CFI’s latest message
Posted: 01 March 2011 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
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“You don’t need God - to love,” etc. That’s the latest CFI campaign.

This is yet another PR mistake from the current leadership at CFI. In this instance, the mistake is at least twofold.

1. The campaign has a mixed attitude, which hardly ever succeeds. “You know it’s a myth” was an in-their-faces challenge to the Christian narrative. That can work, and in my view it did. It didn’t have a mixed attitude, it had one attitude.

2. We can do anti-theism occasionally. Ron and the current leadership do it consistently. It won’t work. In fact, it will set us back.

I implore the people in charge of CFI, if you’re not going to change the leadership, then at least hire some PR people instead of continuing to put out counter-productive public relations. This sort of thing might appeal to the troops but is very unlikely to encourage anyone else to come here. As far as our numbers, I do not believe the evidence supports an argument that the recent strategy has succeeded. I would welcome fact-based correction if it is available.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 01 March 2011 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree strongly.  Negative messages e.g., “You don’t need” tend to subconsciously insert a positive in the reader’s mind according to recent psychological studies.  So it sinks in as “You do need god”.  Far better to completely ignore theism and push morals as the basis for the thoughtful person’s behavior, and critical thinking to help people be more successful and better informed.

Occam

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Posted: 01 March 2011 07:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m a bit confused here, Paul. You say you like the American Atheists’ in-your-face ad campaigns (which most atheists I talked to didn’t like), and you criticize the CFI ad campaign for being too soft, but then you lament that Ron Lindsay and CFI are consistently engaging in anti-theism?

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Posted: 02 March 2011 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Michael De Dora - 01 March 2011 07:05 PM

I’m a bit confused here, Paul. You say you like the American Atheists’ in-your-face ad campaigns (which most atheists I talked to didn’t like), and you criticize the CFI ad campaign for being too soft, but then you lament that Ron Lindsay and CFI are consistently engaging in anti-theism?

Fine dynamics are at work. A word can change the meaning of an entire campaign. Telling people what they need or don’t need puts us on very dangerous ground, for the reasons noted in a responsive post to you on Facebook. Sometimes an aggressive approach can be taken to make a point, as in the case of the AA campaign. I can’t cite any studies to say that it was effective, except to note the responsive billboards that soon appeared saying “You know it’s true.” In fact, most people realize that they don’t know, so the AA campaign effectively highlighted a theistic weak point, putting theists on the defense. That’s an effective campaign. As a trial lawyer whose job it is to convey messages to structure and win arguments, I have a sense of these things. I don’t expect you to take my word for it but like anyone in any field of endeavor, I can spot a stinker when I see one.

The current leadership at CFI, I am sorry to say, does not appear to have good sense on these matters. Ron is completely tone deaf. It’s not a question of hard or soft but a question of what works and what doesn’t. CFI should not issue any more public statements from whoever has been approving these disastrous messages because obviously they don’t understand a thing about what will turn people on and off.

Finally, I don’t recall criticizing a CFI ad campaign for being too soft. Please refer me back to that if you can find the reference.

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Posted: 02 March 2011 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I have a little more time this morning, so I’d like to explore further why the latest message is so self-defeating. It is obvious to me that a public relations professional would tell us several things. You don’t have to be a PR professional to understand the problems, you just need a little common sense.

First, understand that this is a printed message that uses words to communicate. Visually it’s OK: it doesn’t look cluttered or convey anything negative visually. It consists of twelve words, which is fine for this kind of message.

Understanding that, the organization offering this message must also understand that it will be processed within the two or three seconds it takes to read the words. In that very brief space of time, the reader will form an impression and either move on or be drawn in and encouraged to enter the site and explore further.

So what are the first words the reader sees: “You don’t need.” How do you feel when you read those words? If you’re like most people, you feel that someone is trying to preach to you. To understand how that makes a theist feel, try this: “You need God.” How do you feel reading those words? Do you hear some arrogant theist, as I do? If you’re like me, you immediately distrust the source, which is exactly what most theists will do. So to the extent that theists are our intended audience, the first three words dig a very deep hole, from which the message probably will not escape, keeping in mind that the goal has to be accomplished within a few seconds.

