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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. dsfdsf

    Religion is for the peasants. It is a failure of humanism that we haven't been able to dumb it down enough for stupid, uneducated people to grasp. We need to use smaller words and have more happy children's stories for them to relate to. Dinosaurs are a good example....children love them and understand them.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • davessworks

      While you're welcome to your opinion I have found that some of the most highly educated individuals in the world, particularly those in the sciences, believe in a deity. I happen to be one of them. I trust you will consider this before posting any further condescending opinions.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Mike

      davessworks.
      Education and intelligence do not always overcome years what you are born and raised with. Add in the natural fear of death and the hope for something greater than our short existence on this planet and you can understand why people would want to believe. That said, while it is logically possible to believe in some limited creator/god, it not logically possible to believe in the God of the Bible.

      July 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  2. Observer

    Tkp353

    "His righteousness is being shamed by those who hate Him and the rules for prosperity."

    The only people who hate God must be believers. Talk to them.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Akira

      What are "the rules for prosperity"?

      Observer, true. Why do people overlook the fact that in order to hate something, one has to believe in its existence?

      July 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • nevojak

      You can't hate something that is imaginary. It is like hating the tooth fairy for mot leaving any money under your pillow.
      BYTW the Tooth Fairy's cubicle is right next to Thor's and Jesus' in the basement of old useless gods created and discarded by men throughout history.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Akira

      Jesus just left Chicago, and he's bound for New Orleans.

      Hey, hey.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Paper

      NO, who said anything about hating? I hate your god as much as i hate bigfoot.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  3. Dan

    Which god? When are people going to stop believing in this absurd, magical religious nonsense? Grow up.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • lol??

      haters gotta hate
      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Repeat that every 10 years and get back to the board.

      July 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  4. metre

    "they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights ...”

    Oddest thing. I can NOT for the life of me find the word "God" in that sentence. Perhaps Sam Adams and the other 'founding fathers' were not as "God" centered and "religious" as the ultra-right-wing-conservative-"christian"-GOP-Tea-Party-fanatical-extremists would want everyone to believe they were. Most of them were deists and left it, rightly so, up to the individual to decide who "their creator" was, or was not. Being also that deists do not ascribe to organized religions and their dogma overall and thus do not believe in the governed being governed by "religious beliefs", Sam Adams would most likely agree with the "Beer Code" and detest what the ultra-right-wing-conservative-"christian"-GOP-Tea-Party-fanatical-extremists are doing to the country he so loved and helped found.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Rynomite

      Creator = Mom + Dad

      July 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • ThatGuy

      But politicans and certain other "preacher men" soon discovered there was no money to be made as diest, but they could make a FORTUNE working the Fear of God con, so we soon returned to the same "my god is the only god ideas" that many fled in Europe. Well, it's a living. Hallejulia !

      July 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      I'm pretty sure they realize how the country morphed. Why would God keep that a secret from them??

      July 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  5. GrandOldPatsy

    People are so petty when it comes to the whole god debate. God was used to make the argument against beer (e.g prohibition anyone?), and now you're complaining because he's not being used to advertise it.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Candiano

      What's a socie?
      And it wasn't the XX's that wrote the 19th Amendment, lol??.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Observer

      GrandOldPatsy,

      Very good point.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      By XX socies disguised as Christians. WCTU

      July 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  6. ThatGuy

    "So ol’ Sam wasn’t perfect." But he nailed it about the catholics !

    July 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  7. dogon

    The declaration uses the word "creator" not "god". The word creator can be interpreted many different ways.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  8. samuraikatana1

    I really hate this country sometimes, why do we have to always find something to complain about? This is so petty.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • ThatGuy

      Petty ? So is religion, but religion KILLS everday all over the world.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Humanity

      It's because the complainers have gotten the "news" coverage for so long everyone now thinks that's what they are supposed to do.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  9. sarahfalin

    Zeus?

    July 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Zeus

      Yes, may I help you?

      July 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  10. Humanity

    Good grief, it's obvious that they left out the creator part because religion is so controversial, with people always looking for reasons to be outraged an offended over it. Oh wait, they found a reason anyway.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Candiano

      Hey, we can put God in more adverts: "For the unclean woman: Tampax Pearl. God approved."
      "Beat you slave too severly? Neosporin Ointment. Avoid God's Wrath."
      "Now that Jesus says the OT is the Old Covenant, Smithfield Pork is the brand He chooses."
      "Choosy Mamzers choose Jif."

