November 9th, 2010
03:59 PM ET

Humanists launch huge 'godless' ad campaign

The new humanist campaign cites holy books

The Bible and the Quran contain "horrific material, and to say  you get your morality from there" is a problem, the head of the American Humanist Association said Tuesday as the group launches what it calls the  largest, most extensive advertising campaign ever by a godless organization.

The group is putting ads in newspapers across the country - and  advertising on NBC - in the $200,000 campaign, AHA head Roy Speckhardt told  CNN.

The point, he said, it to "challenge the fundamentalists" who "spout  their backward ideas," he said.

The target audience is people who may not realize they are humanists,  Speckhardt explained.

"We're targeting for criticism those who read the Bible literally, not those who pick and choose what they like," he said. "We're telling (people who  pick and choose), 'You're more like us.' Biblical literalists and Quranic  literalists are holding us back.

"We know that you can be good without God, but many folks in America don't know that," he said.

The campaign features violent or sexist quotes from holy books,  contrasted with more compassionate quotes from humanist thinkers, including  physicist Albert Einstein.

A screen grab from the new humanist campaign

"We're calling it like it is," Speckhardt said. "It's quite obvious that  the Bible contains horrific material - and the Quran - and to say you get  your morality from there" is problematic.

"We don't expect to convert people from the billboard signs," he said.

But, he said, "there are millions of people - approximately 34 million  people - who are unaffiliated" with a religion in the United States.

Only one in 20 Americans does not believe in God, according to the Pew  Forum on Religion & Public Life, and of that group, only a quarter call  themselves atheists. The rest say they are agnostic, "nothing in particular" or members of a faith.

More than half of all Americans pray every single day - as do more than  one in five Americans who say they're not affiliated with a religion, according to Pew's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Speckhardt knows the numbers.

"There has only been one member of Congress in the history of the United  States who has come out and said he doesn't believe in God," Speckhardt said, identifying the legislator as Rep. Pete Stark, D-California.

The Secular  Coalition for America said Stark responded in 2007 to an inquiry from that  group by saying he was a "nontheist."

"We feel those (unaffiliated) folks don't yet know they can admit that  they don't believe in God," Speckhardt said.

Marketing guru Allysen Stewart-Allen thinks the campaign has potential.

"They will certainly get people talking," she said.

"One of the things that the humanists need to articulate is what success  looks like for the campaign - if it's converts, I wouldn't think that is a realistic measure," said Stewart-Allen, the director of International Marketing  Partners.

"I would hope what they want is for people to talk about faith in the  widest sense, and I think they will achieve that," she said.

"If your objective is to shape the conversation, I think it can't hurt,"  she added.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Atheism • United States

soundoff (346 Responses)
  1. riverrunner

    we will be the majority someday. pray all you want. resistance is futile.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  2. Gil T

    Humanists think. Indeed. There's hardly anymore thought in the humanists' world view than his childhood school days show-and-tell: Just talk about what you can see with your eyes and feel with your hands. The "Humanists Think" slogan of humanists, atheists or by whatever stripe they wish to color themselves makes for a good sound bite, but like sound bites it too neither requires nor reflects any thinking. It's the same old oneupmanship of the American mindset: Thinking is better than believing. Of course, the reverse of that is no different: Believing is better than thinking.

    The Speckhardt quotation illustrates this well enough: "We know that you can be good without God, but many folks in America don't know that," he said." I, as a believing theist, understand that without any problem. What Speckhardt and his brethren haven't and can't think about is how they would engage for a resolution in, for example, in a horrifically, all-to-common, (un)civil matter of homicide. One might anticipate nothing more than an adaptation of an the undiscerning Spechhardt's words, "It's quite obvious that the Bible contains horrific material . . ." or something horrific has happened here. The feeble, anemic inability of humanists to foster a godless world runs amok very quickly once takes it beyond his personal comfort zone. Better yet, stay in the comfort zone. Let the advertising madman do it.

    November 9, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • NL

      Gil T-
      "what you can see with your eyes and feel with your hands" really isn't a bad way to go. It eliminates the imaginary, the fictional and the make believe.

