Humanism on the Move


Nov. 4, 2009

The United Coalition of Reason has helped fund a new ad campaign on Boston subways. The advertisements read "Good without God? Millions of Americans are," and they have been launched by the Boston Area Coalition of Reason. More than 200 subway cars display the ad, and the campaign coincided with the launch of similar advertising campaigns in New York City, Chicago, and New Jersey.

"Our message is positive. We want it recognized that people can be good without belief in a god," said Greg Epstein, coordinator of the Boston Area Coalition of Reason and the humanist chaplain at Harvard. "There is a lot of misinformation out there about nontheists. But we humanists, agnostics and atheists are everywhere. We're your co-workers, neighbors, friends and family members. One of us could be sitting next to you in the pew at your church. We care about our communities and live by our ethical values."

The campaign is also coordinated with the release of a new book by Epstein: Good without God, What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Michael Newdow, a Sacramento-based atheist who made national headlines by challenging the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, is launching a federal lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for giving tax breaks to religious organizations. Newdow is representing 21 Northern California members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and is arguing that the preferential treatment amounts to a Constitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

The lawsuit seeks to have provisions that allow ministers to exclude housing provided to them from their taxable income, among other tax benefits, stricken from federal and state tax codes.

Last December, Newdow sued to challenge the insertion of the words "so help me God" by the administrator of the presidential oath and government-sponsored prayers in the invocation and benediction. The case, Newdow v. Roberts, is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The American Humanist Association is providing assistance in the case.

The first-ever Spanish-speaking Atheist meetup in New York City-and perhaps the country-took place on Oct. 27, at the Stone Creek Bar and Restaurant on East 27th street. The group is a division of the New York City Atheists, the group which recently sponsored a bus advertising campaign with slogans that read, "You don't have to believe in god to be a moral or ethical person."

The division was created after a delegation of Spanish-speaking atheists proposed the formation. Its goal is "to open the overwhelmingly religious Spanish community to freethought ideas and to provide support to those who are already sympathetic to the freethought atheist movement," according to a press release.  The division will seek prominent Latino speakers and artists to act as spokespersons and educators. Eventually, they plan to create a Spanish-speaking cable television show.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. The group has fought since its founding in 2005 to stop religious discrimination in the military and protect the religious freedom rights of service members. It has also aimed to prevent proselytizing abroad by the U.S. military.

The group was nominated because "The past accomplishments and ongoing critical work of the MRFF have gained the civil rights organization the profound respect of officers and officials in the higher ranks of the United States military…" according to the nomination letter.

The winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced next October.