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Another day, another batch of holiday mail pledging the love and conveying the family news of people I’ve never heard of in my life.

I notice that the trend away from traditional folding cards with seasonal art on their covers and hand-written greetings inside and toward single sheet Shutterfly-generated picture postcards continues apace this year.  (A quick count among those received at the Port Swiller household so far puts the ratio at about 5:2 in favor of the latter.)  I’ve got no particular beef with this fashion, but it’s something I personally would not choose to do.

I also notice with some amusement the perils of what one might call automated holiday cheer:  we received three different copies of exactly the same card and news letter from the same family on the same day.  To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to receive two cards from the same source may be regarded as a misfortune;  to receive three looks like carelessness.

This evening I happened to notice a placard attached to the side of a bus here in Your Nation’s Capital.  It featured a group of Santa-hat-clad young persons, all smiles, and the caption “No God? …..No Problem!”

A quick bit o’ research reveiled this to be the seasonal campaign of an outfit called the American Humanist Association.   Say they in their p.r. bumf:

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, explained, “We’re hoping this campaign will build awareness about the humanist movement and our ethical life philosophy–particularly among the ‘nones:’ the rapidly growing percentage of people who claim no religion.”

Since 2005, humanist advertising has become increasingly visible, in particular with highway billboards erected in major cities across the United States. And last year, the American Humanist Association sparked national controversy by advertising the slogan “Why Believe in a God? Just be Good for Goodness’ Sake,” which appeared on Washington, D.C. Metro buses.

This year’s holiday campaign aims to promote the idea of being good without God. For example, on D.C. ads that appear on the interior of Metro cars and buses the slogan is accompanied by the explanation, “Be Good for Goodness’ Sake. Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.”

“Humanists have always understood that striving to make the world a better place is one of humanity’s most important responsibilities,” said Speckhardt. “Religion does not have a monopoly on morality–millions of people are good without believing in God.”

Speckhardt pointed to the false assumption held by many that not believing in God indicates a lack of morality as the reason for needing such advertising campaigns. “We want to change the way people think and talk about nontheists, and to pave the way for acceptance of humanism as a valid and positive philosophy of life.”

“We also want nontheists to know there is a community of like-minded individuals out there they can connect with,” continued Speckhardt. “Many feel uncomfortable talking openly about their personal beliefs because of prejudice against them–they fear they’ll be rejected by their family, their friends and their community, and in some cases, they even fear retaliation for their beliefs. But the American Humanist Association provides an accepting community for nontheists to turn to for support and ways to get involved.”

So said Lucifer, I believe, from the bed of burning, firey coal, after he’d been chucked out of Heaven for presuming he could do a better job than God.  (Well, okay….Milton gave Lucifer somewhat more stirring lines than does the AHA presser, and Lucifer at least acknowledged a real Heaven against which to rebel, but you get the point.)  And to the claim that humans can be “good” without a belief in God?  Well, you show me the historickal math, AHA, and then perhaps we’ll talk.

You know what, though? In the end, I find myself feeling terribly, terribly sorry for these people.  What a horrifyingly lonely way to pass through life.

One of the lines of the blessing we say in the Port-Swiller household before meals thanks God, “for Faith, when so many walk in darkness.”  I happened to be brooding upon this the other evening, and it especially hit home when I laid eyeballs on the AHA poster.  Frankly, it is wholely incomprehensible to me to fathom a mind-set that insists there is no Divine.  

Look, I believe in the Trinity.  This fills me with joy, and also influences my behavior toward others.  If I’m wrong, I’ll die having lived a more or less good life (with respect to my fellow humans) and gratified by the expectation of eternal happiness, even if it doesn’t come true.   

On the other hand, I could state proudly that I don’t buy in to any of that silly superstision.  But could I ever truly believe it? Wouldn’t there always be those nagging doubts knawing at me?  And, if I turned out to be wrong, how would I face Him and explain my error once I’d passed?

I would imagine that many so-called atheists muddle these questions from time to time, much to their discomfort.  Perhaps that’s why the advertising campaigns of outfits like AHA tend to be so shrill. 

God help these people, even if they don’t want it.


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December 2009