You don’t need God—to hope, to care, to love, to live.
March 1, 2011
We at CFI hope that you will be seeing and hearing these words a lot. It is the core message of an advertising campaign we are launching today .
Another bus/billboard campaign by a secular organization? Is there really a need for it?
CFI thinks so. Although campaigns by other secular groups have received some well-deserved attention, advertising by secular groups is still swamped by the promotional efforts of religious organizations.
Moreover, our message has very little overlap with previous secular campaigns. Those campaigns emphasized that nonbelievers are morally good people and questioned the truth of religious claims. Our campaign does not focus on morality per se or evidence for God.
Our message is about the lives of the nonreligious, or, put another way, we’re addressing God’s relevance, not God’s existence.
CFI maintains we can have fulfilling lives without religion. The proof is right in front of us—in the lives of millions of people who have rich, rewarding lives—lives with hope, care, and love—without resort to religion.
We’re not trying to convert anyone by this campaign, if conversion implies persuading people there is no God. We are trying to prompt people to consider and converse about some of the myths surrounding the nonreligious, in particular the myth that life without God means a joyless, meaningless, selfish, self-centered life. That’s false, and we hope (there’s that word again) that a not insignificant number of people will come to realize how ridiculous such a view is.
That such a myth is all too common is probably not something that I need to remind my fellow nonbelievers about. We see evidence of this attitude everywhere, not just in Sunday morning televangelist diatribes. But let me cite one example that brings home the persistence and pervasiveness of this myth.
Last year, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a highly respected institution, hosted a debate between Christopher Hitchens and his brother, Peter, on the topic “Can Civilization Survive without God?” Undoubtedly, part of the motivation for staging this event was the interest in seeing siblings, both of them are skilled polemicists, go at each other. But, presumably, this was not the sole motivation. Rather, those who held this event must have thought this is a serious question—do we need God to remain civilized? Or put less delicately, can you expect atheists to do anything other than gratify their own immediate selfish desires, with the result that a godless world will begin to resemble some of the more horrifying scenes from The Road ?
I do not fault the Pew Forum for holding this debate. To the contrary, I would rather have such questions brought into the open and discussed. But it is discouraging to see such a topic being taken seriously. Would the Pew Forum hold a debate on whether civilization can survive without acceptance of Jesus as our savior?
As Daniel Dennett argued in his excellent book, Breaking the Spell , a number of people don’t accept God at an intellectual level, but they refuse to give up or criticize religion because they “believe in belief.” That is, they maintain that religious belief is necessary to give people something to live for and to help ensure a just and stable society. This is a poor excuse for clinging to religion; it is based on prejudice, not evidence. Belief in God is no more necessary for a good life and a just society than belief in the divine right of kings was necessary to secure acceptance of government authority or a peaceful transition between heads of state.
People can live without God. Millions of us do so already. We need to discard once and for all the myth that one needs God in one’s life to be a caring, loving person.
#51 Bob Ritter (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 11:51am
As an atheist, I’m OK with the ad. But I disagree with statement that the ad is not confrontational. It is negative because it tells god believes that they don’t need their god (which would be the ultimate reject of their theocratic belief). On the other hand, nonbelievers already know that, god being a myth, god is not needed. Having recently been a staff member of a humanist organization, there is no doubt in my mind that ads like CFI’s are as much a slap in the face to the religious community as they are encouragement for the undecideds.
#52 Barbara B (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 12:05pm
So what are you saying? That the theists believe that they cannot be good people without a god? That means that if they are good people, it is only because they fear their god. If that is so, they really are pathetic. Also, if that is so, there is no way to convince them that atheists are good people.
