September 21, 2010A truly global event cannot exist without the nonreligious. “Join us. It’s simple. IT’S GLOBAL.” This is the phrase that Odyssey Networks chose to use as a slogan for their “A Million Minutes for Peace” campaign. The campaign, which is called a “movement” and an “initiative” on the website amillionminutesforpeace.org, is an attempt to get one million people to pray for peace for one minute on the U.N. International Day of Peace, September 21. While the “power” of prayer is debatable, the motivation behind the initiative is obviously decent. Peace is something to strive for, although it likely is not achievable.
The problem is that prayer is not global. It exists around the world, yes, but there is a large portion of the world population (estimated to be around 16%) that does not believe in a god or in prayer. Calling this initiative global is insulting and exclusive. Ignoring 16% of the world is approximately the same as ignoring all the people on the entire continent of Africa. Would you call something global that absolutely excluded Africa? The answer is no.
At first glance it is not obvious how many people of the world are excluded. It seems to be a poster advocating for peace and calling for everyone to do something with that goal in mind. Yet keep reading and it becomes obvious that it is only directed toward religious people that engage in prayer. Of course these people have a right to pray, have a right to advertise their idea, and even have a right to advertise it as global. It is insensitive, though, to call it that. Were the posters designed without “IT’S GLOBAL,” (and yes, the words are capitalized) there would be no issue. In fact, there are several other options that would not have been insensitive. Odyssey Networks could have simply used a different slogan. They could have asked people to engage in prayer or thoughtful behavior about peace. They could have found a charity to donate to and asked people to pledge money instead of words. They could have said something like, “Join us in a global prayer,” which differs enough to identify the target group without entirely ignoring nonreligious people.
It may seem hypersensitive to be bothered by things like this, but it is not. It does not cause extreme emotional duress, but rather it rubs on an already-raw wound caused by years of my minority’s existence being ignored or disdained. Further, it implies that nonreligious people and nonbelievers are unimportant in the effort for peace and that we do not matter. To let this slide without even the minutest response would be consenting to be ignored. I write pieces like this not to complain about poor treatment by the religious majority of the world, but to give voice to people like me. Being ignored and treated like outcasts for not believing in a higher power is not acceptable. Nonbelievers, atheists, secularists, agnostics, freethinkers – they are human, they deserve respect, and they should be heard.