      We humanists still like to believe in things, but not without thinking about them first, and then deciding if they are worth believing in. Religious folks all too often decide what to believe first and then adjust their thinking to match these beliefs. That's just not a very rational way of doing things. Kinda like putting the cart before the horse, metaphorically speaking.

      Homicide was seen as wrong in the moral codes that predate the bible. I doubt that society will all of a sudden say it's OK just because we take God out of the picture. Considering how many 'God-fearing' Christians are on death row for murder in this country God really isn't a very effective deterrent, is He?

      November 9, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
    • civilioutside

      I believe you've missed the point of the tagline. It's not "Humanists think." It's "Humanists think..." The elipses (those three dots at the end which suggest there is more to come afterwards) are very important, because it's not only a declaration that Humanists think, but also an iinvitation to the reader to investigate and find out just what it is that Humanists think.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:09 am |
    • Mike, not me

      We humanists still like to believe in things, but not without thinking about them first

      Then I will urge you to think of where this common morality comes from. Where what was once called "the law of human nature" comes from? The law, unlike gravity which you, I and stones must obey, but the law that we as a whole agree upon but yet still break.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:40 am |
    • civilioutside

      Here's the scary part... morality comes from a combination of evolved instincts that help to promote the success of a social mammal, and reasoning about the ways to approach the challenges to that. We, collectively, are responsible for our own morality.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:59 am |
    • Mike, not me

      No sir that is a false arguement

      "Isn't what you call the Moral Law simply our herd instinct and hasn't it been developed just like all our other instincts?" Now I do not deny that we may have a herd instinct: but that is not what I mean by the Moral Law. We all know what it feels like to be prompted by instinct-by mother love, or s-exual instinct, or the instinct for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act in a certain way. And, of course, we sometimes do feel just that sort of desire to help another person: and no doubt that desire is due to the herd instinct. But feeling a desire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not. Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires-one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.


      November 10, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • civilioutside

      No sir, that is a false argument.

      Just to work from the example already chosen (that of putting yourself in danger to aid someone else). Firstly, it assumes that the instinct to provide aid inherently has equal weight with the instinct to preserve only yourself, and therefore requires a third outside agency to tilt you in the direction of providing aid. It ignores entirely the possibility of situational factors (such as the relative likelihood that you can provide the aid safely, the likely consequences should you fail to do it safely), evolutionary factors (if, for example, in the evolutionary history of the species it has proven more beneficial, even if only slightly, to render aid in the face of danger than it has to simply flee, then the instinct to provide aid will naturally be more strongly weighted), and cultural factors (many societies enforce a cultural expectation that "good" members of society will help others even if it means they have to take a personal risk to do so). Your quote simply assumes a position and declares it a fact, where other explanations are equally logical.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:40 am |
    • Mike, not me

      Logical yes moral no.... there is no civilization that admires cowardice.

      Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it,

      November 10, 2010 at 9:59 am |
    • civilioutside

      "Logical yes moral no...."

      If I happen to be right and the factors involved in the so-called "moral law," are actually where those supposed laws come from, then that's just the way it is. Whether it's "moral" for the universe to work that way is really kind of a silly question – the universe is what it is.

      " there is no civilization that admires cowardice"

      And I would argue that the reason for this is that any civilization composed largely of cowards ceases to exist very quickly as soon as it encounters an antagonistic civilization that isn't (or, for that matter, any danger large enough to require a large and coordinated response from that civilization). The relevant law explaining why cowardice is a trait disapproved by all societies isn't "Cowardice is morally wrong," it's "widespread cowardice is an unsuccessful survival mechanism for a society."

      Similarly, the instincts involved in communal survival will naturally be bred such that most individuals will be strongly inclined to preserve their place in the herd because to be ostracised drastically lessens your chances of survival and/or breeding. So of course people who violate the standards will try to find excuses for why their actions didn't //really// violate the standards. To do otherwise risks the loss of their place in the community.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • NL

      Mike, not me-

      I've said before that religion has served as the framework for morality for so long that it would be impossible to ignore it's part in the development of our laws. Yet, we have moved on, haven't we? We have developed civil and criminal codes that extend far beyond what scripture has outlined. So, in effect, we are already moving beyond the simple codes of a bronze age people out of necessity because, contrary to what the Christian bookstore authors like to say, God never really had anything to say about many of our modern problems.

