Anti-God campaign…

I’m sure most of my readers, both believers and non, have already seen or heard about the latest campaign by the “new atheists.”  This one, in Washington DC features the phrase, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

This backs several of my recent blog posts, and/or comments.  The first is that there is now a group of fundamentalist atheists that like to proselytize their religion.  On the surface the group tries to hide their true aim of proselytizing behind some notion that atheists feel a bit lonely around the holidays.

Hmm….”Why believe in a god?”  Yup, that really seems to be about the loneliness of non-believers.  This also displays my point nicely about morality.  “Just be good for goodness’ sake,” provides no hint as to who gets to decide what “good” means, or why I should logically care about “goodness’ sake.”

Again, if there is no God, there is no absolute objective morality….if there is no objective morality, the definition of “good” is totally and completely up for grabs.  It becomes mere human opinion.

Of course proselytizing is indeed the real reason behind these campaign ads…do I support their right to put the ads out there?  Yes, but the true intentions behind the ads must become known as well.

Here’s a news story on FOXNews about the ads: “Why Believe in a God?” Ad Campaign

About these ads

23 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Of Interest

23 responses to “Anti-God campaign…

  1. Carl Sachs

    “Yes, but the true intentions behind the ads must become known as well.”

    I was following along perfectly — not agreeing, but following — until this part. The true intentions? Of the anti-God campaign? This doesn’t seem to follow from the rest of the post.

    I see two interpretations of your post:

    (1) if it is true that there is God, then there would be no objective basis for morality (even if people continued to believe there was).

    (2) if it were widely believed that there is no God, then people would believe that there is no objective basis for morality (and the result would be moral chaos, i.e. “mere human opinion”).

    I can see, or think I can see, why you believe that moral chaos would result from the widespread decline of religious belief. But what I don’t see is what seems implied by “true intentions”.

    This conveys to me the impression that you believe that the anti-God campaign is intending to bring about moral chaos. I see that you believe that the anti-God campaign will have that effect, but what is the basis for thinking that this view is shared by the anti-God campaign itself?

    You might well believe that people who think there is objective morality without basing it in God are wrong, but such people, at least some of them, clearly do believe in objective morality, and disagree with you as to the basis for it.

    Since such people do believe in objective morality and do not see it as requiring a theistic basis, they would not see the denial of theism as entailing moral chaos. Thus, it seems extraordinarily odd to me that you would attribute to them the intention to create moral chaos.

    Have I misread you here? If so, I certainly apologize — but where have I gone wrong?

  2. Gareth Aston

    This is a follow-up to a similar campaign in the UK. Here in the UK the slogan was “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The inclusion of the word ‘probably’ caught my eye. Apparently it had to be included in order for the adverts to be permitted at all. This seems strange, afterall Christian adverts aren’t required to put things like “Jesus probably loves you” or “Jesus probably saves”. You admit we atheists have a right to place our own adverts. What do you think about the UK Advertising Standards Agency’s insistence upon “probably”?

  3. Kliska

    I’m sick as a dog right now, so this is going to be a short answer; you are wrong about what I was saying their intentions are. Their intention is not to cause moral chaos (which I don’t believe would happen at this point anyway as there is a God, and He is active on His own in men’s hearts, and through His people via the Holy Spirit), their intention is to get people to question whether or not there is indeed a God. That is the campaign’s intentions…as is hinted at in their full press release.

  4. Carl Sachs

    their intention is to get people to question whether or not there is indeed a God.

    First of all, my apologies for having misinterpreted your post above.

    Second of all, you seem to indicate — and perhaps I’m wrong on this point as well — that this intention is something that they hide or conceal — whereas on my understanding, they are fairly explicit in their intention to get people to question whether or not there is a God.

    Third of all, would this really be so bad? I mean, hasn’t your faith been strengthened by considering the arguments and evidence for your belief in God? Isn’t a faith grounded in reason and evidence a stronger faith, and a faith more appropriate for a rational being to have?

    Fourth of all, I’m sorry you’re sick, and hope you get better soon!

  5. Kliska

    They do indeed try to hide or conceal their true intention. Again, what does their Christmas campaign have to do with lonely atheists? Nothing. I’ve seen some of their people interviewed on various news outlets, and they try to stick with the “lonely atheist” idea until they get called on the fact they are trying to get people to question their beliefs.

    Yes, from my POV, this is bad. God is real and faith in Him is the ticket to eternal life. It is a sin to cause a believer to stumble. Do I think that these silly ads will do that? Probably not, but the intent, the thought behind the ad, is definitely a problem…mainly for the people putting the ads out there. I see this as another step up in the attempt for atheists to try to “intellectually” bully people into their, the atheists’, own religion. If people try to get others to think, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, their intentions matter, at least they do to me.

