New FFRF Bus Ad in Chicago Causing Controversy

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has a new ad going up on 75 Chicago buses this month:

“Obviously, there are many reasons to reject religion, most of them intellectual,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “But face it — one of the immediate benefits of quitting church, besides getting a 10 percent raise because you can stop tithing, is getting to sleep in on Sundays! What the world really needs is a good night’s sleep.”

It’s a funny line but it does raise a point about these atheist billboards and bus ads.

Some of them are there to simply let other atheists know we exist. This is the kind of billboard the Coalitions of Reason have been putting up over the past year — the ones that say things like “Are You Good Without God? Millions Are” — These are not meant to be offensive… even though the mere thought of atheism is enough to piss off some people.

Some of them — like FFRF’s — are more “in your face,” making statements about god/religion. They don’t really care if they offend anyone. They want to show that good, smart people in history have been atheists. They are proud to be atheists and they want to ruffle feathers (“Yes Virginia… There Is No God”) in the process.

This particular ad falls in the latter category. Is it rude? Not at all. Christians have ads encouraging people to go to church all the time. This is encouraging people not to. It’s as simple as that.

The Chicago Tribune is citing reactions from a few local religious leaders:

The worst comes from Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church:

In a day when values and respect of life seem to be at an all time low it seems sad that in the search for funds [Chicago Transit Authority] would approve such ads for our citizens and in particular our children who ride these buses to and from school to be reading each day.

While we live in a day when it seems our first offense is to attack, shoot, or even snatch another human life from existence, I would think that church might be one of the few institutions left where we can teach about the value and reverence for human life and seek to encourage us all to attend some expression of faith each week.

So because the world is already shitty, atheists should shut the hell up.

Right…

This from the guy representing the Catholic Church.

At least the commenters on the Tribune site are ripping him apart for those ridiculous remarks…

Religion reporter Manya Brachear has an article in today’s paper that includes more positive reactions from our community:

In fact, nonbelievers have felt alienated for decades, said Hemant Mehta, coordinator of the Chicago Coalition of Reason, the group that sponsored a billboard last fall that asked passers-by: “Are you good without God? Millions are.”

“Our goal was to say ‘Hey, atheists out there already, we’re here. If you agree with us, come check us out,’” Mehta said. “Meeting people who are like-minded can be really tough for atheists.”

My favorite line comes from my friend Matt:

Matt Lowry, 37, a science teacher in Vernon Hills and the organizer of the North Suburban Chicago Freethinkers, said he never wore his beliefs, or lack thereof, on his sleeve. But the more it came up in conversation, the more he realized how the collective silence has caused atheists and agnostics to be misunderstood.

“Just because you’re a nonbeliever does not mean you’re kicking little old ladies down the stairs or eating babies,” Lowry said. “There’s this common misperception. For too long, the nonbelieving community in this country has basically allowed religious fundamentalists to define them that way.”

*Applause* Well said, Matt :)

Not every reaction in the piece was positive. One Chicago religious representative found the “Sleep in on Sundays” slogan offensive:

It’s hard to know if the confrontational way these groups present their message is healthy for the body politic, said the Rev. Paul Rutgers, co-executive director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

“Quite obviously a significant portion of the religious community is going to be upset,” Rutgers said. “We’ll probably do several things, including be angry and deeply offended. Perhaps also some will give more serious thought to their own faith commitments. The fact of the matter is we’re living in a culture that in many ways beyond this challenges our faith commitments. So in that regard it’s a reminder that in many respects this is not a friendly environment.”

All FFRF is saying is that atheists don’t go to church on Sunday and others should follow their lead.

What is so unfriendly about that, exactly?

Nothing, of course.

Pastors like Rutgers and Pfleger are just offended that there are people out there who don’t share their beliefs about god and are — *gasp* — going public with them.

The more they complain about these obviously inoffensive ads, the more incentive we have to keep them coming.

