What Anti-Faith Commercials Could Look Like


(video via Hank)

So, the premise, legally banning religion is of course something we should not take seriously. But these mock ups of commercials for more generally and informally discarding bad religious ideas and ending identity-based divisiveness in religion are really valuable as anti-faith messages. Maybe some day when simply saying “You Can Be Good Without God” is not overblown as scandalous on its own, we American atheists might dare to argue explicitly in commercials that “You Can Be Better Without God”.

Of course, I am of the seemingly minority atheist view that without faith, authoritarianism, or superstitiousness, and instead guided only by open-ended science and philosophy and moral progressivism—something more properly worth calling religion could be created which was not the counter-productive force that traditional religions have become. I think the functions of religion could be redeemed in a new religion  multiple peacefully coexisting and cooperating religions which could redeem and replace the regressive, stagnating, patriarchal, closed-minded, superstitious, misanthropic, authoritarian, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, manipulative, moralistically immoral people and institutions who in the present have appallingly seemed to gained exclusive rights to the word “religion” in many people’s minds (including, often, my own when I am not careful).

I spelled out more about these views on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, last Sunday, in my post Islam, 9/11, and “True Religion” (Or “What Could George W. Bush Mean When Talking About True Islam?”), and in the earlier posts listed below:

How Faith Poisons Religion

True Religion?

Towards Atheistic Religions (Or Away From Them, Depending On How You

On Defending True Spirituality And Taking The Word Back From Spiritually Bankrupt Fundamentalism

I Am Interviewed About My Personal (Atheistic) Religiosity/Spirituality

Is It A Waste Of Time For Atheists To Care About Spirituality?

Why I Support American Atheists Reaching Out To Conservatives At CPAC
God’s Not Dead Typifies How Evangelicals Hypocritically Deny Atheists’ Existences
The Collar That Choked Open Hearts
Alix Jules On Being An African American Humanist
About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • usagichan

    Let me start with a question – how much do you think the desire for a faithless religion is a result of your background and current environment?

    The reason I ask that is that, while I was brought up in a reasonably religious household (at least my mother was religious – my father was a silent atheist, who never set foot inside a church (except for Weddings and Funerals) but never trod on my mothers toes over matters of faith), when the absurdity of it all hit me (in my late teens) there was no trauma, no sense of loss, just a drift away from the church side of life. I think my mother was unsurprised if a little disappointed, but it left no hole in my life that I need something else to fill. I say this because I wonder whether the religion shaped hole that you seem to be aiming to fill is an artefact of religion itself? Perhaps the reactions you are facing from some of the atheist community could be compared to the shock one would feel if a surgeon suggested that he replace a malignant tumor with a benign one?

    Having said that I don’t feel as strongly opposed to your ideas of reclaiming certain functions that the religious have co-opted. Here in Japan, most people participate in “religious” ceremonies throughout their lives, although many people pick and mix to get the best combination – Shinto for the children (special ceremonies at ages 3, 5 and 7), “Christian” weddings (although that is mostly just staging – the bulk of the “ministers” presiding over the ceremonies are English teachers moonlighting for a bit of extra cash) and Buddhist funerals. Add to this a plethora of festivals (basically an excuse for a massive street party), while the forms of religion seem to be here, very little of what ordinary people are concerned with is directly to do with religion – the religious institutions are more a matter of tradition and community than of spirituality and faith – I wonder if this is one aspect that you are reaching for.

    I suppose for me the greatest concern would be that in replacing “faith” with a

    new religion multiple peacefully coexisting and cooperating religions which could redeem and replace the regressive, stagnating, patriarchal, closed-minded, superstitious, misanthropic, authoritarian, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, manipulative, moralistically immoral people and institutions who in the present have appallingly seemed to gained exclusive rights to the word “religion” in many people’s minds (including, often, my own when I am not careful).

    you are relying on the fact that however reformed, these “redeemed” religious structures will not be perverted and twisted back to the purpose of domination and control which was their original raison d’etre – and in that, I think you are far more optimistic than I.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

    I waver a little on this, but ultimately I do not think it has much to do with my own religious background. I haven’t missed religion at all. It’s not like I am just dying to have a religion but can’t because they are all faith based. I very much like having my Sunday mornings to myself.

