Smut for Smut is a Bad Idea

Members of the Atheist Agenda group at the University of Texas at San Antonio ran a “Smut for Smut” campaign yesterday — similar to one run in previous years by the same group.

Essentially, it works like this: You give them your Bible. They give you pornography. It’s all smut, right?

It certainly gets them media attention (though less this year than in previous years). It does spark a debate. It does get people to join the group.

And I get the point. The Bible has smut and violence and that needs to be pointed out. It’s not all rainbows, flowers, and Jesus.

But if the group’s goal is to get people to consider atheism as a reasonable way of looking at the world, it’s the wrong way to go about it.

I can’t imagine anyone changing their mind over such a campaign. If anything, they’ll just push atheists (and their ideas) further away.

Who’s joining the group over stunts like this? Probably people I wouldn’t want to be in a group with in the first place — the type that get off on pushing religious people down instead of doing something meaningful and productive.

Several atheist groups have gotten attention for positively promoting their ideas — the United Coalition of Reason‘s billboards (“Are You Good Without God? Millions Are”) are not denigrating religion at all. They get attention. And they make religious people look bad when they protest those innocuous signs.

There are so many reasons people should not be religious. Why not give them a compelling reason to toss faith aside? Letting them know that atheists can be just as jerky as evangelical bible-thumpers isn’t helping the cause.

I understand that not everyone appreciates a “gentler” approach to all this. We need all types in a movement. But why revel in a publicity stunt that only makes atheists look bad?

The Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University ran a much better event a couple years ago when they ran a Fiction for Fiction campaign:

fictionforfiction.jpg

Why is it that this event went so much more smoothly — without a mass of protesters — than the Smut campaign?

It sparked a real conversation, it got people interested in the group, and they didn’t go out of their way to piss people off.

That’s the type of group I would be proud to join.

If Atheist Agenda was the only campus group available for people like me, I probably wouldn’t join it. I don’t think I’m alone. And at a time when we need campus atheist groups more than ever, it’s sad that some non-religious students may choose not to join a group like that at all because they don’t want to be lumped in with that crowd of atheists.

I suppose it could be worse. They could’ve burned the Bibles (in support of free speech) instead of the current plan to donate them to libraries.

Still, I would love to hear from any UTSA student changing his/her mind (in a good way) about atheists as a result of this.

  • Ron in Houston

    I guess every village has its idiots.

    I too would be curious to see what the general reaction was at UTSA.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Bad move, very classless… I just don’t get it. What we need for PR is a group of clean cut young atheists the live clean mainstream lives and look like Mormon missionaries (so white bread it can’t be real). We need them to point to an say look they are atheists and they uphold every one of your moral and social standards… OK, probably not going to happen but it would make better PR than smut swaps.

  • Josh BA

    I get the desire to get along with everyone, which the smut for smut campaign doesn’t facilitate, but I also think it has to be okay to say “your holy book is an amoral piece of crap”. I don’t get why stupid and damaging ideas need to be treated with kid gloves just because pointing that out would make the people who believe in them upset.

    I also can’t imagine that the point of the “Smut for Smut” campaign was at all to turn people into atheists or even to make people like atheists. It looks to me that the most easily pursued goal of an event like that would be to get people to think about the content of their professed beliefs and maybe become non-Christians, or at least not be bible literalists. “Going smoothly” would have probably been counter to the goal of upsetting people over the content of their faith. The people protesting actually care about the subject and thus would seem to be the kind of person I envision being the most important to target anyway (handy that they showed up).

  • TXatheist

    IMO, it’s what you have to do to get noticed in TX. The bible is held in such high esteem down here you have to insult to get people to think. Do mess with Texas.

  • http://1minionsopinion.wordpress.com 1minion

    As much as I love libraries, another option would be to mulch the books for compost and grow some plants. Put the Good Book to good use for a change…

  • Donna

    As a former student (got my masters degree from UTSA), there is a lot more to this story than is ever reported on the news. The Atheist Agenda has met with a lot of opposition just for existing as a group. Members have been kicked out of other groups at UTSA for being members of Atheist Agenda; The main hall of the Liberal Arts building, where all the groups (including the Greek system) post meeting information, has never had an Atheist Agenda poster last longer than a few hours. They have been covered up by pictures of Jesus, as well as ads for Campus Crusade for Christ. When members of the Atheist Agenda approached the administration about vandalism to their signs, the administration turned a blind eye. THe University has sanctioned groups for similar actions but the Atheist Agenda was told to suck up and shut up.

    While I matriculated through UTSA, I had very few dealings with the Atheist Agenda. Namely because I was too busy in the lab and working so I could eat something other than Ramen noodles and Mac and Cheese. They are an extremely frustrated group, stuck in the middle of a town that might be home to almost 2 million people but still feels like every other small Texas town, with a church on every corner.

