While some fundamentalist Christians prepare for the Rapture, which will bring an end to human civilization and transport believers to heaven, some skeptics among the godless are making plans to travel to a less shiny City on a Hill so they can lobby Congress.
Seizing upon forecasts by some Christian groups that the Rapture is set for Saturday, a coalition of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and others plan to gather (but not be gathered up) in Washington to lobby against what they call a theocratic agenda.
Pretty much convinced that the end is certainly not nigh—at least not this weekend—the more than 100 nontheistic activists will start arriving in Washington on Thursday for what they’ve dubbed the first ever three-day strategic summit of the Secular Coalition for America at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
“More and more Americans reject the theocratic political agenda that opposes gay marriage, blocks stem-cell research, and injects religious bias in our armed services. Secular Americans can no longer watch from the sidelines,” said the SCA’s executive director, Sean Faircloth.
“We must speak up, increase our political muscle, and claim an equal seat at the table of American politics,” says Faircloth, whose background includes serving for a decade in the Maine Legislature, his last term as the Democratic majority whip.
So, while some Christian fundamentalists await the Rapture, attendees at the Secular Coalition summit plan to lobby lawmakers and participate in panel discussions.
The ultimate aim, they say, is to try and strengthen America’s commitment to secular government—which they view as the true intention of the nation’s Founding Fathers—and to ease the ability of non-religious Americans to be elected to public office.
Among the speakers listed by the group as invited to address the gathering are Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism; Sally Quinn, moderator of The Washington Post’s blog On Faith; comedian, actor, and filmmaker Paul Provenza; writer and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History; David Silverman, president of American Atheists; and David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association.
The whole event, of course, flies in the face of forecasts by some—most notably by a California-based Christian author and radio broadcaster, Harold Camping—that Saturday (May 21) is the day that Jesus will return and gather up true Christians to heaven. The same forecasts call for the destruction of Earth five months later, on October 21.
But for the nonbelievers gathering this week in Washington, the confidence that the end of time is not hours way exudes.
They are describing this weekend’s summit as not only their first-ever such event. But there are plans for their summit to become a biennial event in Washington, they say.
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