Someone on the Human_ism list I subscribe to posted a link to an article on Huffington Post by Chris Stedman, who is on the staff at The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. He complains about the recent billboard campaign by American Atheists that was called “You Know it’s a Myth..” and “You KNOW it’s a scam..” Over my 15 years in the Humanist movement, I’ve gotten sick and tired of Humanists tossing tissues at believers when they get their feelings hurt.
Here is one of the billboards that American Atheists put up:
Here is a bit of the article:
In hearing her concern, I recalled the recent controversy over atheist billboards targeting the holiday. Dave Silverman, President of the American Atheists, made the press rounds to explain that their “You KNOW It’s A Myth… This Season, Celebrate Reason!” billboard — the most attention-getting of the bunch — was intended to persuade atheists who “go through the motions” of celebrating Christmas to stop doing so. Many religious people decried it as blasphemy; like Susan Jacoby, I just thought it was a self-defeating case of misplaced priorities. We cannot promote Humanist values when we expend our energy lobbing simplistic critiques at the religious, or demand that people stop participating in practices they enjoy simply because they’re associated with religion.
The week following Christmas has passed and we find ourselves in a new year. With a new year comes new work. One of the projects I am most excited about is “Challenge the Gap,” a new initiative of the Foundation Beyond Belief, an atheist and Humanist charitable foundation, which aims to find common ground between the religious and the secular. It is, to my knowledge, the first time that an explicitly atheist and Humanist foundation is funding interfaith cooperation.
It is a new Humanism for a new year: one that looks forward in hope, not back in anger. I believe that ethics and engagement are central to what it means to live in the world as a Humanist, and that Humanist community and identity require an affirmative foundation, not one structured in contrast to ideologies we disagree with.
Secular Humanism should not be defined as a rejection of religion; otherwise, we risk living our lives looking for ideas — and people — to rebuff. Rather, Humanism ought to be seen first and foremost as a desire to be the best people we can be, to commune with other humans and live ethically and humbly together. It should not be vindictive or oppositional. Instead, it should seek to build bridges whenever possible, with whomever possible. Let’s not let our differences destroy the essential social bonds that will facilitate cooperation and understanding.
First of all the headline, which initially set me off, was a bit misleading and is one reason Huffington Post is moving further down my list of credible news sites. (The other negative is HuffPost defending woo: Huffington Post supports too much woo). And I disliked the bulk of Stedman’s essay.
I agree we need to find areas we can work together with believers to make this world a better place.
What I reject is Humanists getting the “vapors” when it seems we are being mean to believers by challenging their beliefs as was done with the recent American Atheist billboard campaign.
Anytime blunt words are used to make a point all the wilting Humanist violets come out of the woodwork and defend the believers. They spend their time they say they have little of, defending beliefs that have been around for 2000 plus years.
We non-believers need to keep quiet and not upset the believers in case their feelings get hurt.
Why should we be beholden on believers to LET us be who we are? Why do we need to beg for their acceptance?
If there is a “gap” it isn’t our problem. The believers are the ones who are having trouble with dissenters.
Other Humanists and freethinkers who get the vapors from any strong challenges to believers are enabling the continuation of our second class status in society.
Did women, African-Americans, or gays WAIT for the powers that be to bestow acceptance on them?
If you want to change the status quo you need to challenge it.
And who decides if the billboards were an insult or as Stedman writes “…a self-defeating case of misplaced priorities.” The billboards weren’t meant for believers. Our job is not to stroke their ego.
In fact, the Catholic League, so worried about a single billboard causing the entire Catholic church to collapse got an opposing billboard erected across from the Atheist billboard in New York within a few days. Where was Stedman’s complaints about that?? Their sign hurt MY feelings.
Besides according to American Atheists, the billboards were very successful as their President David Silverman writes:
Press coverage of a billboard substantially increases the value proposition and must be considered when weighing its success. I have reports or mentions on O’Reilly, Colbert, Olbermann, and every major TV news outlet in Alabama as well as many in other states, all from this SCAMS billboard. If we include the first “You KNOW it’s a Myth” billboard, we can add every major news network several times over, including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Colbert (again), Saturday Night Live, and national news in 6 other countries. This amounts to over $10M in total coverage, much of which hits our direct market, NOT including web logs and discussion boards ($millions more), all from two billboards!
All of this raises awareness, and benefits the whole movement. We won’t get that kind of play with the ‘nicey-nicey’ billboards. We will get it by pushing the envelope of political correctness by challenging the assertion that religion deserves respect, and that religious practice is anything but an exercise in self-delusion.
Let’s not get out of hand when we talk about our message. Massimo makes it sound like our motto is ‘American Atheists: F@ck your God’. So please take a moment to reflect. Are we really being THAT offensive? No. We said religion is a scam, and the parishioners are its victims. That’s the message that got out. No profanity. No hate. No insults. Not negative, not raunchy, not even angry. I’m sorry; I cannot believe that our message drove anyone away that wasn’t already leaving.
I agree that Humanism requires an affirmative foundation. Just not based on warmed over religious clap trap. We can do all the things that churches do, short of worship, and not need to call it a church or use other god talk.
Yes people do like to gather together for fellowship but there is no need to do it on a Sunday, call it a service, sing hymns, etc… The sky is literally wide open to new ideas.
And we can affirm our positive philosophy without having to wait for believers to allow us to be who we are.
Humanists have Manifesto III, adopted in 2003, that offers affirmation as we are and not needing to be defined by believers.
I think we waste valuable time and do the complete opposite when Humanists and other freethinkers get the vapors over strong challenges to the status quo. That and creating more national freethought groups every other day.
Believers don’t need more tissues especially from us. Religion has been around for more than 2000 years and will, more than likely, be around for a while longer.