  • penn

    I have to say that the finger wagging in this post rubs me the wrong way. Is it insulting to theists to call holy books smut? Yes. Is it pretty much just as insulting to theists to call them fiction? Yes.

    I think this is a fun campaign that when looked at objectively is no more insulting than the fiction for fiction campaign that you praise. That campaign would also attract people looking to insult religion.

    Let’s also not forget that despite the friendly moniker you spend quite a bit of time poking fun a ridiculous theists. Relax and let them have their fun.

  • TXatheist

    Donna, you mean there are a lot of Texas christian bigots and generally everything is slanted to present xianity as a good thing in Texas? I’m completely shocked. (sarcasm beyond belief)

  • TXatheist

    #3….
    smut
    ?–noun
    1.
    a particle of soot; sooty matter.
    2.
    a black or dirty mark; smudge.
    3.
    indecent language or publications; obscenity.
    4.
    Plant Pathology.
    a.
    a disease of plants, esp. cereal grasses, characterized by the conversion of affected parts into black, powdery masses of spores, caused by fungi of the order Ustilaginales.
    b.
    a fungus causing this disease.

    # 1, 2, 3, and 5…
    fic·tion
    ?
    –noun
    1.
    the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form.
    2.
    works of this class, as novels or short stories: detective fiction.
    3.
    something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story: We’ve all heard the fiction of her being in delicate health.
    4.
    the act of feigning, inventing, or imagining.
    5.
    an imaginary thing or event, postulated for the purposes of argument or explanation.
    6.
    Law. an allegation that a fact exists that is known not to exist, made by authority of law to bring a case within the operation of a rule of law.

  • cypressgreen

    How about holy books traded in for banned books?

  • http://www.twitter.com/AtheistAgenda AtheistAgendaUTSA

    Speaking as an officer of Atheist Agenda, I see why you may believe that, but as someone before said, here in San Antonio, or rather Texas in general, in order to get people’s attention to LISTEN to us, or even TALK to us, is to be a little radical. Never have we actually had people COME UP to us and actually talk to us peacefully until this event. Sure we had some negative protesters, and threats of violence and death against us. But there is a LOT more to it than the news portrays, and you as a fellow Atheist should know that even when a situation isn’t too bad, the Atheists always get the negative flack. If you’d like OUR side of the story, I’d be happy to discuss it in email for you.

  • liz

    if i were a christian i would much rather people compare my holy text to harry potter rather than porn.

    i agree with you hemant and i’m glad you said something about your opinion because i would have felt uncomfortable reading this if you talked about what a wonderful idea it was.

  • http://www.25methods.org Eric S

    Smut for Smut, or Fiction for Fiction… either one works. Dogging one and praising (or simply preferring) another is only admitted as opinion and just as easily dismissed. Some people need shock to gain their attention or make them reconsider their ideology. Some don’t. Sugar and spice. Each way has an effect of changing people or at least making them curious or/and angry. All have value and are useful given a specific populace. It seems that your preference is a straight razor (friendly, smooth, simple), a better way is a swiss army knife (multifaceted, many ways of doing many tasks).

  • Nathan (not the Christian Nathan)

    those two are logically the same…you trade a holy book (smut and fiction are both appropriate adjectives) for a similarly classified book.

    The only difference is how YOU perceive the book with which it is traded. There is nothing immoral or illegal with a healthy attitude towards sex or pornography. The only reason these two events are different is because the onlooker defines pornography as bad, and great novels as good.

    I say pornography is good and many great novels are not as enthralling as some non-fiction. (I would rather read non-fiction personally, is all).

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Why is it that this event went so much more smoothly — without a mass of protesters — than the Smut campaign?

    One obvious contributing factor which you ignore is that it wasn’t in Texas. I hear that the mere possession of an atheist book there is considered evidence of a crime.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    I have to disagree with you on this one Hemant. First, atheism is NOT a religion. All atheists don’t have to be on the same page. All Christians aren’t even on the same page and they are a religion.

    I like the smut for smut campaign for a few reasons. As you point out, it illustrates the more sexually explicit aspects of the Bible. But that alone means nothing. Where this becomes important is that the Bible also is very anti-sexuality. So this points out a large contradiction within the inerrant word of god.

    I also like that this campaign gets people’s attention. When the UnitedCoR billboards came out, Fred Edwords appeared on Bill O’Reilly to defend them. Bill’O claimed that the Billboards were a publicity stunt and full of “jazz” and that they wouldn’t convert any one to atheism. Edwords talked about how converting people was not their objective since most atheists send years coming to the realization that god isn’t real. The idea is to reach out to those who are already atheists. This campaign does that. It also puts the religious on the defensive. It exposed the fact that most religious people haven’t actually read the Bible and it encourages them to do just that.