***Update***: The story is on the front page of the Tribune!

I’m also in block-quotes. *Happy dance*

***Update 2***: There was a problem of sorts in the print edition. Read about that here.

  • Grimalkin

    Sleep in on Sundays… unless you’ve joined a Humanist organization that has its discussion/debate events on Sunday mornings.

    I don’t think I’ve ever gotten up this early on a weekend – even while I was still Christian!

  • http://leavesandflowers.webs.com Bailey

    I have never quite understood why it is that religious leaders immediately jump from an encouragement to sleep in on Sundays to the idea that the whole world is falling apart and it’s the fault of those darned outspoken atheists. We get exposed to religious ads constantly as atheists, and yet we don’t vandalize them or claim that the ads themselves are causing the ruin of society (religion, maybe; their ads are just annoying). As long as we atheists are ponying up the funds for our bus ads and billboards, religious leaders’ and followers’ whining shouldn’t even be worth reporting on.

  • GentleGiant

    Yet another perfect example of the persecution syndrome given by rev. Rutgers.
    Get over it already, no one is persecuting you and even if they were, it would just be fair payback for the millenia where the church has persecuted others.

  • cypressgreen

    I am a lifetime member of FFRF, and this is one reason why. They aren’t afraid of anyone.
    In college, a teacher taught us that it’s the most extreme people who get results, because the general public is more likely to “compromise” with the more moderate activists after hearing the extremes. Suddenly, the moderates don’t seem to be as unreasonable. Like the kid who begs Mom for 5 cookies, and gets 2.
    So I like it when FFRF pushes buttons.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Why am I utterly unsurprised to see a variation on the old “Won’t someone please think of the children” canard…

  • http://laughinginpurgatory.blogspot.com/ Andrew Hall

    Ads that point out Atheist based charitable acts would help too.

  • Jdole84

    “Just because you’re a nonbeliever does not mean you’re kicking little old ladies down the stairs or eating babies,”

    Wait, when did we stop doing this?!?! I didn’t get the memo.

  • http://findingmyfeminism.blogspot.com/ Not Guilty

    This calls for an excellent quote:

    “The populist authoritarianism that is the downside of political correctness means that anyone, sometimes it seems like everyone, can proclaim their grief and have it acknowledged. The victim culture, every sufferer grasping for their own Holocaust, ensures that anyone who feels offended can call for moderation, for dilution, and in the end, as is all too often the case, for censorship…” ~ Jonathon Green

    (I’ll be damned if I could figure out the blockquote html code…)

  • Jordan

    “In a day when values and respect of life seem to be at an all time low”

    Seriously?

    I think Mr. Roman Catholic is forgetting the Inquisition or is that just considered to be “a day when witchcraft and burning the heretics seemed to be at an all time high”?

  • Luther

    getting a 10 percent raise because you can stop tithing.

    It is even better than what Dan says. Stop tithing and you get over an 11% raise!!!

    Of course it is not tax deductible, but many of the suckers contributors to help build those mega churches palaces, sadly don’t have that much income to begin with.

    PS: @Not guilty,

    Just enclose your block quote inside *blockquote> text here */blockquote> (just use an < where I used an *)

  • fea24

    The problem is that years ago the Catholic Church took care of this by allowing Saturday evening masses to count towards your Sunday obligation.

    I’d like to see billboards recommending other places to donate the 10% Juxtapose the Pope with a starving child, for instance.

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leilani

    As though there aren’t late night services on Saturday or afternoon services on Sunday. Those ‘men of god’ have their lacy panties in a bunch over nothing. It’s a billboard reaching out to our fellow atheists and people on the edge. I heavily doubt it would sway a lifetime church goer/tithe payer.

    Since when are churches responsible for teaching morals and the ‘values and reverence for human life’? I always thought that was a parents job… holy crap, does that mean between public school and church I won’t have to teach my kids anything? ;)

  • http://findingmyfeminism.blogspot.com/ Not Guilty

    @Luther Thanks! That is nothing like what it says below the comment box, hence my confusion! I love atheists, so helpful!

