Catholic League Announces ‘Adopt an Atheist’ Campaign

You remember Bill Donohue, right? He’s the president of The Catholic League, an organization seemingly devoted to portraying criticism and satire of Catholic beliefs as discrimination against believers, and demanding proverbial heads on platters for perceived grievances.

 

 

As it turns out, he might be better off playing the role of martyr, because mockery is not his strong suit. American Atheists president David Silverman told the New York Times that “We want people to realize that there may be atheists in their family, even if those atheists don’t even know they are atheists.”

This is Donohue’s rebuttal:

We think there is some merit in David’s idea, even if he has things backwards, as usual. Today we are launching our “Adopt An Atheist” campaign, the predicate of which is, “We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians in their community, even if those Christians don’t even know they are Christian.”

Here’s what our campaign entails. We are asking everyone to contact the American Atheist affiliate in his area, letting them know of your interest in “adopting” one of them. All it takes is an e-mail. Let them know of your sincere interest in working with them to uncover their inner self. They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along.

Donohue seems to labor under a serious misunderstanding. For him, the notion of a self-identified atheist not knowing that deep down, in her heart of hearts, that she is really a follower of Christ, is just as ridiculous as the notion of a self-identified Christian being an atheist in secret. The idea that a person could be unaware of their own atheism (as I once was) must seem especially ludicrous to him.

The path to atheism from a religious upbringing is, for many, a very complicated one. I intellectually rejected Christianity at age 15, but I still behaved like a Christian amongst most of my family, and members of my church. All the while, I personally struggled with what I did believe in the absence of a specific religion. I went from Christian, to agnostic, to Deist, and back to agnostic again over the course of the next seven years. Eventually, I came to a point at which I had exhausted all of my attempts to believe in God, but was unwilling to utterly dismiss the possibility.

When I finally picked up The God Delusion a year and a half ago, I was introduced to Richard Dawkins’ formulation of the belief scale, and found myself sharing his position: “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” This is a 6 on his 1 to 7 belief scale, and it was an accurate description of the beliefs I had held for at least a year at that point. Dawkins persuaded me that my worldview was an atheistic one, without fundamentally changing it.

So I think Silverman is correct to claim that there are many with an atheistic outlook who have not fully owned up to it, privately or publicly. The media and advertising campaigns AA has become known for can certainly play a role in getting through to such people.

But what about the Catholic League’s apparently tongue-in-cheek campaign? There is a possibility that Donohue does think that many atheists are “closeted Christians” and that he’s at least partially serous. But I can’t imagine what would cause a person in our culture with sincere Christian beliefs to repress them. While there are certainly contexts in which outright expressions of religiosity might be discouraged, statements like “I’m a Christian” or, “I attend Mass every Sunday” do not carry anything like the social costs of saying, “I’m an atheist.”

Negative assumptions about atheists are persistent in our society, as Donohue himself demonstrates in his concluding paragraph.

If we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

Silverman, in the meantime, is still spreading the message. He unveils a new Christmas-themed billboard this Monday — and it’ll appear on this site when they give us the green light.

***Update***: Catholic League communications director Jeff Field told Justin Vacula that the press release was “lighthearted, humorous and tongue-in-cheek,” adding, “If people can’t be good-humored, that’s their own problem.” Look, Jeff, we know that your boss was trying to be funny. It’s just that he’s not very good at it.

JT Eberhard noticed that, in response to the influx of responses from atheists, The Catholic League has removed the contact page from their website.

And, among the many direct appeals to the League from atheists who want to be adopted, my favorite is from Miranda Celeste Hale:

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About Bentley Owen

Bentley Owen reads books and lives in Tulsa, OK. He's on twitter.

  • Anonymous

    Hell, I’ll volunteer.

    • Dennis Keane

      Me too!  I’ll bring down the lot of them!

    • Dennis Keane

      Me too!  I’ll bring down the lot of them!

    • Dennis Keane

      Me too!  I’ll bring down the lot of them!

    • Dennis Keane

      Me too!  I’ll bring down the lot of them!

  • NotAClosetChristian

    Bill Donohue is a jackass, and he’s proving it once again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

    This better not lead to more religious folks talking to me about their religion. I don’t talk to them randomly about my atheism. I already have to deal with the Mormons. Catholics better not start knocking on my door too.

