CFI Michigan is one of many CFI chapters that are part of the current billboard campaign that says “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion,” but we seem to have gotten the most attention. Stories about the local billboards got picked up by AP and made newspapers from coast to coast. Now the student newspaper of local Calvin College has covered it with a very fair-minded article about the campaign and the organization.
Established in 1997 by local freethinkers, the CFI Michigan has grown from a few dozen members to more than 400 atheists, secular humanists and agnostics.
CFI Michigan is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes inquiry into science, religion, ethics, secularism and society.
According to its mission statement, CFI Michigan strives “to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values.”…
Jennifer Beahan, assistant director of CFI Michigan, reflected on the purpose of the billboard campaign.
“I have been asked if we are ‘evangelizing’ or trying to ‘convert’ people with our billboard,” Beahan said. “The answer to this is: no, absolutely not. Yes, we are advertising that we exist, but the purpose of the billboard is not to change anyone’s beliefs — each person has to decide what they believe by weighing the evidence for or against any particular religious belief themselves.”…The response to the CFI billboard campaign has been both positive and negative, said Jason Pittman, chair of the CFI Michigan advisory board.
“We have received many messages from people who are amazed that a group like ours exists,” Pittman said.
Pittman went on to discuss the billboard campaign’s target audience.
“We are trying to reach those who aren’t religious and don’t realize that there is a community out there for them,” Pittman said. “Most people in West Michigan come from religious households, so it is very traumatic for them when they lose their religion…many assume that they are alone.”
Calvin College is, as the name suggests, a very conservative school theologically and politically. My friend Howard Van Till was forced out as an astronomy professor for his writings in support of cosmic and biological evolution (and had to endure an actual heresy trial from the denomination that controls the university). But Calvin is actually a very good school academically, for the most part. And I’m happy to see an article about our group that was not slanted in any way and just let us say what we wanted to say.
One of the things the article notes is that many CFI Michigan members went to Christian schools. In fact, both our executive director and his wife (Jeff and Cathy Seaver) and associate director and her husband (Jennifer and Jeremy Beahan) graduated from local Christian universities. In addition to Calvin, Grand Rapids is home to several other Christian universities, including Aquinas and Cornerstone.