The speech of Bobbie Kirkhart: president, Atheist Alliance International
First, I would like to thank all the people who made this day possible: Certainly, Ellen and all the folks from American Atheists who worked so hard, as well as the local leaders who organized buses and car pools. But one group, more than any other, motivated many of us to come thousands of miles to meet on this chilly November in Washington, D.C. Let us please thank President Bush and the United States Congress!
The Atheist Alliance International is comprised of grass roots, democratic freethought organizations from throughout the world. We were involved in the struggle to save a Nigerian mother from death by stoning for the “crime” of having a baby out of wedlock. Though we are proud of our success, we concede that the boycott threat of the Miss World contestants perhaps had more influence than I did. We are involved in the popular movement to secularize the Icelandic government. And in this country, we are dedicated to repairing the cracks in Thomas Jefferson’s Wall of Separation between church and state. Our forefathers invented secular government, and the world looks to us for leadership. Wherever I go, whatever a nation’s own issues with religion in government, people come to me with the latest news item and ask, “How could this happen in America.”
We are here today, however, not just to protest the disrespect our government, and too often, our friends and neighbors show us, but also to celebrate the joy of living free from the gods, to show our fellow Americans that the limited actual power of individual effort is much greater than the unlimited imaginary power of prayer, that the relative morality of honest evaluation stands high above the absolute morality of ancient edict, that the worldly pride and pleasure of freethought far exceed the tutored bliss of groupthink.
We will have our stall in Thomas Jefferson’s marketplace of ideas, not because we will defeat those who disparage us, but because we include them. Our secular world belongs to all of humanity. In this world, we make contracts, discover cures for disease and settle disputes peacefully. These would not be possible without a secular arena, and they would not be necessary if the gods truly ruled.
While others believe truth is a personal matter, verified by faith and emotion, we believe truth, though sometimes elusive, is a universal standard, honestly sought by all people of good will. In Jefferson’s words “…(W)e are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error, so long as reason is left to combat it.”
Today we have begun a march toward a future where responsibility replaces guilt, and where actions do indeed speak louder than words. And when we reach that secular future, America can claim the righteousness it has always pursued, because morality begins with the truth.
Morality begins with the truth.
Bobbie Kirkhart can be reached at: BKirkhart@aol.com
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