The fourth word, “God,” is at odds with what I take to be the intended message, which is that love and life are the things that matter. So why mention God? This is what I mean about mixing the message. It’s at cross-purposes with itself, all the more so because the author’s belief is that God does not exist. Did Ron consider how this message would sound to the approximately 85-90% of people in this culture who believe that God does exist? Apparently not, because this phrasing assumes God’s existence, having just told people that they don’t need Him. By the time most people read the fourth word, any hope at getting the intended message through to them is completely lost. An in-your-face message can be effective if it’s clever or inventive; this one is not. It will be received as a slap in the face, which is exactly how Michael’s mother received it. By now, most of the audience is lost.

If they read the final eight words, they probably won’t remember them. I’ve read them several times and I can’t even remember them. That’s because the first part of the message is so jolting that it drowns out what should be the closer: the statement of our values. Not only does this message ineffectively convey those values, it damages our association with those values in the minds of most people, because the first part of the message feels at odds with them. Ask yourself: do you come away from this message thinking about love? Most people won’t. Most people will think about the first four words. This juxtaposition reminds the audience of our association with solid values like love but puts that association in the context of a conflict. That is what I mean by a mixed message. It is not just merely ineffective, it is affirmatively damaging.

This is why I am so vocal about this. This isn’t just ineffective PR, it’s abysmal, destructive PR. It’s the kind of PR that our adversaries would write for us.

Then I look on Ron’s page at CFI and see his face planted onto the nude torso. What the hell is he doing? That is not the kind of image that someone puts onto a site dedicated to serious issues, if he wants people to take him or the organization seriously. He has no business doing it. This organization shouldn’t be a forum for his personal likes and dislikes. He is the leader but he is not acting like a leader of a serious organization. Supposedly there is a Board of Directors that decides who is going to lead us. What the hell are they thinking, and where are they? I’m sorry to be so bold, but this isn’t a close question. It’s a disaster.

I implore anyone who reads this to reach out to the CFI Board and ask that Ron Lindsay not issue statements on CFI’s behalf. He is doing damage to the organization, and this isn’t the first time. An organization that had potential for moving these issues forward has made a joke of itself. I have nothing against Ron. He’s a nice guy, who spent a substantial amount of time with me on the phone discussing these matters. He was courteous throughout. But he doesn’t know what he is doing, and as long as he continues to do it, he will continue to undermine this organization.

[ Edited: 02 March 2011 06:11 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 02 March 2011 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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To me, when people start campaigning by telling others what they do or don’t need, or what they should or shouldn’t do, it comes off as proselytizing. I hate being preached to, no matter how much I might agree with the message. In my experience, people don’t respond well to didactic rhetoric.

It’s like the bumper-sticker phenomenon: seeing a COEXIST sticker doesn’t make me want to be any more sensitive to others with different beliefs. It just makes me think that the guy driving the car is an idiot.

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Posted: 02 March 2011 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I have mixed emotions about these signs.  In some ways I like them, but in other ways it only brings more backlash from the religious community.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 02 March 2011 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I have to say that I understand what Paul is saying here. Its a very good analysis of the phrase, and it might just warrant reconsideration by the leadership. Thats just me though.

I think that the AHA’s take on campaigning has the potential to get the point across better.

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Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

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Posted: 02 March 2011 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I probably should have clarified the reason for my suggestions.  “. . . push morals as the basis for the thoughtful person’s behavior, and critical thinking to help people be more successful and better informed.”  First, connecting morals with Secular organizations subtly undercuts the idea of morality having to be bible derived.  Second, the more we can get people interested in learning about critical thinking, the more likely they are to recognize theistic errors, thus weakening their beliefs and making them less likely to convince youngsters to be theistic.

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Posted: 03 March 2011 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Occam. - 02 March 2011 06:44 PM

I probably should have clarified the reason for my suggestions.  “. . . push morals as the basis for the thoughtful person’s behavior, and critical thinking to help people be more successful and better informed.”  First, connecting morals with Secular organizations subtly undercuts the idea of morality having to be bible derived.  Second, the more we can get people interested in learning about critical thinking, the more likely they are to recognize theistic errors, thus weakening their beliefs and making them less likely to convince youngsters to be theistic.

