Politics Revelations

Johnny Depp goes to Washington for atheist gathering

Cast member Johnny Depp arrives for the British premiere of the film "Black Mass" in London, Britain on October 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett


(RNS) Johnny Depp will bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to a planned gathering of atheists and other secularists at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial.

Cast member Johnny Depp arrives for the British premiere of the film "Black Mass" in London, Britain on October 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Cast member Johnny Depp arrives for the British premiere of the film “Black Mass” in London on Oct. 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Depp, who once said “religion is not my specialty,” is one of the scheduled speakers at the Reason Rally, a project of seven national atheist, humanist and other secularist organizations slated for June 4. Other speakers include television personality Bill Nye, scientists Lawrence Krauss and Carolyn Porco, comedians Margaret Cho and Julia Sweeney and musicians Killah Priest and Mark White of the Spin Doctors.

“Up until now, for a celebrity, politician or athlete to identify as openly nonreligious has been regarded as career suicide,” said Lyz Liddell, the Reason Rally’s executive director. “The fact that these big, mainstream names are beginning to openly support our work and become involved in our community means that the entire cultural attitude towards nonreligious Americans is shifting towards acceptance and inclusion — and that’s wonderful!

Richard Dawkins, who suffered a stroke in early February and whose foundation is one of the sponsors of the rally, is also slated to speak, though his appearance will depend on his health, Liddell said.

RELATED STORY: Richard Dawkins: Stroke caused by stress

Thousands of atheists and unbelievers gathered on the National Mall for the Reason Rally in 2013. RNS photo by Tyrone Turner

Thousands of atheists and unbelievers gathered on the National Mall for the Reason Rally in 2013. RNS photo by Tyrone Turner

The Reason Rally has been held twice before. Its main goal is to demonstrate the size and potential political power of those who favor a strict separation of religion and politics. In 2002, under the name “The Godless March,” it attracted a few thousand people — mostly middle-aged and white — to the National Mall, while 2012’s rally attracted several tens of thousands to the same spot, many of them young and nonwhite.

“Today, nonreligious Americans make up some 25 percent of the population, but there is not one single openly nontheistic member of Congress,” Liddell said. “The Supreme Court is five Catholics and three Jews, and presidential candidates pander to the religious right while throwing atheists under the bus.”

(Kimberly Winston is a national correspondent for RNS)

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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  • This is good. Atheists make up 25% of the population so at least 25% of our congress leaders should be atheists to give fair representation to atheists.

  • They would lovably ask him to pull up a chair and be regailed with long winded tirades about how insane his followers are.

    The upside being there would never be shortages of booze or carbs.

  • Most atheists are atheist because they have not seen enough evidence to believe in a higher power. If Jesus (or any other God(s) or supernatural creatures) were to show up and demonstrate his/her divinity — I suspect they might win over a lot of converts. Its the fact that Jesus NEVER shows up in modern times and subjects him/herself to modern scrutiny which is why people don’t believe.

    So, if Jesus is out there, pretty please… show up! But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest — he doesn’t exist, and he’s not showing up. But don’t complain when people don’t believe in him when he doesn’t bother to show up to meetings like this.

  • In case you haven’t noticed, this site is called Religion News Service. An odd choice of hangout for someone who doesn’t want to talk to any religious people. There are many atheist forums, however, where there would be no religious people to bother you.

  • Nice, Shawnie5! This atheist agrees with you. The whole premise of hostility toward others’ personal, private spiritual/existential beliefs is… unbelievable. There’s no virtue in disrespect.

  • Personally, if I were to believe in a God, it would be one whom humanity’s inhumanity drove away long ago; one who nevertheless hopes (knows?) we will eventually decide to treat each other, our beliefs, and our personal boundaries with mutual respect; one who won’t come back until we make the decision, as a global people, to embrace synergistic collaboration among equals and reject elitist & selfish “traditions” of Us vs. Them; and one who naturally, easily, lovingly understands, and would never abandon, people who merely don’t believe in this God, who has been absent for ages — with perfectly good reason.

  • Didn’t exist, unless one is referring to Yeshu ben Pandera who lived a century before the Biblical Jesus supposedly existed.