#53 Tim (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 1:47pm
Barbara Barbara Barbara…
Why do you keep referencing the most extreme examples where religion has taken advantage of its power and using it to quantify religion as a whole? That would be like me saying I hate all atheists because you’re all like Stalin. There is NO doubt that religion has its fair share of idiots who do absurd things in the name of their religion, but I think you might be ignoring that most of these motives are related more to the downfalls of human nature than they are related to religion. Christianity, for example, is meant to promote mankind with concepts like, “do onto others as others do onto you.” Obviously that’s a very fundamental and simplified example, but the point is that those who are religious who look down on you for not having any religious foundation are, in fact, idiots, and I refuse to be associated with their ignorance when standing up for my religion. I’m genuinely saddened that the experiences you’ve had in life have resorted to you being so turned off to religion that you would pigeonhole it to violence and a deprival of your human rights. I have no problems stating that religion is not perfect. No way. However…the basic foundation, at least the one I believe in, is primarily to make this world a better place. Now, I completely agree with the idea that atheists are good people, too, but without believing in a God I think people tend to fall victim to their own desires and convenience much easier. For example, it’s the uncounted hours of passages I’ve read that have reminded me in a moment of selfishness to think outside my own wants and needs. I’m not trying to say atheists are incapable of having a consistent source of positive influence in your life, but I can say that without believing in some form of a higher power, it is much more difficult to find in today’s world.
#54 Barbara B (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 2:48pm
Tim wrote: “Why do you keep referencing the most extreme examples where religion has taken advantage of its power and using it to quantify religion as a whole?”
I only took one example, the issue of abortion. This because it is most applicable to me and to where I used to live. I could have taken many other examples, such as forcing women to wear burqas, female genital mutilation, or animal sacrifice. Almost every religion has something evil about it.
Tim wrote: “That would be like me saying I hate all atheists because you’re all like Stalin.”
What does atheism have to do with Stalinism? Please explain.
Tim wrote: “There is NO doubt that religion has its fair share of idiots who do absurd things in the name of their religion, but I think you might be ignoring that most of these motives are related more to the downfalls of human nature than they are related to religion.”
No, I know who is responsible for the abortion ban in Poland. It is the Catholic Church and no one else. All Catholics who support the Catholic Church are to blame.
Tim wrote: “Christianity, for example, is meant to promote mankind with concepts like, “do onto others as others do onto you.” Obviously that’s a very fundamental and simplified example, but the point is that those who are religious who look down on you for not having any religious foundation are, in fact, idiots, and I refuse to be associated with their ignorance when standing up for my religion.”
I really don’t care how religious people look at me. All I want them to do is respect my civil rights.
Tim wrote: “I’m genuinely saddened that the experiences you’ve had in life have resorted to you being so turned off to religion that you would pigeonhole it to violence and a deprival of your human rights.”
I am talking facts not experiences of my life.
Tim wrote: “I have no problems stating that religion is not perfect. No way. However…the basic foundation, at least the one I believe in, is primarily to make this world a better place.”
Please tell me how religion has made this world a better place. Maybe you would like to go back to the Dark Ages when religion ruled?
Tim wrote: “Now, I completely agree with the idea that atheists are good people, too, but without believing in a God I think people tend to fall victim to their own desires and convenience much easier. For example, it’s the uncounted hours of passages I’ve read that have reminded me in a moment of selfishness to think outside my own wants and needs.”
I don’t need to read any passages to feel compassion. It comes naturally to me. As for religious people, many of them have very little compassion judging by what their Churches and doing.
Tim wrote: “I’m not trying to say atheists are incapable of having a consistent source of positive influence in your life, but I can say that without believing in some form of a higher power, it is much more difficult to find in today’s world.”
I have no difficulty at all, thank you. In fact, it was when I was a believer that I had difficulties.
#55 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 2:54pm
I agree that the billboards may slap the face of christians. So What? It is impossible not to offend a number of christians, no matter how courteous one presents the a message of secular humanism.
The ad is positive and public acknowledgment that many people prefer a life without religion is useful.
How is it that a fellow secular humanist cares so much for the feelings of christians. You might want to consider that christians use ads all the time to defame, vilify, and castigate any number of groups who disagree with them. Why do they get a free ride?
Given what christians advertise about abortion, gay rights, or atheists, it is clear that we need a counter-message. This ad campaign is just that.
#56 Tim (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 3:30pm
wow. I was going for more of a compassionate approach to the discussion and you pulled out the claws. I guess that’s what I get for jumping on this site.
