Humanists have recently begun a number of ad campaigns. They are silly.
Note I didn’t say “intolerant” or “in bad taste.” My concern is not that they “hurt people’s feelings,” as if the skeptics and humanists need to step on eggshells when it comes to religious folk. No, my claim is that the ads demonstrate the very signs of irrationality that humanists and such claim to eschew.
Some of the ads are patently absurd. Take, for instance, the ad above. Any thinking person who doesn’t have an axe to grind and isn’t already blinded by an agenda will recognize that Jesus is using hyperbole. He was a Jew, afterall, who affirmed the Jewish Law, which includes the Ten Commandments, which includes the commandment “honor your father and mother.” He is making a comment about the superiority of one’s love to God in comparison with one’s love towards everything else. The ad obviously lacks charity, which is a pre-requisite of rationality when dealing with one’s ideological opponents.
Also look at this second ad. It commits the fallacy of equivocation; it subtly uses another meaning of the word “fear” than what the passage intends. Plus, it’s not as if fear is never a legitimate response to something.
And a third…how in the world does the group making the ads think that the proverb is actually saying that evidence and logic are bad things? (more on this later) There are several perfectly good explanations of the meaning of that proverb, they make good sense, and for the ad makers to ignore them is the height of willful ignorance.
You might respond by saying that I’m setting too high of a standard for the ads. They are advertisements, afterall, not graduate philosophy papers. Yes, they are ads, and ad makers are usually given a pass to play more fast and loose with words and persuasive tactics than other genres of communication, but I still maintain that a little more charity and rationality and a little less caricature isn’t too much to ask.
I had a discussion with a friend on Facebook about this recently. In the several posts that follow, I’m going to catalogue the conversation to unpack what I’ve started to say here in this post.