Disbelief at atheism ads
A planned atheist ad campaign touting New Yorkers who are "good without God" is provoking the wrath of many who said it’s trampling on their religion.
"I teach my children to believe in God and lead a life faithful to Him," said Aime Roberts, 37, of the Bronx, when told of the campaign. "If my children see these ads that say there is no God, they’ll think their mother is lying."
The ads, which will begin appearing on posters in 12 subway stations Monday, pose the provocative question "A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?"
The $25,000 campaign, financed by an anonymous donor, is meant to get the message out to non-believers that they are not alone, said Michael De Dora, a spokesman for the Center for Inquiry, a member of the coalition.
"We want to show New Yorkers there is a community out there where you can find like-minded people," he said. "There seems to be a groundswell of people who, at the very least, are curious about secularism."
The 1 million figure came from the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, in which 15 percent of people listed no religious affiliation; 15 percent of New York’s population is about 1 million.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, disputed the figure.
"I’m not really sure what their message is, to be honest," he said.
Many New Yorkers interviewed yesterday were offended by the content of the ads, which will run for a month.
"These aren’t good, you need to believe in God," said Rafael Rodriguez, 20, of the Bronx.
Charlene McNair-Lawery, 19, of Brooklyn, said she was dismayed by a trend toward taking religion out of the public sphere, mentioning efforts to remove the word God from the Pledge of Allegiance. "The MTA can just do whatever it wants and get away with it," she said.
A spokesman for the MTA, Aaron Donovan, said the agency prohibits nudity and vulgar language in advertising, but its guidelines protect freedom of speech and religion.
The campaign follows a similar one this summer by the New York City Atheists, who put posters on buses saying that one need not believe in God to be moral.
Jane Everhart, a spokeswoman for that group, which is not involved in next week’s campaign, said the time is ripe for such a message. She mentioned President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, in which he said America is a nation of non-believers as well as believers.
"We were recognized," she said. "That will go down in the history of atheism."
Phoebe Kingsak contributed to this story.