  • There will never be literal, concrete, emperical evidence of people’s inner spiritual experience. The Bible is largely poetic and symbolic; it is literature. Why would you expect something of an artistic and emotional nature to comport with scientific method? Apples and oranges. I think the point is that theists and nontheists should learn to be tolerant of each other and not denigrate each other. Not saying there is not legitimate reason for anger about the behavior of the religious majority, but let’s try to keep the dialogue civil. We need calm and respectful debate, not venom and bile.

  • I’m sure those atheists who bother to read this will either be unimpressed or mock me, but here goes, anyway.
    Over the 67 1/2 yrs of my life, I have received and rejected Jesus Christ over and over as doubt entered in and convinced me I was foolish to believe in a God I could not see and who seemed to be absent when I needed Him most.
    However, each time, when I had finished my tirade against a God that “didn’t exist”, my inner being, my “soul” if you will, continued to cry out to Him. I could deny Him all I wanted, but that did not make Him any less real. The scientific evidence and the logical reasoning against His existence did not quiet my soul. I would surrender to Him once more, only to face the onslaught of my logical mind.
    The existence of the Biblical God defies all logic and all evidence. However, He doesn’t need our belief or unbelief. He continues to exist, despite human efforts to remove Him. He loves you, whether you like it or not.

  • In all due time Drewski. But, weather he comes today tomorrow, your secular self your life will cease to exist that will be your end. Dust you are and dust you will return…. Enjoy the pleasures of a short life. And on your tomb stone it will be written “here lies an atheist, all dressed up with no where to go” HA!!

    Much Love my fellow earth dweller

  • Jesus would not dare turn up, if he had the powers that is claimed for him, he would realize that the Crucifixion was much easier than what atheists and even some religious folk would give him

  • Why I would believe, I seriously doubt I would worship or respect him. After all that he has done, and allowed to be done, which decent human would still worship him?

  • Eternal damnation and suffering awaits those who do not accept, or even question, Gods infinite all encompassing love for humanity. Yeah, that makes sense. It’s called “hulucination” Louis. Get over it.

  • Pen. I don’t know how I got onto this site, I would just like to say I am now 71 and I have been an atheist since I was 14, when I was confirmed. Coming from a cristian family I was expecting to see the light and find faith, the service had everything I had hoped for, I felt unlifted, joyful even. The next day i woke up and it had all gone I felt no different and I realized I didn’t need it I was suffient unto myself. My life has had it’s ups and downs but that’s life and it is the love of friends and family who have helped me through as I in my turn have helped them. Perhaps that’s the answer!

  • Vijay. Obviously God is great, that’s why he made eating Lobsters a sin. He didn’t make molesting children a sin, or stoning women and children for silly things, and let’s not forget slavery, he not only did not make that a sin, but he encourages it. But eating those pesky evil Lobsters? Now that’s a sin.

  • oh my word… mythicists are everywhere these days…..
    you do know that you sound just like Ken Ham does regarding evolution right?

  • Your definition is for an agnostic… not an atheism. Atheism is lack of belief in a god or gods… not that they have looked for proof and found none. It is possible to be an atheist and never have even looked into the existence of God honestly.

  • We would all convert. That would be called “evidence”. Now I wonder how much of your life savings you’d bet on him showing up. Most probably none. That’s called “reason”. Even believers know he’s not coming.

  • How about the behaviour of the atheists majority online? and in China or the former USSR? are we staying blind to those?

  • It’s arrogant to think that human beings can comprehend whatever “God” is in our incredible multiverse, much less deny the existence of God. It’s right to separate church and state. Organized religion seems to do more harm than good. However to deny sentient forces greater than those of mankind is premature. I wish this rally focused on maintaining separation of church and state and not on atheism. We haven’t agreed on theism yet, the nature of God.

  • The god of tje christian bible is the most totalitarian violent horiffic monster in the hostory of human literature. He send bears to kill onocenr children, makes cities full of men eat their own children, turns entire populatins to salt, drowns every living creature on the planet and constanrly.orders hos armies to lat waste to entire cities killing every man woman and child. The judeo-christian god is a horrible murdeous monster that can not go 10 pages of the bible without brutally killing people all while forcefully demanding total obedience and worship. THAT IS NOT LOVE!! That is violent physcopathic totalitarian domination. God is a scary fairy tale but if he was real he is a horrible monster.

