Results 1 to 3 of 3

Thread: Imagine no religion...

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,754

    Imagine no religion...

    This month, San Francisco's public transit system was enlisted in the battle against organized religion.

    A publicity campaign by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to fighting for the separation of church and state, covered the sides and interiors of 75 city buses with the anti-religion quips of assorted atheist wordsmiths.

    Here's Mark Twain: "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

    Clarence Darrow: "I don‘t believe in God, because I don't believe in Mother Goose."

    Richard Dawkins: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction."

    Butterfly McQueen, who played Prissy in Gone With the Wind: "As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion."

    The bus campaign is part of a wider push by FFRF to promote atheism around the country. In the past few years, the organization has put up billboards in Denver, Detroit and Seattle. FFRF billboards have even popped up in the Bible Belt, asking Alabama residents to "Imagine no Religion."

    AlterNet spoke with FFRF co-founder and co-president Annie Laurie Gaynor about the organization's efforts to push atheism – or "free thought," as Gaynor says -- in the most religious industrialized nation on earth. Also discussed was: why many atheists know more about the Bible than do a lot of Christians; if liberal Christians are worse than right-wing fundamentalists; and whether "New Atheists" Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are annoying.

    AlterNet: What's the thinking behind the San Francisco bus campaign?

    Annie Laurie Gaynor: It's free thinking. We want to bring our message to the masses. And we've been censored for so long. For decades we tried to put up billboards, and we were denied access.

    That's slowly changing -- we have a national billboard campaign, and now we're moving to the buses, and that's taken from the British bus-sign campaign, which made a big splash. So that's been a global movement.

    We're not the only ones doing it. But we have a very generous member of our group on the West Coast, suggesting that we use her donation either to place bus signs in San Jose or San Francisco. And so, it was cheaper in San Francisco, so that's where we went, and we wanted to also reach tourists. Also, we knew we were going to be reaching a very sympathetic audience.

    AlterNet: You've also put up billboards in places like Alabama and one of the more conservative parts of Southern California. What's the reaction there?

    ALG: Usually we get a pretty good reaction. We get crank mail on our state/church litigation and death threats over our work with state/church. But mostly, with the billboards, we hear from people who like us. But in Alabama they were more hateful. Our Alabama chapter head got about 50 not-very-nice e-mails. But she also got some nice e-mails. More nasty than nice though.

    And there was an interview on one of the local TV stations with what, frankly, looked like a stereotyped redneck, where I felt a little shiver of fear for our chapter head because he was saying, "They don't belong here. They shouldn't be here." But we've never had any violence. We've never had a violent attack on a billboard. The one from Alabama is unscathed. We now have it up in Indianapolis.

    So we've been surprised at the lack of problems with billboards. But we have been censored. For example, we put one up in Rancho Cucamonga, [Calif.].

    And then we have a lawsuit where we are claiming city censorship: The city asked to please take our billboard down (they were engaged with negotiations over billboard space). And they're claiming it wasn't censorship but just conveying information. So that was quite a shock. To me that's like something that would happen in a dictatorship, not a democratic republic. That's the only such incident.

    AlterNet: Why do you think that happened? Personal beliefs of city council members, or pressure from the community?

    ALG: There were two [TV] stations that covered it. We made a big splash. I believe it was one particular church that some city member officials might have belonged to that were getting calls.

    So I think that was sort of an insular, provincial reaction and that they had done this before with another billboard. That wasn't an establishment-clause issue there. Where they didn't like the billboard, and they'd called another company and the company had taken down the billboard. So, I think they are little bit out of control that they're not able to recognize First Amendment rights. We're pursuing that very seriously.

    We didn't sue the billboard company. Didn't want to discourage billboard companies from accepting our billboards in the future. We've been waiting 30 years because of censorship from billboard companies (not the government.)

    AlterNet: Why are billboard companies willing to use your campaigns now?

    ALG: Now, this year, the economy. But we started doing this at the end of 2007, and I think the country is finally changing and waking up, and we are very slowly seeing the kind of change that Europe saw some time ago. We're becoming more secular. Fifteen percent of the population is nonreligious, and that is reflected in billboard companies, in their understanding of their audiences. They're less fearful of an immediate negative reaction from the public.

    Also, they probably recognize, you put up one billboard, it gets lost in the shuffle. Maybe they have a sense of proportion they didn't have before. Like we have seven up right now in Detroit, in a very religious community. We'll have seven or nine in Las Vegas next month.

    When we get turned down by one company, we find another. But not always; there have been some cities where we haven't been able to get billboards up. Bloomington, [Ind.] is dominated by Lamar. We've worked with all them over the country. But the one in Bloomington wouldn't work with us.

    So we couldn't get one in liberal Bloomington, Ind., so we took it to Indianapolis. And the same thing happened in Grand Rapids, [Mich]. That's another national company that we've worked with all around the country, but they said, "Our clients are really the community," and they won't like your billboard, so we're not gonna put it up. And we thought, boy, Grand Rapids needs to hear our message. We had state/church problems we were trying to educate about.

