What an atheist looks like

World Magazine The display tent at the Reason Rally 2012 on March 24 smelled of wet rain gear and sweaters soggy from the near-constant drizzle. Atheists, freethinkers, and secularists of all stripes were checking out booths from two dozen or so atheist groups.

The crowd inched around the perimeter of the tent, but traffic stalled where people clustered for photos. Like carnival-goers with a muscleman cutout, they took turns standing behind an empty picture frame with, "This is what an atheist looks like" printed below.

That's what I had come to find out. Organizers of the rally, held on the Mall near the Washington Monument, clearly hoped to use "history's largest" gathering of atheists and like-minded brethren to combat their public image as cheerless, caustic scolds.

Outside the tent, most of the 10,000 or so attendees—a mix of college students, adults, and a scattering of families with children, some with bright umbrellas and plastic ponchos—applauded speakers. The day-long schedule included activists, bloggers, entertainers, and a couple of congressmen, all headlined by world-famous Oxford professor Richard Dawkins.

Giant video screens flanked the stage. Five flags flapping overhead read, "Equality," "Charity," "Compassion," "Diversity," and "Reason." Rally organizers asked attendees not to curse at the "Turn or burn" counter-demonstrators, who obligingly showed up bearing signs warning of Hell.

Read More: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/19389