    My faith is grounded in evidence, not necessarily limited to logic and/or arguments. Has logic and arguments contributed to my faith, yes, but they are but one small piece of the equation. The Christian faith includes heart, soul, and mind. Faith can come from any of the three, and winds up encompassing them all. Some people prefer a much more emotional approach, some a spiritual…all three of these are equal in importance.

    Thanks for the kind thoughts, I’m still fighting off the lovely flu.

  6. Perhaps these people should consider the very reason our society allows them to be so openly brazen about proclaiming non-belief in a god (and since this is a Christmas season campaign, they are obviously speaking of the Christian God). I’d like to see them pull a stunt like that in Saudi Arabia or Iran by proclaiming “Why believe in Allah?” during Ramadan. (So, maybe they really do have something to be thankful, eh?)

    One wonders if those very same buses were to be adorned with slogans such as “Why believe in Santa? Be good for Jesus’ sake?”. I imagine atheists would be all over it, and get their big bully brother the ACLU (aka, the ‘Anti Christian Leftist Union’) to squash it because it violates their sacred “separation of church and state” mantra.

    Or how about this: Imagine if 90% of the US population were ardent atheists. Do you think they would let a Christian plaster a public bus with: “Why believe in nothing? Be good for Jesus’ sake”. In an atheistic utopia, where “goodness” is relative and meaningless, that statement should be perfectly acceptable (as, by definition of “goodness”, it’s no more or less true than any other). Yet I would wager that in reality that Christian would be crucified. Oh, the hypocrisy!

  7. Pingback: Merry Atheist-mas (Follow-up 2) | An Outsider's Perspective

  8. Kliska

    “The inclusion of the word ‘probably’ caught my eye. Apparently it had to be included in order for the adverts to be permitted at all.”

    Do you have a source for this information? That is was not allowed, or do you say “apparently” just because this particular ad seems to be non-atheistic in wording with “probably” thrown in?

    ” You admit we atheists have a right to place our own adverts.”

    I live in the US, a free country, and no I don’t “admit” you atheists have a right…many have sacrificed all for that right. The term “admitting” carries a connotation that I don’t approve of your right to do so, in my post it reads “support” not admit. In this day and age; sure you have that right, and I say so without equivocation.

    “What do you think about the UK Advertising Standards Agency’s insistence upon “probably”?”

    Please do send me a link to this info, I haven’t read anything to point to this fact. If they did make them change it, perhaps there are certain standards recorded on the books that another phrase would breach? If so, I’d suggest trying to change the law. If not, I don’t see what would have been different about saying, “there is no God;” both phrases are factually wrong since there is indeed a God, but we weren’t discussing the accuracy, only the right.

  9. Carl Sachs

    The inclusion of “probably” in the UK campaign might be a result of how Dawkins himself phrases the argument in The God Delusion. His argument is a posteriori, and he is too clever by half to allow himself be trapped by the objection that empirical observations are an insufficient basis for absolute claims (e.g. “there is no God”). (He is, like most scientists, “tone-deaf” to the a priori arguments for the existence of God.)

  10. Kliska

    I’ve read one article by the person who supposedly came up with the campaign, but Gareth’s assertion is the first I’ve heard about them being restricted to using “probably.” Dawkins supported the ads, but I don’t think he directly designed them…I would like to know of any actual restriction, rather than the designer choosing that phrase…

  11. Carl Sachs

    : Imagine if 90% of the US population were ardent atheists. Do you think they would let a Christian plaster a public bus with: “Why believe in nothing? Be good for Jesus’ sake”. In an atheistic utopia, where “goodness” is relative and meaningless, that statement should be perfectly acceptable (as, by definition of “goodness”, it’s no more or less true than any other). Yet I would wager that in reality that Christian would be crucified. Oh, the hypocrisy!

    1) Whether or not ““goodness” is relative and meaningless” in an “atheistic utopia” is highly debatable. If an atheistic utopia were a society in which there was no objective ethics, then “yes”. But why would that be the case? It would be the case if atheists themselves believed the same thing that Christians do: that there is no basis for an objective ethics without faith in the Christian God. However, if atheists did not hold that view, and instead had a different basis for an objective ethics, then “no”.

    Now, of course, as Christians you’re committed to saying that there is no basis for objective ethics without faith in the Christian God. Obviously I have no problem with that! But there’s a world of difference between your believing that, and atheists’ believing that.

    2) As for tolerance among people of different faiths as played out in the public square, the key issues is commitment to the ideals of the Enlightenment. A Christian-dominated society which is committed to those ideals, as America is, is willing to accommodate other faiths in the public square (Judaism, Buddhism, etc.) and there’s no reason why atheism should be any different. An atheist-dominated society which was also committed to those ideals and values would also, I imagine, have no problem with other faiths taking on a public expression.

