibit booth at the rally to assist atheists to negotiate the reasoning process in order to lessen their temptation to hurl mindless epithets. "We could give some simple initial instruction in the construction of arguments and the deductive reasoning process. We're not hopeful it would be terribly welcome, but we really do want to help these people."