A humanist group launched on Tuesday a multimedia ad campaign, declaring that atheists and the nonreligious can live good, meaningful lives without God.
"You don't need God – to hope, to care, to love, to live," the ad states.
The campaign is sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, an Amherst, N.Y.-based organization whose mission is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.
CFI president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay said the ads are aimed at dispelling some myths about the nonreligious.
"One common myth is that the nonreligious lead empty, meaningless, selfish, self-centered lives. This is not only false, it's ridiculous," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, all too many people accept this myth because that's what they hear about nonbelievers."
CFI asserts that nonreligious people can find meaning in a life that is human-centered, and that reliance on the supernatural is unnecessary.
Another myth that the group is looking to dispel – that the nonreligious are immoral, or at least that they can't be relied upon to be as good as those with religious beliefs.
"One reason this myth persists is many religious believers see their god or their faith as the basis for emotions such as hope, caring, and love," the organization pointed out. "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."
Craig Hazen, director of the M.A. Program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University in Southern California, doesn't disagree that atheists and unbelievers can live decent, fulfilling lives.
But he argues 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 told The Christian Post.
"What does it mean to do good in a world that's really just a gigantic accident of matter and energy?" Hazen pointed out.
The Biola professor, who is also editor of the philosophy journal Philosophia Christi, said he has yet to hear a decent argument from an atheist or naturalist "as to what grounds their real objective morality."
The only way to know good, joy and love or even pain is if there is a moral law giver who can actually communicate those things, he maintained.
"Apart from that, you make it up as you go."
Hazen went further to contend that an unbeliever is actually "borrowing the Christian worldview to give your atheist life meaning."
"I just don't know where they're getting their concept of good. They are just random bags of molecules. Morality ... does not apply to random bags of molecules," he said.
"If it's a person created in God's image and there' s a moral law giver, then you have a real concept of morality and you can live a good life or you can live a bad life and you can know such a thing."
Washington, D.C., is the first of three cities to host CFI's ads. As of Tuesday, the ads have been plastered on 15 buses and two Metro stations – Dupont Circle and Farragut West. Beginning next week, billboards declaring "You don't need God" will be seen in Indianapolis and Houston.