The United Coalition of Reason says the New York ad campaign is intended to reach out to nontheists and let them know that they are not alone. At the same time, the organisation wants to break stereotypes and let the public know that atheists are good people too.
“We want everyone to know that people can be good without religious beliefs,” said John Rafferty, a spokesperson for Big Apple Coalition of Reason, which is affiliated with the United coalition.
Wellll, maybe you can be good without religion, but you can’t be good without God, a point made later in the article and by little ol’ me in this post:
Let’s stipulate, just for the sake of argument, that the world was created by a Creator. And let’s assume that this Creator was God, just because that’s the first creator I could think of. It would be safe to assume, I think, that anything created by God would carry his fingerprints. Just like you can tell the difference between a Picasso and a Monet by the style of the painting, if God is a distinct, independent intelligence, you should be able to see His style in His creation.
Style isn’t something that you have to think about; it’s a revelation of your personality. When I write something, I don’t wonder, “What would Jason say about this?” I just write what comes to mind. When I buy clothes or furniture, I don’t have to stop and think, “What would Jason like?” I just prefer some things over others. I think that those things are “good.” But they’re not good in an absolute sense; they’re just good to me. Since other people might have different preferences, they wouldn’t necessarily say my style is good, but they would say that it is indicative of my unique personality. Or, to say the same thing in a shorthand way, they’d say it’s “very Jason.”
If I created a universe, I would create one that was “very Jason.” The things that I liked would be the things that were considered “good,” and the beings that I created in my image would rejoice in those things like I do. And it would be that way not because I thought about it, but because it was a reflection of my nature as the creator. In my universe, 1 Corinthians 13 would say, “And now these three remain: peanut M&M’s, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Star Wars. But the greatest of these is Star Wars.” Come to think of it, this universe is probably better than mine would be. But the point remains: The stuff that we see as good is the stuff God likes; the reason we see it as good is because He likes it. This universe is indicative of His preferences; it’s “very God.” It all boils down to this, my one-liner Philosophy of Goodness:
When we say “God is good,” we’re not describing what God is, we’re describing what good is–good is God.
The atheist ad says, “A million New Yorkers are good without God.” But that’s not true. To the extent that they are good (and by “good” I don’t just mean “slightly better than the shmuck next to them riding the subway with mirrors on his shoes”; I mean genuinely good), they’re good because God is working through them, whether they know it or not. That’s the only way they could be good.
Christians are going to have to deal with this and many other atheist misconceptions more and more frequently, I’m afraid. The evangelical strain of atheism is growing aggressively. For some tips on approaching atheists, check out the series on that subject I did with the extremely great Jen from the Conversion Diary blog.