    We're still encountering this squeamishness about free-thought messages. That it's taboo to criticize religion, and we're not part of the marketplace of ideas.

    AlterNet: That's interesting, it seems to be common knowledge that Americans rarely drag themselves to church -- even if they identify as religious. So obviously, a huge percentage of the population doesn't take religion very seriously. Yet, a lot of times the efforts of public, outspoken atheists are met with horror. Why?

    ALG: This has always been a paradox, because the Bible's the best-seller that's never read. Our members probably know more about what the Bible says than most religious people – many of them read it, and then became atheists.

    It's paradoxical, but I think that people seem to think there's a civic religion that if you believe in a god or Jesus, you don't have to go to church but you're still supporting religion. And they feel that it's absolutely taboo to be an atheist or to criticize religion.

    There was a relatively recent study -- 2005 -- by the University of Minnesota, where they took polls on unpopular people. This included gays, Arabs, blacks, women -- analyzing, would you vote for these people, what do you think about them?

    They found the bias against atheists and agnostics dating to the 1960s had not changed, while so many attitudes have greatly changed, fortunately, about African Americans, gays, even Arab Americans.

    We're at the bottom of the totem poll when it comes to social acceptance in America.

    And I think about Julia Sweeny, from Saturday Night Live. She has that one-woman play, "Letting Go of God," and she likes to tell this story about how she called her parents, who were devout Catholics, and at some point told them, "I don't believe in a god anymore," and they kind of accepted it.

    But then she spoke at some event, and a story went out around the wire referring to her as an atheist, and her mother called her up and said, "this was too much!" The word atheist: that's what not believing in a god means, but until her mother heard the label, she was able to tolerate it. It's a pejorative in our society. And we're trying to change that.

    Our members are atheists, agnostics, skeptics, but we're trying to change that kneejerk reaction that somehow people who do not believe in a god are bad people. Or you don't know any of them, or we're immoral; that's the greatest stereotype that we face.

    I don't know why these people, who don't go to church, think atheists are so bad, but most people don't go to church in our society but still have these prejudices.

    When I talked to the researcher, Penny Edgell at the University of Minnesota, what did she think accounted for this? What she said was, she believes most of these people don't realize they know atheists and agnostics. And that's 'cause we're afraid to speak out. We don't wanna ruin a party or speak out socially -- don't want to offend. We're being polite.

    And I think free-thinkers are becoming more direct. They realize it's time, like the gay movement, to come out of the closet.

  2. #2
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Lincolnshire, United Kingdom.
    Posts
    3,421
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    This month, San Francisco's public transit system was enlisted in the battle against organized religion.

    <snipped>
    Our members are atheists, agnostics, skeptics, but we're trying to change that kneejerk reaction that somehow people who do not believe in a god are bad people. Or you don't know any of them, or we're immoral; that's the greatest stereotype that we face.

    I don't know why these people, who don't go to church, think atheists are so bad, but most people don't go to church in our society but still have these prejudices.

    When I talked to the researcher, Penny Edgell at the University of Minnesota, what did she think accounted for this? What she said was, she believes most of these people don't realize they know atheists and agnostics. And that's 'cause we're afraid to speak out. We don't wanna ruin a party or speak out socially -- don't want to offend. We're being polite.

    And I think free-thinkers are becoming more direct. They realize it's time, like the gay movement, to come out of the closet.
    The problem is, how do you convince unthinking, indoctrinated from birth believers that the world would be a far, far, better place without the biases and prejudices of organised and financial religion?

    Ken.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,754
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    The problem is, how do you convince unthinking, indoctrinated from birth believers that the world would be a far, far, better place without the biases and prejudices of organised and financial religion?

    Ken.
    This is the nut of it, I think.

    If all children were raised by parents who told them honestly that there are numerous different views on the subject of god, whether he exists, what he wants from us, if he does exist, etc. - and that they should consider all the arguments on their merits and come to a decision themselves based on that, fervent religiosity would probably all but disappear in one generation.

    Instead, you have kids who are too young to understand the difference between reality and fantasy, between "magical thinking" and factual thinking, etc. being told by the main authority figures in their lives (whom they look upon as omnipotent) that "Jesus died for us," that there is a place called Heaven (and Hell) and so on.

    Such early conditioning is very hard to break free of. And when you add the social pressure in many families to conform to the rituals of belief, etc., it's easy to see why this form of mid-rot persists....

Similar Threads

  1. Imagine your kid in school with this Maggotry
    By Eric in forum The Maggots...
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 10-14-2009, 06:26 PM
  2. Would religion survive if...
    By Eric in forum † Religion
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-01-2009, 04:19 PM
  3. Imagine... along with Ron Paul
    By Eric in forum Secession Talk
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 03-11-2009, 11:44 AM
  4. Religion
    By Eric in forum Fight Traffic Tickets/Driving Issues
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 01-26-2008, 11:03 PM
  5. Religion, explained some more
    By mrblanche in forum Motor Mouth
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 04-14-2007, 09:53 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •