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Security Guard at the Reagan Trade Center

When I first got to the Reason Rally, my brother and I were very early. We got there at about 7:30am. So we decided to look for breakfast. I remembered that there was a food court in the Ronald Reagan Trade Center, so we went in there. When we got there, a security guard had asked us what the rally was about. I have to admit that despite my Dangerous Talk shirt, American Atheists pendent, and American Humanist Association wristband, I still tried to hide in the closet.

I remember telling the guard something about secular values. I might have mentioned Humanism, but I certainly didn’t use the dreaded “A” word. I had to make a calculation on that, and I calculated incorrectly.

In any case, after we ate and were heading out, the same guard was talking to three other atheists who were not as shy about the “A” word as I was. They told him in no uncertain terms that the Reason Rally was for atheists and that we don’t believe in God. This started an interesting discussion that I jumped in on.

The guard was asking us all kinds of other questions about the goal of the Reason Rally, if we had any values, if we wanted to “convert” people to atheism, if atheism was a religion, etc. His questions were inquisitive and not argumentative. However, he had a constant smirk on his face as if he knew something we didn’t.

Surprise, surprise, I did know what he “knew.” His smirk was that of a fundamentalist Christian who “knows” God exists and that we are all going to Hell to be tortured for all eternity. Still, he was polite enough and so the group treated him nicely and respectfully. We answered his questions cheerfully and I have to give credit to the girl from Philadelphia who took lead on the conversation. She was awesome.

When I first came to the Reagan Trade Center, I still felt like I lived in a Christian dominated world and so I wasn’t as outspoken as I should have been. The guard was looking for an argument, but in the end he just got respectful answers to his questions.

Part of the theme of the Reason Rally is to get us to stop hiding in the closet. While I am definitely out of the closet, there are times that I make the calculation to go back into the closet and avoid confrontational conversations with people I don’t wish to offend. But this example is one which shows that having the conversation is better.

Sure, the religious believer might be offended, but if that happens we should just make it clear that our intent isn’t to offend. Instead, we should be respectfully inquisitive. The conversation with the guard could have gone in many different ways. I think it went in the best possible direction and that is largely because we were all friendly, direct, and respectful. We didn’t mean to offend and so I don’t think the guard was offended.

Still, not all conversations with the religious should be this way. There is a time for respect and a time for ridicule. This was an example of the former.

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