    Of course there have been atheist-dominated societies which were ruthlessly intolerant of other faiths — there’s no need to bring out all the tired old examples — but none of those societies were also committed to the project of the Enlightenment. And in those Christian societies where the ideals of the Enlightenment were lacking — such as in Italy and Scotland in the 17th century — atheists were executed for no other reason than being atheists (or being accused of such).

    The Islamic world has not yet had an Enlightenment — in fact, during the 18th through 20th centuries, they underwent the reverse, and actually became more dogmatic and more ‘fundamentalist’ than the Islamic world was before. In the 11th through 14th centuries, some parts of the Muslim world were much more enlightened and “civilized” than European societies were at that time.

    So the really interesting sociological question, for me at any rate, is: why didn’t Islam undergo an Enlightenment, while Christianity and Judaism did? Is the Enlightenment itself an outgrowth or consequence of Christianity? I know that this question is of interest to a lot of scholars, but I don’t know the answer myself.

  12. Kliska

    “Now, of course, as Christians you’re committed to saying that there is no basis for objective ethics without faith in the Christian God.”

    1) No, we are committed to that position because logic and reason demand it, not just because we have faith in God.

    2) Certain public figures of atheism in our Western societies have already pushed the ideas that certain teaching of Christianity should not be allowed to be taught, or preached even from the pulpit, or taught to our children. The fact is that we do not know how an atheist-dominated society, say in America, would rule over other faiths. Thus far, I’ve seen that many atheists seem to believe in “tolerance” except if the person/belief in question is Christian…of course we Christians aren’t surprised by this fact, we’ve been amply warned by God Himself that this is the way the current world will work.

  13. Carl Sachs

    No, we are committed to that position because logic and reason demand it, not just because we have faith in God.

    I apologize; I didn’t mean to impute otherwise. I considered writing “a faith grounded in logic and evidence” but wasn’t entirely sure how that would be received.

  14. I don’t know Carl, you seem to have more faith in relative morality than I do!

    A “free” atheistic society in which “evil” is fully understood as an imaginary concept, and proudly taught as such, in the name of some “Tolerant Enlightenment” is not too hard for me to imagine. Eventually it will be a society that has never even heard of anything as ridiculous as “God” (once the theists have gone the way of the American Indian, and history has been rewritten accordingly). Brash, young and proud philosophers and scientists will emerge who challenge arbitrary concepts such as “goodness”, like, what it is, what genes are responsible for it, where in the brain it lives etc… They will (correctly) realize that matter and random concepts are mindless gods, not deserving of worship. Some of the old guard (perhaps such as yourself) will cling to the “religiosity” of believing meaning, and reason for being, can be derived from nothingness. But for most of the “NEW Tolerant Enlightenment”, they will (correctly) see that as fallacy. Of course by then, there will be no real alternative (since theism has gone the way of the dinosaur, and history has been rewritten accordingly). So, in the name of “Freedom”, many will be taught (and teach their children) to proudly live their lives without shame or accountability, performing all sorts of wondrous “works of freewill” in the “NEW Tolerant Enlightenment”. And will the “old guard”, those who know of the concept of God, but never believed, be prepared to contest that?

  15. Kliska

    “I apologize; I didn’t mean to impute otherwise. I considered writing “a faith grounded in logic and evidence” but wasn’t entirely sure how that would be received.”

    The thing to keep in mind here, is that the position that there can only be absolute, meaningful, and objective morality if there is indeed a God is just not the position of “theists.” There have been a tiny minority of atheist/agnostics that do admit the logic behind that position as well…again, it isn’t a “religious” position, or a position about faith.

  16. Carl Sachs

    “the position that there can only be absolute, meaningful, and objective morality if there is indeed a God is just not the position of “theists.” There have been a tiny minority of atheist/agnostics that do admit the logic behind that position as well…again, it isn’t a “religious” position, or a position about faith.”

    No, it isn’t about faith, I agree there . . . but I hope you’ll understand that I’m not going to concede the point entirely, either!

    The issue here on which our disagreement turns isn’t about faith vs. reason or about Christianity vs. atheism — rather, it turns on very different conceptions — or pictures, really! — about the very concept of objectivity.

  17. Kliska

    I completely understand that you are not going to concede. I’m not really using this comment section to address the whole point, as I’ve had blog posts elsewhere. My only aim in these latest comments was to point out that it is a logical argument, more based in philosophy really, than theology or any one particular religious position, though Christianity does definitely add to the conversation…and I do think the conclusion logically points to God.

    In short, my comments were more for those reading the exchange than to try to convince you, or even them, of anything. I just wanted it clear that my position doesn’t hinge on faith, nor even on my Christianity.
    :)

  18. Gareth Aston

    Hi there, I’m in a rush so don’t have time to find my source about the inclusion of the word ‘probably’ in the UK adverts. I’m pretty sure I came across this at Dawkins’s website or possibly at the Guardian newspaper website. It was a Guardian journalist who came up with the idea for the ads in the UK. I realise I’m changing the subject somewhat and don’t mind at all if you choose to ignore my interruption.

    OK, I should have said ‘support’, not ‘admit’. Apologies for any confusion/misinterpretation etc.

    Best Wishes

    Gareth

  19. Kliska

    I’ve read some of the Guardian coverage and didn’t find it…if you remember or do come across it, please do let me know, as I’m interested. The only thing I can find is people talking about how one of the things the adverts on transportation (like buses) are have to abide by, in general, is not to be offensive, in this case it would be of traditionally religious individuals. I can’t find anything that says they were forced to change the advert…

    I did check out several places that said Dawkins would prefer “probably” in the campaign, so I don’t know that anyone tried to put forth a different slogan and got rejected, meaning I don’t find where the agency insisted on “probably.” So far, I’ve not seen where anyone suggested the slogan, “There is no God” and was forced to change it.

    Anywho, it’s a moot point to me, because I see no difference in the possibility of offending someone whether it be “probably” or “is,” though the original phrasing would be interesting to know just for curiosity’s sake. Also, the agencies may have certain rules so that they don’t loose profit by people boycotting their company; like the bus company. It may not be a matter of freedom of speech at all…it would come down to the freedom of the bus company to run its business as it sees fit (yes, I’m all for capitalism as well as free speech ;) ).

  20. Gareth Aston

    Hi again! I’ve found it on both the Guardian’s and Dawkins’s websites. From Ariane Sherine (who organised the UK ad):-

    “there’s a vital reason for the “probably”‘s inclusion: as with the Carlsberg ads, it’s likely to get us around the advertising regulations (specifically points 3.1, 3.2, 5.1, 8.1, 9.1 and 11.1 in the general rules of the CAP Code, which regulates non-broadcast adverts in the UK). In my view, neither version of the slogan breaches the code, but CAP has advised that “the inclusion of the word ‘probably’ makes it less likely to cause offence, and therefore be in breach of the Advertising Code.”

    I did come across another article that said something similar but am unable to locate it at the moment. I’m still in a rush so don’t have the time to continue browsing right now, but if I do discover it I’ll post that as well.

    If you’re interested, the article I’ve cut and pasted from above is listed on Dawkins’s site under the title ‘Probably the best atheist bus campaign in the world’, which is a play on words that American readers may not ‘get’, as it refers to a popular advert for Carlsberg lager here in the UK (“Probably the best lager in the world”, or so they claim)

    I doubt that this is ‘censorship’ as much as it is self-censorship. Apologies if my original post misled readers on that point. Also, I mis-attributed this to the UK Advertising Standards Agency when it was CAP (whoever they may be) who were appeased by the inclusion of ‘probably’.

  21. Kliska

    Yes, those are two I found. I too think that the ad organizers came up with the phrasing on their own, so it wasn’t a case of (gov’t) censorship, meaning that they didn’t send in a campaign and have it rejected or changed by the ad agency. Thanks for taking the time too on the articles.

  22. Carl Sachs

    The more I think about it, the more I think that there are really two very distinct issues at work here. One issue is whether or not there are good reasons for thinking that ethics is objective. Another issue is whether theism is the only, or the best, explanation for the objectivity of ethics.

    There could be — indeed, I think there are! — extremely good arguments in favor of the objectivity of ethics. Though this does not mean that ethics cannot be revised or found wanting. It’s a commonplace fact of science that scientific theories are continually tested, revised, discarded, modified, etc. — none of that detracts from the objectivity of scientific theories — and I’d say the same is true for ethics as well. (This is because objectivity is not the same as absoluteness.)

    It’s a separate question as to how the objectivity of ethics (or of science, or of logic, or of mathematics) is best understood — and whether it requires the theistic concept of God. (I use “theistic concept of God” to distinguish from the Neoplatonic or Aristotelian concepts, from pantheistic concepts, etc.) And as to the grounds for thinking that it requires the specifically Christian concept of God, rather than the Jewish or Muslim ones — well, you can see how complicated things become!

  23. Kliska

    I’ve seen a lot of good arguments as to why ethics are objective, and obviously I do think they are. I haven’t ever seen a logically satisfactory argument as to how one can have objective ethics that are based in humanism and/or naturalism.

    In short, I do understand what you are saying, and I do think they are separate but related arguments as well. I also think that there is then the added issue as to which God is The God; The actual Law-giver (BTW, I do indeed consider the Jewish God the exact same as the Christian God; the Christian God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, though not the the god of Islam), and how we can know that; hence a large portion of my blog. ;)

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