Most of you probably didn’t have this on your calendars or anything, but today marks the launch date of the biggest atheist ad campaign in history. Why do I care? Because I’m in the advertising industry, for one thing. Also because I enjoy creating dialogue between Christians and atheists, and because I like ads that are educational and promote critical thinking.
This ad campaign seems to hit those buttons pretty hard.
First, some background. The campaign is backed by the American Humanist Association. It’ll feature a TV spot during Dateline NBC on Friday, billboards and bus ads in selected markets across the country, cable TV ads, magazine ads in Reason and The Progressive, and newspaper ads in USA Today, the Village Voice, and the Seattle Times.
The purpose of the ads, according to a press release, is to demonstrate “that secular humanist values are consistent with
mainstream America and that fundamentalist religion has no right to
claim the moral high ground.”
Take a look:
The campaign takes some of the less savory parts of The Bible and the Quran and compares them with reasonable, compassionate quotes from prominent humanists. That’s a great advertising technique, of course, but doesn’t do much to prove anything one way or another (Christians could create a similar ad, of course, using a “love your neighbor” quote from Jesus and contrasting it with something awful from Stalin).
When you get to pick and choose, you can always pick and choose stuff to support your cause. Christians do that with the Bible all the time, and so do atheists or humanists.
But as “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta points out, it’s not like anyone expects to encounter a lot of Christians who really believe that we should go around killing the children of Samaria, just because Hosea prophesied that warning in the Old Testament. But that’s also the point of the ads: that there are some ugly things in our sacred texts, and it’s impossible in many cases to take a literal or fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.
The press release quotes Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association:
“It’s important that people recognize that a literal reading of
religious texts is completely out of touch with mainstream America…Although religious texts can teach good lessons, they
also advocate fear, intolerance, hate and ignorance. It’s time for all
moderate people to stand up against conservative religion’s claim on a
The organization hopes the ads will encourage people to see that “regular people” have more in common with secular humanists than with religious fundamentalists. Their hope is that people will realize they already adhere to humanist values like love, equality, peace, and reason — values that aren’t always apparent in religious texts.
You can find out more about the ads at the Consider Humanism website, including some of the video ads.
In the meantime, what do you think?
If you are a Christian, what’s your response to the ads? Are they fair?
If you are a non-believer, what’s your take on the ads? Are they as effective as you’d like?
Do you think they will make any difference one way or another?