    Hemant, any atheist will tell you that the best book for Christians to read that will turn them away from religion is the Bible. This campaign starts that journey and I support it 100%, jazz and all.

    Also, I don’t think it is productive for atheists to target other atheists. While we are not a religion and we certainly disagree with other atheists on various issues we must be united in our front against theism. You don’t have to agree with every atheist approach, but we ought spend our time speaking out against theists rather than our fellow atheists. This is my issue with Greg Epstein as well.

    While I disagree with Epstein on many issues, I support his efforts anyway. But when he wastes his time and energy going after other atheists rather than fighting for humanism against religious fundamentalism he crosses the line.

    This smut for smut campaign might not be your bag and that’s fine. If you were a member of this group you might sit this one out. That’s fine, but remember that we are in an oppressed minority right now and we need to take different approaches to change that.
    In Reason,
    -Staks
    DangerousTalk.net

  • Alan E.

    Letting them know that atheists can be just as jerky as evangelical bible-thumpers isn’t helping the cause.

    I think that this shows that all atheists are not the same. We are real people who have differing interests. We’re not all stuck-up, elitists. I have to agree with much of what DangerousTalk mentioned above. The beauty of the First Amendment is that allows for a wide range of viewpoints to be shared, and I think we should disagree without condemning, otherwise we are as baseless as evangelicals.

    P.S. You could also cut up the bible pages into little rectangles and sell them as Bible-Brand rolling papers. It would be almost like smoking a fortune cookie. “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain…in bed.”

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    It all comes down to freedom of speech and whether or not people wish to use it wisely. If these folks want to exchange Bibles for porn, all the power to them. If their goal was to raise awareness, then I’m sure they accomplished their goal. If they wanted to promote a positive image of non-theists and encourage useful dialogue, then they wasted their time. As atheists are still a minority in this country, it would be nice if those few who choose to take a public stand accepted a moral obligation and responsibility to represent the rest of us in at least a realistic manner, if not positive. I hardly think this juvenile display was representative of the atheist population.

  • Ron in Houston

    Demonstrating that the Bible is full of smut is a very valid criticism.

    Handing out smut to prove your point is pretty juvenile in my book.

    Having said that, I’m sure they are a very frustrated group in a rather hostile environment.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    @DangerousTalk & Alan E.
    Your responses definitely add something to the discussion. I agree wholeheartedly with the unfettered exercise of free speech and that atheists are not all elitist intellectual snobs. And yes, we all need to follow our own paths in order to rectify our position as the low man (or woman) on the totem pole.
    Maybe we can all look at this not from a standpoint of “good” or “bad” behavior, but from whether or not it was effective. Some of us need to spend more time and energy brushing up on guerrilla marketing and propaganda. It’s not about who is an ass or who isn’t. It’s about who got their message across and effected the change they wanted and who was left standing with their thumb in their mouth and their pants around their ankles.
    http://thegodlessmonster.com/

  • Aj

    It’s a great idea to publicize the stories in the Bible that aren’t told in churches. I don’t think it’s to “piss people off”, “push people down”, or “act jerky”. I think linking Bible stories to other stories would be a great way to get this message across. I don’t think just calling the Bible “smut” is good or inspired enough.

    We had a long thread about aggression in debate, because it was assumed that it was counter-productive to persuasion. Yet quite a few people were saying that it actually had helped them change their minds. I’ve had my assumptions assaulted quite a bit and changed my mind.

  • Sue

    DangerousTalk says: “Also, I don’t think it is productive for atheists to target other atheists. While we are not a religion and we certainly disagree with other atheists on various issues we must be united in our front against theism. You don’t have to agree with every atheist approach, but we ought spend our time speaking out against theists rather than our fellow atheists.”

    I see no reason that atheists shouldn’t engage in debate amongst themselves–and even express differences of opinion publicly. Amongst a generally logical, rational group of free thinkers, debate and disagreement should be encouraged and welcomed, especially when it takes place in a thoughtful and respectful manner as done here. To keep silent about differences only makes us more like theists, who ignore conflicts amongst themselves and within the very texts they so treasure. And, Hemant DOES speak out against theists all the time; a critical look at atheists seems fair and reasonable.

    As for the issue under discussion, I agree with Hemant’s stance. Nothing turns me off more from a subject I may be curious about than insult and mockery. Creating an opportunity for conversation won’t happen under these circumstances, and I suspect that any bibles turned in to Atheist Agenda were received by non-believers or skeptics.

    Of course, why this group would even consider it a success to take a religious text from the hands of one person and put it in the hands of thousands at a public library makes no sense to me. Seems more like spreading the “word of god” than challenging/denying the existence of such a being.

