|Marching Band in Hart Plaza|
|During the parade|
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.
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.