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July 12th, 2013
03:36 PM ET

How do advertisers spell trouble? G-O-D

By Jeffrey Weiss, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Has any advertiser gotten into more trouble than Samuel Adams by not putting religion in an ad? Usually it goes the other way.

If you missed the recent brew-haha, in a TV commercial pegged to this year’s Fourth of July, the Boston-based beer company offered an homage to its namesake:

“Why name a beer after Samuel Adams? Because he signed the Declaration of Independence. He believed there was a better way to live. All men are created equal. They are endowed with certain unalienable rights: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Which smoothly drops a key phrase from the Declaration: “…they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights ...”

On the one hand, it’s just a beer ad and it used up its whole 30 seconds. On the other hand, why leave out some of the best-known words in American history?

The company explained it’s all about the Beer Code. No kidding: There’s a national Beer Institute that has an Advertising and Marketing Code.

Right after, and I’m not making this up, “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not contain graphic nudity,” you will find: “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not employ religion or religious themes.”

There’s no mention of why it’s OK to use the Declaration itself, perhaps the most sacred text in the national civic religion, to sell suds.

Sam Adams himself wrote a lot about God. His dad even wanted him to go into the clergy. Instead, Adams went into business and became one of the firebrands of the American Revolution.** In 1772, he penned a report called The Rights of the Colonists that was presented at a Boston town meeting.

In it he argued for religious tolerance. Except for Catholics. Because, he explained, Catholic dogma and doctrine leads “directly to the worst anarchy and confusion, civil discord, war, and bloodshed.”

So ol’ Sam wasn’t perfect. None of our Founding Fathers were. But he probably wouldn’t have been happy about the beer named for him eliding the creator from its ad.

Modern reaction was about what you’d expect. Howls of outrage filled the company’s Facebook page. Columnists and commentators took the company to task.

This commercial is far from the first to tangle with faith. Some other countries are less sensitive about the topic than Americans, as this collection from Buzzfeed demonstrates.

The attempt often doesn’t go so well in America. But there are some exceptions.

Here are five notable American examples:

1. For several years, Doritos and Pepsi have held a Super Bowl ad contest. Folks submit an ad, the ads get posted online and voted on, and the top vote-getter gets broadcast during the Big Game.

A couple of years ago, a temporarily popular entry was titled “Feed Your Flock.” In it, a clergyman with a dwindling flock prays for inspiration. Cut to a long line of people waiting for a chip and a sip of soda. Does it look like Catholics receiving the sacraments? Ubetcha. Cut to the sign out front: "Free Doritos and Pepsi Max Sunday."

Yes, it was funny. And yes, it was offensive to some Catholics. And yes, the folks who made the ad apologized and pulled it from the contest. But you can still watch it here.

2. Another ad aimed at the Super Bowl with a religious theme ran as planned. This one was intended to kick up a controversy but turned out to be less than expected. It was paid for by the conservative advocacy group Focus on the Family and featured football star Tim Tebow. The pregame buzz was all about how overtly religious it was going to be and how it would be all about abortion. As you can see here, it turned out to be a lot more subtle than that.

3. A third Super Bowl ad with a faith theme aired last year. (Maybe the biggest game inspires ad agencies to reach for the biggest metaphors?) Dodge pulled out a Paul Harvey speech from decades before and ran pretty pictures in front of it. The audio begins: "And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, I need a caretaker. So God made a farmer."

The nostalgic ad took two minutes – an expensive eternity for Super Bowl TV commercials. And it kicked up no significant faith-related complaints.

4. A different kind of ad that tangled with faith was a social media phenomenon two years ago.

The Facebook page for Oreos featured a photo of a six-layer “crème” cookie. Each layer was a different color of the rainbow. The text on the page said, simply: June 25/Pride. Objections from religious conservatives were predictable.

5. Finally, there’s the most successful religiously themed ad ever made for a secular product. Hebrew National makes deli fare: Salami, hot dogs, corned beef, bologna. And Hebrew National is kosher, meaning it follows traditional Jewish dietary laws.

Starting in the mid-1960s and returning occasionally in the years since, the company has run ads with a slogan that played on that unusual aspect of the business: “We answer to a higher authority.”

As with the recent Sam Adams commercial, the Creator is never actually mentioned. But as you can see here in one of the first of the “higher authority” ads, nobody who knows the product ever missed the point.

Jeffrey Weiss is an award-winning religion writer in Dallas. 

** An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that Adams was a lawyer.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Business • Culture wars • Entertainment • Money & Faith • TV • United States

soundoff (909 Responses)
  1. DeBunkoMatic

    Beer was invented by ancient Egyptians and perfected by Monks, and they continue to be among the best at the art today. Beer companies should embrace the FACT that beer has religous roots as well as wine. Embrace the heritage, use any means necessary to sell more products, just be sure you take care of the less fortunate when you have the opportunity.