Occam

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Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

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Posted: 03 March 2011 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I have been thinking about this a bit.  Perhaps the slogan isn’t perfect, but what a slogan does is limited to getting people to recognize that a particular viewpoint or in this case life stance exists.
The following is a letter I am thinking of submitting to Free Inquiry and the Humanist, please feel free both to criticize the structure as you did for CC and his Global Warming article, if you disagree with its thrust I am sure you will let me know.  oh oh
* * * * * * *
Criticizing religion.
I think there is a real problem with the way we non-believers criticize religion. We tend to express our opposition to it in an extremely non-rational way; we most often just express a knee-jerk reaction of total opposition to all forms of religion and all actions by religious organizations and persons.  We call them stupid, ignorant, hustlers, rip-off artists, etc.  We say we base our opposition on science but few of us apply the methods of science to the examination of religious phenomenon.  I read The Humanist and Free Inquiry and while some of the articles are good I find few or no articles dealing with any type of scientific inquiry into the social basis of religion.
If we are truly science based and not set on just creating another set of social prejudices, this time against any religious thinking, as in the past humans have created racism, sexism etc., we must get past this attitude and the sloppy thinking it entails.  Any serious study shows religions have been useful for humans since the dawn of civilization and our goal should be to convince our fellow humans to recognize that religions are humans constructs not sent from above and as such that religions have both positive as well as negative sides.
We are much more likely to succeed at this task if we recognize and respect the positives that religions have accomplished, such as the opposition to human sacrifice to the US Civil Rights Movement, etc. rather than just emphasizing the negatives.  If we don’t, we will not be able to convince the many good people who are involved in and use religion to positive effect. 
The bottom line is that if we are to create more equitable and just societies, which is my goal, is that we need to use all the tools we have, including religion based organizations and religiously motivated people.  We will also have a much better chance of influencing these people to our way of thinking if we show them the respect they have earned by service to others and encouraging them to criticize those within their own religious movements to those who are preaching anti-human actions.

This begs the question of how do we create non-religious social organizations, but that is a question for another time.

[ Edited: 03 March 2011 09:23 AM by garythehuman ]
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Posted: 03 March 2011 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I have no issue with the campaign. I don’t think it’s setting out to convert Christians to Atheists. It’s letting people who aren’t affiliated with a religion - atheists, agnostics, those who have lapsed in their churchgoing/praying/worshipping/etc. - that, hey, it’s okay to not be religious. We live in a culture deeply influenced by religion, so there needs to be a message to help people feel comfortable without religion.

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Posted: 03 March 2011 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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BFH - 03 March 2011 10:00 AM

I have no issue with the campaign. I don’t think it’s setting out to convert Christians to Atheists. It’s letting people who aren’t affiliated with a religion - atheists, agnostics, those who have lapsed in their churchgoing/praying/worshipping/etc. - that, hey, it’s okay to not be religious. We live in a culture deeply influenced by religion, so there needs to be a message to help people feel comfortable without religion.

I agree. CFI is probably doing it to get money from atheists, not to convert theists. If it will work, I have no idea. I would guess it will not work as efficiently since it has already been done before and the earlier ones seemed to be cleverer.

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Posted: 04 March 2011 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Occam. - 01 March 2011 04:47 PM

I agree strongly.  Negative messages e.g., “You don’t need” tend to subconsciously insert a positive in the reader’s mind according to recent psychological studies.  So it sinks in as “You do need god”.  Far better to completely ignore theism and push morals as the basis for the thoughtful person’s behavior, and critical thinking to help people be more successful and better informed.

Occam

add a little humour..

“Treat others as you would have them treat you.  Even if you don’t have to”

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Posted: 04 March 2011 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Quoting Jackson:

add a little humour..

  I would strongly agree, except that I’m always surprised at how often people will post something that’s clever, humorous and meant to be so.  Then someone answers them, totally missing the joke and often annoyed because they took it literally and saw nothing funny about it.

Example:  Today at a lunch group a conservative said something positively about Free Enterprise.  I said, I thought Enterprise was great; I just felt that it shouldn’t be free, but we should charge them large taxes on their excess profits.  The liberals there thought the twisting of the adjective was funny, but the conservatives thought it was a stupid statement.  LOL

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