This one comes from one of my favorite YouTube atheists, ProfMTH:
1. Pay attention, American Atheists. THIS is how you win friends and influence people –
While American Atheists and NYC Atheists are looking to sue everyone in sight and battle it out against 9/11 first responders and their families, Chris McCoy did something very different. He launched a campaign to raise $50,000 for charity using GiveBack and recruited fellow atheists to help him. This is how you change people’s opinions about atheists, not by behaving like Scientology.
2. Lesbian couple saves 40 in Norwegian shooting – If “God” had his way, Hege Dalen and her partner, Toril Hansen would have been stoned to death long ago. But fortunately for 40 presumably mostly straight Norwegians, most Christians lack the courage of their convictions and never got around to obeying that particular command from their god.
3. The Richard Dawkins Award goes to Hitch! – Last year, a controversy began over the award going to Bill Maher because of Maher’s outspoken superstitious views about medical science. But I doubt many will object to this year’s winner, Christopher Hitchens, who last year was diagnosed with terminal Cancer. And yet, in spite of the Big C, Hitch has remained as active as ever in battling religious superstitions while showing enormous grace in the face of almost certain death. I can think of no one who better deserves the award.
On this day in 2014, the American Atheists will file a lawsuit against the federal government due to President Obama’s responding to a sneeze from one of the last living Holocaust survivors by saying, “God bless you.”
During a heated debate with the aforementioned Holocaust survivor on Fox News the following day, a spokesperson for the American Atheists will argue that because Obama’s salary is paid by public tax dollars, his statement was a violation of the First Amendment. Then after arguing with the Holocaust survivor, tripping a blind man, and punching a nun in the face, the atheist will proceed to attribute public disapproval of atheists solely to centuries of religious propaganda and not even in part to the backfiring of their own poorly thought out publicity stunts.
And on the same day the American Atheists’ lawsuit will be filed, the NYC Atheists will threaten a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), arguing that because The Met receives some public funding, it is unconstitutional for it to display the 19th Century European painting “Joan of Arc” by Jules Bastien-Lepage, which prominently depicts an historically religious figure. According to a representative for the group, the museum must allow atheists and other belief groups to include their own artwork of equal quantity in the museum, stressing the need for less religious-themed artwork from The Renaissance period.
It seems as though every movement has at least one organization that loses sight of its goals and simply becomes obsessed with coming up with whatever crazy stunt will grab them headlines regardless of how it reflects on the very cause their fighting.
For instance, the animal rights movement has PETA, who have long ago abandoned taking any actions to actually prevent unnecessary animal cruelty, opting instead to be media whores who happily grab attention by declaring owning pets is equal to the African slave trade and consuming beef makes you a Nazi. The gay rights movement has GLAAD, who for as long as I can remember has been devoted to doing nothing but accusing non-homophobic celebrities of being homophobic bigots. And of course even most Christian fundamentalists who agree with 99% of what the Westboro Baptist Church says find their methods of media whoring vile.
Well, atheism is no different. We have several organizations that seem far more interested in grabbing any attention they can–usually by filing frivolous lawsuits–than actually doing something that demonstrably benefits anyone. Now I recently chastised the NYC Atheists for their asinine attempts to stop the naming of a New York city street “Seven In Heaven Way” to honor NY firefighters who died on 9/11 on the grounds that it somehow caused them great harm. As I pointed out, the argument they were making was weak and was stretching the interpretation of the First Amendment rather thin. I also pointed out why going up against a 9/11 memorial was politically a terrible play and would only feed into Fox News’ derogatory narrative of atheists.
But now it’s the American Atheists turn to jump on an ill-conceived media stunt painting atheists as enemies of those honoring 9/11 victims. In this case, the American Atheists are filing a suit against New York over the infamous 9/11 Cross being included as part of a 9/11 exhibit. I could have told them this was a bad PR move beforehand, but now that Fox News literally pitted atheist Blair Scott against a 9/11 First Responder on the issue, my concerns have been proven correct (see clip in link above).
I like Blair Scott, but like the NYC Atheists, he’s talking out of his ass when it comes to this extremist interpretation of the First Amendment. The First Responder who debated Scott on Fox News is correct that there’s simply no real legal merit in the complaint. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art receive public funding too; so should they be prohibited from displaying religious-themed art? There’s no injury being done and thus no actionable offense. This is little more than a shameless ploy to exploit 9/11 to grab some publicity.
Of course the girders are nothing miraculous. And sure, it’s unfortunate that religious nuts managed to capitalize on the vaguely cross-like image they create. And sure, I can understand its inclusion in a collection of artifacts from that day can be offensive. As someone living in NYC when the Towers fell and who breathed 9/11 every single day for many months in its aftermath, I certainly find it distasteful. But like I often tell the religious who protest the endless number of things that offend their delicate sensibilities, you don’t have a right to not be offended. Nothing in the Constitution says that atheists mustn’t be offended.