      November 10, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  3. Enoch

    So, these so-called humanists are waging war against GOD. This is the same as struggling or wrestling against their own selves - at the end they will fall down to the ground. It's a shame that they even talk in the same breath the Bible and the Quran which are completely different from each other. Little knowledge must indeed be a dangerous thing!

    November 9, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
    • Gary

      bible and quoran both texts written by men for men. Both are books of religion. both based on faith.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • riverrunner

      well actually we are at war against nothing since god is not there. we are going to win of course since it is easy to beat nothing. it just takes some time when lots of people believe in nothing. you days are numbered, perhaps you will join us.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • Mike, not me

      Yep just like it was removed in Germany, China and the Soviet Union... oh wait guess it's not that easy.

      November 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • humanbeef

      Gary, The Stand and Cat in the Hat. Both written by man. Both are works of fiction. Both have plot, drama,and character development. Obviously these books are no different than each other. Look at all the similarities.

      November 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
    • humanbeef


      Gary, The Stand and Cat in the Hat. Both written by man. Both are works of fiction. Both have plot, drama,and character development. Obviously these books are no different than each other. Look at all the similarities.

      November 12, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  4. Eric G.

    When humanity outgrows this antiquated belief system, as it has outgown the worship of over 4000 gods throughout human history, what will replace it? Are the current world religions going to be our last?

    November 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
  5. jacobTThompson

    It seems atheists are gaining more of a voice in mainstream media–for better or worse.

    I also see posts abotu religion and God almost daily on my facebook and twitter feeds, so I think social networks have empowered this minority as well.

    In fact, yesterday I was a sent a link to a site for an atheist who WANTS to be converted...www.stumpanatheist.com. They're everywhere, it seems.

    November 9, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
  6. LadyMiniMe

    Anytime humans group, there's problem. Look at religion. Look at charity groups like Lions, Kiwanis, and the sorts. Look at masonry. When human group, in the group there will be fighting for the "throne" and being in a group always means, there are other groups to discriminate/fight against. Why can't we just live like humans, be respectful/gracious/tolerant/accepting of other human beings. I hope an alien doesn't come around for a tour of the world; i'd be embarassed!

    November 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
    • World Without Borders

      Well, as a single species, doesn't that lump us all together into the same "group"? No matter how much you try to diminish the establishment of groups and hierarchies, there will always be somebody power-hungry trying to get to the top. I have the same desire for a tolerant, coexisting human race, but I'm not holding my breath.

      November 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
  7. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    More power to them.

    November 9, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  8. Mark

    Honestly, I'm a little angry about the "We're challenging the fundamentalists, not the 'pick and choosers', they're like us." that's basically saying, "we're aiming for the crazies of your group, not all of you." these "pick and choosers" are just as bad as the fundamentalists. At least the fundamentalists stick to what their book says, they don't say "well I'm not gonna do this, but I'll do this." that's still wrong. If you believe in a higher power, you're wrong, and you're living your life with apathy. And eventually somebody will blow up a building because of your stupid beliefs.

    November 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • NL

      Well, it's apparent that they're pretty much all pick and choosers. It's just that fundamentalists won't admit to being selective, is all. They say, for example, that Jesus overwrites Old Testament Law, but they get all bent out of shape when the Ten Commandments, the very cornerstone of Old Testament Law, gets removed from a courthouse.

      Those who admit to being pick and choosers are at least open to being reasonable, and to judging biblical laws and moral codes on an individual basis. Some of what the bible forbids, like murder and theft, are still considered wrong. They've been labeled as misdeeds pretty universally since the dawn of history which is why all of the old code systems included them. The bible wasn't the first. There really is no reason to suspect that a completely secular society would do away with such basic moral tenets but, to hear some believers, all that keeps them from murdering the person sitting next to them is the belief (fear) of God.

      November 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • pete

      Mark- So because you believe something other than what i believe, i'm wrong and you're right?

      What so many of you people don't get is that when you make broad statements you're acting just like the people you oppose. Just the opposite side.