      July 13, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  11. photografr7

    Since Samuel Adams beer exists (at a bar near you), and God may not, why cloud the issue with a beer commercial that mentions G-O-D?

    July 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  12. markadler

    Why is the phrase religious? My creator was my mother.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  13. SamAdamsBeer

    In the meanwhile pour me another beer Boy.

    July 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Tim

    If your going to use the phrase then use it as it was written. Also, why do people hate Catholics so much? never understood this.

    July 13, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Damocles

      Right because commercials are always historically accurate.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • photografr7

      There are many government phrases written in the 18th and 19th Centuries (and 20th for that matter) that would end you up in prison if you used them in public. And no, I won't repeat them.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • ThatGuy

      "why do people hate Catholics so much? " They EARNED it !

      July 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Tim

      ThatGuy, How did they Earn IT?

      July 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • ThatGuy

      Tin – Here is a starting point: Burning heretics at the stake. You can fill in the details from there . . .

      July 13, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Tim

      So under that logic you hate communists even more. Communists have killed between 85 & 100 million people for not conforming to its beliefs. The catholics would have killed the worlds entire population during the time of burning heretics to reach 100 million people. You have not answered why?

      July 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Johnny

      Pretty much anyone who killed anyone for 1000 years in Europe was a Catholic.

      July 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It would have been best to drop the whole untruthful quote, not just the part that says who endows us with inalienable rights. No one and nothing endows us with inalienable rights. Why dust it off just to sell beer?

    July 13, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • krhodes

      so we have no "inalienable rights?"

      July 13, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Candiano

      I see the point of Tom's post escapes you, krhodes.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • ThatGuy

      Well, it depends if you are an Alien from Mars or an Alien from Mexico. Some Aliens don't get no respect.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Any kid that wants to go into police work is a wannabe cop. Slippery values for the socies.

      July 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  16. LadyUtah

    Has no one seen the label for Wasatch Brewing's 'Polygamy Porter'? Oh wait, it's 3.2. No one has seen it.

    July 13, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  17. Reality

    For the next Sam Adams commercial:

    Only for beer drinkers and the new members of this blog–

    (Boggles the mind how these one liners solve so many problems)

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    July 13, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • ThatGuy

      But the Joy of the World and True Salvation is available from the Great Spagetti Monster in the Sky. His existence is irrefutable ! Please deposit $5 at the Exit.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Toad

      Cool. Now that you know that–and it is pretty clear, I agree–then you can go ahead and consider what does exist, what is true. A lot of people seem satisfied with just seeing through religion, and then spending the rest of their time screaming at religion for not being true.

      Considering that religion is ridiculous, and that science breaks down and becomes unhelpful at singularities–which is where the big questions start–then why does something exist, rather than nothing?

      July 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      We have every reason to believe that Moses and Abraham existed. As for Easter, I'll take the word of eyewitnesses over that of someone who can offer no evidence for their assertion.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Woody

      Everybody has to believe something. I believe I'll have another beer. (Burp)

      July 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Reality

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

      The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      July 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors (e.g.Notre Dame, Catholic U, Georgetown) of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      p.4

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      July 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  18. Randy H.

    Wow! For dropping references to magical beings I think I'll go pick up a couple of six packs of Sam Adams!

    July 13, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Christopher Lewis

      You are going to kneel down to this magical being one day.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Gh0st

      The guy above me is an idiot. He should publicly apologize for his stupidity.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Actually, you have absolutely no knowledge he is stupid. You know only that he disagrees with you - which is a completely different thing.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • you

      How to prove god does not exist- MAN created god.

      July 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Gh0st

      No Bobby boy, he is demonstrably stupid, much as you are for not realizing the breadth of his stupidity. Please feel free to apologize for being a net burden.

      July 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  19. svann

    The father of genetice – Gregor Mendel – was a christian monk. Lookitup.

    July 13, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      I think most people with a fundamental understanding of genetics are aware of that. Do you have a point?

      July 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  20. tony

    Find a god, lose your conscience.

    July 13, 2013 at 11:32 am |
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About this blog

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.