#57 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 4:26pm
I don’t understand why you would write that Barbara pulled out her claws. You made claims and she replied. No name calling, no viciousness.
I am curious too as why you think that criticisms of religion reach to the extremes. Right now a christian Uganda is considering a kill the gays bill. It was initiated by American christian evangelicals.
Given the great support of this bill in a very christian Uganda, how is drawing attention to that extreme bill mean that christian extremism is fringe.
I wonder too, given the huge amount of money spent on the anti-abortion message by American christians, how is drawing attention to this extremism mean that it is fringe.
As a gay man, I can tell you how christians behave. And more often than not, they use their religion to keep me from equal treatment under the law. How does bringing attention to this christian extremism make it fringe.
Christians do so awful things; they advocate extreme religious solutions. They justify it with their beliefs. Many of christian extreme policies are not fringe. Just consider how christians are working night and day to bring creationism into the classroom.
Bringing up facts does not suggest that anyone is using claws.
#58 "A Dis-interested Observer " (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 6:23pm
Dear Jim, Religion is Bullshit and Barbara B:
Why don’t you two atheist, evangelical, absolutist fanatics start your own religion is evil church. You both sure have enough anger and hatred towards religion to make a go of it. In fact, so much so, that almost everything you say on here is distorted in some way. Any moderate believer visiting this blog site for the first time couldn’t help but be taken aback by the level of bitterness and anger coming from you both. Seems they would conclude this to be representative of most atheists—Would they be right? May I suggest a big fluffy pillow for you both to pound on for a few hours? It might even prove more cathartic than hanging out on these atheist blogs. Finally, Jim, you sure are one to talk about a troll. Full disclosure: I’m an atheist, but I’m sure glad I don’t have within me the same level of anger that you guys do. And this is coming from someone whose Grandfather won’t speak to anymore because I don’t believe in God.
#59 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 8:47pm
I gave a rational rational reasons for saying that christian extremism is not fringe. For that I get an angry rant from you.
Seems to me that you’re the angry one. You might want to consider that.
#60 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 8:57pm
Oh, and Dis, I began this thread very positively by congratulating the CFI folk for a positive campaign.
The other comments were in response to christian attacks. The christian comments were rude, patronizing, and the christians wouldn’t address their own points.
Since this was the case and my comments and questions, although direct, were appropriate, I can only conclude that you’re a mole.
#61 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 9:03pm
For advocating honesty and introspection you sure made a hostile comment about the campaign.
As I already wrote, since christians campaign very hard to get their agenda into law a counter campaign needs to be done.
If you do not want to see creationism taught is school, no abortions even if the woman is to die or was impregnated through rape, or to see homosexuality re-criminalized, I suggest you consider the merit of this campaign and other’s of the same kind.
As I wrote before, I don’t understand why purported secular humanists are giving christians a free ride.
#62 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 9:19pm
“Your billboard campaign is an open attack on God”
Before one can consider that statement seriously, you must first prove your god exists.
Further, your point of view would be respectable if it weren’t for the fact that christians campaign all the time: to oppose gay marriage, to oppose abortion, to get creationism into science classes.
Why should non christians be have christian beliefs legally forced on us? This is why we need secular humanist campaigns: to help keep this government secular.
I find christian “morality” hypocritical, obnoxious, and dangerous. Why should non christians sit by and passively let theocrats take over the country?
#63 Sandra H Howerton (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 9:32pm
I still do not see why this is such a controversial statement. Maybe it could be more artfully worded, but it is a simple statement of fact that attacks no one, regardless of belief or lack thereof. Millions of people do hope, care, live, and love without any belief in God. That is the truth. It does NOT say or even imply that believers cannot also hope, care, live, and love.
It seems to me that whose who find it so offensive must be offended by the truth.
#64 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 9:39pm
I couldn’t agree more.
And, I don’t really see why it would needed to be reworded.
It is a very civil message.