  • My vote is just as valid as yours. Time to face reality that we are not monsters, we just don’t talk to ourselves.

  • No, it is arrogant to claim that your misguided religion has unkowable answers. It is humble to accept that humans do not have the answer and refuse to accept religious magical fairy tales in place of the search for knowledge.
    Being religious is the most narcissistic and arogant position a human can take. It is the believe that you are just too darn special to be a random natural event therefore a great powerful creater of universes made you and secretly guides you and patiently waits for you to die so he can spend special time with you.

  • Ask him to pull up a seat and most likely than not be regaled with long tirades about how insane his followers can be.

  • Not nearly as bad as the demonizing going on by Christians. You hardly see atheists telling people that Christians are immoral by nature and must be attacked and discriminated against. But the reverse is commonplace.
    Especially by those Christians who seek to use guilt by association of atheists with communists. Communism was a more modern spin on religious fanaticism. With its own dogma, sects and even apologia.

  • I assume that Jesus is an historical person, but I find it curious that there is no contemporaneous mention of him…no notes, letters or diaries. The only place he is mentioned is in the gospels.

  • You guys will be very disappointed when he does show up. You might be believers but it will be too late. You certainly have a right not to believe and I wouldn’t call you stupid for not believing. With my personal experiences and what I feel he has done for me in my life, I would be stupid not to believe. He is the only person that lived 2000 years ago that works on my heart and leads me to be a better person. I hope that one day all of you have the same experiences that I have had that has lead me to believe. I have a friend that’s an atheist and I can’t and won’t try to make him believe. People like you all can’t be made to believe. The only way you will ever believe is have an experience that leads you to Jesus. I’ll pray for all of you and I don’t mean that offensive. It’s the most sincere thing I can do for anyone.

  • Thor-righty then.
    Which parts of the bible do you dismiss and which parts do you whole-heartedly adhere to? My guess is that there is a lot of material that you ignore by saying “but the writer obviously didn’t mean what they explicitly said that they do”, because believing in such statements would be in support of heinous acts and blatantly idiotic things that can be easily disproved.

  • Atheism IS a religion. They have an organization. They have leaders. They have meeting sites. They have an enormous amount of literature as to who they are published. They have economic donation sites. Most of all they have a God. Each one believes that they are God. Our Country will not allow the Lutheran Church to attack the Catholic Church in court about their beliefs but they will allow the Atheistic Church to do that as they wish.

  • Literally can you be more infantile? When my god comes he will beat you all up. Really!

    You paint the picture of a god who is really venal and unworthy of worship. One who extols phony supplication rather than worth as people.

    It’s nice that Christianity works for you, but arrogant to believe everyone must follow along.

  • And eat your babies too. You can’t leave that out. It’s like forgetting to mention how unbaptized babies are a chief ingredient to Passover matzoh.

  • Dear your belief in prophecy itself is in direct conflict with your religion…… Prophecy relies and implies predestination, while Christianity is based upon free will. they are mutually contradictory. If god knows how everything is going to turn out then he knows before everyone is born who is going to heaven and who is going to hell, I.E. you never had a choice in the matter.
    Can’t have one with the other.

  • “Atheism IS a religion.” No it’s not. It’s not a belief system, but a belief about religion.

    “They have an organization. They have leaders. They have meeting sites. They have an enormous amount of literature as to who they are published. They have economic donation sites.” So does little league, Wikipedia, and the League of Women Voters.

    “Most of all they have a God.” No, we don’t. That’s the point.

    “Each one believes that they are God.” Only in the minds of hyper-religionists, who think they are god’s BFFF.

    “Our Country will not allow the Lutheran Church to attack the Catholic Church in court about their beliefs.” Maybe, beciase court isn’t the place to do it. but they can attack them in print, in speech, and anywhere else. And there are always those episcopalians wanting to retain their assets after their little schism.

    “they will allow the Atheistic Church to do that as they wish.” And we’re back to point one.

    Silly and paranoid.

  • You know what led me to being a better person?

    Growing up!

    Realizing that I wasn’t the only person that mattered, noticing I felt better when I was kind and generous and good to others, realizing that I did not like people doing somethings to me and that they would probably not like it if I did it to them, reading hundreds And hundreds of books by the time I was 22.

