Imagine No Religion Ad in the New York Times

In case you didn’t pick up a hard copy of today’s The New York Times today, you missed a full-page ad (PDF) placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation:

According to FFRF:

“One of the lessons of 9/11 is that there is no greater source of terrorism, strife, bloodshed, persecution or war than religion,” the Foundation ad points out.

“John Lennon was right,” comments Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker, author of the new book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists (Ulysses Press).

“If there were no religion,” Dan added, “it would not automatically solve all our problems, but it would make them so much easier to address.”

“In this approaching seventh anniversary of the terror attacks, the role religion plays in creating terrorism and division is that proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room,” said Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The ad points to “the growing threat of religious fanaticism here at home,” the de facto religious test for public office being imposed on candidates, and asks: “Is the American public flirting with theocracy?,” adding: “Don’t let it happen here!”

The American Humanist Association has already put out a press release praising FFRF’s bold statement:

“This is a bold stroke to remind people of the elephant in the room,”
declared American Humanist Association President Mel Lipman. “People don’t crash airliners into skyscrapers in the name of science or in the name of those common decencies we all believe in. But they can do it when prompted by blind faith in the unseen and unproven.”

This is the anniversary week of 9/11 during which a special memorial will open at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

“The FFRF has our congratulations for their frankness, honesty and courage in generating discussion on this important issue,” added American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “It is efforts like these that have helped more and more people take an honest look at how religious fanaticism can lead to the destruction of humane values.”

Early word is that the ad is generating a lot of interest and donations for FFRF.

The more support they get for this, the more likely they are to take the risk to do it again. It’s a huge investment, but hopefully, the response is worth it.

I’m sure FFRF would appreciate your thoughts on the ad (and, if you’d like, your contributions as well).

  • Andrew

    They’re going to get some s**t for this, but I fully support it. They are telling the truth and, for some, the truth hurts.

    Bravo!!!

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    Hey, that’s a great ad. Sure to be inflammatory but definitely thought provoking and attention-getting. Maybe flashier graphics next time though.

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net/ thoughtcounts Z

    This is a good ad. I like it better than the picture with the sun shining between the WTC towers — I felt like that looked a little too explode-y. The caption here makes their point very clear. I hope there isn’t too much protest about it; it seems very well done.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    I wonder how many angry letters from the faithful and how much boo-hooing by talking heads the New York Times will get for running that? And to think, there have been so many times that the Grey Lady deserved to be assailed by criticism for abdicating its journalistic duty to the public and yet got off Scot Free… it’s frustrating to say the least that this will likely be the biggest cause of contention.

    Oh well, good for the NY Times (even if they were only persuaded by the check) and good for the FFRF!

  • Jen

    I think the ad is neat. I can’t imagine how terrified I would be to be the one who ran it, though. People are effing nuts when they think you are insulting religion.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    That’s a great ad. So nice to see that in the mainstream newspapers.

  • http://bigwhiteogre.blogspot.com Jon

    I have to disagree with my fellow free thinkers on this one. I’m no fan of Islam, but the fact is suicide bombing has more to do with disputes over political control than anything else. The definitive work is Robert Pape’s book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism where he goes through the evidence thoroughly.

    It’s sad to me to watch as thousands die due to U.S. foreign policies (I’m not judging the rightness of these policies, but simply noting that our foreign policy does cause some death, for example the sanctions regime on Iraq from 1990 to 2003) and this naturally causes resentment from those in the middle east, then when the relatives of the dead react violently people want to attribute motives to them that have nothing to do with what really makes them angry. To say that they are angry because of “Radical Islamic Extremism” or because “they hate freedom” just seems to me an effort to attribute insane motives to them so the obvious reasons can be ignored.

  • Pseudonym

    I agree with Jon. Blindly repeating evidence-free statements like this do not help the cause of rationalism and freethought:

    One of the lessons of 9/11 is that there is no greater source of terrorism, strife, bloodshed, persecution or war than religion.

    A world without terrorism, strife, bloodshed, persecution and war would require removal of all humans. If it wasn’t politics (which is the primary source of all of these things) or religion (which is the primary scapegoat), we’d easily find some other excuse to hurt each other.

    John Lennon was wrong. There’s something appealing about his brand of naive utopianism, but I think that pretty much everyone today sees through it.

  • ryot

    I like it. Can you imagine how much greater the collective intellect would be had Islam not flung the Arab nations into the perpetual dark ages? Or had the Church not silenced scientists? Or had the fundies not taken control of US politics repeatedly?

  • http://travelfork.blogspot.com/ Sabayon

    Hmmm, I’m not sure I can support an organization that halted the creation of a three-day weekend just because it was a religious holiday. After all, shouldn’t freedom from religion include the freedom to enjoy a good barbecue without being concerned that on that day many people think a carpenter died for them.

  • Pseudonym

    Can you imagine how much greater the collective intellect would be had Islam not flung the Arab nations into the perpetual dark ages?

    The Arab nations were the centre of science, education and culture during the European “dark ages”. It wasn’t Islam that killed it, it was Genghis Khan.

  • Sean

    Wonderful, respect to the FFRF – i agree with everything in the Ad. Religion may not have been the primary cause of 9-11 but without religion i am not sure how it could happened.

  • cipher

    The Arab nations were the centre of science, education and culture during the European “dark ages”. It wasn’t Islam that killed it, it was Genghis Khan.

