A Fair-Minded Article on CFI Michigan From an Unlikely Source

CFI Michigan is one of many CFI chapters that are part of the current billboard campaign that says “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion,” but we seem to have gotten the most attention. Stories about the local billboards got picked up by AP and made newspapers from coast to coast. Now the student newspaper of local Calvin College has covered it with a very fair-minded article about the campaign and the organization.

Established in 1997 by local freethinkers, the CFI Michigan has grown from a few dozen members to more than 400 atheists, secular humanists and agnostics.

CFI Michigan is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes inquiry into science, religion, ethics, secularism and society.

According to its mission statement, CFI Michigan strives “to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values.”…

Jennifer Beahan, assistant director of CFI Michigan, reflected on the purpose of the billboard campaign.

“I have been asked if we are ‘evangelizing’ or trying to ‘convert’ people with our billboard,” Beahan said. “The answer to this is: no, absolutely not. Yes, we are advertising that we exist, but the purpose of the billboard is not to change anyone’s beliefs — each person has to decide what they believe by weighing the evidence for or against any particular religious belief themselves.”…

The response to the CFI billboard campaign has been both positive and negative, said Jason Pittman, chair of the CFI Michigan advisory board.

“We have received many messages from people who are amazed that a group like ours exists,” Pittman said.

Pittman went on to discuss the billboard campaign’s target audience.

“We are trying to reach those who aren’t religious and don’t realize that there is a community out there for them,” Pittman said. “Most people in West Michigan come from religious households, so it is very traumatic for them when they lose their religion…many assume that they are alone.”

Calvin College is, as the name suggests, a very conservative school theologically and politically. My friend Howard Van Till was forced out as an astronomy professor for his writings in support of cosmic and biological evolution (and had to endure an actual heresy trial from the denomination that controls the university). But Calvin is actually a very good school academically, for the most part. And I’m happy to see an article about our group that was not slanted in any way and just let us say what we wanted to say.

One of the things the article notes is that many CFI Michigan members went to Christian schools. In fact, both our executive director and his wife (Jeff and Cathy Seaver) and associate director and her husband (Jennifer and Jeremy Beahan) graduated from local Christian universities. In addition to Calvin, Grand Rapids is home to several other Christian universities, including Aquinas and Cornerstone.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    Your last paragraph illustrates something that seems to be a truism: the surest way to create an atheist is to give them a religious education.

  • Artor

    Howard Van Till was forced out as an astronomy professor for his writings in support of cosmic and biological evolution (and had to endure an actual heresy trial from the denomination that controls the university). But Calvin is actually a very good school academically, for the most part.

    This is hard for me to wrap my head around. A university held a heresy trial in the 21st century over bio- and cosmic evolution, but they are a “very good school academically?” What is their academic focus? Liberal Arts and Biblical Apologetics?

  • raven

    Howard Van Till was forced out as an astronomy professor for his writings in support of cosmic and biological evolution ..

    He got off easy.

    In times past, they would have burned him at the stake.

    Calvin is xian reformed. A huge number of my relatives were born into xian reformed sects. Every single one of them left as soon as they could. It’s pretty cuckoo even for xianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kitwalker1990 chriswalker

    The weirdest thing, to me at least, about Cornerstone and Calvin is that they’re about 4 miles apart. Like, on the same road. Straight line between the two. That’s a lot of Jesus University in a small amount of area.

  • Sastra

    I feel as if I already read this article — but I can’t find any prior links on your website. Maybe I saw it elsewhere.

  • raven

    Two of the heroes of fundie xianity are Orwell who wrote their instruction manual, 1984, and Joseph Stalin who developed their operating system.

    They have purges, gulags and thoughtcrimes. In Newspeak, it’s all double plus good.

    Calvin has had its share of purges.

    Ousted Calvin College professor questions the existence of Adam …

    michiganradio. org/…/ousted-calvin-college-professor-questions-existenc…‎

    Aug 10, 2011 – Ousted Calvin College professor questions the existence of Adam and … Another one is John Schneider, who taught theology at Calvin College in Michigan … article and was pressured to resign after 25 years at the college.

    John Schneider is another one who was forced out over acceptance of modern science. Oh well, might as well be a Unitarian or Episcopalian if you can’t have a heresy trial or purge once in a while

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    “One of the things the article notes is that many CFI Michigan members went to Christian schools.”

    Sure, but any Calvin alumni?

    I rest my case!*

    * This message brought to you by People for Calvin University Football, proving that other schools suck and Calvin rules! Go Calvin Wildcats! Woo!

  • cottonnero

    Through a series of circumstances I won’t get into here, I took a course at Calvin – Econometrics. It is truly weird to take a class that depends on the existence of stochastic randomness from a university that officially believes in predestination.

    The professor was at least intellectually honest enough to acknowledge the peculiarity of the situation, and a solid enough teacher to get right back to teaching.

    Having spent my entire academic career up to that point (Econometrics was the last class I needed for undergrad) in public, secular institutions, going to a religious school was unsettling. I felt like an exchange student from the real world.

  • freehand

    cottonnero: I felt like an exchange student from the real world.

    […]

    That describes my childhood perfectly.