  • Hi Andrew, for the record, I do not have a religion and I have no problem with atheism. For those who want religion, I believe in an “Any path to God” approach is best as long as the believer does not force his or her religion, or belief in God, on anyone else. Humans have no answers on anything including science, religion and the presence of God. We are not sure if other universes have different laws of physics and we do not understand our own universes’ physics very well. Today’s physicists speculate that we share our space with other universes. This concept may explain forces we do not comprehend, such as gravity. The most brilliant physicists cannot explain how gravity can hold together a planet yet be overwhelmed by a refrigerator magnet. I definitely believe that if there is a God this presence would not have time to micromanage the life of humans. Some would call that “free will.” Regardless, the search for knowledge must continue!

  • You believe this simply because you were taught to believe this…. the same reason a child believes in santa or the tooth fairy…. by this regard, scientology and islam hold the same weight as christianity…. its sad to me that so many “adults” still believe in mythical “santa” beings….

  • Probably they’d have a chat with him. Maybe ask him where he’s been for the last twenty centuries or so, and why he doesn’t appear to object to some of his followers being militant jerks.

  • Re: “The existence of the Biblical God defies all logic and all evidence. However, He doesn’t need our belief or unbelief.”

    Then why should he care whether people believe in him or not? It makes sense that an omnipotent, omniscient, infinite and eternal being would be entirely self-sufficient and need nothing from anyone. Yet, the Christian deity appears to need the validation of people from whom he hides himself; he seems to need them to “love” and “worship” him, sight unseen, based solely on “faith.” Why should that be?

    If we were talking about a human being, I’d wonder if he lacked self-esteem. But … is an omnipotent, omniscient, infinite and eternal being even capable of lacking self-esteem? If he does, then can he be self-sufficient? And if he’s not self-sufficient, then can be be the omnipotent, omniscient, infinite and eternal being Christians think he is?

  • Re: “Atheism IS a religion.”

    Bzzzzt! Wrong. Atheism is no more a religion, than …

    … baldness is a hair color; “off” is a television channel; “health” is a disease; unemployment is a job; not collecting coins is a hobby; silence is a noise; “nowhere” is a place; etc.

    It’s not hard to figure it out. So give it a shot. For once.

  • Jes’us will NOT show up because he does not exist. All reports that he did show up will be from the imagination of believers.

  • Well actually scientists can… That doesnt mean the answer is easy to understand though. We have a very VERY good working knowledge of physics in our universe, Are there things we dont know? Yes, were there things we didnt know 100 years ago? Yes, but we sorted most of those out, and no reason to think we wont sort the new unknowns out either.

  • Please show the relevant verses. Then without “interpeting” it with sweeping general statements, show how any earthquake happened, and I’ll give you within a week of the supposed date(which there isn’t one, because all that nonsense isn’t in the Bible and they didn’t use a dating system like we do in modern times).

    Just because you make up stuff doesn’t make it true. And considering “Jesus” raised a supposed revolution of Jews and was crucified for it, he should be in the Roman record. They recorded trials you know. In actual writing.

  • Why would he when his own people have been so disappointed waiting for so long? And then he has too much to answer for.

  • I am fully atheist, POST agnostic. Saying that one is not athiest because they did the research and came up short on answers is almost as blind and stupid as religion itself.

    And if Jesus DID suddenly appear, we would all have our foot in our mouths. And EVIDENCE would support conversion and belief. Until that day never comes, intelligence shall rule.

  • Good for you!!! I’m in agreement I became one of Jehovah’s witnesses after many years of rejecting mainstream religion. I found truth No hellfire. No trinity. No mystery. And it agrees with scientific evidence Go to JW.ORG and find answers that work!

  • “Atheism IS a religion”
    A simple declarive statement does not a fact make. Anybody who “believes” in atheism, has missed the point, and failed Dogma 101! Same goes for “believing” in Darwinism, or the notion that science accurately describes reality, or that the “truth” is knowable.
    Feelings and desires do not prove the existence of their objects (fulfillment).
    Neither reason, nor the lack thereof, create or justify any “belief” (certainty) in an objective reality.
    “Them old dreams are only in your head” Bob Dylan

  • Even more Christianese babel: “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” “I don’t have enough faith to believe in evolution.”

