Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Excuse Me? I Thought We WERE a religion!

I am stunned, appalled and very disappointed with the managerial decision at the UU World to publish a FULL PAGE advertisement by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in the Unitarian Universalist denominational magazine. This organization is not merely atheist or agnostic — they are ANTI-religion. We have absolutely no business carrying their advertising in our denominational magazine.

I am deeply offended by the ad copy, which suggests that anyone who believes in God thinks that fairy tales are true, and that such a belief is tantamount to slavery. And furthermore, I am embarrassed that people in my congregation will see this. I have worked so hard to help my congregation claim and own their religious feelings and feel GOOD about being religious people. How can I explain this?

If this bothers you as much as it bothers me, please send a letter to the editorial board of the UU World and tell them.

29 Comments:

Blogger ms. kitty said...

It was the first thing I saw when I opened my UU World and I had the very same thought, Judy. I'm writing to Chris Walton immediately!

9:47 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Hear, Hear. I just came from a very cordial and hopeful meeting with folks from our atheist group, feeling great that they can come to their Christian minister for help with their programming. We're talking about showing "The Atheist Tapes" - and I've made it clear that the "Anyone who believes in God is an idiot" message is anti-UU. They agree, though groove on Hitchens et al, and don't always spot it in its subtler forms. This ad is just a ringing endorsement for the kind of snark we're trying lose.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Is UU World that hard up for cash, that they will simply sell that space to the highest bidder? We are a religious movement! Why are we advertising for the anti-religionists? The FFRF proclaims that it promotes "freedom FROM religion." I embrace the atheists and humanists who are part of our religious communities, but we need to draw the line on "acceptance" when it comes to those who seek to dismantle or destroy our faith.

10:23 PM  
Blogger ms. kitty said...

I wrote a FB note to Chris Walton and he sent this helpful reply:

Hi Kit! I hope you'll write a letter to the magazine about your concern. (As head of the editorial staff, I don't review or approve ads; advertising is handled by our business staff.) The magazine does not discriminate against controversial ads except in extremely limited circumstances like racism or patently false claims, but it's always helpful to know which messages rub our readers the wrong way.

Please write to world@uua.org.

Chris

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I've heard of shooting yourself in the foot, but this looks like reloading and shooting the other foot too! Why not a full page saying "please don't read this magazine" or "whatever you do, DON'T come to church! I know editorial and advertising tend to be kept separate, but this is outrageous!

Bill Kennedy

11:20 PM  
Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

Before anyone follows up on what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction against the Freedom from Religion Foundation having an ad in the UU World magazine, you may want to know what you're protesting against.

Here's what I found from reading the FFRF website:

"The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., is an educational group working for the separation of state and church. Its purposes, as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Incorporated in 1978 in Wisconsin, the Foundation is a national membership association of freethinkers: atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree. The Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3). All dues and contributions are deductible for income tax purposes.


So ... it sounds like all they're doing is:

(1) promoting church-state separation (something that Unitarian Universalists have also supported for many years)

(2) educating the public about nontheism (again, something that Unitarian Universalists have supported for many years -- but based on the negative reactions against the ad, that support appears to be decreasing within our movement)

I understand the visceral and emotional reaction to the organization's name.

But what exactly are they doing that is so wrong and why would it be appropriate for the UUA to reject their ad in the UU World?

Is it just the emotional reaction to the name?

Are some of you suggesting that atheism and agnosticm are no longer welcome topics in UU congregations?

Are you suggesting that we should reverse our past denominational efforts and not support church-state separation in our nation's governments?

8:42 AM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Judy, thanks for alerting me to this. Terrible decision. And I echo everything all of you have said (except for Steve). "What's in a name?" Everything. We don't make friends with people whose very name suggests that what we do and who we are is dangerous or stupid. Let them spend their money elsewhere.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Joel Monka said...

Steve, you're being either disingenuous or oblivious- and seeing as the subject is not a new one, it's starting to look like the former. The ad isn't merely about educating the public about nontheism, nor are the objections about atheists being unwelcome in UU. If you really don't understand, let me take you through the steps. The first quote in the ad is, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction." Umm, that would be the God of Abraham, and specifying "the Old Testament" makes it the God worshipped in Judaism, as the Christians have their own testament. That would also be the God worshipped by my ancestors in the old country, and my wife's family in this country. Taken in conjunction with the Butterfly McQueen quote, it would compare their Covenant with God to slavery.

Then we have the Mark Twain quote, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so" which implies dishonesty in believers. Well, this believer has faith in what he knows *IS* so- the fact that neither you nor Mr. Twain knows these things does *NOT* make me a liar.

This is not an educational ad. It does not talk about why it's important to keep church and state separate- indeed, it does not even mention the Constitution. It does not make a positive case for anything; it merely sneers at billions of people. This ad is hate speech. How is it that someone who is oh-so-sensitive about any other kind of sneer, who whines every time anyone speaks of "fundamentalist atheism" can fail to realize that someone may take offense at having the God of their fathers called unpleasant fiction, at having their faith called slavery? Or that these calumnies are given the entire inside cover, second only to the front cover itself in importance?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, in small print on page three it does say that the UUA does not endorse all ads- but it also says that the UUA reserves the right to refuse any advertisement. That this ad was accepted makes it painfully clear that the editors didn't think anyone would find it offensive, which says a hell of a lot about their mindset. It just doesn't say anything good about it.

11:22 AM  
Blogger fausto said...

Atheism is welcome within the UU tent. Mockery and scorn for those whose beliefs differ from one's own is not.

Where mockery and scorn exist, atheism is not a valid defense.

And the business staff at UU World should not need to be told these things.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"Mockery and scorn for those whose beliefs differ from one's own is not."

Fausto, you're being either disingenuous or oblivious - and seeing as the subject is not a new one, it's starting to look like the former. . .

Believe it or not the WVC is -

wiptolib

4:13 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Being somewhat bicultural and all, the following French saying comes to mind here -

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. . .

And here is a difficult question that I believe needs to be asked -

To what degree, if any is UUA President Peter Morales responsible for this controversial advertisement being published in the UU World magazine? After all we are talking about someone who launched his campaign to become President of the UUA by trashing Judaism, Christianity and Islam along with any number of other "old religions" as "obsolete religions created for another time" yadda yadda yadda. . .

4:22 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"This organization is not merely atheist or agnostic — they are ANTI-religion. We have absolutely no business carrying their advertising in our denominational magazine."

You may well be right Berry's Mom but it is an unfortunate fact of life in the U*U World that the UUA "carries" (i.e. employs and supports) outright ANTI-religious "fundamentalist atheist" bigots in its denominational *clergy*. When the UUA not only hires ANTI-religious fundamentalist atheists as U*U clergy, but pretends that their ANTI-religious intolerance and bigotry is "within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership" when someone dares to complain about the discrimination and harassment of a "Humanist" U*U minister you know that there is something rotten in Boston. . .

6:38 PM  
Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

I just got the latest issue of UU World in the mail today so I didn't see the ads until today.

They do take a very strong position.

However, I don't agree that the ad is "hate speech" as Joel has labeled it.

Of all of the ideologies (political, economic, etc) in the world, it appears that the only religious ideologies are viewed as immune from criticism by many folks.

Folks -- "hate speech" is speech directed at persons, not ideas. If we suggest that ideas are above criticism, then perhaps we are engaging in a form of idolatry.

The tone in the ads is really no different from the tone taken in movie, restaurant, and other secular writing.

For example, negative movie reviews are usually much more harsh than the FFRF's ads -- and we don't label them "hate speech."

Political speech in the US (and I'm excluding the extremes like the "truther" and "birther" movements) is much more harsh than this ad. And we don't label this speech as "hate speech."

Joel -- I do notice in your response to me that you've called me "disingenuous" -- that's an insulting comment on my character and my honesty.

You could have simply disagreed with what I wrote without insulting a fellow human being.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Is it possible for someone to post a scan of the UU World ad in question online so that we can read what it actually says or at least post a word for word transcript of the text of it? I am certainly interested in knowing exactly what it said before commenting on it much further. OTOH I do not need to know what the ad says to know that the UUA affirms and promotes "fundamentalist atheist" anti-religious intolerance and bigotry in various other ways.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Joel Monka said...

I do apologise for using the word, but I wouldn't have been moved to do so if you had said in your comment that you hadn't read the ad. When you said, "Are some of you suggesting that atheism and agnosticm are no longer welcome topics in UU congregations?

Are you suggesting that we should reverse our past denominational efforts and not support church-state separation in our nation's governments?", it sounded like the same old disingenuous exchange I've had many times before: Atheist, "God is a fairy tale, and religion does nothing but harden hearts and enslave minds." Me, "That's incredibly offensive and insulting- stop it." Atheist, "What- atheists aren't allowed here any more?"

I don't come to church to be called a fool, a liar, a slave, or a slaver. That FFRF ad contained not one word about the Constitution, and presented no information on the topic. The only thing it did was attack every believer in general, and certain groups in specific. In that light, and not knowing you were unaware of this, your words sounded disingenuous.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

No need to scan the ad people. Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has kindly sent me a PDF file of the ad that was published in the UU World magazine. I will be commenting on it over the weekend. For the record the ad is seeking financial support for the FFRF's version of the Atheist Bus Campaign. The six images of famous atheists with quotes from them appear to be proposed advertisements that would be displayed on the sides of buses. I am not sure how well they will go over in the Bible Belt to say nothing of major American cities.

BTW Dan Barker claims the the ads were vetted by the editors of the UU World.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

I just discovered that Humanist agnostic UU minister has thoughtfully blogged about this matter on her Rev. Cyn blog in a post titled 'Are We Really About Freedom From Religion?' I recommend reading it. It is nice to see UU Humanists sharing their concerns and even expressing some dismay about this controversial ad in the UU World.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Oops! Meant to say - I just discovered that Humanist agnostic UU minister Rev. Cynthia Landrum has thoughtfully blogged etc.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Enjoy!

More coming. . . :-)

8:48 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I saw this comment via the Friendly Atheist blog and feel ASHAMED to be a UU after reading this reaction. I am both an atheist and a UU, and there is no contradiction in saying that. The stereotypes about atheists that I'm reading here are something I'd expect to hear out of the mouth of an angry fundamentalist, not of my fellow UUs!!! It is possible to not believe in a god (atheist) and be a UU. Sure, some atheists dislike all religion and speak badly of it. But is that any different than what you're doing - blanket-stating that all atheists are evil??

10:20 AM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Nobody here is "blanket-stating that all atheists are evil." Far from it. In fact several non-theist U*Us are as offended by this ad in the UU World magazine as some God believing UUs. I specifically use the terms "fundamentalist atheists", and occasionally Atheist Supremacists, specifically to avoid making blanket condemnations of all atheists. I have always said that the intolerant and abusive atheists are a *subset* of atheists in general, most of whom would prefer to get along with their God believing "neighbors", to say nothing of their Theist friends and family.

Several of the Freedom *From* Religion Foundation's rather *thoughtless* Freethought Bus Ads published in the UU World magazine were quite insulting to believers. Would you like it if the UU World promoted similar ads from a group that were just a tad insulting to atheists? I think not.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous teammarty said...

Yeah, yeah, I've been told for years by unitarian friends that I'd be welcomed as an Atheist. I've always answered "Why would I want to" and you've proved my point. I'd be welcomed at a baptist church if I put some $$ in the till. The message is it's OK to be an Atheist as long as you shut the fuck up and pray when told to. If I wanted that, I'd have stayed in the Church of Hitler (VAMBLA or the Roman Catholic Church for those who don't get it). Proud to be an Atheist. Proud to never be a unitarian.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Surely you mean "Proud to be a Fundamentalist Atheist teamrty. . .

Thankful you will never be a Unitarian. Unitarian*Universalism can do without obnoxious Atheists of your ilk, not that it doesn't already have a few too many however. . .

Still working on that.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Belle Gunness said...

LOL, "fundamentalist atheist." About as accurate as "Nazi Commie Muslim."

Thanks for proving, y'all, that liberal xtians are as clueless about their xtian privilege, if not *quite* as hostile toward atheists, as their fundie brethren are.

(Not that anyone who thinks a patriarchal, Luddite arse like Wendell Berry is a role model is someone I'd take very seriously anyway...)

2:06 PM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Belle Gunness you might want to read this dictionary definition of the word fundamentalist -

3: strict adherence to *any* set of basic ideas or principles: the fundamentalism of the extreme conservatives.

Just insert the word "atheist" where it says "conservatives".

Or try this one on for size -

1. A usually* religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

Are you going to tell me that you do not know of atheists who engage in rigid adherence to what may be termed atheist principles or principles of atheism, who are intolerant of other views (specifically theistic views), and in opposition to religion? Can't you see how the attitude of *some* militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins and P. Z. Myers closely match that definition when the word "secularism" is replaced by the word "religion"?

The term fundamentalist atheist makes plenty of sense, as does the term Atheist Supremacist when atheists pretend that they are morally and intellectually superior to religious people as *some* do. . .

:Thanks for proving, y'all, that liberal xtians are as clueless about their xtian privilege, if not *quite* as hostile toward atheists, as their fundie brethren are.

What's with atheists using the term xtians anyway? Why can't you say Christians? I am not a Christian but I consider the use of the term xtian to be disrespectful of ALL Christians. Nobody here is hostile toward ALL atheists here Belle Gunness. In fact some atheist and/or agnostic U*Us have spoken out against the inappropriateness if not offensiveness of publishing the FFRF ad in the UU World magazine. To use *your* term, we are just a tad annoyed with some of their *fundie* brethren. . .

:(Not that anyone who thinks a patriarchal, Luddite arse like Wendell Berry is a role model is someone I'd take very seriously anyway...)

How about P. Z. Myers? Do you take him seriously as a role model? Richard Dawkins? Christopher Hitchens? Or other such *fundamentalist* atheists aka fundie atheist brethren?



* i.e. not *always*

9:51 PM  
Blogger LaRae Meadows said...

