Saturday, November 22, 2008

Freedom of Speech, Only for the Religious. Freedom of Thought, but only for Religious Thoughts.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, co-founded by Dan Barker, recently put up a billboard in Rancho Cucamonga, CA that said, “Imagine No Religion.” The outcry from residents was immediate. The advertising company that owns the billboard immediately took the sign down and promised to refund FFRF.

I’d encourage you to complain about the censorship and the prejudicial treatment of free thought by complaining to the company:
General Outdoor Advertising

Correction on my earlier post: Despite the claim that is being circulated, the City of Rancho Cucamonga claims that it applied no pressure concerning the billboard and that it has no power over what the company chooses to put on it. Focus your complaints on General Outdoor Advertising.


Anonymous said...

I support your efforts to create an outcry against the outcry. I just don't think either is necessarily censorship, or that those in the original outcry advocate freedom of speech only for the religious. Maybe I just have trouble knowing when you overstate arguments for effect, or when you really mean them.

As for imagining no religion, I have tried but I can't. Where one's relgion means one's basic beliefs and values, I can't really see a conscious person not having some. Maybe he mean imagine no gods, that might make sense. Is he saying imagine only atheistic religions (world views)? Or is he saying imagine no Jews, imagine no Muslims. It can change the context quite a bit. Anyway when there are no other billboard companies that are willing to put up his sign for a profit, I will be more worried. For now my faith in capitalism has not yet been shaken. But in order for it to work they must be made aware of other viewpoints, so I wish success for your campaign

Anonymous said...

"Where one's relgion means one's basic beliefs and values, I can't really see a conscious person not having some."

Huh? I think, as a general rule, when people use religion they mean religion. When people use belief and values they mean belief and values. While they can impact each other, they are nowhere near synonymous.

Anyhow, I find it rather appalling that they would take the billboard down due to bigotry. I've seen quite the number of Christian billboards, yet none of any other faith (or lack thereof.)

Though, to be fair, while atheism is irrationally loathed I don't think a billboard saying "Muhammad was the one true prophet" would be received much better. Nonetheless, I would think an "image no religion" billboard far less offensive than a "Jesus died for your sins" one, in general. One is recommending an exercise in thought, the other is trying to pawn off something as an undeniable fact.

Anonymous said...

You can also contact the city of Rancho Cucamonga who pressured the company to take the sign down at:

What? I hadn't heard that. What person(s) undertook this activity on behalf of the city?

Anonymous said...

My understanding of what religion means is from Wikipedia, and seems the most scientific one available.

"Sociologists and anthropologists tend to see religion as an abstract set of ideas, values, or experiences developed as part of a cultural matrix.... According to this definition, religion refers to one's primary worldview and how this dictates one's thoughts and actions."

I have looked at places like for other definitions but these are far less clear, and don't seem to provide a scientificly reliably way to distinguish non-religion belief systems from religious ones. i.e. from

"Religion is certainly a type of belief system, but not all belief systems are religion. Differentiating religious from non-religious belief systems is sometimes easy, but other times rather difficult. Establishing a set of characteristics which tend to coalesce around religions is helpful, yet even that isn't always enough."

Other than the idea that it is very important to distinguish the difference, I could not find it spelled out anywhere. You seem to have a clear idea perhaps you could enlighten me, otherwise I will stick with the Wikipedia definition, and try to make sure from the context that thatis what I understand religion to be.

Anonymous said...


I also took a glance at that Wikipedia page, I also notice that it lists probably at least five different "definitions" from the glace I've taken at it. Taking the one that does not suit modern use, and more importantly (as you're posting on a philosopher's blog) philosophical use to argue your case seems rather absurd. Even if this is the "proper" definition of religion (which, obviously, is rather debatable) it was not how it was used on the billboard (or the blog post)

Thus, it seems like you're just misconstruing the word used in order to respond to attempt to make some nonsensical objection, really. If you wish to use religion as "general belief structure" then you're more than welcome to, but you should be aware that almost no one will ever use the word as you do. Misconstruing everyone's usage into yours isn't a real objection to the point.

Now, if you want a simple take on what they were referring to, I think it's rather fair to say, given cultural context, that "imagine no religion" on the billboard could be referred to the modern/recent religious establishments in the world and their dogmas. I know you're too smart to actually believe they meant something else, so I think you're just trying to make a distraction.

To quickly paraphrase (and mangle) Putman: It's not the word that counts, it's what it's referring to.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how a person with a PHD is able to make such emotive Bullcrap rants and still claim sensiblity?

I bet Dr. matt cant get away with this BS with his collegeus and is why he dishes this crap off to his loyal and blind followers here. So very sad mccormick...

These kids worship you so much that they will defy confirmation bias to your aid..

Anonymous said...

The definition of religion

the definition I picked was the most scientific one, agreed not the one that most atheists are confronted with. But I still think it is the best definition. In part because it allows that religion is not just belief in gods (theism), but includes also atheistic religions. Then it is much easier to understand the danger of religions like marxism, etc, is not unrelated. So if we want freedom from bad religions, we want it from all of them, not just bad theistic ones. I think a philosopical blog should be concerned about precise defintions of religion, and the one I quoted remains one of the best. You make a vague appeal to what people understand religion to be, as opposed to what philosophy or anthopologists understand it to be. That is a valid comment for the billboard, and as I said I support the effort to get the billboard back on freedom of speech grounds. I see the opposition as demanding some sort of "freedom from (the) speech (of others)", which I don't think they have a real right to. The danger of the "freedom from" thinking is that it can't help but reduce the "freedom of".

Prof McCormick certainly argues that there is a pervasive bias for religion, that clouds most peoples thinking (except for the enlightened few). This may be true, or it may be like the attempts by some to paint the media as having a pervasive left wing bias.

The argument is inherently circular, because it presupposes that one side is correct on the facts, and the other has a secret agenda. If it were true that non-religious have a strangle-hold on free speech, then it is hard to explain the number of atheist publications (there may still be too few, but there are far more that 50 years ago), or anti-organized religion movies like religulous. The claims to the contrary make great rallying cries, but detract from more cogent arguments, and create doubt about Dr. McCormick's capacity for disinterested analysis.

So I hope the sign is put back up, but I think the idea of freedom from religion should be seriously examined, before we give up our freedom of speech to soothe some sort of religous correctness. The better way is to get religious freedom recognition for atheists.