    July 15, 2013 at 2:40 am |
  2. Scott Allen

    I think God likes beer. More good stuff happens around beer than we think about. Bartenders can be some of the best counselors around. Sure it can be abused, but so can hands, cars, planes and fire, but our life is better with all of them. I think beer is pretty good stuff. I wonder if there will be beer in heaven. Maybe God has something better. Cheers.

    July 15, 2013 at 1:46 am |
  3. Dave

    Worship your silly "god" in any way which you choose. But keep him out of my beer.

    July 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Dude

      Jesus: "I love you man"

      Dave: "Forget it you're not gettin my beer."

      July 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • guest

      Don't worry Dave, I don't think God will be in your beer: He really would not approve of you putting anything harmful into your body. 1Cor 3:16

      July 14, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • lol??

      Some get old very fast in americult.

      Pro 31:6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

      July 15, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Jesus

      I've got a twelve pack of Evian with me, Dave. No buggin me later for a wine cooler.

      July 15, 2013 at 1:03 am |
  4. How depressing

    I just realized the existence of inalienable rights is totally subject to popular opinion. 😦

    July 14, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Akira

      It's always been according to what one interprets "creator" to mean.

      July 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
      • derp

        "It's always been according to what one interprets "creator" to mean"

        Nobody's birth certificate says "god".

        My parents banged without using birth control.

        I was created.

        No magic sky wizard involved.

        It's really that simple.

        July 15, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Truly insane

      Nobody should have to have a discussion like this because their rights depend on it.

      July 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  5. ala-kat

    You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. There are no winners. Make the commercial the way you want and just let the chips fall where they may. Someone, somewhere is going to be offended just by the very fact you even exist.

    July 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • The One and Only Bob!

      I doubt religious dingbats are Samuel Adams' target market anyway, so the press on this probably helps them.

      July 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  6. ALLuh

    GAWD, really?

    July 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  7. Charles Darwin

    It's stuff like this that that strongly reaffirms that religion needs to stay out of everything and keep it in the church.
    We would all be better off for it!

    July 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Patrish

    I'm so anti-religion, I snarl at cars that have religious comments.

    July 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Enron

      Ha! No kiddin? I'm agonstic and I put religious bumper stickers on my car just to annoy you guys from belief blog.

      July 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
      • derp

        We key your cars in parking lots because it's funny.

        July 15, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Truly insane

      That doesn't strike any of you as hate? Or division of the masses over inane drivel?

      July 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  9. Liz the First

    I believe in separation of church and business! separation of ethics and business, no. keep your religion out of the marketplace. i won't go into a business that displays a fish on its door. they're saying they don't want my money, so they don't get it.

    July 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • snowboarder

      I only go into places that have a fish on the door if they are selling fish or bait.

      July 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Athy

      I believe in separation of religion from everything else. Just let it die of neglect.

      July 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • The One and Only Bob!

      In my travels in the South, I have learned that the more overt Christian symbols and slogans a business has, the more likely they are selling poor quality products at vastly overblown prices. I guess they beg forgiveness from Jesus at the end of every day for ripping off their customers.

      July 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
      • SATCH

        I agree 100%. I found the people who dropped "We're Chrisitians..." speech at the start of business ended up being the biggest liars and backstabbers.

        July 15, 2013 at 3:50 am |
  10. crado

    i could not read the article as i am a dyslexic atheist and dont believe in DOG

    July 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  11. First world problems

    Good thing we're all worried about a beer comercial.

    July 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  12. mr rogers

    People have always killed, and people will always kill. There will never be a time when humans do not kill each other. The problem is not having prayer in school or teaching religion. The problem in this country is children being dealt a crap hand, and growing up with messed up parents in messed up situations. The majority of those children then grow into messed up adults and do messed up things. We collectively need to stop blaming each other, stop pointing fingers like a bunch of idiots, step back, realize that there is a diffusion of responsibility and it is no one’s fault, and design a new society that focuses all of its energy into growing healthy, functional, educated people. We need to stop teaching children what to think, we need to teach them how to think. The Christian god, the hindu god, or any magical being at all has no place in that. Teaching children that they are loved by a magical sky man and his zombie son, but will burn for all eternity in the worst place imaginable if they do not them him back is cruel and stifling to their potential. Most christians do not give a crap about actually being a good person. They just mind their “p”s and “q”s and do not ask questions, acting like sheep, so hopefully they will get into their heaven when they die. Apparently all life is to them is tryouts for whatever comes next. Children do not know any better; they do not know enough to make a logical and conscious decision to be christian. The people they love the most force it on them. The vast majority of christians are christian because they grew up that way, not because they chose that path. How can you believe that you believe the right thing and everyone else believes the wrong thing, when you know for a fact that if you grew up with an Islamic faith just as you did a christian one, you would feel the exact same way about islam as you do christianity? Preaching a doctrine of fear is damaging to society and the evolution of human consciousness and intellect. Prayer does no good for anyone other than the person who is praying. A warehouse full of prayers is an empty warehouse. A warehouse full of food will feed the poor. What happened when tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma and all the christians prayed, there were more tornadoes and more deaths! All prayer is, is talking to yourself. This is called meditation. There are almost 4000 different religions in existence, and it is impossible to know which one is the right one. The most logical explanation is that they are all wrong. However, logic and evidence elude christians. It is a doctrine that defies all known facts and observations about the universe. Everything that we collectively know and see as a species, scientifically has not proven the existence of a god and disproves the most important parts of the bible. The great thing about science, is that it is right whether you believe in it or not. Morality does not come from god, morality comes from logic. I say this to you christians; the burden of proof is on the believer, not the skeptic.

