Archive for October, 2009

A million good atheists in New York City?

CNN reports that a coalition of non-religious organizations is running a atheist ad campaign in New York city subways, “designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god.”

The advertisements ask the question, written simply over an image of a blue sky with wispy white clouds: “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?”

The ads are actually misleading. That 2008 survey cited by the sponsors, American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population, didn’t ask people if they were good. The word “good” doesn’t even appear in the report. It just asked about religious affiliation. True, the 15% who said they had no religious affiliation weren’t saying they were Christians who hadn’t found a good church, but they weren’t saying they were atheists either. Only 7% said they were atheists.

The most startling claim, of course, is that New York City has a million good people, period. I mean, I think the Chasidic Jews only estimate a dozen or two really good people worldwide. Maybe good people are naturally attracted to New York City. Still, if I were you, I would keep alert on the subway, and lock  my car.

But the ads ask a good question, even if they begin with an inaccurate statement. That is, they ask, “Are you good?” I suspect that, if they think about it, that question will make a lot of New Yorkers a little uncomfortable. I know it did that for me. And if the answer is no, there are organizations in New York City that can help. But I don’t think they’re atheist organizations.