    • Kris Preusker

      I love it when the faithful come to my door. There’s something about the deer in the headlights look they get on their face when I ask them for evidence, and the way they try to escape and scuttle off as I’m still refuting their claims, that just warms the cockles of my atheist lack-of-a-soul.

    • Anonymous

      I can understand how this could annoy people, but I love a good “argument”. I look forward to it. Well, what I mean is that this will ultimately lead to some form of debate. There’s no way they just want to hang out and actually get to know me for who I am. They’ll be interested in proselytizing. There’s no affiliate of AA in IN which sucks so I emailed AA. I was going to email thecatholicleague directly but I thought they might question my sincerity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

        I agree that I do love a good argument at the right time and place.  I don’t mind the Mormons coming as long as they do it when im not busy. But they come when I have stuff to do. I tell them Im to busy to talk right now they are back in an hour when I still have shit to do. lol. Thats my prob with it.

      • Justin

        It’s rarely a good argument, though.  It’s almost always the same damn argument.

      • Justin

        It’s rarely a good argument, though.  It’s almost always the same damn argument.

  • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

    Bentley, you make an interesting point about not always knowing your own beliefs.

    A friend of mine told me when he was in his 50s that he was still now and then discovering he harbored ideas about life that had been instilled in him during his Christian upbringing and which — once he got around to examining them — he found himself at odds with.

  • Anonymous

    This reminds me of a crack-pot imam we have in Australia. As far as he’s concerned everyone is born a Muslim, even if you don’t know it, you’re a Muslim.’

    “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

    It’s ideas like this which create hostility towards atheists. Donahue is a fat blowhard. Screw him and his child raping church.

    • Trace

      Fatism? oh my

    • http://twitter.com/notlobau John

      Very true! I live in Sydney the nutjob you’re referring to is the one who compared women to raw meat .
      If the media want a quote from a Muslim, he’s the go to guy.
       

  • http://twitter.com/earthforce_1 Earthforce One

    My (Catholic) wife adopted an atheist when she married me.  LOL

  • Anonymous

    I’d much rather be good for nothing than a terrible person like this Donahue character. Neutral is better than destructive.

  • Anonymous

    “They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along.”
    Apparently, changing worldviews is as simple as changing clothes.

    • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

      How hard is it to change a worldview if your worldview, like Donahue’s, is not based on facts?  Fantasies are cheap.

  • Sakura Yumura

    Ah…good old Bill…wait, scratch that, Bill is once again showing his bigoted side as well as breaking one of his oh-so-precious commandments…what was that…something about taking others work and claiming it as your own…hmm…Oh yeah!! “Thou shalt not steal” and he’s showing with great ineptitude how the religious can’t behave by their own scary documents condemning them to an eternity of horribleness simply because they didn’t worship some vain self-righteous deity.

    Yes, bravo *applauds* please come back when you have something original for once…until then, I’m taking a nap! zZzZzZzZz

  • Wendel

    IMO top things you need to know about William Donohue (besides the brutal South Park takedown that if anything made him seem nicer than in real life) are that he’s an anti-semite that declared, “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6685898/

    And that he will do anything to protect the reputation of the catholic church, including smearing children who’ve been raped by the church. In this interview on the Irish crisis, Donohue calls the victims golddigers, denies just about everything, and says that since not all of the priests raped kids you shouldnt say that, in fact, priests raped kids.

    http://www.atheistmedia.com/2009/05/bill-donohue-denies-catholic-church.html

    The man is a monster and moral degenerate by any reasonable definition of the term.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve said it before… and I’ll say it again,  Bill Donahue, Go FORK YOURSELF!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve said it before… and I’ll say it again,  Bill Donahue, Go FORK YOURSELF!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve said it before… and I’ll say it again,  Bill Donahue, Go FORK YOURSELF!

  • Dan W

    Bill Donahue continues to demonstrate that he’s a bigoted asshole.

    By the way, am I alone in thinking that the Catholic League consists solely of Donahue?

    • Anonymous

      By the way, am I alone in thinking that the Catholic League consists solely of Donahue?

      Nope, you’re not :)   Years ago, Kathy Griffin said “The Catholic League? isn’t that just Bill Donahue and a computer?” :)

    • Anonymous

      By the way, am I alone in thinking that the Catholic League consists solely of Donahue?