    July 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Ted

      tl;dr

      July 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • *

      mr rogers,

      You might have some good points, but really, the presentation is difficult to read. Maybe try some paragraphs or other breaks - look at the way the original article is set up for clues on how to make reading more comfortable.

      July 14, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • SATCH

      One of the best comments I've ever read, save for the lack of paragraphs, but no worries. Great Post and agree 100%

      July 15, 2013 at 3:52 am |
  13. max

    always thought Sa, Adams beer is a crappy craft beer at best.........pumpkin beer?? hahahahahahahaha

    July 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  14. Eric B

    There is no god so who the hell cares

    July 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • This quote is why people care

      "Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,-'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Granted "creator" could me the Higgs boson or one's parents but it's a life outlook issue.

      July 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
      • Akira

        I totally agree.

        July 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
      • saroban

        The higgs-boson really has nothing to do with your creation, which is why the guy who coined the phrase "God-particle" by accident seriously regrets how misleading it's become. It does (at least in part) determine your mass through the friction experienced in the higgs field. Or something like that. /notascientist.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • mason

      "Atheism, thinking, vegetables, water, exercise, fresh air, are not healthy for children and other living things" -The Voice of Monotheism

      July 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Insulting a group of people without justification; never answering a single argument respondents ever pose; then posting an unsubstantiated claim about the power of mumbling to oneself, has no effect whatsoever on coherent discourse.

      July 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Prayer does CRAP - ask any amputee

      When's the last time your Holy Jeebus grew a limb back for an amputee after he prayed? ANSWER: NEVER

      Jeebus sure must hate amputees, huh?

      July 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
      • faith

        Prayer does CRAP – ask any amputee
        When's the last time your Holy Jeebus grew a limb back for an amputee after he prayed? ANSWER: NEVER
        Jeebus sure must hate amputees, huh?

        incorrect
        see for yourself, If you're in the Agoura Hills area, you can schedule a tour of her International Disability Center. Adult and children tours are available on Tuesdays and Fridays. To schedule a tour, please call 818-575-1764.

        July 15, 2013 at 1:16 am |
        • faith

          if you visit, please share with us what it was like.

          jimmy carter answers biblical questions at the sunday school class he teaches each sunday. anyone may attend. don't like to be redundant. if you saw my previous post, just let this one serve as a friendly reminder. he is a delightful, brilliant, dedicated and humble guy.

          July 15, 2013 at 9:27 am |
      • lngtrmthnkr

        How about the excellent prosthetic limbs that help veterans walk and run almost as normal?

        July 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • snowboarder

      if your intention is to accomplish nothing, prayer is certainly the way to do it.

      July 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
      • lngtrmthnkr

        Why?

        July 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      July 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      July 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Patrish

      That is your opinion.

      July 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • justice for all

      All amputees who accept salvation are restored by God.

      July 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • fintastic

        More lies for baby jeebus.

        July 15, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • edmundburkeson

      Because of Christ's influence on the world and upon medicine we value the person. A man who loses an arm is still whole. If he loses his soul and has his whole body in tact, he has lost everything.

      July 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Observer

      Recommending beating children with rods is not healthy for children.

      Christians support the Bible which supports this violence toward children.

      July 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • lngtrmthnkr

        Jesus said to his followers,"Anyone who hurts or leads this child astray,its better that he was never born" He defended children.

        July 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Edmonburkeson..nice try but no.. a man who loses his arm has still lost an arm. Your "god" appears not to care and it was humans who developed medicines. Your statement is just the usual excuse for the lack of any appearance or evidence for your particular god.

