Monday, June 10, 2013

Motor City Pride Festival Day Two

Marching Band in Hart Plaza
I was able to get down to Fort Street and Griswald early enough to join the Motor City Pride Parade. In general it was another fantastic and unique experience for this atheist. The parade itself was an awesome experience and was my first time ever in a parade of any sort. My favorite part of the parade was the greatest marching band I ever saw and heard called either Motor City Party Band or Party Party Party, I don't know which. Afterwards the festival was much like the other day, with a variety of people stopping by the atheist booth. I noticed a small uptick in the number of people who were friendly and interested though.

During the parade
From time to time I left the booth and roamed the festival with and without company. I had a very positive experience and just by watching the crowd I was able to enjoy a high that lasted for the duration of the festival. There's just something about a festival such as this, given the history of the abuse and hate directed at the LGBT community, that is so infectiously good that it would almost take a sociopath to not feel. I say almost because there is only one other way. And that is the irrational and senseless conflation of real-world ethics of right and wrong with arbitrary and voluntary religious or cultural "morality".

I know this all too well from my experiences as a youth in the Catholic church. As I told someone there, at one point in my life I was an anti-LGBT protester. That was actually the catalyst for my initial deconversion in my teen years from Christianity to having no religion, the outright misogyny against women and anti-LGBT sentiment. Wrongdoing is a great stepping stone to being skeptical of religion.

Somehow I felt like there was a connection between the worst version of myself as a religious teen and this day over fifteen years later where I campaigned for out and proud atheism among those I once was bigoted against. We say that atheists don't have spiritual experiences and I don't believe in spirits, but this is one of those life events that has a profound effect and great personal meaning for me. I would bet the estranged atheist son of the anti-LGBT Westboro Baptist crowd, Nate Phelps knows all too well how I feel.

I really connected to the LGBT people that were there at the festival. I've always seen a lot of parallels between the atheist movement and the LGBT movement and being at the festival really drove home the point. While we are not nearly as mature or mobilized or unified (yet), we have similar experiences. By just being at this festival I found more courage and fortitude to continue in my own secular pursuits.

Whenever I am feeling without enough courage I can think of the young LGBT activists I met at this festival. They were great in number and even greater in their passion and commitment to their cause. Those that were friendly to us and non-believers themselves were ready at a moment's notice to pick up signs and march with us. I've written about having the courage of your convictions before. Today these LGBT activists displayed more courage and passion than I see in many atheists that are triple their age. And they make me think more than many I have met in our atheist community.

I was thinking about the young atheists that experience harsh discrimination, bullying and abuse across the country. And I see them asking for adult atheists to stand up for them, anyone at all because they are trying to do it by themselves. And I can't help but feel that every single atheist out there owes it to them to create the kind of inspiring atheist role models that they so desire. Or recognize that they are already role models for us older atheists, and live up to the standard they set. I am proud of our young atheist activists like Jessica Ahlquist, Damon Fowler, Gage Pulliam, Zack Kopplin and so many more that I don't know or that don't get brought into a spotlight.

I was thinking about all the harm and injustice that theocratic legislation does across the country. Foolish legislation is never more obvious when you're around a group of people who are missing various civil and human rights due to a superstitious belief system infringing on our secular nation's laws.

I was thinking about the million and one reasons that theists give us almost daily to be angry. As I watched the parade and saw all the religious people with their signs stating how sorry they were about the past treatment of the LGBT, I had a glimpse of what our secular future might be like if we really want it to be.

And so my own commitment to the movement grew as a result of being at this festival and meeting these LGBT people. Their constant pride and courage and their ability to conquer their own fear and insecurities and rise above like they do should be an inspiration to every atheist that ever feels like they can't do it or that they aren't making a difference.

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