  • http://www.belovedspear.org Beloved Spear

    I suppose the question is whether or not your primary purpose is to educate, or if you primarily intend to offend. Making a calm and rational case for a humanist moral framework creates an atmosphere in which rational people…even rational people of faith (and yes, there are, dagnabbit) are more willing to accept the legitimacy of your perspective.

    Stunts intended to offend do get attention. But they also reinforce negative ideation about a particular group for those with the preexisting desire to do some hatin’. “Those atheists are all so rude and amoral and bitter! Did you hear what they did?” The actions of those few are used to give permission to make unwarranted generalizations about a whole group.

    The same is true for the obnoxious outliers in Christianity. That atheism can take pages from the playbook of Westboro Baptist should not be viewed as a good thing.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Although I agree that “smut” is in the eye of the beholder, this “smut exchange” does perpetuate the negative atheist stereotype in our Christian dominated society.

    I’ve heard too many testimonials from “born agains” about how they used to lie, cheat, steal, drink, do drugs, and were addicted to porn, but then they got “saved” and cleaned up their act. For the evangelicals, just seeing a poster with the words “atheist” and “porn” co-located reinforces their association of “atheism” with all those other things as well. This is how they think.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    The Godless Monster,
    I think that it was effective and I addressed why. First to attract more atheists who are out there but not part of the group. Second, to encourage Christians to read their Bible and start them on the path of doubt. Third, it creates an atmosphere in which discussing and questioning religion is made public. It is a win/win/win.

    Also, there is nothing wrong with being an elitist intellectual nor is that contrary to the porn for porn message.
    -Staks
    DangerousTalk.net

  • Alan E.

    Also, there is nothing wrong with being an elitist intellectual nor is that contrary to the porn for porn message.

    I agree that there is nothing wrong with being intellectual, but I think it is wrong to expect that of every atheist (I know that is not what DT is saying, so please don’t misconstrue the second half). People are going to be who they are with or without religion. I agree that the debate should be whether it is effective, not if it is wrong or bad. Things that are wrong or bad should be anti-humanistic ideas or actions, or suppressing freedoms of others.

    We should evaluate the evidence, support, reasoning, and effectiveness, not the end result. Many religious folk have ingrained views about many things, some of which might make sense, but it’s not the viewpoints that matter. It’s the thought (or lack thereof) process that leads to that point.

  • Angie

    As a feminist, this campaign makes me cringe. I see this publicity stunt alienating more enlightened nonbelievers from this Atheist Agenda group.

  • Jake

    I heard a lot about this, because I’m only half an hour north of UTSA (I’m at Texas State). Using facebook as a measuring tool, AA seems to have sparked a fair bit of outrage with their program. If that was their intention, fine, but personally I would have ran a “trade your bible for something useful” program, where you can trade holy texts for books on science or similar things.

    The “URGENT NEED FOR PRAYERS FOR UTSA” group on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/event.php?eid=337550678392&ref=mf)

  • http://a.fr33think3r.wordpress.com Fr33think3r

    If raising awareness is the goal then they have reached their goal.
    I don’t agree with the idea of passing out porn. But, I don’t have to agree with the message or methods of all atheist.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Angie, I’m a feminist too and I don’t see a problem with it at all. Why would being a feminist have anything at all to do with this topic?
    -Staks
    DangerousTalk.net

  • Jeff Dale

    First to attract more atheists who are out there but not part of the group. Second, to encourage Christians to read their Bible and start them on the path of doubt. Third, it creates an atmosphere in which discussing and questioning religion is made public. It is a win/win/win.

    I don’t have any data to support or refute this. If you do, please share. If not, then it’s an opinion, and I beg to differ.

    “First”: It might’ve attracted atheists, but it can’t be a “win” if other messages would’ve attracted more atheists. I suspect that a version UCoR’s “Good Without God?” message, for example, would’ve been more effective. No atheist would be more turned off by that message than by “Smut For Smut,” but some atheists would be more turned off by “Smut For Smut” than by “Good Without God.”

    “Second”: Judging by what people say about the religious environment in Texas (even at a university… yikes) I seriously doubt that “Smut For Smut” will inspire many Xians to reexamine and question the smutty content of their bibles. Any gains in that direction would, I think, be vastly overbalanced by losses in atheist public image.

    “Third”: My responses to the first two items cover this one as well. Even if “Smut For Smut” did something to promote an atmosphere for healthy public discussion, other messages would’ve done so better, and any such gains would be overbalanced by losses.

    Thus, doing “Smut For Smut” might be a “win/win/win” compared to doing nothing (though I’m not sure of that either), but it certainly can’t be a “win/win/win” if the same benefits could’ve been had for less cost. That seems to be the problem with “Smut For Smut.” I think something like “Good Without God” would’ve been all of the good but less of the bad.

