Man Bites God

Over at CNN today we learn that the Coalition of Reason, an association of godless heathens, has purchased some advertising space in Gotham’s subway system. Their ads will point out the plain empirical fact that it is possible for people to be good without religion.

What’s telling about this is not the story itself, but that the story — interest group buys advertising — was considered newsworthy in the first place. After all, nobody batted an eyelash when Pastor Ock Soo Park ran an ad suggesting that we should all forsake our faculties of reason and join the Bible Crusade.

I’ve suggested before that if religion is, as I believe, an evolutionary adaptation that improves the relative fitness of human groups, then atheism — its truth-value notwithstanding — may be maladaptive. This ad campaign’s making the news might be seen as an example of the social organism’s immune system at work.

Read the story here.

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  1. Charles says

    Who is this campaign targeting? I read the article and saw the poster (or at least one of the posters–it would seem there might be more than one), and I’m a bit confused. The question at the end seems to indicate that it is targeted at religious individuals (otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir, right?), but I’m not sure how effective it will be. After all, Christianity teaches that man is evil by nature, so a Christian seeing this poster might think, “Ah, they may act good at times, but are they really good?” In other words, the idea of “goodness” in Christianity is not generally connected with actions, but with nature–you can’t “become” good by simply acting good. I realize that this is the very idea that the coalition is trying to overthrow, but I don’t see how these ads will accomplish that. You can’t overthrow an assumption by simply stating the opposite of that assumption and assuming it will be accepted as fact.

    Pastor Park’s ads were specifically designed to preach to the choir–to reinforce ideas that were already in place. These ads are pithy little sayings that hope to overturn a millennia-old meme. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t feel free to get their message out there, I just don’t think they will be that effective–unless, of course, the ads are actually targeting on-the-fence individuals. Yeah, I suppose in that case they might be effective to some extent.

    Posted October 21, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  2. chris g says

    “The United Coalition of Reason, which is a national organization that helps local groups advocate atheist ideas, approached the New York nonbeliever associations in August with an offer of a donation from an anonymous source to help pay for the subway station ad campaign. The donation amount was for exactly $25,000 and specifically allocated for the subway advertising promotion.”

    anonymous source = satan

    It has to be. The subway runs underground, not too far from hell. Who else has money to throw at stuff like this?

    Posted October 21, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Permalink
  3. bob koepp says

    I don’t think the point of these ads to to persuade anybody to go god-free. If I may wax sociologic… it’s more an effort to “normalize” atheism, and especially to shed its status as “stigma.” The more publicity it can generate, the better for the cause. Apparently it’s working.

    Posted October 21, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    You beat me to it, Bob; I think that’s exactly right. Lord knows the faithful make plenty of noise. Why shouldn’t we infidels get out there as well?

    Charles, Pastor Ock is simply stating an assumption as fact too, and quite an assumption at that — that Satan is the reason that our thoughts deceive us and turn us away from an actually existing God whose literal Word we can read in the Bible. He’s certainly reaching for fence-sitters as well as trying to keep the flock under control.

    Chris, if you’ve ever stood on the Broadway-Lafayette platform in July, you’d know that “not too far from hell” is rather an understatement.

    Posted October 21, 2009 at 11:45 pm | Permalink
  5. Charles says

    OK, I understand the concept of normalizing atheism. That makes sense. Also, note that I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it.

    I disagree, however, that Pastor Park (I’ve got to assume that’s his last name, not Ock) is doing the same thing with his ads. I don’t think he is reaching for the fence-sitters so much as he is trying to reinforce the assumption. I’m making this statement from the perspective of someone who is inside the church (though certainly not inside that church). This is simply a matter of reinforcement, as fence-sitters wouldn’t be attending such meetings anyway. Although I suppose it’s possible that I am talking more about the effect than the actual intention. Maybe it is true that Park is trying to bring the fence-sitters deeper into the fold.

    Or maybe I’m just being ornery…

    Posted October 22, 2009 at 12:26 am | Permalink