  • What you have is a belief that justifies itself to you and is so real, an experience you can touch with warm emotional feelings. The facts are that everything that is not of this physical world such as fairies, goblins, gods, angels, devils and ghosts, voices you may hear and the feelings you have about everything and everyone are influenced by past experiences and manifest only inside your head within your own brain regardless of how realistic the experience may be.

    The power and ability of your own brain is the most underestimated organ in the body. We only control certain aspects of its capabilities because 95% of your decisions take place in your subconscious mind and experts agree there is much more (some say 85%) that we don’t know about the brain than we currently know and the most complex entity known to humans resides between our ears.

  • Yes, but past studies have shown that christians (more than a third of the world population) are more likely to trust a repentant rapist than they are an atheist with no criminal record. Those with no religion are trusted until they let it be known that they don’t believe in a god. As such, public atheism is career suicide for a politician, regardless of other factors.

  • I don’t have any percentages, so it’s speculative on my part. Elected office holders have higher education levels than an average cross section of America. Atheists also have higher education levels on average. I wouldn’t guess a number, but I would bet we have a lot more Atheists holding political office than we know about.

  • atheism refers to a lack of a belief in god(s) whereas agnosticism refers to a lack of knowledge on the matter. One refers to what you believe or do not believe and the other refers to what you purport to know or not know. They are two separate things! I am both!

  • Jesus would not dare turn up, if he had the powers that is claimed for him, he would realize that the Crucifixion was much easier than what atheists and even some religious folk would give him

  • Truth. I just listened to Will Gervais of University of Kentucky Psychology (who does this research) speak about this very topic last night. Atheists are assumed by nearly every other group (sometimes including other atheists!) to be less trustworthy despite no evidence that they are less trustworthy.

  • I’m an atheist and I don’t think I’m a god. That would be grounds for a serious psych evaluation.

    To your argument about atheism being a religion, by your own definition (being organized, having leaders, having meeting sites, having literature, having donation sites) then political parties would also be religious groups. Or sport organizations such as the NFL. Even Planned Parenthood fits those criteria.

  • I think our perception of “very good” is very different. We do not understand the nature of black matter, that stuff between the stars. Scientists speculate that black matter constitutes 80% of the universe. Thus what we know is a little bit about the remaining 20%. Not so good in my eyes. How can mankind define a God with such limited knowledge, much less believe or not believe? We must keep church and state separate and that’s under threat from that idiot Donald Trump at the moment. I wish this conference focused on this basic liberty which we may lose if he’s elected. We’ll also lose freedom of the press and we’ll trample all over the Geneva convention. Trump advocates torture and killing the families of terrorist “persons of interest,”.not necessarily guilty. The press are kept in a pen at his rallies and beaten if they try to leave. We need to maintain separation of church and state to maintain discussions about belief.

  • That is OK for you. I believe that you do need something, and if you choose to believe in that, it’s OK. However, I don’t think it’s OK for believers (of any religion) to make the laws of the land subject to their particular, non-rational beliefs, whether it’s opening your business on a Sunday, refusing to acknowledge that some people are born gay and it’s not a “sin”, or imposing Sharia.

  • If stamp collectors demanded that people who don’t collect stamps obey their stamp collecting rules, started wars with groups who collected slightly different types of stamps, denied non-stamp collectors rights or discriminated against them, bullied them in school, claimed you had to collect stamps to be a suitable person to run for public office, tried to get stamp collecting taught in schools as science in opposition to real science, demanded that people be killed for printing cartoons that made fun of stamp collectors, claimed that non-stamp collectors lacked moral judgment, made up ridiculous straw man positions they claimed non-stamp collectors took, and then argued against those straw men positions etc etc, – then non-stamp collectors probably would criticize stamp collectors in the way atheists criticize many religious people.

  • If its a gathering of atheists, agnostics, deists and secularists (people who may be religious but believe religion should be kept out the public sphere) its not an ‘atheist gathering’ then is it?

  • What part of atheism alows one to be religious? Do enlighten me. As I recall, atheism is “a lack of belife in deity’s.” And, as I recall, religion requires belife in at least one deity.

  • Did you read my comment? I was pointing out that some people who attend the reason rally are not atheists. You actually can believe in a deity but think religiona are man made and not the word of a deity or you can simply hold to the principal of separation of church and state which means being against the promotion of christianity in schools, the military, in law etc. There are Christian secularists after all.

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