(Washington, D.C., November 19, 2008) Amid controversy and delight, ads that proclaim: “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake,” can be seen on Northwest Washington, D.C., buses today. Photos available free for media use can be found online at http://www.whybelieveinagod.org/moreabout.html . Leading up to their roll out, the anticipation spawned striking new developments.
“When the word got out last week about the American Humanist Association bus campaign, it created buzz from Washington, D.C., to Canada, Europe and even South Korea,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “It’s clearly a message that a lot of people are ready to hear: that you don’t need a god to be good.”
But there has also been a significant negative reaction in the form of critical phone calls and e-mails flowing into the office of the American Humanist Association. These follow on the heels of religious right efforts to mobilize protests, particularly from the Christian Coalition of America as well as criticism from the Family Research Council, the Catholic League and other groups.
The American Humanist Association has been unable to identify serious criticism from Washington, DC, itself, however, the only area where buses with these advertisements are running. “People here are so used to ad campaigns, demonstrations, and programs that range across the political and religious spectrum that they don’t find our bus signs shocking or problematic,” noted Fred Edwords, the organization’s director of communications. “Indeed, the overall anticipation has ranged from positive to tolerant here. Many people say they’re happy to see such a message while others point out that, while they don’t agree, it’s good that divergent views can be expressed.” The “goodness’ sake” ads direct interested people to a special Web site at http://www.whybelieveinagod.org/ that helps them find others of like mind in the Washington, D.C., metro area and nationally. The site also informs the public about humanism and answers common objections to the slogan as well as to the appropriateness of running the campaign during the holidays.
In the wake of the campaign, the following events are taking place.
On Sunday, December 7, Beltway Atheists in Washington, D.C., will set up a “Doing Good for Goodness’ Sake” booth in Dupont Circle to launch their holiday program to provide aid to the homeless. See http://www.meetup.com/beltwayatheists/calendar/9180913/ for details.
For the holidays, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition of Reason will place a variation of the bus slogan in the center-city Free Speech Zone. See http://www.phillycor.com/tok.php for more information.
The “Why Believe in a God” campaign is the first of its kind in the United States, and the American Humanist Association sees it as having already raised public awareness of humanism.
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America. Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value