  • Polly

    Why don’t they just start blowing prospective members?

    (Hemant, I’m pround of you for not deleting this comment)

  • Donna

    Jeff Dale:

    As I said earlier, as someone who has attended UTSA, The “Good without God” statements and banners would go over as well as a lead balloon. As much as San Antonio likes to pretend to be progressive, there is still a large contigency of people who believe we have a commie Arab for a president and that a woman’s place is in the house (and I don’t mean of Representatives). I was TAing for a professor when I had a freshman female tell me that if I didn’t start to wear more make up (I never wear make up) I would never catch a man. The majority of people who attend UTSA are from the Rio Grande Valley (Lots of small towns, very, very Christian) who had good enough grades to make it into the UT system but didn’t want to go to “Sodom on the Colorado” (AKA Austin).

  • Jeff Dale

    As I said earlier, as someone who has attended UTSA, The “Good without God” statements and banners would go over as well as a lead balloon.

    That may be. All I’m saying is, I don’t see how “Smut For Smut” is any better, and I do see how it might be worse. But if someone can explain how “Smut For Smut” is better than “Good Without God” in this context at UTSA, I’ll gladly change my opinion.

  • sophia b

    This campgain makes me uncomfortable. I’m also wondering what was the content of the porn. I am not anti-porn but there are definately some recurring themes in mainstream pornography that are worrisome.
    I’ve also gotta wonder how many women were in this group and whether they tried to cater to them with the pornography (though plenty of women do look at mainstrem porn its really balatantly not aimed at them and if you look hard enough it is possible to find porn aimed at women) or were they just wanting to attract more men? (also was there any homosexual porn? gays seem like that might be more inclined to be a ally)

  • Donna

    Rather than put what I remember of the situation into the mouths of those participating, they have their own blog.

    http://atheistagendautsa.blogspot.com/

  • Garrett

    I can’t believe they dont realize that there not preventing violence, they are instigating it. Very foolish and immature I think.

  • Miko

    The Godless Monster:

    The thing about the word “effective” is that it’s based on the goals of the people taking the action, not on your goals. According to the article linked, the groups primary goals were “to ignite debate and attract new members to the club.” Did it ignite debate? Well, 35 responses here and counting, as I’m sure it did in other venues as well, and their 2005 campaign led to an interview/debate on MSNBC, so yes. Did it attract new members (with them being members Hemant would want to join not being part of the group’s stated goal)? Couldn’t say, but I suppose it’s likely. Their goals differ a bit from most of us here, but they were certainly effective in helping achieve their goals.

    Here’s a more interesting question: were they also effective in achieving our goals? This one’s a bit murkier, but I’d say “yes” to that too. I tend to take an “it takes all kinds” view of agitprop(*) and I’d like the marketplace of ideas to be as crowded as possible. Most people need to be exposed to an idea dozens of times and from dozens of different voices before they’re willing to engage with the idea, so I say let’s have all voices from the scholarly to the crude. Take this event: some Christians will reinforce their false belief that atheists are all just a bunch of angry anti-theists (those in this group would be hard for us to reach anyway), but some are probably going to google “smut for smut,” end up here and find some other viewpoints that they might not otherwise have encountered. So, this event helps our cause, if for no other reason than the fact that it gives us the opportunity to denounce it. All of which puts me in the position of simultaneously supporting and denouncing this event, but, as Emerson said, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    (*) Any theists who wandered in via the method I’ve described above are free to take my use of the word agitprop as proof that all atheists are in fact communists.

  • Vene

    For a group that is unable to get heard, they have to be offensive. You need both people who will be loud and obnoxious as well as those who will talk to the other side. From all accounts, they couldn’t get any sort of acknowledgement that they even exist, most of us live in areas where we can advertise atheist groups and expect it to stay there. At least, long enough to get attention. As Donna said, “he main hall of the Liberal Arts building, where all the groups (including the Greek system) post meeting information, has never had an Atheist Agenda poster last longer than a few hours.”

    When that happens, you need to do something big. The obnoxious get the attention, but afterwards, there needs to be somebody a bit friendlier for the religious to relate too. Hemant, what you do is good and useful, but trying to be a friendly atheist really wouldn’t accomplish anything there.

    Also, it’s just porn. It doesn’t hurt anybody, just their flawed sensibilities.

  • Min

    I would totally go round up a few religious books and turn them in, but the event is scheduled during business hours, and I can’t really justify taking a day off from work to exchange religious books for porn. Oh well, maybe next time.

    I mostly think it’s hilarious. The people who get so offended by this are the same ones who are completely unwilling to be rational, anyway.