      Nope, you’re not :)   Years ago, Kathy Griffin said “The Catholic League? isn’t that just Bill Donahue and a computer?” :)

  • Mattmon

     So, does that mean Damon Fowler is going to get support from them?

  • Mattmon

     So, does that mean Damon Fowler is going to get support from them?

  • http://dnivie.livejournal.com/ Eivind

    Over here, most of the people the church counts as believers when they want to seem to represent “the people” are infact non-believers.

    Of 100 random norwegians, something like 87 will be members of a church, the large majority are protestants, but there’s a few catholics and muslims.

    If, however, you ask 100 random people on the street: “Do you believe in a God?” then you’ll get something like 40% yes.

    That’s right, more than half of the people who are members of a church, answer no if you ask them if they believe in God.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      They tend to cout their numbers as 
      (every baby they’ve ever baptised) – (every person they’ve done a funeral for)

      Unsuprisingly this gives a vastly inflated figure. Because if they had to count their numbers by the number of bodies who show up in the pews they wouldn’t have any influence in most of the world.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      They tend to cout their numbers as 
      (every baby they’ve ever baptised) – (every person they’ve done a funeral for)

      Unsuprisingly this gives a vastly inflated figure. Because if they had to count their numbers by the number of bodies who show up in the pews they wouldn’t have any influence in most of the world.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      They tend to cout their numbers as 
      (every baby they’ve ever baptised) – (every person they’ve done a funeral for)

      Unsuprisingly this gives a vastly inflated figure. Because if they had to count their numbers by the number of bodies who show up in the pews they wouldn’t have any influence in most of the world.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      They tend to cout their numbers as 
      (every baby they’ve ever baptised) – (every person they’ve done a funeral for)

      Unsuprisingly this gives a vastly inflated figure. Because if they had to count their numbers by the number of bodies who show up in the pews they wouldn’t have any influence in most of the world.

  • Anonymous

    That’s not how you spell “aggravate”!

  • Anonymous

    That’s not how you spell “aggravate”!

  • Trina

    Well, Donohue sounds like an awful person.

    Years ago  (okay, about 30 lol), I heard something very similar from a friend, who told me “I think you’re  a christian and just don’t know it.”   So it’s hardly a new idea, though I don’t know how common it’s been.  Apparently the concept is that if you have good character traits and a strong sense of morals, you *must* be christian.  Again, the disconnect is there – they just can’t imagine anything else.  In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t even an atheist yet (or maybe I was & just didn’t know it  ;-)  ).  I was sort of a neo-pagan, though, sadly, I did have to go through a second period of christianity before ‘seeing the light,’ so to speak. 

  • Trina

    Well, Donohue sounds like an awful person.

    Years ago  (okay, about 30 lol), I heard something very similar from a friend, who told me “I think you’re  a christian and just don’t know it.”   So it’s hardly a new idea, though I don’t know how common it’s been.  Apparently the concept is that if you have good character traits and a strong sense of morals, you *must* be christian.  Again, the disconnect is there – they just can’t imagine anything else.  In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t even an atheist yet (or maybe I was & just didn’t know it  ;-)  ).  I was sort of a neo-pagan, though, sadly, I did have to go through a second period of christianity before ‘seeing the light,’ so to speak. 

  • Trina

    Well, Donohue sounds like an awful person.

    Years ago  (okay, about 30 lol), I heard something very similar from a friend, who told me “I think you’re  a christian and just don’t know it.”   So it’s hardly a new idea, though I don’t know how common it’s been.  Apparently the concept is that if you have good character traits and a strong sense of morals, you *must* be christian.  Again, the disconnect is there – they just can’t imagine anything else.  In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t even an atheist yet (or maybe I was & just didn’t know it  ;-)  ).  I was sort of a neo-pagan, though, sadly, I did have to go through a second period of christianity before ‘seeing the light,’ so to speak. 

  • Trina

    Well, Donohue sounds like an awful person.

    Years ago  (okay, about 30 lol), I heard something very similar from a friend, who told me “I think you’re  a christian and just don’t know it.”   So it’s hardly a new idea, though I don’t know how common it’s been.  Apparently the concept is that if you have good character traits and a strong sense of morals, you *must* be christian.  Again, the disconnect is there – they just can’t imagine anything else.  In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t even an atheist yet (or maybe I was & just didn’t know it  ;-)  ).  I was sort of a neo-pagan, though, sadly, I did have to go through a second period of christianity before ‘seeing the light,’ so to speak. 