#65 indianawmn7798 on Friday March 04, 2011 at 10:56pm
This comment may not be as intelligently written as the others that I have read (and throughly enjoyed) but I will do my best.
I have considered myself a lifelong Agnostic, living around those who have accepted Christianity and Catholicism as their “belief system”. Granted I was exposed to many different forms of religion (Baptist, Judeism, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, etc, etc….) and to be honest with you I could find reasoning behind why people chose a belief system when I did not….
They were insecure.
They needed something, or someone, to make them feel safe; needed; wanted; appreciated. Having some sort of “idol” that they could not feel, touch, or talk to personally bothered me alot. I often found myself wondering as a young girl what was the sense in this behavior.
There was no sense.
I do respect other’s beliefs, and do not punish them for believing in something that may or may not exist. Certainly I go on the offensive when they try to “push their religion on me” by simply telling them I am not interested. I try to be as tactful as possible. I have always loved the question “do you go to church….” and when I answer “no” I get that puzzled “why not” look on their faces. Priceless.
I have a friend who is a Pagan, who had not too long ago gotten married in a Pagan ceremony, which I found a strange beauty in. They loved one another not for the “belief system” but for each other. I honestly think that those within that belief system should theoretically step outside the box (the box being religion) and become a little more open minded.
I have always felt that any particular religion felt wrong in some way. I have a friend who is a devout Nazerene who is married to a Nazerene minister. I got into a very heated discussion about gays with him and he tried to press his religion into it. I simply answered “so your ‘idol’ is saying that loving another person is wrong?” He had nothing to say. Apparently in his eyes only men and women should love one another and a woman is meant to serve her man. I say that is VERY outdated and that my friend should put her big girl panties on and, like I said earlier, step outside the box.
Either way, I am not swayed by people’s idiotic ways of thinking. I might be strange by saying I want to keep “In God we trust” on money and on our state license plates. Oddly enough, the United States was founded under the thumb of religion. That we cannot escape. But we can choose who and what we believe in. And if most of us choose to believe in no-one and nothing at all then that is our decision.
#66 Val Esman (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 11:56pm
I think a simple statement that you can live without God is not effective unless people understand the alternatives. Some people, yes millions maybe, but others not. Because it they could, they wouldn’t. Part of me says this is a class thing. Those most suffering seek a reason for great unjustice and unfairness. I’m thinking specifically of the African American church. But just not black Americans. Many poor white Americans in the South and throughout the mid-west as well. In hard times, more than ever, it seems the church is the center around which many communities coalesce. They have historically for centures. So the question arises what are you going to replace this community center with? It’s not just an abstract question. What are real alternatives you are offering for struggling Americans who feel without God that they cannot make it through the day? And I’m not talking about the middle class well-heeled Americans who don’t need either God or booze.
#67 Val Esman (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 12:01am
Also, on what basis does the secular faith that you are offering people in a billboard ad that a better tomorrow will and can exist for humans?
I’m playing devil’s advocate here. I believe religion leads to fatalism. But how can a simple slogan explain things in a world and country of increasing economic, social and political inequities that yes, secular hope can help get you through? How does it answer the daily human crises and national and global crises?
#68 Barbara B (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 6:57am
@ Val Esman
We can replace religious community centers with community centers that really help people in need instead of brainwashing them with nonsense that is not going to help them. I personally am in favor of a welfare state, the kind of system that Sweden, Denmark and other European countries have. Their standard of living is highest in the world and the percentage of atheists is also the highest.
Very well said!
#69 Sal (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 7:58am
Jim said, “For advocating honesty and introspection you sure made a hostile comment about the campaign.”
I said nothing about the campaign itself. My comments were about the stated purpose of the campaign.
#70 Val Esman (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 10:06am
Yes, I like the Swedish model too even though they do have a high suicide rate. LOL!
#71 Sal (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 10:39am
Jim, further clarification, I have nothing against the campaign, nor do I endorse it. It is what people do in a free society.
#72 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 12:57pm
“Also, on what basis does the secular faith that you are offering people in a billboard ad that a better tomorrow will and can exist for humans?”
