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Nov 10 2009

Atheist billboard campaign comes to Ohio

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here.)

The North East Ohio Coalition of Reason (NEO-CoR), affiliated with the nationwide United Coalition of Reason (United COR), announced that the first billboards promoting atheism in Ohio have gone up as of today.

In our region it will be on I-480.

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Many of the NEO-CoR’s members involved in this project come from the Cleveland Freethinkers and the Center for Inquiry Northeast Ohio (CFINO).

Similar billboards will appear in Columbus and Cincinatti.

Religious people tend to get in a real lather about public statements of disbelief, even though religious messages are all over the place. When a similar campaign by the Big Apple COR put ads on New York city subways that said, “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?”, Sean Hannity said that people would be outraged if Christians put up religious signs in subways.

But as Think Progress pointed out, such religious signs are in fact commonplace. All that Hannity’s statement shows is that he must never take the subway.

Fred Edwords, former communications director of the American Humanists Association (AHA) and now head of United COR, appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show in November of last year because of another ad campaign on buses in Washington DC that said “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake” that O’Reilly saw (of course) as part of the war on Christmas.

(Speaking of the War on Christmas, where has the time gone? Here it is November again already, and I haven’t made any preparations whatsoever for this year’s war against the godly. Tsk, tsk, shame on me. All you warriors out there, remember that you have only 45 days left to ruin Christmas for everyone by wishing people “Season’s Greetings” or, if you are feeling really mean spirited, “Happy Holidays.”)

In Des Moines, Iowa, an atheist ad campaign that merely said “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” was deemed to be too offensive and removed from buses. The governor of the state Chet Culver was “disturbed” by the ads, the poor baby.

One bus driver in Des Moines even refused to drive a bus that carried the ad, saying that the message was against her Christian faith. That is truly pathetic.

The Arizona COR has a nice video explaining what this movement is all about and the benefits of reason over faith.

I am curious to see what the reaction to the billboards will be in Ohio, which is quite a religious part of the country.

POST SCRIPT: The indefensible history of the Catholic church

The BBC sponsored a debate on the proposition “The Catholic church is a force for good in the world”. Speaking in favor was John Onaiyekan, an Archbishop from Nigeria, and Ann Widdecombe, a British MP who used to be an Episcopalian but became a Catholic when her former church began ordaining women priests. Speaking against were Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry.

It was a rout. Hitchens and Fry utterly trounced their opponents. This is not just my opinion. Even the Catholic columnist for the Guardian newspaper said so, but the voting of the audience was the most decisive:

Before the debate: In favor 678, against 1102, undecided 346
After the debate: In favor 268, against 1876, undecided 34

Over 400 initial supporters of the proposition actually switched to the opposite side, which was an unprecedented swing in the history of these debates.

You can see the debate below.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Josh Friedman

    Hey Mano, you sounded great on NPR this morning!!

  2. 2
    Emily

    Great job on WCPN. I live in southern Ohio but was reminded of your interview by a fellow Case alumna. I was impressed by your even-handedness.

  3. 3
    kuraL

    Sean Hannity said that people would be outraged if Christians put up religious signs in subways The NYC subways are plastered with “Jews for Jesus” signs from the Messianic Jew mountebanks. I haven’t heard anyone complaining about it. And what about those tract pushers outside schools and bus depots? I guess all that is OK?

  4. 4
    Jared

    Hey! I listened to the interview yesterday and I have to say that you handled the answers in genesis caller fairly well. I know that in your position I would have walked into his trap by blurting something unproductive like “Answers in Genesis is nonsense”. Likewise with the host getting ruffled over your dismissal of the God of the Gaps.

  5. 5
    Matt

    Professor Singham,
    I watched the Intelligence^2 debate and I must agree with you that in that debate Fry and Hitchens “trounced” their opponents. But to me it was a bit like watching Fox News where they trot out some token liberal (supposedly in an effort to have a balanced debate) and then subject the wimp to excoriation from all sides. It wasn’t that the pro-Catholic speakers were wimpy, though, that makes it seem like a “balanced” Fox newscast.
    It was that from the beginning 1100+ attendees were already against the motion and, like Fox News (or CNN) watchers, they were after their “Daily Me” (that is, a recitation of the news already comporting with their world view). Though some 400+ people changed from for to against, it’s not difficult to imagine that even some who voted “for” initially did so because of their ignorance of the issues and not because they actually believed in the goodness of the Catholic Church. So I guess I wonder if nearly all of the intelligence ^2 attendees were already against the motion before they arrived.

  6. 6
    Mano

    Matt,

    You are quite right that the Catholics were overmatched. Both Hitchens and Fry are seasoned debaters while only Widdecombe (being a British MP and thus used to debate) is equal to them in their debating skills. The Archbishop was clearly out of his league.

    But I think the swing in the votes was genuine. When all the atrocities committed by the Catholic Church and its priests are listed one after the other in rapid succession (as Fry and Hitchens did), and when one realizes that the church’s remorse for their past sins is so grudging and mealy mouthed, and when their current policies on women and gays and condoms are so appalling, one cannot help but be angered.

    Even I, although quite aware of what the church has done, was roused to feel real anger by listening to how awful its cumulative record is.

  7. 7
    NYC Real Estate Man

    Professor Singham,

    Great post. This has always been a very intriguing subject for me to discuss. I won’t pick a side of creationism or evolution, but I will say as an unbiased party, and a logical viewer, I am completely shocked at how Hannity and O’Reilly react to these ads. To me it just seems that they are completely illogical, and don’t have their facts straight.

    I just think that when they take offense to these ads it just proves their ignorance. There are religious ads everywhere, but you don’t see people protesting the ads. If someone doesn’t believe in those ads, they just don’t bother with them. Same way, if you are religious, and you believe that your views are right, then why bother with ads that have nothing to do with you?

    I thought that Fred Edwords handled the interview with O’Reilly extremely calmly and well. It is rare for someone to not go crazy on the factor.

    Thanks.

  8. 8
    Matthew

    Apparently the billboard in Cincinnati was only up for two days before it was taken down because the landowner received multiple threats. Here is the story from the
    Cincinnati Coalition of Reason who was advertised on the billboard. I find it interesting that the religious often accuse atheists of being bigoted and sometimes even militant, and then threaten the landowner when a billboard they don’t like goes up. So much for “love thy enemy” and “spread the love of God.” The fact that they do this is not all bad though. They are only helping the atheists by providing yet more examples of hypocrisy and generating more negative press about themselves.

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