  • just a visitor

    Not that it matters much as far as what this athiest group at UTSA is doing, but I thought I’d shed a little history on the campaign itself. Smut for smut was actually started by an absurdist group at UT in Austin back in 2000 in response to the multiple groups that stand around the corners of campus shoving bibles into the hands of students. See here:http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/buh/bibleporn.html

  • Arctic Ape

    I get the impression that religious literature is portrayed as “bad smut” ie. morally deprative (promoting violence and general oppression) and Playboy as “good smut” ie. morally neutral(promoting harmless erotic joy while not being blatantly obscene or misogynistic). On the other hand, there is this suggestion that religious literature is morally on par with “smutty pornography” (which is represented by an iconic magazine) and the latter is just more fun to read.

    I think they should stick more clearly with the “violence bad, sexuality harmless and fun” theme. They could name the event something like “Read love, not war” and deliver copies of some wide-spectrum erotica anthology.

  • Jeff Dale

    I think they should stick more clearly with the “violence bad, sexuality harmless and fun” theme. They could name the event something like “Read love, not war” and deliver copies of some wide-spectrum erotica anthology.

    Ooh, I like that. They’d still get the chance to point out the smutty stuff in the bible (as well as the violent stuff), but to do so by offering a positive view of sexuality as the alternative. Nice.

  • Peter Mahbubani

    I’m a UTSA student and have been at the event these past 2 days. I am an Atheist, but do believe this was all wrong. The response from the religious yesterday was incredible, we had hundreds of people come out to oppose this group. Today the reaction was more calm, a few circles located close to the Smut for Smut table. I wouldn’t call it all that calm though as someone from the Atheist Agenda and myself were threatened.

    I ran my own campaign juxtaposed to that of the Atheist Agenda. I was asking the angry religious sects to convince me to join their religion (I’ll actually be going to a church I was invited to tomorrow night). A young man approached me and told me to believe in Christ. When I asked him to convince me he said and I quote “Without God I would have already punched you, is that reason enough?” When I reported it to the security guard standing near, another religious individual overheard and asked if I wanted to call my mom in a condescending tone. After talking, it emerged that he believed I was part of the group. He apologized and left, although still being condescending. I could definitely see this man had a negative view of Atheists and this event didn’t endear him one bit to us.

    I have video of one individual from the Atheist Agenda while he’s was pulled aside by security for picking his hands up to say calm down. They stated it was a violent gesture. In the video you hear a security guard tell me to stop recording. It’ll be up soon.

    This is the sign I had with me today:
    http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/2503/cimg0679q.jpg

    If you have anymore questions about the happenings at the event, feel free to ask. I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

  • Alan E.

    Playboy does have better writers than the Bible.

  • rcn2

    I completely disagree that this is ‘wrong’ or should be discouraged. The history of any fringe group is filled with rude, expressive and sometimes downright nasty protests. Smut for smut is pretty mild by comparison.

    The more it upsets the religious the better.

  • Heidi

    I think they should stick more clearly with the “violence bad, sexuality harmless and fun” theme. They could name the event something like “Read love, not war” and deliver copies of some wide-spectrum erotica anthology.

    @Arctic Ape: Excellent. You win the marketing job.

    This is the sign I had with me today:
    http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/2503/cimg0679q.jpg

    @Peter Mahbubani: If your intention was not to offend, I’m afraid you kind of fail there. When you start calling other atheists militant, most of us tune right out. It’s just not an applicable term. Might I refer you to a cartoon Hemant posted/linked a while back: Beware the Militant Atheists Or the appropriate Jesus and Mo.

  • http://www.afterglow.net/ Will Robertson

    I’m a senior at UTSA in the anthropology department. Until news of this event started to spread last week, I didn’t even know there was an atheist group on campus. I will probably attend a few meetings and see what’s going on with the group, meet some fellow atheists, and get a better feel for the group dynamics — I won’t be passing judgment on them for a single campaign (I am indifferent to the campaign itself, and I was more interested in the free speech issues than the religious issues).

    I find it interesting (and slightly disappointing) that you feel that anyone who may join the group because of this event would be the type of person you wouldn’t want to be around. You make assumptions about the type of people who would join due to this event happening. I think it’s pretty narrow-sighted of you to make judgments like that. You really have no insider perspectives on what goes on at this campus and the specific circumstances surrounding this group and its event. All you have are slanted media reports and your own preconceived notions, and it is sad to see you tear down an entire group of people and any people who may associate with them after this event based on that.

    I walked to their tables today and spent a few minutes observing. I didn’t interact with anyone, I just took a step back between classes and watched and listened. There were some pretty deep and meaningful conversations occurring in multiple groups. It was all calm and respectful today. The fact that there were so many overt threats of violence really says more about the Christian protestors than the Atheist Agenda folks, and I think it’s odd that those threats aren’t covered in *any* of the media reports about this campaign.