    As I recall, infighting had a lot to do with it as well.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I think the ad is historically incorrect on its assumption that religion is the number one source of strife in history. I think that statement is so obviously incorrect as to be quite astounding. I mean: Was WWII a religious conflict? WWI? Vietnam? And a war that contained elements of religious extremism, the war for independence in Algeria, was obviously nationalistic and anti-colonial at the core. Were the Islamic militants fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s because they hated the godless communists? Obviously that helped motivate them, but the Soviets did, after all, invade Afghanistan. My view is that, reviewing history, we can find a material basis at the core of most conflicts, and religion is often secondary, or in a lot of cases, just window dressing. I do not like this ad.

    Not a big fan of exploiting the image of the Twin Towers either.

  • Polly

    I look at this and, if I were still a xian, I’d say…”Yeah, those Muslims need Jesus. Too bad TheWorld just doesn’t understand the difference between a relaitonship with JC and Religion.”

    America already hates and fears Muslims (and Arabs). This will just get interpreted along those lines, no matter the obviously broad applicability of the message.

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that they took out a full-page ad and that they’re making some dramatic points. I just think the 9/11 context might take away from what we’re saying.

  • ryot

    The Arab nations were the centre of science, education and culture during the European “dark ages”. It wasn’t Islam that killed it, it was Genghis Khan.

    There’s also the fact that still to this day scientific progress is seen as an affront to Islam in most of the middle-eastern Muslim countries.

  • Polly

    There’s also the fact that still to this day scientific progress is seen as an affront to Islam in most of the middle-eastern Muslim countries.

    Other than possibly anti-darwinism which is prevalent in the USA too, there is an effort being made by most countries in the middle east to develop home grown science.

    Wars and sanctions haven’t even served to hinder Iran in doing significant work in nanotechnology and biotechnology and many other areas. In fact, Iranians and their leaders regard science as their natural heritage and take pride in it.
    Consider the relative freedom that Iranian scientists have to work with embryonic stem cells compared to the US. (I, myself, am ambivalent about the ethics of it). Also, Seventy percent of its science and engineering students are women. Headgear isn’t the only thing to look at.

    Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, are pouring billions of their oil wealth into science centers and development projects including technology cities. And these are by far the most religiously conservative Islamic countries.

    scidev

    Until the last few decades, these nations haven’t been the megawealth centers they are today. So, this is relatively quick development.

    Iraq also engaged in science and women were well-educated, too before GW-1. Sanctions against the regime and the THREE gulf wars, with the last being the most devastating of course, have destroyed Iraq and pushed science and women to the background.

    Is it all roses? Of course not, is it all good anywhere? Not everything is black and white about a society. We should educate ourselves about nations and cultures other than believing what our government and B-movies starring Chuck Norris tell us about them.

  • ryot

    Polly, that really is fantastic, but still, without religion, I can’t imagine that this would even be news. Without religion, women could have done great things all along, it wouldn’t be news that women were allowed to go to university or become professionals. I don’t appreciate the insinuations of racism, either.

  • http://vegan27.livejournal.com Paul Szewczyk

    Even as an atheist myself, I’m not convinced that believers are more or less violent than non-believers. No Christian or Muslim I know of is responsible for as many human deaths as Stalin or Mao.

    And I’m not prepared to defend a statement that no egregious acts have ever been committed in the name of science…

  • Polly

    Without religion, women could have done great things all along,

    There’s a chicken/egg debate there. Did chauvinism come first and then get codified, or vice-versa? Religion certainly has been a real obstacle though. Here and in the ME.

    I don’t appreciate the insinuations of racism, either.

    I assume you’re referring to the last sentence. I really did mean “we” as in everyone including me. The government tries to instill fear in us of the other so we can vote to go to war with them for “security.” Meanwhile, we bomb and plunder them and call them “dangerous” and “crazy” when they resist, much like we did to native Americans. I can’t help seeing a pattern in the US government’s approach to world affairs.

    I regard education as my only defense against a world that attempts to manipulate me with lies and propaganda.

  • Karen

    Beautiful! My son saw that yesterday and we got to talking about it.

    Turns out I have a budding young atheist in my family! He has known that I no longer believe (I told him and his brother when I stopped going to church), but we hadn’t really discussed it at length because I didn’t want my husband to think I was “indoctrinating” the kids against Christianity.

    Well, I found out I didn’t have to do any indoctrinating! My son’s best friend is a completely deluded fundamentalist and seeing that has turned my kid off completely to Christianity – and religion in general. I can’t help but say I’m very proud of him and the way he used reason to come to his very smart conclusions.

    Hmmm …. maybe we’ll have to look into those students scholarships before too long. :-)

  • Josh Kutchinsky

    Most of what has been said in the comments is reasonable. However the context here must be borne in mind.
    The twin towers are a potent iconic symbol employed constantly since that terrible event by many people with different intentions. This is an ad for the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The headline says “Imagine…”. What’s being asked for is pause for thought. Then below, the FFRF lays out its wares, Some readers may for the first time find their thoughts being echoed. Finally the pitch is made join us, support us. Had the AHA run an ad they would have done it differently. This though is clever and controversial and only the response that the FFRF receives will determine whether their ad was a success and to what extent. I am sure it will be and hope it will result in funding for more. I congratulate them for a bold and imaginative step.
    Regards from the UK
    Josh

  • Pseudonym

    The twin towers are a potent iconic symbol employed constantly since that terrible event by many people with different intentions.

    Exactly, but I’ll put it more strongly: They represent a powerful mechanism for suspending critical thinking.

    When the Bush administration wanted to push their Iraq war, they invoked the symbol of the twin towers, and it worked. Few people paused long enough to think that the link was tenuous at best, nonexistent at worst.

    Everyone has used the powerful symbol of 9/11 to push their own agenda. Pat Robertson thought that it was because of lesbians and the ACLU. The FFRF seems to think it’s because of religion in general. Both of these examples show the power of using 9/11 to suspend critical thinking.


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