      November 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: I honestly have no problem with people picking and choosing what they believe from the Bible or wherever they get their morality. It means they have recognised that some things are irrelevant or immoral and should not be practised. They have their own moral code by which they are interpreting outside information. Isn't that what we want people to understand? These pick and choosers are the majority of the religious-minded. We just need for them to see that how they achieve their morality is not unlike how we achieve ours. Quite frankly I don't care what you call it, Christian, Muslim, Aqua Buddhist... it's how you act that's important.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:38 am |
    • MadPanda

      Baby steps, Mark, baby steps. Can’t get completely shunned by the majority out there or no one will ever give it a chance. Our ideas of right and wrong, largely due by evolving under social circ-umstances, are in agreement with much of what is in the bible. This means that the only differences between a “pick and choosers” and an atheist, such as myself, is the belief in a god. Maybe In time some of them will realize that god just isn't needed anymore. I think it was a good marketing decision so to speak.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  9. Stephen R

    What are these billboards going to do but put money in the pockets of the advertisers? What a waste of money.

    As an agnostic, this campaign looks like it's on the wrong footing altogether, but maybe they are trying to take over for all the atheists and agnostics without asking anyone's permission.

    They sure as hell didn't ask me what would be a good idea for them to do....but, hey, they've got freedom of speech and a mission statement and money...what could be easier than to act like a religious group looking for "converts"?

    Acting religious-like is usually a "no-brainer", often involves money, telling others what to think and how to act, and getting involved at too-personal of a level that infringes on rights and freedoms, stuff like that.

    I think AHA is skirting that slippery slope, but perhaps I am just trying to be a purist of sorts. I've got scruples, you see, and I am pretty cynical when it comes to expecting anyone to listen to common sense – people don't usually work that way, near as I can tell.
    And it looks like they get that way from other people tellin' em what to think....the ones they listen to, that is.
    It's all a big mess. Billboards are not really all that great an idea, but maybe it's cheaper than raising the "bribe-ante" in Congress. I wouldn't know the current price-list but I'd bet it would open a few eyes were someone to make a fairly accurate list of the sorts of money that people will subvert their responsibilities, etc., for at all levels of gov't.

    Psychology is what's the matter, and all our psychologists have been pretty mum on the shocking state of affairs we have to deal with in this world.

    "He who washes the head of an ass loses both his time and soap."

    November 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  10. capnjammer

    Yay! I'm surprised there haven't been any negative comments yet...

    November 9, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey cap...! Oh, don't worry, the night is still young. The fundamentalists will c-ome around soon enough.


      November 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  11. TheRationale

    There are more of them than you think.

    November 9, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
    • riverrunner

      lots more.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  12. NL

    Without getting our voice out there, without showing everyone who we are and why we believe as we do, we leave our image to the tender mercies of religious teachers. That's why there is so much fervor from believers about our speaking up. It's just too difficult to propagate propaganda when people exercise their right to free speech.

    November 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Well Said...

      November 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  13. NM

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/world-day-of-god-2010/

    November 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Have you not heard "Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I" "God is dead. God remains dead" Friedrich Nietzsche

      November 9, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  14. Reality

    BRAVO!!! Let the discussion begin!!!

    Hopefully something like the following will be part of the campaign:

    I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created state of bliss called heaven.

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary.

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under under Pontius Pilate,
    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many local semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension story was promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


    And then of course the following:

    Muslims tshould burn their copies of the koran for the 1400 year old con job that is pulled on them daily by the imams and ayatollahs. Christians should burn their copies of the NT for the 2000 year old con job that has been perpetuated on them by popes, bishops, priests, ministers and evangelicals. And Jews should burn their copies of the OT/Torah for the 6000 year old con job pulled on them by their past and current rabbis.

    November 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • a

      My honest questions to your theory.
      What year was the Gospel of Mark written?
      Were the disciples real guys?
      Were they really killed for their unwillingness to fess up to their fiction?
      Did Jesus work any miracles or claim to be king?
      How did some peasant preacher develop such a following?
      Whose idea was it to eat flesh and drink blood of their dead friend? What year did that start?