    Ultimately, I think it’s important for you to talk to the people who are running the event who are more deeply involved to get an idea of why they’re doing what they’re doing.

    • utsaroadrunner

      Will, I find it interesting you use the words “calm” and “respectful”. Anyone telling believers that their spiritual text is smut, is by no means respectful. The Atheist agenda does this with the intention of sparking controversy and attention. There isn’t anything about their campaign that is respectful. If a christian or muslim went and informed an atheist that they were considered smut, how would that go? It drives me crazy that they sit there and say they dont enjoy christians pushing down their beliefs but what exactly is the atheist agenda? I feel suffocated seeing their smut all over campus.

  • Revyloution

    Donna, thanks for that perspective. It sheds more light on this issue.

    I’ve said it before on issues like this. We aren’t a monolithic group or faith. As we expand beyond philosophers and professors, we are going to have a more diversity. And that includes firebrands, exhibitionists, and idiots.

    These guys are doing something I wouldn’t. It does start conversations though. If anyone mentioned this event, I would use it as an opportunity to show how atheists are a diverse group.

  • muggle

    While the fiction for fiction is more to my taste, there’s nothing wrong with this. I get so tired of the hollaring about porn and violence.

    On “Law and Order” last night, they cried about media violence desensitizing kids with a jab at a particularly vile rock band that I found rather absurd to blame youth violence on pseudo punk goth bands. No mention of the buybull and all those treasured stories of my youth like the flood and David and Goliath and killing all the first born and the plagues of Egypt and Jebus being crucified, etc., etc. etc.

    I was screaming at the screen, ban the bible then! They had some whole crazy theory that kids who have grown up since 911 are totally desensitized to violence which I found idiotic. Yeah, let’s just label a whole generation utterly violent. Freaking A!

    What one like this does is point out the hypocracy of this ban movies, ban video games, porn makes men rape women, ridiculousness. We need to get to a place where we don’t have one side protesting violence and porn but only the other side’s violence and porn. This campaign did that. Cudos to them. It needs saying. Loud and clear.

    Was this campaign in poor taste? Perhaps. Doesn’t change the point it made and, frankly, it’s not as in poor taste as the buybull. No child should read that freaking thing.

    And personally, I grew up on the porn and violence of the buybull. I’m not psycho and I’ll be damned if I believe every child born since 911 is doomed to be violent. Should I give up on my grandson now or continue nurturing him? Hmmm?

    All that said, I hope they were checking ID’s when they handed out porn and making quite a show of it so as to indicate both the smut they were handing out and the smut they were taking in should be for adults only.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

    Someone mentioned porn?

  • http://cousinavi.wordpress.com cousinavi

    Who’s joining the group over stunts like this? Probably people I wouldn’t want to be in a group with in the first place — the type that get off on pushing religious people down instead of doing something meaningful and productive.

    There’s nothing wrong with a little guerrilla theater from time to time.
    It’s not as if this group is planning weekly events in which to insult theists. This sort of tit-for-tat has its place. After all, it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of organized campaigns calling atheists amoral believers in nothing out to destroy America and all good things.
    Large numbers of these blithering idiots – very likely the same ones who get their shit in a knot over this little stunt – actively seek to contaminate the science curriculum, ban / criminalize abortion, lock up or even KILL homosexuals…
    An over-the-top stunt such as trading the bible for Hustler is no different the PZ desecrating a communion wafer.
    Further, this event does not push anyone down. It strikes at the very heart of the selective hypocrisy in which those who claim that the bible is the inerrant word of a magical sky wizard engage…and to which they actively try to convert others, as well as inflicting this unthinking garbage on still developing young minds.
    I find the argument, “…give them a compelling reason to toss religion aside,” a little naive. No…a LOT naive. An ill fate awaits the man who fights FAITH with reason. There’s nothing reasonable about blind faith in dogmatic imbecility, and very little reason to expect that rational arguments will even mark the surface.
    My biggest concern about this sort of stunt is what becomes of all that scriptural paper. I would hope it is put to good use, perhaps as rolling papers at the next NORML event in support of legalizing marijuana.

  • Kathryn Brooks

    As an Atheist, my agenda is to continue the fight for separation of church and state. I see this event as bad publicity and a waste of time and effort that could be used for a better cause. Frankly, this little stunt, is an embarrassment.

  • Horvath

    Odd. Fiction for fiction? Yet, the majority of what is in the Bible is historical ‘fact.’

    Even more so, I’m disgusted by this group and its willingness to discredit and disrespect the Bible (no matter how false they think it to be) but in the same breathe push and promote material that clearly objectifies women and ultimately destroys body image beliefs, marriages, and relationships.

    Well done. Good move. This was not a very smart move by the ‘freethinkers’ of America.