I don’t want you to think that I’m splitting hairs, but an important distinction needs to be made. Secular Humanism is not based on faith. Faith is the belief in something without evidence. That is contrary to the central point of SH; SH is predicated on the ability to understand matter and human behavior rationally.
As to the points about class, yes, class is a strong dimension to religion. But it is just not the poor, but the rich and powerful who are religious. The planter class in the South was extremely christian and used christian religion to justify their wealth and their slave ownership. Though not as prevalent today, some to the wealthiest people justify their wealth through christian doctrine.
As to the question about the poor, I agree. The poor suffer more than most and they turn to a myth for comfort. I would suggest to you that in a secular democracy where votes do matter that encouraging the poor to rationally understand that their poverty, in large part, is due to a tax system that favors the rich would be much more useful than going to a church and talking to something that isn’t there. I would suggest to you that campaigns designed to get people out of the temple and to think for themselves will do much more good.
If anything is clear right now, corporate financed campaigns through the republican party have done an amazing jobs at creating a corporate feudal christianity. A counter campaign aimed at the poor is necessary.
I completely agree with you about Denmark and Sweden. Do you think it is a coincidence that the most socially progressive countries are also the least religious.
My reading of western history makes one thing very clear: the historical purpose of christianity has been to keep peasants dumb and poor and to elevate the rich and powerful.
#73 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 1:16pm
Thanks. You too.
#74 Bob Ritter (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 4:22pm
When I raised the issue of the negativism of the ad in Comment #51, I was specifically referring to the “You don’t need God” part of the ad. I really like the remainder of the ad. My point is this: CFI, AHA, FFRF, AA and Coalition of Reason have all put up billboards and/or bus ads that rely on knocking down believers to put themselves in a positive light—rather than standing on their own two feet. And its understandable from an advertising perspective because atheism, humanism and freethinking are difficult to sell because hope, love and caring by themselves are universal. No religion or nonreligion has a monopoly on them. Thus, our movement is having difficulty branding ourselves and creating added value for our members. The good news is that CFI does offer substantive programs and some groups have meetings and meetups. Let us keep moving forward.
#75 Bob Ritter on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 7:03pm
You stated: “My reading of western history makes one thing very clear: the historical purpose of christianity has been to keep peasants dumb and poor and to elevate the rich and powerful.” Oh so true. The poor be blessed by keeping the $$$ rolling into the Church. Legalized pickpocketing.
You stated: “I might be strange by saying I want to keep “In God we trust” on money and on our state license plates. Oddly enough, the United States was founded under the thumb of religion. That we cannot escape.” NOT SO.
I think that you are confused with early colonial settlements. As Europeans flooded America, it became very diverse. By the time the Constitution was written in 1787, the U.S. was well on the way to disestablishment (completed by the 1830s).
The Constitution created a secular form of government with no reliance on divine inspiration or direction. Instead, the power of government was derived by the consent of the governed for the common good—and not for ANY religious purpose.
#76 Mohini Rai (Guest) on Monday March 07, 2011 at 4:58am
Personally even i donnot believe in a particular religion, but God, I do.Not in idol worship though.
But just that God is just a name given to ‘the good in every living creature’. And definitely not the creator or destroyer or stuffs like that.
#77 Barbara B (Guest) on Monday March 07, 2011 at 10:49am
@ Mohini Rai
You are making up your own definitions. I could also say, “God is TV”, or “God is pleasure”, or other such nonsense. And that is all that it would be, nonsense.
And what is an atheist supposed to reply to you? “Yes, I believe there is goodness in living creatures, therefore I there is God. Thanks for convincing me.”
#78 Ronald A. Lindsay on Monday March 07, 2011 at 1:24pm
I thank everyone for their comments, detractors and supporters alike. The only way we can progress is by talking to each other.
In that regard, the message in our campaign is designed, in part, to get people thinking and conversing. We believe, as stated in the press release, the livingwithoutreligion.org web site and my own blog post, that there exist some common myths about the nonreligious and these myths feed the prejudice they many feel toward them. The press coverage that we have received since the campaign launched confirms the existence of this prejudice. Even “moderate” clergy have grudgingly conceded only that nonbelievers can experience love and caring “to a certain extent.” This is like saying women can do a man’s job “to a certain extent.” Thanks, but we don’t need the condescension.
