More on Atheist Billboards in Colorado

I’m back with a little less caffeine in my system but the same passionate blogging fury to correct misconceptions about those God damned billboards that haven’t even gone up yet. My View From the Center started off their post nicely (oh, and I have to thank them for linkage too because that’s merely polite blogger manners), but then went off and said this:

It seems that atheism is now also a business — that’s the only motivation I can find for these billboards and for organizations like Metro State Atheists and PhillyCor. Well, I can’t deny anyone the opportunity to make money off of their religion (or non-religion) but I certainly don’t intend to join in to ‘get my share’ of the profits. The atheists who put up billboards, form organizations and try to tear down peoples beliefs in their religions are the “noisy” atheists — to them atheism is a profit-making business that has little to do with faith or a lack of it. These “noisy” atheists are also the ones who have trouble sustaining their non-belief, so they desperately need the company of other atheists as a support system.

People who are comfortable with their belief in a deity, or in the non-existance of one, don’t need support systems — but I guess we are in a vast minorty.

*sigh*

I took that personally since I personally know the members of COCORE and of Metro State Atheists so I think I’ll start off with something along the lines of…

The members of COCORE that I know haven’t quit their day jobs. They are hard working people who set up social meetups and fight the occassional local anti-secularist political moves in their spare time. They aren’t wearing nicely-tailored suits, shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, or wearing Rolex watches. I can personally say that COCORE is not a profit making scheme because I’m a part of it and I know the people who run it.

And Metro State Atheists is run by freaking college students! They aren’t unlike other college students. They have to eat and pay their tuition just like the rest of them. Shame on you for equating them with making as much profit as televangelists.

How in the Hell do people jump to a conclusion like this anyway? Are billboards for Breast Cancer Awareness Month also directly linked to being a money-making scheme just because they’re an advertisement? Ads are used to get products out there, yes, but they’re also used to send messages like “You know, there’s a lot of people in this country who don’t believe in God and are perfectly moral, perfectly happy people in case you haven’t noticed.”

Now, I’ve made a short list of not and is to make the rest of what I want to say easy for you.

Not

  1. An attempt to offend religious people.
  2. An argument against the existence of God.
  3. An attempt to restore faith in Not-God.
  4. A scheme to get COCORE more money.

Is

  1. A way to raise awareness that there are perfectly moral, perfectly happy non-believers in this predominantly Christian country. In case you haven’t noticed, Atheists are the second most hated “religious”-group next to the Scientologists. The only way to solve that is to make people aware that we’re here and they’re stereotypes about us are wrong.
  2. A way to let non-believers get together with other non-believers. No, we don’t need to have other people to reinforce our disbelief in God, but perhaps you’ve heard of something like the very human need to have community? This may be hard for you to grasp, but people like to hang out with like-minded people, and what seems to be only in the case of freethinkers, especially when like-minded people disagree. That’s something I like about meeting up with other Atheists. We don’t sit around talking about Not-God. That of course would be narrow and there’s not a lot to be said there about it that hasn’t been said before. We talk about all sorts of issues in secularism.
  3. A way to help organise people for secularist activism because really that’s all we want. We’ll argue with the occasional theist who walks up to us and have a good civilised debate, but the main thing that COCORE is all about is not changing people’s beliefs but countering fundamentalism (a local holistic medicine newspaper said that about them for peat’s sake).

What’s wrong with a support system? It’s not that we need a support system to continue not-believing, but in a country as pious as ours it definitely helps to be around people you can be perfectly frank to when it comes to addressing religion. People need to express themselves.

Another thing is I find it fun to get together simply because ultimately we’re all intellectually-minded people who happen to be Atheists and we tackle all sorts of broad issues within the huger umbrella of secularism (really, it’s not just about Not-God).

Okay, do we get it now? Good.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Metro State Atheists on November 17, 2008 at 5:48 am

    Actually, all our profit goes directly back into the club. I will never make a living from it. Its 100% volunteer.

  2. What can I say: different strokes for different folks.

    I personally certainly don’t need the company of like-minded atheists and don’t mind being part of the second-most hated “religious” group.

    I DO apologize, however, for suggesting that this was a business — I did state, however, that “that’s the only motivation I can find for these billboards and for organizations like Metro State Atheists and PhillyCor.” and that’s true when looking at the situation through MY prism.

    I guess not all atheists think alike, huh?

  3. Posted by Metro State Atheists on November 17, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    “that’s the only motivation I can find for these billboards and for organizations like Metro State Atheists and PhillyCor.”

    But we don’t make any money. Most of our events have been free.

  4. Actually the breast cancer awareness stuff is tied to a major drug, chemical, medical, and company; definitely profit-motivated.

  5. I guess not all atheists think alike, huh?

    Very true, and I find that wonderful.

  6. Posted by wazza on November 18, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    there is an incorrect their/there/they’re somewhere in this post, Elles. I can smell it.

    muahahahahaha! <– grammar nazi evil laugh

    This whole thing with the billboards has been faintly ridiculous. In my city, there’s a church with two billboard spaces outside, both devoted to church-y billboards. Some of them have been absolutely disgustingly hateful, and this is a fairly liberal city in a fairly liberal country. There have been things on those billboards that make me wonder why someone of a faith other than christian, or one of those terrible militant atheists we hear about all the time, hasn’t firebombed it before. I actually stopped taking that route (mostly because I had to walk up some killer stairs that way) and I’m glad I don’t need to see that bile anymore. But this billboard is nice, non-confrontational, just an outreach for a misunderstood community to get together for the kind of support others get in their church, and it’s been blasted from just about everyone.

    Ugh. I should not be outraged this late at night/early in the morning.

  7. If there is a way to make money out of this, we sure haven’t figured it out. The billboards are going to cost $5,000., and by the pleas we’re getting to help cover that by donating or asking our members to donate, it’s clear that this amount hasn’t been covered and some people at the top of this project are going into debt to do this.

    As an individual group leader, I can’t even get most of the members to pay the $1. per year that I ask to cover Meetup’s fees ($144./year). Though a small number almost make up for that by paying more than their $1. share.

    All of our leaders are volunteers, who are not paid for our hard work and time the way religious leaders usually are. So most of us pay out of our own pockets for the privilege of working for the community, and go into debt when we don’t have the money to pay.

    But if there were a way of making money off of it, I would be up for that, because our community doesn’t have the money and resulting power that religion has. Religious leaders can afford to work full time for their cause because there are incomes in it for them.

    But some of our leaders pay out of their pockets to put out a message just to let people know that there is a community out here for them, and somehow we’re pandering?

    I do hope that some of the people who find the COCORE site from the billboards will donate money to the billboard project, so that our best leaders aren’t stuck holding the bag.

    And it’s pitiful to hear the Xians moaning about the time of year that these billboards are going up. We could make them feel better if we had enough money to keep the campaign going year-round, so that they would know that we’re not just picking on Christmas. ;-D

  8. […] More on Atheist Billboards in Colorado […]

  9. Posted by riki on November 30, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    It’s so interesting how “literal” our society has become given that words, images, & everything we use to convey meaning is not literal. As an ex-Eng. Literature, creative writing professor & continuing writer, I find it most interesting that the people writing in are so sure they “know” what the billboards mean when in fact they are metaphoric and open to interpretation–just like the Bible. One possible meaning among all the viable ones [Ontology considers an interpretation viable if it can be supported by the text & image, not infused by the reader into the words]: as a child & as an adult, often looking at the world & sky, I am filled with curiousity, wondering about the unknown. The billboards remind me that there are other people with the desire to inquire. For those that find this offensive, I wonder if it is their insecurity that must shut down other ways to seek answers.

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