Months after putting up billboards promoting life without religion, humanist groups in Portland kicked off a three-day film festival on Friday to showcase the “growth” of their movement and promote atheism.
Hosted by Cinema 21 in Northwest Portland, the Portland Humanist Film Fest seeks to “provide, through the medium of film, an expansive window into many of the aspects of existence, morality, history, science and philosophy that reflect the humanist perspective,” according to the event’s website.
A second annual film festival of this kind, it’s a “secular cinematic event where humanists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers, and the curious from the Northwest and beyond can gather, mingle and share in an exciting and stimulating atmosphere,” says the sponsor, Center for Inquiry-Portland.
The group aims to provide “an ethical alternative to religious and paranormal worldviews.” “In this time of rising religiosity, anti-intellectualism and political turmoil on ethical issues,” it says on its website, “it is critical that rationalists and freethinkers join together to protect civil liberties, defend reason, and work toward increasing scientific literacy.”
On Friday, the festival with the tagline “Advancing a Culture of Free Thought” featured three “carefully chosen” films: “The Nature of Existence,” “The Invention of Lying” and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”
On Saturday evening, Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism will speak on “Who are Doubters Anyway? The Demographics of Unbelief.” On Sunday, Bruce Adams, president of Columbia Chapter of Americans United, will speak on “The Separation of Church and State.”
The Center for Inquiry installed billboards in May saying, “You don’t need God – to hope, to care, to love, to live.” It was part of a “Living Without Religion” campaign to offer “an expressive outlet for people who might not realize they are not alone in doubting dogma, and shouldn’t feel the need to deny their rational leanings.” Another goal, the group said, was to “counter false assumptions about people who choose not to follow any god.”
The campaign’s website complains that “many religious believers see their god or their faith as the basis for emotions such as hope, caring, and love. We don’t deny that the religious may find inspiration in their beliefs – but our religious friends should not presume that accepting their beliefs is necessary for a fulfilling life.”
“Some people have parted ways with traditional god beliefs intellectually but hesitate to give up their faith because they’re afraid of what life might be like without the beliefs and practices they have found so comforting … We invite you to consider how many people have already found that living without religion provides a foundation for a life that is rich, rewarding, and complete.”
Craig Hazen, director of the M.A. Program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University in Southern California, told The Christian Post earlier this year when the CFI campaign launched that atheists probably can live decent, fulfilling lives.
But he argued that there is no grounding for what they're putting forth.
"You are talking about joy, and pleasure, and goodness and so on. If you're employing words like that and you have no objective basis for the reality of those words ... in other words, if you don't believe in a moral law giver who actually gives meaning to the words good and evil, you can ... put up billboards all day long and they mean nothing," he commented.
"What does it mean to do good in a world that's really just a gigantic accident of matter and energy?"