As indicated, there is a definite need for a campaign such as this. Is it going to convince everyone? No, but we are hopeful that there are enough open-minded theists that the campaign may get some of them to reflect upon and consider their views.
Sal suggested that we are being disingenuous in claiming that we are not proselytizing. He is incorrect. Neither the slogan itself nor the ancillary campaign materials present an argument concerning the existence of gods. We chose “living without religion” instead of “live without religion” deliberately and intentionally. We are being descriptive, not prescriptive. Granted, the campaign web site does indicate that some who have already given up belief in a god at an intellectual level may be persuaded to cut all ties to religion if they can lose their concern that the nonreligious lifestyle is less warm, welcome, and fulfilling than the religious lifestyle. I would not characterize this as a conversion effort however; it’s more like getting people to accept the implications of conclusions they have already arrived at on their own.
If you look at CFI’s mission statement, you will have a better understanding of what we’re trying to achieve in the campaign. Yes, we are an organization of nontheists, and yes, we think religious beliefs are false. But what principally concerns us are two things: (1) the prejudice against and unfair treatment of nonbelievers; and (2) the attempts by the religious to impose their dogmas on the rest of us. Some of the righteous indignation that Barbara expressed in her comments results, I think, from the dismal history of religious dogma being used to justify very harmful policies and practices, including, but not limited to, slavery and the oppression of women. The strongest objections today to equal rights for gays and lesbians come from religious forces. In saying this, I recognize that not all religious people think alike, but, of course, that’s yet another reason we cannot base public policy on religion. Whose religious beliefs are we going to follow?
If religion were truly a private matter, that is, if the religious did not try to use the State to force their beliefs on others and did not try to mold public policy to reflect their religious dogma, many atheists would be largely indifferent to religion. When the occasion is appropriate, we will be forthright about our beliefs concerning the nonexistence of supernatural beings, but most of us are not especially interested in being missionaries.
Speaking of being forthright, a few people complained that our slogan is offensive. It’s difficult for me to understand how a simple statement of the truth, which in no way denigrates believers, can be offensive, except perhaps to those who think that anything that casts the slightest doubt upon their beliefs is offensive. In any event, we cannot be silent solely because of the concern that some individuals might be offended by what we say. In that case, we could never say anything about religion.
@Val We have a number of local affiliates, and these communities provide various types of services and support. We would love to do more. It’s a question of what resources we have available.
#79 Val Esman (Guest) on Monday March 07, 2011 at 8:20pm
Thanks for explaining purpose of billboard campaign. So as I understand it you are trying to say it’s okay to be a nonbeliever and it’s time for nonbelievers to come out of the closet to gain social and political acceptance as equals with believers. Well, that sounds reasonable enough to me. I had an operation at a Catholic hospital recently and the nurse inquired of me “what is a secular humanist” when she asked me about my faith. Apparently she had never heard the term used. So maybe it does need to be broadcast more widely.
#80 Barbara B (Guest) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 at 10:16am
Ronald A. Lindsay wrote, “Some of the righteous indignation that Barbara expressed in her comments results, I think, from the dismal history of religious dogma being used to justify very harmful policies and practices, including, but not limited to, slavery and the oppression of women. The strongest objections today to equal rights for gays and lesbians come from religious forces. In saying this, I recognize that not all religious people think alike, but, of course, that’s yet another reason we cannot base public policy on religion.”
I know that not all religious people think alike, and some even disagree with their Church’s teachings, but I blame all religious people for the harmful policies and practices that were enacted as a result of their Church’s political power. If you don’t agree with anti-Semitism, why are you a member of the Nazi party? If you don’t believe that women should be denied the right to control their own bodies or that gays should have equal rights, why are you a member of the Catholic Church? Why are you giving your support and your money to empower the institution that acts against your moral principles?