    My interest is an abstract one. There is a whole nest of things that humans have used to provide structure and meaning to their lives and those, even though currently bound up with exploited by religion, are things I can see a lot of good potential in and think it would be shrewder of atheists to think about how to offer them rather than insist people live without them when they want them and find value in them.

    There are a few things which irritate me, like what am I going to do about a wedding or a funeral? That there are no recognizable atheist forms infused with meanings, etc. and my atheist friends wind up back in churches to get married pisses me off. Why should just being a reality-based person leave you without cultural resources, institutions, traditions, communities, rituals, shared myths, etc.?

    So, a couple of things like that are things that I find I’m missing, but not because I miss or very much like the religious versions I abandoned. Other issues it’s thinking about how to accommodate the parts of human nature which people mean when they refer to their “religious” or “spiritual” sides so that we can actually address people’s natures and needs and rewarding kinds of experiences.

    Why make them change so drastically? How is that rational?

    Finally, power and control and institutions for their perpetuation are facts of human existence. But that is not a reason to promote political anarchy, we just want just governments. Similarly, I don’t think social anarchy is a stable cultural strategy and if just religions are a means of filling that vacuum and providing parents with the resources for value inculcation in their kids but from a rational and progressive perspective, then that’s the way to go, I think.

    We need more cultural institutions that discuss and inculcate values than just the state.

  • noel

    The Unitarian-Universalist Church, chock full of atheists, fulfills the social/spiritual functions of a church for many atheists/agnostics, while maintaining allegiance to science and rationality. (I was raised a member but stopped going for lack of need for that kind of thing; I’d rather take a walk in a forest.)

  • Charles Sullivan

    Who says atheists have no sense of humor, eh?

  • Robert B.

    When you think about it, rationalist religions would basically have to peacefully coexist, if they were doing it right. To the extent that they could be different, it would either be due to an identifiable error somewhere, in both groups’ interest to find and correct, or just a difference in which true things they study and teach. They would get along like physics and biology get along.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Yes, I also think diversity would stem from taste, temperament, cultural differences, different views of meaning and the abstract foundations of ethics, different valuable practices for individual and group cultivation, etc. There are so many possibilities and so many paths to integrating morality, philosophy, and personal and communal cultivation which are compatible with peaceful coexistence.

    • seenkeen

      I think our replacements (built beings) will live without the context of God but we have needed the belief to endure through the ages and now most still need it for cohesion. Though some of us can make the leap but as Pascal points out we win nothing but truth. I was a theist from birthright but never have become an anti-theist (those placing frivolous billboards) nor do I think it’s worthy of one who believes they have found the truth to do the very things they oppose. Thus they indeed deserve the term atheist (as its root meaning is tied to theist). I believe there is a higher ground and make this plea for those with ears to hear, let them hear. We are now a race with two paths those tied to the old ways (in fairness is grand enough) and those that have taken the next step for humans growth towards going it alone. As long as we can live in peace with each other let it be. We do not need those (either) that cause war.

  • tim

    Good is a better God. Good is a better reason, is a better base for a society than is its members earning heaven or avoiding hell. I define “good” as simply applying my will to me alone. And “evil” as destroying other’s will. Good is sound and open to all without dogmas—the world as one. And I anticipate it will be important to replace our religious based societies before the great expanse of knowledge comes. When I lost my religion I was crushed but if so many were to lose their religion all at once society might collapse. I have found those that actually do “good” for its own sake do it more sincerely (naturally) than those that are trying to align themselves with an outside measure. Would God turn me way when I have done so much better good than those that impose their will on me to believe like them? Each religion would answer differently using its dogma as justification for their certainty. This is why “good” is better, since it has no such litigation. My point to this article is that the transition from God to Good must not be an ultimatum but a persuasion. I suspect most non-believers of being merely anti-theism verses a truly completely new and glorious direction.

    • seenKeen

      Good is a better God. Perhaps the point of these anti-faith commercials is to rally the right to vote for Perry. When the true point should be to transition society from a God based to a Good based society—the next level of mankind. Therefore the commercials should show no attack but to extend a hand to the higher plain. Therefore the viewers can move at their own speed maybe even keeping their faith while embracing the better good and in time abandon the previous. Then again if the money for this press is from the Right then heaven help us.