      July 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • ehhh

      Prayer doesn't change things, positive thinking does and that is what prayer is for a lot of people. Religion to a lot of people is a hopeful, positive and comforting lens to view the world through – it doesn't mean its accurate. It's a perspective. There are ways to achieve that and have the same effects without religion. There are plenty of successful, happy, fulfilled, good Atheists out there who don't rely on prayer to change things – they change things. They get up and do something. Prayer is nothing more than a wish and a hope verbally expressed to a comforting idea of a "high power" – there is zero proof that it does anything more than the ideas proposed in "the secret" ..... okay, everyone start yelling at me now.

      July 30, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  16. beernpizzalover

    All advertisers realize that Money is the only 'real' god. It even says so on our $.

    July 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Enron

      Amen

      July 14, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  17. mr rogers

    Its amazing how roughly 50 percent of Americans believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old, but there are so many atheists outspoken like this. Its exciting to see an intellectual rebirth. xtians really do not have a leg to stand on anymore. I hope secularism will prevail as it should, as I weep for America when I see children indoctrinated and brainwashed by outdated xtian hokum.

    July 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Saraswati

      If you're referring to Gallup's study, the 46% refered to the species, not the earth. I suspect that had as much to do with a poor understanding of time as anything else.

      July 14, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Mr. McFeely: The Catholic Priest of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

      Statistically speaking, 50% of Americans have an IQ lower than 100. Coincidence? I think not.

      July 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • mr rogers

      Mcfeely....touche...

      July 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  18. Vic

    I wonder what would've happened if they recited the original text "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" in the commercial ad!

    July 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Saraswati

      They would have been penalized by the industry for breaking the rules.

      July 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      They would have lost valuable advertising seconds stating something that didn't add to their sales pitch. Air time costs money, and they're selling beer, not god.

      July 15, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Johnny

      For me personally I would have paid the ad no attention, just as I paid the actual ad no attention.

      July 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible says all children should be beaten with rods.

      July 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • justice for all

      Sadly your parent must have not loved you enough to practice proper discipline on you.

      July 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • 1HiFlyer

      When the nation and the world started raising their kids based on the philosophy of psychologist instead of the Bible we ended up with gangs, teen suicide and school shootings. When we removed prayer from school because a few atheist people did not want their kids exposed to possibly hearing God, Jesus or something from a Bible, we ended up with people who will kill their parents and anyone else who won't let them have their way. It's strange that you can even speak of God or the Bible in school until after a deranged person comes to school and kills people. Then everyone wants to gather together to pray. Maybe if it was allowed freely the shootings would not have happened. Our nation's founding fathers were far from perfect but the meant for this country to have religious freedom but organizations like the ACLU have made it their highest priority to remove God from our courts, schools and other public places. The results have been devastating to this country. Even my youngest child stated to me while observing people while we were running errands, "Dad people have no class or respect for themselves or others anymore do they." She stated this after seeing a young man around her age with his pants just above his knees, shirt pulled up around his chest and his boxers in full view walking a few feet pulling up the pants, adjusting the shirt and walking another few feet to repeat the process. I could tell he wasn't homeless because of the nice pair of Nike's he had on and the clothes were clean. But people really don't respect themselves or others when even well dressed businessmen stand in a crowded store having a conversation and every other word is the F-word. We need God more than ever and He wants us, stop trying to put Him out of the world He made because you don't want the responsibility of living right.

      July 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • cwoody

      1hiflyer, the real cause of society's degredation is families that can no longer support themselves without both parents working. This is brought about by corporate America's war on the middle class. When people are paid a decent wage that keeps up with inflation they can exist with one parent working. These same corporations claim to support religion because it is a recognized method of controlling the poor and oppressed people. As soon as it is not profitable to have religions around, you can count on these sociopaths reversing their stance!!

      July 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @1HiFlyer, We currently have the lowest murder rate in 60 years. Suicides peaked in the early 1930s at around 150% of the current rate...and dropped steadily since 1980 until we hit the current recession. You might not want to believe everything you hear on Fox News.

      July 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.

      July 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data; has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      July 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  20. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Unalienable rights cannot be separated from whoever has them. Inalienable rights can. Both are intrinsic to whoever has them. I don't see that either exist.

    July 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I think most evidence indicates these were then, as they are now, just variants of the same word.

      July 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Various law dictionaries make the distinction – e.g. Black's inalienable: not subject to being alienated, and unalienable: not capable of being alienated.

      July 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      sorry, I think that should be "aliened", not "alienated"

      July 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I assume you're talking about older editions since they are currently defined as synonymous. I still see the slight differences in older editions as more a matter of the difficulties of editing at the time, but I wouldn't be 100% certain. The fact that liberty is used as an example in each case without an explicit distinction drawn out would indicate to me there was some sloppiness going on.

      July 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.