    @Leilani I agree. It’s just like those theists who think telling us we will go to hell if we don’t believe are expecting us to slap ourselves and say ‘Duh’. As if we didn’t already know.

  • Samiimas

    It’s hard to know if the confrontational way these groups present their message is healthy for the body politic, said the Rev. Paul Rutgers, co-executive director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

    As if we needed more proof the ‘angry’ ‘militant’ ‘fundamentalist’ confrontational’ Atheists are just any Atheists who ever argue for their beliefs in any way.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/gettingfreeftw gettingfree

    @Jdole84

    See this is what happens when you fail to go to the “atheist churches” we have because we are a “religion”. Then you are not up-to-date with our dogma.

    (Note to believers: This is a joke. Atheism is not a religion.)

  • keddaw

    They could always turn the other cheek.

    How about an advert showing a starving person/sick child and ask people if they know what is being done with their 10%? This would have the added advantage of encouraging everyone to examine who they give their charity to since most charities spend very little on helping who they claim to.

  • Valhar2000

    Since when are churches responsible for teaching morals and the ‘values and reverence for human life’? I always thought that was a parents job… holy crap, does that mean between public school and church I won’t have to teach my kids anything?

    That has been so for many years now. Think back to all the school shooting that happened in the last few years: every time they happened, people talked up and down about the parents, the schools, violence on television, videogames, and all other kinds of things in search of the culprit, never stopping to consider that the culprit was the culprit. They were autonomous individuals with the ability to make choices, and they chose to do what they did.

    A lot of people seems to be unable to believe that humans are anything other than insects that move around in response to chemical signals.

  • defiantnonbeliever

    I agree with cypressgreen’s teacher, as long as it’s kept within non violent/coercive means, either would be counter productive. I’m still waiting for them to call religion pernicious fraud, straight out. The reaction from that would be interesting.

  • Andrew T

    That last commentator is right about it not being a friendly environment, though: anyone who’s been on a CTA bus knows they are the repository of all doom and gloom in Chicago.

  • http://http://tuesday-is-think-day.blogspot.com/ tues82

    I go to church every Sunday, I give my cousin a ride there. I’m a feather ruffling kind of Atheist who hadn’t been to church in almost a decade when I started going with my cousin. I had forgotten how horrible church was. Last Sunday’s sermon was about how people who haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior are broken and their lives have no purpose. That was right after the 20-30 minutes of how you will be taken away from family and friends and cast into a lake of fire for all eternity if you don’t worship JESUS. I looked around and saw all the kids sitting there with their eyes glazed over…I hate church. Prejudice at it’s best.

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    Wasn’t there a time when being vocal about religion was considered gauche and uncivilized? I’d like to bring that back into vogue. I don’t care what you believe or don’t believe. If you’re friend or family, I probably already know and love you regardless. If you’re a coworker, it will only distract me from how you do your job, which is the only important thing.* If you’re a politician, I won’t believe you anyway.

    I chuckled at this bus ad. Leilani’s comment is right; this is aimed accurately at its intended target.

    *I swear right after the “xtian fish in sig” post here that danged fish showed up in the sigs of three of my coworkers.

  • Ed

    “Just because you’re a nonbeliever does not mean you’re kicking little old ladies down the stairs or eating babies,” Yes, but how does advocating self centered laziness help get that message across?

    I’d much rather see something like
    “Skip the sermon, spend Sunday
    donating blood
    picking up litter
    working in a shelter
    answering a crisis line
    serving in a soup kitchen
    visiting a relative
    etc

  • Brian E

    I couldn’t believe Pfleger’s article; had to get in there right away and tear him a new one. I’m disappointed that Manya allows him to continue writing there; he has nothing decent to say in this least, neither does that moronic nun she allows to guest-post as well.

    Really goes to show that religious != wise.

