Huntsville Alabama has a new billboard that reads:
You KNOW they’re all SCAMS. Southeast Regional Atheist Meet. January 29-30. atheists.org/huntsville.
Here’s a photo of the billboard.
Here’s what you will find if you follow the link to American Atheists:
Is All Religion a SCAM?
1. A ploy by a shyster to raise money.
2., A fraudulent business scheme. To scam means to victimize: deprive of by deceit; “He swindled me out of my inheritance”; “She defrauded the customers who trusted her”; “the cashier gypped me when he gave me too little change”
3. A confidence trick, confidence game, or con for short (also known as a scam) is an attempt to intentionally mislead a person or persons (known as the mark) usually with the goal of financial or other gain. The confidence trickster, con man, scam artist or con artist often works with an accomplice called the shill, who tries to encourage the mark by pretending to believe the trickster.
Let’s examine some truth:
Truth 1) All religions make money and power from their flock.
Truth 2) All religions* promise life after death, AND they promise that members of the flock will benefit in that afterlife from their association with the church/synagogue/mosque. Whether it’s an amorphous “closeness to God”, or eternity in Heaven, or 72 virgins, they make lots of promises about an afterlife that doesn’t exist. They appeal to wishful thinking, egos, and love of life to insent the parishioners to follow and give.
Let’s face it: religion tells a good story. All you need to do is follow the preacher and good things will happen. You will never really die, and due to your involvement in (insert religion here) you will benefit for eternity. Yes, it pleases the invisible man-in-the-sky that you follow your preacher — just ask your preacher and he will tell you.
Sometimes, religions ask for money directly, and sometimes it’s more indirect, but there is always money involved, and there is always a promise that will never be kept. Money and power in exchange for something that will never be recieved, and you can’t even ask for a refund! This is a SCAM.
Billions of adherents, many of whom are preachers themselves, all victims of this Great Scam. Some know it’s a scam, yet defend religion because they like the lies. They like the fraud. They like the false sense of security. Unfortunately, no matter how much you like a lie, it doesn’t make it truth. It DOES make religion a great scam if victims are willing to defend it, even in the face of truth.
SO — if you know it’s a scam:
* Why do you give it money? Why to you follow? Do you like being scammed?
* Why do you allow your loved ones to follow? Why not raise their awareness so they can keep their money and their dignity?Because they like being scammed?
* Why are you silent? Because the scam-artist preachers want you to be?
American Atheists doesn’t think religion deserves respect for lying or scamming people. Religion is a major conduit of wealth and power in this country, and this all comes at the expense of well-meaning intelligent victims of the greatest con-job ever. We urge you to get off your knees, keep you money, and regain your dignity.
If you can read this (if you are human), you are the top of the food-chain. There are no beings on Earth greater than humans. Yes — eventually, you will die, and wishing it weren’t true won’t change that, but at least you can live a full and meaningful life here and now, instead of wasting it following a god you know is a myth, and a religion you know is a scam.
* Some secular philosophies, including Secular Judaism, Secular Islam, and Secular Buddhism, call themselves religions. We respectfully disagree with their definitions and do not allege they are scams, as they do not promise an afterlife or promote any deity.
Hmmm. I would put this billboard at about a “6″ on my tolerance of religion scale. And I would put the website text at about a “5.”
I agree that many aspects of many religions are scams. Almost all religions do make promises (e.g., there is a heaven) for which there is no reliable evidence. Most of them ignore or downplay clear evidence that conflicts with their beliefs (e.g., the undisputed history of their sacred scriptures). It’s my gut feeling that most of the religious leaders who tout these sorts of supernatural claims have grave doubts in their hearts even while they act that they are certain of these claims in public.
To be fair, though, the be-good-and-you’ll-get-to-heaven message, though it is often touted by many religions, is a crude cartoon of the function of many religions. This cartoon ignores religious practices, which are far more complex than the threats of hell. For instance, I know many people whose take-away message from their religion is that they should be good to others, including others far beyond the in-group of their particular religion. That part of many religion doesn’t fit with the characterization of “scam.”
I understand the frustration that drives this particular message and I admit that I might, to some extent, benefit from these in-your-face tactics. It might entice some atheists out of the closet, and the more that occurs, the less bigotry will flourish against atheists. There’s no doubt that non-believers are victims of bigotry in the United States (for instance, atheists are not able to be elected to public office and they are considered by many people to be de facto immoral and depraved).
I wish I knew a way to measure how effective these tactics are. I suspect that this billboard will cause more than a few people to examine their own unproven beliefs or to consider how insulting many religious billboards are to those of us who don’t believe in supernatural beings. I suspect that this billboard will let many people with internal religious struggles know that they are not screwed up and not alone in their atheism and that reassurance, in my opinion, is a extremely valuable thing.