by Chuck Collazzi
You’ve probably heard the news by now that the fastest-growing religion in the USA is “Nones”. This misunderstood group is often defined as those who don’t belong to or attend a church, or subscribe to any dogmatic belief system. This statistic is said to include atheists and agnostics, secularists and humanists.
Of course, Nones aren’t necessarily non-believers, and this is important to keep in mind. Included in this category are self-styled “spirituals”, a term which means, to those that I know personally that identify as such, believers in some vague, undefined “higher power”. (“I don’t believe in religion, but I’m spiritual”.) Others are just fed up with the excesses of religion which include ownership of massive amounts of real estate, pedophilia, TV preachers, etc. The actual percentage of atheistic or agnostic Nones is hard to quantify because many people deny their non-belief in order to fit in, or not offend those with (usually) Christian sensibilities, especially bosses and co-workers.
At a time when slogans promoting religion are virtually everywhere (check out your local Wal-Mart parking lot) the non-believing community has groped for its own pithy bumper-sticker sound bites as a counter to the ubiquitous religious drivel we are presumed to respect, e.g., God Is My Co-Pilot, Jesus Is My Boss, In Case Of Rapture This Car Will Be Unmanned, Got Jesus?, and many more, all of which can be seen regularly on T-shirts and other apparel countrywide.
Although we non-believers have made a lot of ground against god-ism in the last few decades, we are far behind in the snappy, pointed slogan department. It seems to be more difficult to come up with succinct phrases which assert a negative such as atheism in a punchy, positive manner.
A popular, recent attempt is “Good Without God”. It can be seen it on mugs, stickers, t-shirts, etc. Although its proponents mean well, I find it problematic. I believe there are serious issues with it. In discussing my reluctance to embrace it I have encountered everything from agreement to derision. (I’ve been accused by my peers of over-thinking, which I find is a curious accusation in any case.)
Most clearly, Good Without God implies the existence of a deity. Here in christian America that can mean only one guy, Yahweh, the abusive, neurotic god of the Old and New Testaments. The assertion Good Without God assumes that there is a god, and that we choose to not believe in him, and reject him as the source of morality, good, and evil. It also fails as an attempt to be inoffensive to believers, especially those who find the mere existence of atheism an insult to their tender feelings of heavenly grace-filled righteousness.
Further, when I hear Good Without God I am reminded of Fox News’ mantra, “Fair and Balanced”. With frequent repetition, it takes on the nature of a meme. If you have to declaim to your audience that you are fair and balanced, it probably means you’re not either, or you’ve got something to hide, or it’s flat-out not true.
We atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers don’t need to buy into the lies of the preachers, or those congregational sheep who claim that morality comes from an imaginary deity and is not part of the evolutionary process which includes pursuit of mutual benefits for all as a component of survival. We should not be taking a defensive posture where morality (or any of the other lies the religious promote) is concerned.
Recently I have seen t-shirts with the slogan “Good Without Gods” which changes the meaning entirely. I think this represents a step in the right direction, but is totally irrelevant since pantheism is pretty much ignored in the USA. We need something better.