Saturday, November 08, 2008

Imagine No Religion, It's Pretty Hard, Even If You Try

I was innocently making my way though one of the more heavily-traveled streets in town, when this confronted me out of nowhere. It is a billboard, part of a national campaign, from the Freedom From Religion Foundation announcing that we should “Imagine No Religion.” It made me chuckle, because I instantly guessed it was deliberately placed and timed. It is probably not a coincidence we are close to Christmas, and certainly not incidental that is it just a few minutes away from two megachurches and Focus on the Family. Then , viola!, our local paper runs a small article.

"This is an alternative message that people need to hear in Colorado Springs, the hotbed of the Christian right," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the billboard's sponsor, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit association with 12,000 members.

"The purpose is to bring free thought and alternative view of religion to people."

I love that people believe Colorado Springs is a kind of evangelical Mecca complete with our mass gatherings, dress codes, and theocracy. By the latest statistics I saw as a church planter here, about 85% of the city is technically “unchurched.” For those bad at statistics, that means they are “not churched.” And no one let me in on the “hotbed” part of it. A lot of the Christianity I am aware of is pretty luke-warm. Sure, some of the politics are a little rabid, but the Christianity does not always run as hot.

I was right about the product placement.

The foundation chose the North Academy Boulevard site because it's minutes from Focus on the Family, and the nonprofit's members hope the billboard will influence the religious views of Focus staff and visitors, Gaylord said.

And for some reason, the author of the article was concerned about the Christian taggers out there. “The billboard could be a lightning rod for vandalism,” he wrote, probably thinking about the rabid homeschoolers who sleep on hotbeds. (Of course, I’ll have to eat my words if one of them makes it out there after curfew.)

In all seriousness, I used to work with the freethinkers when I was a campus minister, and though they were great folks it turns out they were free to think about anything except the possible truth of or value of religion. Ironically, a nation with Christian roots (however deeply you want to send those roots), has produced a social and political climate where people are free to imagine any religion or lack thereof they want and carry those convictions into the public square. If the free thinking group at FFRF is to be taken seriously, we might not be able to imagine any kind of religion in the public square. It seems that the “free thought” and “alternative view of religion” proposed by FFRF is actually quite myopic and restrictive.

FFRF has an online Bible quiz. I hope to take it and report the results. Have fun!


The Gyrovague said...

I am glad I looked at this bilboard and was thinking the same thing you were. It validates my strange view of the world sometime.

I really think they are wasting their money here on the north end. Compassion, Focus, etcetera require that you have a relationship. If you second guess it and leave your church, you also leave your job.

I agree so whole heartedly with your concern that they figure that $15 percent of us go to church regularly so we are a "hotbed". If we are so hot, what would 50 percent look like?

I so need to plant a church... lets get em!

Phil Steiger said...

Yeah, I really thought it took a lot of pluck on their part to imagine they might be able to sway some of the FoF employees just with a billboard.

I'm a Professing Heritic, What Do They Call You? said...

Wow this anonymous blogging is pretty cool!

I cracked a smile when I saw the billboard. You know, Jesus was very outspoken against the institutionalized religious leaders of his day (the scribes and pharises) for putting people into bondage with their man-made rules. So in one sense, Jesus would probably agree with much of the FFRF's message of fredom from religion, if you use the term "religion" in the negative sense to indicate the bondage of man-made regulations that detract from real relationship with our Heavenly Father. Selah.

I would think they would need to worry more about vandalism from the Muslim crowd than from Christians, although I'm told we Christians have bombed more than a few abortion clinics and killed more than a few witches and detractors over the years :)

They should call their site Freedom From Judeo-Christianity Foundation since they focus only on the Bible and its seeming flaws, while excluding writings of other religions such as the Bhagavad Ghita, Ku'ran, Book or Mormon, etc. Obviously angry they had to sit through so many Sunday school classes as kids, but that describes about 80% of Americans, right? Get over it!

Their quiz is enlightening. I took it and scored pretty well, having been a student of the Bible for many years. Hint: most of the answers are "they will be stoned" or "castrate yourself" or along the lines of "God gives preferential treatment to men over women". It centers primarily on obscurities in the Old Testament, and takes some of Jesus sayings out of context. No surprise there.

Merry Christmas Y'all. Don't forget to light up that pagan Christmas tree (oops! gave away another answer from the quiz).

Anonymous said...

The word heretic is from Greek hairetikos, "able to choose".

Which describes us all in some sense because we all choose what we want to believe, even Christians.

Happy to live in a country that still gives us the freedom to express it.

And thankful the Creator gave us the free will to choose whether to believe him or not.