So, this morning on my commute to work, I passed a billboard that stated, “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion.”
I guess I used to be one of these people. I tend to say that I was “atheist,” but technically that means that I didn’t believe that there was a God. And I wasn’t that certain (not that I really thought about it). Or sometimes I say that I was “agnostic,” which means that I didn’t think that it was possible to know if there was or wasn’t a God. And I didn’t know if it was possible or not. I just didn’t look into it.
I suppose the more accurate term was that I was a Nothing. It just wasn’t on my radar at all.
Being me, I read everything. Backs of cereal boxes, whatever. And I like to think around all sides of issues. Since I was a captive audience in my car for a while, I pondered this sign.
The first thing I thought about was this word, “happily.” What do they mean by “happy”? I think they mean it more in the way of “content,” than in the context of “being fulfilled by living according to the purpose for which you were made.” And then I thought of something that ties in with this thought from Pope Francis’s recent interview (but then I forgot what it was, so you’ll have to wait until I can read the interview again, so I can cite it).
Then, I thought about what non-religious people — Nothings, like I was — would think of this billboard. Um. Nothing. It would be immediately dismissed. At least, *I* would have immediately dismissed it as irrelevant. Perhaps atheists, especially those rabid-seeming ones that like to attack people with religious views, might want to check out the website listed, to see if they have anything they can use in their attacks. But largely, I think that it wouldn’t generate much traffic.
What about religious people? I think they would be more likely to check out the website (after all, I did, right?), if nothing else but to see what it was that they were saying. But I don’t think that the billboard would seriously make them question their faith. (I’ll get to my thoughts about the website in a moment.)
So, what was the point of the billboard?
No, really. What was the point?
And their argument in itself leaves much to be desired. “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion.” Okay. Well, millions of Americans are living without arms and legs, too, and are happy. But this doesn’t mean that is an ideal state (to be armless or legless). I (or “people” to be generic) can be happy in all kinds of adverse situations. Conversely, people can be unhappy in ideal situations.
And… The girl pictured on the billboard… didn’t look all that happy.
Overall, my impression was: Advertising FAIL.
But I’ll give them a chance. I’ll check out their website.
At the very top of their page is a large graphic identical to the billboard. Okay.
Then, they have a very flowery description of who they are. For example, “We’re made of the same ingredients as butterflies and blue whales…” While technically accurate, it just seems kind of…
It made me laugh. At them. It did.
For people advocating a position of “science, reason, and secular values” this style of language was WAY too fluffy.
There was also a short video, but I didn’t watch this.
Next, there’s a big call-out box saying, “Be counted among the millions! Get a free sticker and let people know you are living happily without religion.”
Wow! Really? A free sticker?!
Seriously? That just makes me NOT take you seriously. Whether I was on the nonreligious or religious side of things. I mean, can I have mine with sparkles, too, to show that I’m *really* happy?
Then, we have a series of “testimonials” from people who are happy and living without religion. I didn’t think these advocated really one way or the other for or against secular humanism (as they say they are), but I *did* find it amusing that one notes “Whether I’m in the lab investigating cellular respiration…”
Because they have to push the fact that they are FOR SCIENCE. As if religious people are against science or something. I found that humorous. They are trying too hard. And trying to sustain an inaccurate stereotype. At least half of these people look happy in their pictures.
Now, the Q&A section. Their answers are either perplexing, humorous, or nonsensical. What they are NOT is convincing. I don’t say this because I don’t agree with them (I don’t agree with them, but that’s not the point), I say this because I think that if they are to successfully state their position and try to offer a forum for like-minded people to gather, this Q&A section could have been written in a different way so as to be much more effective.
I was in their position at one point. I *get* what they are about. I suppose I can kind of understand that they want to offer a place for people who think as they do to get together, although I’m not sure what purpose this would serve other than basic socialization. I mean, if we are making our own meaning in our lives, it’s not like we would have a common denominator for discussion.
Overall, I found the website and the message to be unconvincing and trying too hard.
They made secular humanism sound like “The Loser Club for Losers.”
^ That sounds mean. But the tone of the website really struck me as something out of “Revenge of the Nerds”. They’ll make their own fraternity! 🙂
Ah, secular humanists. I get you. I love you. But I think you can do better.