The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Chicago Coalition of Reason puts up “Good Without God” billboard

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 20, 2009

Whew! I had a hard time keeping a lid on this one :)

I’m part of a coalition of folks who have been working to bring this billboard to downtown Chicago…

Godless Billboard Appears in the Chicago Loop

“Are you good without God? Millions are.”

These words are part of a coordinated multi-organizational advertising campaign designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god. It fits into a nationwide effort that has now come to the Chicago area. The prominent ad appears on a downtown billboard at LaSalle Boulevard and Grand Avenue and can be read by those traveling north who will see it on their left. Placed by the Chicago Coalition of Reason, with funding from the United Coalition of Reason, the billboard features an image of blue sky and clouds with the words superimposed over.

“The point of our national billboard campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States,” explained Fred Edwords, head of the United Coalition of Reason. “Nontheists sometimes don’t realize there’s a community out there for them because they’re inundated with religious messages at every turn. So we hope this will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren’t alone.”

Reaching out to nontheists isn’t the only goal of the campaign. “We want people to know they can be good without belief in a god,” said Hemant Mehta, coordinator of the Chicago Coalition of Reason. “There is a lot of misinformation out there about us. But we humanists, agnostics and atheists are as normal as anyone else. We’re your friends, neighbors and family members. We care about our communities and are true to our values.”

The Chicago billboard officially launches Chicago CoR. It is also timed to coordinate with the launch of a new book called “Good Without God” by Greg Epstein, which is being released by William Morrow. Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is giving talks and holding a book signing the afternoon of October 26 at the Interfaith Youth Core Biannual Conference, Center for Civic Engagement, at Northwestern University in Evanston. The next day he will speak at the University of Chicago Hillel lunch at 12:00 Noon. At 5:30 PM that evening he will speak at the Harvard Club of Chicago. From 8:00 to 10:00 PM he will lead a discussion at the University of Chicago Chaplains Office, Divinity School.

The billboard is one of many that have appeared around the country this year. Billboards and transit system ads funded by the United Coalition of Reason have gone up in places as far flung as Charleston, South Carolina; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Morgantown, West Virginia; Phoenix, Arizona, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Subway ads will appear next week in New York City and a billboard will go up in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In a month, more are slated for California and elsewhere.

Of course, this advertising campaign is an excellent example of fighting a common logical fallacy (called a false dichotomy) posed by far too many ultra-religious believers: that without a belief in the supernatural or a god, one cannot be a good person.  One can be “good without god”, but I should also point out to my fellow atheists & skeptics that just because someone is religious doesn’t mean they also cannot be a good person.  I know plenty of good people, both religious & non-religious, and I don’t think that painting with a wide brush by labeling one side or the other as morally inferior is conducive to critical thinking when dealing with such issues.

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3 Responses to “Chicago Coalition of Reason puts up “Good Without God” billboard”

  1. k10ski said

    Uh Yeah, So this guy Epstein is the Chaplain (Clergy) of the religion of no religion at a school named after a priest. That Makes Sense (As you would say FACE PALM). No where in the Bible does it say that you cannot be a “good perrson” without God. That is a human contrivance. I too know many “good people” that are part of no organized religion. So yes you can be Good without GOD. I do find it interesting that an organization that denies the existance of God would choose to capitalize the name. Why is that?

    • mattusmaximus said

      k10ski said:

      I do find it interesting that an organization that denies the existance of God would choose to capitalize the name. Why is that?

      Probably because it gets people’s attention? That is kind of the point of the campaign: to reach out to non-theists and spread the wider message that you can be “good without god” (sadly, too many people believe the opposite). If some religious believers have a problem with that, too bad. We do have a First Amendment & freedom of speech in the United States, you know.

      Btw, calling atheism a “religion” is like saying that NOT collecting stamps is a hobby – it’s just plain silly. Also note that I make a distinction between humanism and atheism – they aren’t the same thing.

  2. Katy said

    There are plenty of good, moral people who don’t believe in God. The more important question is this: could their lives be filled with a greater meaning than simply doing good? I respect peoples’ right to freedom of speech, but this billboard message is not helpful, because it brings people together on a lie. The truth is that God DOES exist. I am providing a few links that helped me to come to this conclusion, at the bottom of my post. The billboard is not joining people together on a foundation of the truth and hope that is found in having a close, personal relationship with God. I would encourage anyone who doesn’t believe in God to pray anyway, because He will transform your life. Pray that God would show himself to you and bring you clarity on who He is. Read the Bible (especially the New Testament) to learn about how God came to earth in the form of a man Jesus, who paid for our sins by dying a painful death that he did not deserve. All human beings are sinners, incapable of being perfect. But Jesus was and is perfect. He stood in our place and took the punishment that should have been for us. The message of Christianity is a positive message about God’s gift to the broken world. That message shouldn’t be a threat, because it is a win-win situation for the believer. You seek out a relationship with the living God of the universe and you find peace, joy and a hope for better things yet to come. God freely gave his son Jesus to the world so that anyone who believes in him and trusts in the sacrifice he made for us can live in confidence that they are fully loved, fully accepted and fully forgiven for wrong doings. Do you see why I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about the billboard? I want everyone to find the inner peace that I’ve found through Jesus Christ. It is a gift from God available to anyone who is willing to receive it.

    When I saw this billboard it made me sad. I want people to come together and feel accepted, and a part of an organization, which is the intent of the CoR. But it is important that an organization be based on truth, and this organization is not.

    May I end by stating that I am a Christian, and I know that sometimes, we Christians can be the most hypocritical people out there. I am truly sorry! Perhaps you have been turned off by Christianity because someone pushed it down your throat or was judgmental. Again, I am deeply sorry, and I know that it is true. We are not always good at sharing our faith in a way that is gentle and loving. My message today may have offended you. Please just know that I am a sinful, normal human being who just wants to share with you the source of all of my happiness. I don’t want to argue with anyone, I just want to share the most significant, gratifying part of my entire life, so that you, too, might experience it. We Christians are just as messed up as the rest of the world. Being a Christian doesn’t make us any better than anyone else. We are supposed to behave like Jesus, who gave his life for humanity, but instead we stumble and fail all the time. Amazingly, God loves us anyway and fully forgives us as we try to live refined lives of service to others. I know that I just live out my life in thanksgiving to God, for fully accepting me even though I am a sinner, and always will be a sinner. That is the awesome message of Christianity. God loves us even though we are sinners. We aren’t demanded to follow all kinds of rules in our faith, in order to be accepted by God. Rather, we believe that we are accepted by God, and therefore we want to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him, out of thanks, and acknowledging that he created us, and he knows what is best for us. Our lives are supposed to be spent becoming more and more like Jesus, by loving the world and by having hearts that break for the things that break God’s heart- injustice, oppression, lies, pain, etc. We often let you down, and don’t succeed. So please don’t follow our footsteps. I wouldn’t want to be a Christian, either, if I was trying to be more like myself or my friends who are Christians. We are so imperfect. But Jesus is PERFECT, so try to be more like him, and accept him as your savior. You will find a peace that is indescribable. I want that for you!

    As promised above, here are a few links that solidified for me that God really does exist:

    http://www.mcleanbible.org/media_player.asp?messageID=40760
    All about why the bible is reliable

    http://www.mcleanbible.org/media_player.asp?messageID=40403
    More about the reliability of the bible


    This is the Awe-factor of God! Look at everything he created.

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