  • Peter Mahbubani

    The texts will be donated to public libraries.

    @Heidi
    Main Entry: mil·i·tant
    1 : engaged in warfare or combat : fighting
    2 : aggressively active (as in a cause) : combative

    Now I think shouting matches are aggressive and obviously active as it is preforming some sort of activity. This to me fulfills the definition.

  • Arctic Ape

    Jeff Dale & Heidi: Thanks :)

    I was thinking something cheap and bulky like my “Mammoth book of best new erotica 2004″. It’s not exactly feminist-oriented but at least it tries to offer something for everyone. Also, it makes a nice physical comparison with the Bible.

    Of course, there could also be a wide variety of well-selected specific-themed erotic books, videos etc. The challenge here is to be inclusive and ethical.

  • Jeff Dale

    Of course, there could also be a wide variety of well-selected specific-themed erotic books, videos etc. The challenge here is to be inclusive and ethical.

    Right! Maybe some romance novels, or erotic novels. Maybe non-erotic nude art? Or some of those “good sex” manuals for couples?

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  • http://www.afterglow.net/ Will Robertson

    ” push and promote material that clearly objectifies women”

    And as for the gay porn they were handing out and the women who were trading books for porn, well, we’ll just ignore that and focus on the misogynist, heteronormative view of pornography. The self-righteousness is astounding.

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  • jbeck

    Hemant,

    This is a complicated affair even as they go. Being a Dharmik from India and that too Tamil Nadu I have dealt with anti-dharmics posing as “rationalists”. The late EV Ramaswamy Naicker, a Hinduphobe as also Ambedkar attacked Hinduism for encouraging licentious and lustful practices. Both of them devoted reams of paper to the lustfulness of Hindu deities. Later followers of EVR – the DMK and the DK – were given to abusing Ayyappan followers as being perverts. Ayyappan in Hindu folklore is a creation of Shiva and Vishnu’s female form – Mohini. How could a man coupling with a man produce an offspring? Of course these “rationalists” have always been very careful to confine their rationalism to the Hindus, leaving all other faiths undisturbed. So you won’t hear any criticism of the excesses of the Bible or the lustful depictions of paradise in the Koran or Mohammad’s escapades. Ambedkar stayed out of the controversy over the colorful book on Mohammad titled “Rangeela Rasool” or “Colorful Prophet” a tongu-in-cheek account of Mohammad’s life in the 1930s that led to riots across much of N.India. Some of these criticisms of Hinduism are used extensively by Christian soul harvesters and Muslim jihadophiles to mock Hindus. From my own readings I conclude and assert that Hindu tradition is the most comfortable with sexuality and discusses it with the least fuss unlike Buddhism, Jainism and the Abrahamic religions.

  • teammarty

    I met (some of) them at the American Atheist Convention in San Antonio and they were a fun group of guys and gals (a couple of hotties, too). I love their in your face attitude. We need more of it because the “If we smile at them enough and pray when they tell us to bullshit just isn’t working.” Why do we have to consider the christers concerns when the only thing that will make them happy is our surrender (conversion) or our death.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    If I had to point out the one mistake that so many of my well-read and intelligent fellow travelers consistently make it is assuming that the majority of believers are wired the same as the non-theist crowd. If they were, many of them would not now be theists. Please note my use of the words “majority” and “many” before attempting to accuse me of painting all theists with a broad brush – but I digress…
    To expect theists to see a display such as this as eye opening, educational or an invitation to debate is to be naive in the extreme. You ask far too much of a group that in general, only responds to sound bites, propaganda and bright, shiny things.
    I get the whole smut thing, really, I do. What most of you do not seem to understand is that it was not much more than an exercise in self-gratification. It was another case of preaching to the choir, while simultaneously pissing off a lot of folks who just don’t (and never WILL) get it.
    It doesn’t have to do with the fact that the other side is religious – it has to do with the fact that most of their minds don’t operate in the same way that many of ours do. If this wasn’t the case, would we even be having this debate between ourselves right now? I think not.

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  • http://www.pastafariansatusc.org Andrew Cederdahl

    My school paper(the University of South Carolina Daily Gamecock) ran an editorial criticizing this last week. I agree that this is a horrible idea. It makes all of us look like amoral assholes and seriously denigrates the good work we do collectively as secularists.

  • Anonymous

    Mehta–
    You wrote  “I get the point. The Bible has smut and violence and that needs to be pointed out.” Then you wrote “But if the group’s goal is to get people to consider atheism as a reasonable way of looking at the world..”

    Their goal was to make their point. Period. Don’t assign them a goal and then complain that they didn’t meet it.

    If people choose to think about the point that’s being made, good. If they don’t, that’s OK.

    I like that it WASN’T their goal to make people consider anything.


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