  • plutosdad

    You can always count on good ole Father Pfleger to pull some ridiculous unthinking tripe out of his ass. What an awful person he is.

  • Krista

    Coincidentally, I had a brief discussion about atheism with my (seriously devout old-school Roman Catholic) mother and her (almost as devout) sister. My mother pointed out to me that *everyone* without God eventually “falls” (as in, see their life turn to turmoil).
    I pointed out to them that serial killers are all “fallen” and the majority of them are religious. They argued that that wasn’t from God, but because the people are mentally unstable.

    So I pointed out that many Catholic priests, and even the pope have fallen with their child rape scandals, and that many devoutly religious people died under the reigns of such evil rulers as Hitler. Their response? That’s not God, that’s the devil.
    oi!

  • cypressgreen

    @defiantnonbeliever: Agreed. “as long as it’s kept within non violent/coercive means, either would be counter productive.”

  • GentleGiant

    fea24 wrote:

    I’d like to see billboards recommending other places to donate the 10% Juxtapose the Pope with a starving child, for instance.

    How’s this for a start?

  • edwords

    I think they could have used a better ad
    but it’s their money.

    Why not something like “Why So Many 1-TRU Religions”?

    ———————————————
    We are not “nonbelievers”.

    Agnatheists believe in many good things,
    but not fantasies.

  • GentleGiant

    fea24 wrote:

    I’d like to see billboards recommending other places to donate the 10% Juxtapose the Pope with a starving child, for instance.

    How’s this for a start?

    Link

  • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

    I don’t think the billboard is aggressive or offensive, but it’s pretty shallow. I think there are many better things to be said for atheism/humanism than “it lets you get out of a chore.”

  • Guffey

    There’s an ad “Come on over to my house before the game. God” … this sleep in on sunday ad seems to me to be exactly in the same vein and neither seems offensive.

    Although… now that I think about it… given the Catholic church’s molestation record… oh, how suggestive! think of the children!!!. Get them the heck away from that advert!

    @GentleGiant: ouch, just ouch. It may be true but, still, man, that is one hard pic to look at.

  • Jordan

    @Krista

    When you’re brought up to believe that everything that’s “good” in the world is directly influenced by your God and anything outside of that is the Devil it’s incredibly simple to live in such a black and white world. It’s also an incredibly easy system of separating phenomena and pattern-finding which we can’t really help due to our psychological evolution.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    They are upset because atheism is trying to market itself to what it sees as it’s established customer base (which is everyone), and influence brand loyalty.

    Imagine a response like this to an ad saying something like “Drink Pepsi”…

    It’s hard to know if the confrontational way these brands present their message is healthy for pop drinkers, said the Paul R., co-executive director of Coke.

    “Quite obviously a significant portion of the Coke drinking community is going to be upset,” Mr. R said. “We’ll probably do several things, including be angry and deeply offended. Perhaps also some will give more serious thought to their own brand commitments. The fact of the matter is we’re living in a culture that in many ways beyond these Pepsi challenges to our brand commitments. So in that regard it’s a reminder that in many respects this is not a friendly environment.”

    I had a relative who was a minister. If we questioned him about the policies of his denomination, or Christianity in general he would say “That’s a management issue, I’m in sales”.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    Pfeleger is an especially repugnant individual independent on the quote above.

    And yes, as you note, no one from the Catholic church has any right to talk.

    A quick thought experiment should suffice in estimating the negative societal impact of Catholicism since the 70′s as compared to atheism.

  • The Pint

    Perhaps also some will give more serious thought to their own faith commitments. The fact of the matter is we’re living in a culture that in many ways beyond this challenges our faith commitments.

    And this is supposed to be a bad thing…. why? I would think that a pastor would encourage his flock to “give serious thought” to their faith in the first place. Oh, wait, having the flock actually consider their faith and having it challenged might get them to seriously think about it. Wouldn’t want that to happen. Better just to gripe about how it creates “an unfriendly environment” to Christians, because encouraging free thought is apparently the same thing.