      November 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  15. Staks Rosch

    Philly is getting two Billboards and many of us atheistic Humanists are excited about that. – http://exm.nr/cYyCGP

    November 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  16. JohnQuest

    Thanks Kevin, once I find out what they do and what they stand for and against I will strongly consider joining. As long as they have not turned non belief into a belief they have my interest.

    November 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • NL

      Why John, you sound absolutely "mavericky"! 😉

      November 10, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  17. Kevin

    If you like the ads and believe in humanism the make sure you join the American Humanist Association. http://www.americanhumanist.org

    November 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • honestanon

      Here's another one:


      November 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  18. JohnQuest

    About Da mn time for reason to stand up. Now maybe we can have an open dialog, usually I'm the only non believer in the room (at least as far as I know).

    November 9, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • Mike, not me

      Are you new to these blogs? you always had an open dialog

      November 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Mike, not me, sure here, but I am happy to say that my life is usually larger than "Belief Blog" I am however sad to say that it is not much lager. I think running ads like these will open the dialog to a much wider audience, maybe, hopefully.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • godispretend

      Yeah, I hear you Johnny! These blogs are magnets, but in the world at large, it's like living with neanderthals. It's good to know my money is going for a good purpose. Give what you can to the AHA and watch us grow!

      November 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • Muneef

      Heeh thought I saw one of your posts saying that you are in the process of following Islam? Already you changed your project? Or was it the Indonesian woman who was going to get you? And I thought to be the only womanizers?! Ha ha

      November 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
  19. Peace2All

    This is looking and sounding like a great group to me...!!!!


    November 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Hey bro, long time no see! Yet I can only assume you exist...unless you are one of those computer programs? 😀
      Just a quick hello. I am glad to see the letters AHA as the abbreviation for this group. It's about discovering the truth, yes?
      How's the head? No bricks within reach of your wife? 😀
      Have a good weekend....and say hello to your wife once in a while...I bet you spend too much time at the computer and not enough time buying her a good selection of bricks...The world of bricks is vast and diverse...like your head. 😛

      November 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  20. David Johnson

    God bless this group!

    November 9, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
    • honestanon

      Dave, before all the thum-ping and denouncement begins, think to yourself.. it's just another article.... it's just another article..

      Hey, Sum Dude – maybe it's time to "research secularism for (your)self?" No one's forcing your to, though.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • Jeff

      been chuckling at that one all day 🙂

      November 9, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
    • Sum Dude


      مص بلدي ديك

      November 10, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
    • Muneef

      It is written in Arabic but make no sense it says suck country Rooster?? What does that mean only you would know?

      November 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
    • honestanon

      يبدو انه يريد وضع شفتيه على الرجولة بلدي

      I politely decline the offer. Watch yourself, Muneef...

      November 10, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • civiloutside

      Well, Muneef, I believe the translation he was going for was not "Rooster" but "co-ck." And while they technically mean the same thing, the second one is also used in American slang as a crude euphemism for the male reproductive organ. I trust the appropriate translation needs no further explanation?

      November 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      This is what really bothers me as a Christian. Groups like this that want to spew out things that the Bible is about without actually READING it! The Bible does NOT say anything about being a 'good person'. As a matter of fact, it's quite the contrary. Ephesians 2:8-9 says 'For it is by GRACE you have been saved through faith, not of your own doing, it is a gift from God. Not of your own works so that no one can boast.' Christians do not look at it as just 'being good people'. It is dying to your past life of sin and taking up the cross and serving God, which means being self-LESS; serving others including the poor and the widows; put others before yourself and doing it all in his precious name. I will pray for this group and all of you on here to understand that and I DARE you to read the Bible. Read the book of John – don't just judge without giving it a chance. And if you are going to read it, be open-minded about it as well.

      November 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • Felipe A

      The "Book of John" was written by a human being, not God, not Jesus, not someone I would trust anything as precious as my soul.
      Where are the words Jesus wrote? They are NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.


      November 11, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      LOL a better response this time. Thank you. 😀

      November 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • ianam


      You're a little slow there. That's exactly the point, that the bible and the religion it promotes is not about being good, but many people DO want to be good, and this ad campaign is directed at them. The people who put on this campaign HAVE read the bible, and reject its claims as fairy tales and its ethic as disgusting.

      November 12, 2010 at 5:16 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.