As recently as last Monday, billboard advertisements from the Minnesota Atheists organization have been popping up all over Minneapolis, including right off campus in the Warehouse District. The billboards feature a baby talking to its parents with slogans like “We are all born without belief in gods. Learn how to be a born-again atheist” and “Please don’t indoctrinate me with religion. Make me think for myself.”
In an attempt to challenge religious indoctrination of children, Minnesota Atheists are somewhat hypocritically claiming the minds of children for their own cause. Whether babies, who do not have the mental capacity to choose for themselves nor reject theism, are true atheists or not remains a philosophical question, but this new advertising scheme is just one of many recent religious marketing campaigns to get people to (or away from) the pews.
We have all seen the Catholic commercials, reminding us that they were responsible for a book called the Bible. There are Mormon ads trying to redefine the faith’s image as younger and informal. Then there are countless issue-based marketing campaigns centered on abortion and sexual services, adoption and marriage laws. Even the Minnesota Atheists’ billboards deliberately feature babies reminiscent of pro-life billboards with similarly talking toddlers.
The public is being bombarded with countless religious arguments trying to get them to return to religion, perhaps as a reaction to the dwindling number of religious individuals in urban areas. But for an industrialized country, the U.S. still has the highest church-going and religious population. Thus, such ads must be linked to a growing competition between different faiths, and an American population constantly looking to different sources for answers. Religious ads must be consumed like any other marketing campaign: with a grain of salt, so that we don’t become born-again, un-questioning babies.