Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prove it

I consider myself an agnostic, but if you made me choose -- God or no God -- I'd guess the latter. That said, the Freedom From Religion Foundation's recent bus ads really rub me the wrong way. Not just because they're confrontational -- confrontational can be okay. My real problem is that they're not witty. Check this out:

The ad is a parody of the famous line "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," which a 19th-century newspaper editor wrote to reassure a young girl that St. Nick exists, despite what her more skeptical peers had told her. Though the parallel between God and Santa is an old saw among the anti-religious -- both were dreamed up by humans in their desperate search for meaning, goes the logic -- the FFRF ad strikes me as smug, which is ironic considering organized religion's reputation for smugness.

It's been said before that atheism can and has become a kind of religion in its own right, and the so-called New Atheists (led, arguably, by Richard Dawkins) has brought that notion into clearer focus in the past 10 years or so. I imagine FFRF's ads and the New Atheist movement are backlash phenomena -- reactions to George W. Bush's religiousness, and the ways in which it affected his governing style. But there is such a thing as overcompensation, and I find the bus ads juvenile and irritating. Yes, their bold contrarianism is refreshing, but I wish the execution were better.

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