  • Pingback: Proselytizing Signs « Black Jesus

  • Pingback: Proselytizing Signs | Secular News Daily

  • Pingback: FFRF Chicago Bus Ad Pissing Off Christians « Reality Bong

  • ckitching

    The priests are working hard to protect their revenue stream celestial scorecard flock’s immortal souls. Clearly this kind of advertising may cause the entire religion church world to fall apart. Without going every Sunday to listen to someone tell them what to think how to vote what God wants, how will they be able to tell right from wrong?

    I’m not being too cynical, am I?

  • Dan W

    One of my favorite things about being an atheist is using my Sundays for more enjoyable things than church, like sleeping in. I’ve never liked getting up early much anyway. I’d rather stay up late at night.

  • chris

    I second all the comments above that suggest more positive options than sleeping in. I think the message should be atheists work for a better world instead of praying for it.

  • SickoftheUS

    Since when is getting a good night’s sleep “laziness”?

    And why do atheists have to bend over backwards to prove they’re more industrious, or un-lazy, than church-goers? You’re conceding the point to the religious if you strive to substitute church with something considered useful or utilitarian. What’s wrong with just doing something enjoyable to you?

    The US, at least, is a country of workaholics who have been trained in the religion of hard work all their lives.

  • Pingback: Freedom From Religion Foundation Bus Ad Campaign Hits Chicago « The Skeptical Teacher

  • Ex Partiot

    II have been sleeping in on sundays for the last 40 years, so what else is new¨!!!

  • Ed

    Since when is getting a good night’s sleep “laziness”?

    You are right, getting a good nights sleep isn’t laziness. But the ad didn’t say get a good nights sleep, it said sleep in. Sleeping in is extra.

    And why do atheists have to bend over backwards to prove they’re more industrious, or un-lazy, than church-goers?

    My point was not that church goers are not lazy but that they may not be using their time well. The point of my suggestion was to contrast the relative pointlessness of sitting in a church to the utility of doing something real and concrete in the world to help someone. “It was an illustration of “Hands that help are holier than lips that pray”

    You’re conceding the point to the religious if you strive to substitute church with something considered useful or utilitarian.

    What point are you talking about?

    What’s wrong with just doing something enjoyable to you?

    It is not wrong to care for yourself or even pamper yourself a little bit occasionally. However, putting yourself first, ahead of or instead of someone else, isn’t a message that needs any further emphasis. Most Americans have few problems looking out for good ole number one.

    The US, at least, is a country of workaholics who have been trained in the religion of hard work all their lives.

    I’ll agree with that, but again I’ll point out that that USA workaholism is in the service of rampant individualism and a selfish “gimmie, gimmie. Me, me, me,” kind of attitude that doesn’t need any more emphasis.

  • sil-chan

    Damnit, Luther beat me to it. Oh well, I would like to point out as well that it is slightly over 11% for a raise as well.
    p: pay, t:pay after tithe
    0.9p = t
    p = 1/0.9 * t
    1/0.9 = 1.111…
    Thus it is a 11.11..% raise.

  • Dornier Pfeil

    “All FFRF is saying is that atheists don’t go to church on Sunday and others should follow their lead.”

    Don’t be disingenuous. Hewing to the technical definition of the words in a message in order to claim something is inoffensive ignores that what a message means is as varied as the multitudes of individuals who read it. It is a classic and cherished form of propaganda but no less effective for being so. Of course that just adds to the sheer joy of being able to torque off the religious crazies when designing these messages to be technically inoffensive in order to squeeze them where it hurts. Turnabout is always fair play and I have grown weary of trying to explain how supposed religious messages about love and peace have always cloaked a violent agenda. Let them twist in the wind for a change trying to be explicit why they don’t like the messages. They don’t want their sheeple to be exposed so they don’t accidentally start thinking for themselves and desert the temple with their dues.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X