Can’t the American Atheists focus on issues that, you know, actually matter instead of chasing any headlines they can get, even those that will inevitably be seen as atheists vs. 9/11 First Responders? The goal should be to expose that Fox News is WRONG about atheists, not to work with Fox News to further marginalize atheists from the rest of society. Unless that now is American Atheists’ goal. In which case, bravo. You’re succeeding in feeding public hatred of atheists. [applause]
But might I suggest an alternative approach. Actually seek out ways where atheists will be seen as the heroes of a news story–or at the very least, as the victims–instead of as the enemy of all that is good in the world. For instance, here’s a great pro-atheist news story about atheists helping others in the aftermath of another tragedy. See, that gets publicity for the RIGHT REASONS. Seriously guys, being more like Scientology should not be a goal to which you aspire. Can’t American Atheists afford a competent PR person? If not, hire me. I’ll give you a discount.
For the last few months, American Atheists have been rolling out a bunch of billboards across the country that, as I’ve made very clear in more than one article, I think completely suck. Eventually, other well-known atheists like PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson have jumped on the bandwagon and criticized those ads as well. And yet for some reason, the Raelians, France’s answer to Scientology, liked it enough to try to piggy-back off the “success” from the American Atheist campaign by ripping it off to draw attention to their kooky little atheistic, alien-worshiping religion.
But though I do love those crazy Raelian’s nudity policy, this piece isn’t about either of those “God is a Myth” campaigns. Rather, it’s about an advertising campaign that’s actually good, that actually sells atheism as as a positive thing rather than as a bunch of assholes whose sole purpose in life seems to be to piss people off and be miserable.
I can get behind this new commercial from the Center For Inquiry because, you see, they actually get it. They understand what the purpose of advertising is and they understand marketing. Great job, Center For Inquiry! That’s what I’m talking about!
Also, another great way to promote atheism and skepticism, Skepchick has just launched a sister site, Mad Art Lab, which “will include a diverse group of webcomic and fine artists, musicians, composers, and performance artists, with the occasional guest post by other well-known skeptical artists.”
Thank you Lord Tyson for taking our minds off American Atheists’ horrible billboards, David Silverman’s poor TV performance, and Bill O’Reilly’s ICP-level stupidity.
Rebecca Watson has written a great response to the this failure of a billboard campaign by American Atheists as has Staks at Dangerous Talk. Of course I planted my flag first on criticizing this campaign a month ago here and here. The former earned me the title of “faithiest accommodater” by one commenter who apparently put on their crankypants that day. Well, welcome fellow faithiest accommodaters who feel there’s a difference between blunt, unapologetic, but articulate intellectual criticisms of religion and just being an asshole who nobody’s going to want to hang out with.
As I said before, advertising isn’t about making arguments; it’s about selling a product. And if you want to sell a product like atheism in the month of December, you ought to be associating yourself with positive humanist values like good will towards your fellow human beings. That wins friends and influences people. Plus there’s that bonus of actually having helped people. Something I hear we atheists are all about and yet I see little of from the American Atheists.
And if you still REALLY want to get under the Religious Right’s skin, as one group of atheists learned this holiday season, you’re going about it all wrong.
It seems like the atheist advertisements are getting worse and worse. I was a big fan of some of the earlier ones like the one that read, “Don’t believe in god? You are not alone.” I also liked the “Imagine no religion” one, the “good without god” ones, and the “There is probably no god. So stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
Now the atheist ads have turned more bitter and petty as well as becoming pretty much indefensible…though sadly, that hasn’t stopped those responsible for them from trying to hopelessly defend them anyway:
I’m sorry, David, but your billboard is shit. It’s doing a disservice to the atheist community. And you look like a total asshole to Fox News viewers for defending it.
Then there’s the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who have reproduced their stupid Washington Christmas “display” from last year in Wisconsin that is essentially just giving the finger to the religious.
Now I recognize that no matter what billboard atheists put up, it’s guaranteed to piss someone off no matter how inoffensive it is but that’s no reason to put up a billboard that is legitimately out to offend people…especially at this time of year.
Like last year, numerous atheist groups have tried to play Fox News’ game by playing along with this “War on Christmas” nonsense in the most childish of ways. Now I don’t think Christmas should be a national holiday either but honestly, who the fuck cares?
There are so many bigger fish to fry and sticking your tongue out at Christmas at this time of year is not going to win friends. I say, stop being reactive or childish and let them have their Christmas.
And while the holiday season commences, we should display a positive secular humanist message to the world. One of the best examples of this that I’d seen was the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia’s “Tree of Knowledge” display, which sadly this year has been disallowed. This display said all the right things. It can hardly even be called an “atheist” display at all. It celebrated tolerance, unity, and a diversity of viewpoints. And atheism was simply included as one of those viewpoints. That’s taking advantage of the sentimental spirit so representative of the season.
An even better way to promote atheism this holiday season would be to organize atheist and secular groups to take part in charity work while wearing your atheism on your sleeve, both literally and figuratively. And an even better way would be to unite atheist groups and religious groups to perform charity work together for the common good. This last one makes for great free publicity. News media love feel-good stories about opposing groups coming together for a good cause.
My point is that Fox News wants everyone to think atheists are angry, bitter assholes like the one featured in this hilarious, less than subtle trailer for the direct-to-DVD film Christmas With A Capital C:
So why would you give them exactly what they want?
C’mon atheists. This holiday season, let’s remind Americans that being an atheist can make you a better person and not just a jerk.