  • Gus Snarp

    This is fantastic! I mean, Bill Donahue is an ass and it is not fantastic in the way he thinks it is, but this is a fantastic outreach opportunity for US! If any AA chapters are contacted by Donahue’s followers, I hope they have some friendly atheists they can recommend. I’ll do it if anyone in the Cincinnati area calls. Because as we are all aware by now, a large part of the distrust of atheists is a lack of understanding. They’ve been convinced by people like Donahue that we’re all evil hedonists. Or Nihilists. Or both. Or Satan worshipers. Or all three. And they don’t think they know any non-believers. So if they want to adopt someone, by all means, let them. Discuss religion with them (but try not to get too frustrated and start yelling and swearing – I know this will be hard if they’re anything like Donahue), but the goal is not to convert them to atheism (though the opposite will surely be their goal), but rather to show them that you’re an ordinary person, with hopes, dreams, maybe a family, concern for the world around you. That you’re their neighbor, their coworker, the parent of their kids school friends. We won’s make them stop being Catholic, but we might get them to think twice about hating atheists. 

  • Mairianna

    The Catholic Church doesn’t give a flying fig about your “beliefs”!  They want your flippin’ MONEY.  

  • Alleyprowler

    Oh hell no. This is just a rehash of the idiotic notion that the only reason that people don’t subscribe to a certain faith is that they haven’t heard the “good news”. I am very tired of explaining that I’ve heard it already, don’t think it’s good or news, and that I am of the opinion that sharing your faith is kind of like offering to share your underwear. No, thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    FWIW, I do think it is bad strategy (and bad tact) to say things like “even if those atheists don’t even know they are atheists.” Doubtless there is some truth to this, but I think it’s generally best policy to take people at face value. At best, it comes across as mildly condescending/patronizing; and at worst, it comes off as delusional (as the Catholic League is trying to paint it here). Silverman’s point is made even without this added sentiment: Closeted atheists are *everywhere*, one could be in your own family and you’d have no idea. No need to press it further than that by questioning whether people are even out to themselves.
    That said, this press release from the Catholic League is both bigoted and stupid.  “Let atheists know there may be Christians in their community”?  Gee, and I thought all those people were just wearing a necklace with the letter ‘t’ on it….

  • Nude0007

    Boy this ticks me off. Like we need to be adopted, as in we are still immature enough to need guidance from another adult.  Never mind they choose to believe something unprovable and totally unfounded, we need them to tell us how to think.

    The comment that we “believe in nothing, etc.” is always a total cop out insult that tries to indicate we are less than human.  We believe in lots of stuff, we just don’t believe in gods.

  • Anonymous

    I guess the loving Christian that he is does not realize that “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.” is a very hurtful thing to say.  I didn’t think anything that man said could hurt my feelings, but that does.  To think there is a person out there, thinking that because I don’t believe in his invisible friend, I am good for nothing?  Wow.  This is illustrative of the hurt the Christians toss about.  They get personal.  It doesn’t help his case at all.

  • Xeon2000

    Adoption sounds great. I’ll have some big grad school expenses in a couple years. They can take care of those.

  • bigstick

    I am ready to be adopted.  I am a needy wretch.  I need a lot.  Please show me the error of my ways, does this come with a bowl of soup  or a present.  I really, really want (or excuse me) , I need a new car.  I will be a great adopted dependent.   PLEASE  PICK ME.  Up front though,  I can be somewhat thick so this could take a long, long and I do mean a LONG time, but I can endure.  Does a christmas tree comes with this too?  You know you can’t have a christmas tree without lots and lots of present.  I again I am a needy wretch. 

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t know Donohue was being sarcastic.  Thought he was for real. He’s such a nasty man.  Doesn’t help the image of Catholics at all.

  • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

    Off Topic for a second…

    Every time I see Bill Donahue in the media I keep confusing him with one of my favourite Talk Show personalities, Phil Donahue.  Does this happen with anyone else?
    Don’t really have anything to say On Topic.

  • Anonymous

    Man, her delivery is just plain perfect: so sweet, so unassuming, so mercilessly cutting through all of his bullshit.  You rock, Miranda!

    • http://www.mirandaceleste.net Miranda Celeste Hale

      Thank you! :)

  • http://www.mirandaceleste.net Miranda Celeste Hale

    Thanks for sharing my video, Bentley :)


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