What is the issue with the ad or the organization? Don't UU's believe that god should not be in government and all people should be allowed to practice what they want without government interference? None of the values of the UUs were violated by the ads. Many of your co-parishioners are atheists or agnostic. All of you, even the theistic ones have the right to be protected from governmental interference in your religion and we have the right to be free from your religion. That's all the FFRF does.

Or is your problem with atheists as so many of your commenters have mentioned?

Robin, what is wrong with PZ Myers or Dawkins? They offer the world real science and fight for the truth. I'd rather someone seek the truth than encourage someone to follow the leader. I’ll give you Hitchens, he’s a prick. Just like every other group, everyone isn’t nice.

Atheists can't be fundamentalists, it's a logical impossibility. You have to believe something in the positive to be a fundamentalist. Most atheists have reasoned there is no proof of god. That isn’t a positive statement.

You said, “strict adherence to *any* set of basic ideas or principles.” To which ideas or principles is an atheist strictly adhering? There aren’t any. Unless not believing in something you can’t prove in all cases makes you a fundamentalist. What is fundamentalist about not believing in a unicorn or fairy god mothers? Nothing and yet it is exactly the same reasoning atheists use to come to a conclusion.

If just not believing in god is enough to be a fundamentalist, then all atheists are fundamentalists under your definition. If they aren’t all fundamentalists, is it just their wiliness to speak out that make them fundamentalists. Aren’t you just saying, keep your mouth shut or we are going to degrade and insult you?

Calling atheists supremacists is ridiculous. We spend a great deal of our time educating non-theists about evolution, science, history, etc. Most atheists, like everyone, think they have come to the correct decision but calling them supremacists is silly and hateful. As I understand UU values, such comments would be frowned upon.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

You mean like how a "fundamentalist atheist" Humanist U*U minister's intolerant, hostile and malicious slandering an inter-religious celebration of Creation as a "cult" was frowned upon by Unitarian*Universalists LaRae?

I am sorry to have to say so but a fair bit of what you have said is the product if ignorance. P.Z. Myers has repeatedly gone out of his way to insult God believing people in one way or another. Richard Dawkins does pretty much the same thing albeit somewhat more subtly in many cases. It is quite evident that both of these "fundamentalist atheists" believe that God believing people aka "Faith Heads" are intellectually, if not morally, inferior to Atheists. The flip side of that coin is that Atheists are superior to Theists. It is thus by no means ridiculous to refer to Atheists of that mind-set as Atheist Supremacists. If U*Us can talk about White Supremacists without being frowned upon I see no reason why they cannot talk about Atheist Supremacists without being frowned upon. There is nothing "silly and hateful" about it. Au contraire, it is the Atheist Supremacists of the world who are silly and hateful, to say nothing of hate-filled. . .

:If just not believing in god is enough to be a fundamentalist, then all atheists are fundamentalists under your definition.

It should be obvious that that is NOT what my definition means. The whole point of using the terms "fundamentalist atheists" or Atheist Supremacists is to distinguish the intolerant anti-religious atheists from the rest of atheists so as NOT to paint with too broad a brush.

:If they aren’t all fundamentalists, is it just their wiliness to speak out that make them fundamentalists. Aren’t you just saying, keep your mouth shut or we are going to degrade and insult you?

Not at all. Au contraire, I am saying that the kind of atheists who go out of *their* way to degrade and insult God believing people can be justifiably described as "fundamentalist atheists" and even Atheist Supremacists.

:You said, “strict adherence to *any* set of basic ideas or principles.” To which ideas or principles is an atheist strictly adhering? There aren’t any.

You are mistaken. Fundamentalist atheists adhere to beliefs such as anyone who claims a religious experience is delusional and thus suffering from a mental illness. Fundamentalist atheists are fervent in their belief aka faith that God does not exist even in the face of evidence that God *might* exist. Fundamentalist atheists and Atheist Supremacists are firmly convinced that ALL or most religion is harmful and that it should be eradicated. Joseph Stalin didn't go around demolishing Orthodox Russian churches and cathedrals for nothing. . .

You are mistaken on several of your other points but that is all I have time to deal with for now. I have other priorities at the moment. I won't post a seven-letter four-letter word to Berry's Mom's blog but if you want to know what I think of P. Z. Myers just click this link.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lost all of my friends and was disowned by my family once they learned I am an agnostic athiest.I came across your blog by mistake while searching for a UU church in my area to join because I have read online that atheists are welcomed.After reading all that was said in this post as well as that bit on "atheist supremacists" I can't help but feel I'd be more welcomed by the Westboro Baptist church than the UU.So I guess I'll just be joining the chess club or something.

4:01 AM  
Blogger Berrysmom said...

Anon, I can't be responsible for what other people say on my blog, except to delete their comments (which I have not done). I definitely don't agree with a lot that's been said here, but I decided to let the conversation play out.

You would be most welcome at my church, which has many beloved athiests among its members.

5:27 PM  

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