What Are Notable Atheists Saying About the Tebow Super Bowl Ad? February 4, 2010

What Are Notable Atheists Saying About the Tebow Super Bowl Ad?

A few notable atheists are commenting on the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad at the On Faith blog.

Richard Dawkins makes me squirm with the start of his piece, but it gets better if you read the rest of it:

I gather that Tim Tebow is extremely good at football. That’s just as well, for he certainly isn’t very good at thinking. Perhaps the fact that he was home schooled by missionary parents is to blame.

The sperm that conceived Tim Tebow was part of an ejaculate of (at an average estimate) 40 million. If any one of them had won the race to Mrs Tebow’s ovum instead of the one that did, Tim would not have been born, somebody else would. Probably not such a good quarterback but — we can but hope — a better logician, who might have survived the home schooling and broken free. That is not the point. The point is that every single one of us is lucky to be alive against hyper-astronomical odds. Tim Tebow owes his existence not just to his mother’s refusal to have an abortion. He owes his existence to the fact that his parents had intercourse precisely when they did, not a minute sooner or later…

Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, focuses on the unfair-and-unbalanced nature of CBS’ decision and lets Tebow off the hook for the ad:

… if CBS allows the Focus ad, it should allow controversial ads with opposing messages. Perhaps Super Bowl commercials will evolve from arguments about “Tastes great! No, less filling!” to “Jesus is Lord! No, Jesus is myth!” I’ve participated in debates on the latter topic, but there’s a time and place for such discussions. The Super Bowl is neither the time nor the place.

I can’t blame Tim Tebow, an athlete who wears his religion on his sleeve, or, more accurately, on his face. Evangelical parents raised him, and he believes he’s obliged to use his fame to spread his beliefs. I don’t think the NCAA, or a public institution like the University of Florida, should have allowed him to play football with Jesus eye patches along with inscribed biblical verse numbers.

Elisabeth Cornwell is the Executive Director of the U.S. branch of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and alerts readers to the misleading argument Focus on the Family will be making but doesn’t necessarily think social issues should be forbidden from being advertised:

The Focus on the Family anti-choice ad that will appear during this Sunday’s Super Bowl will not be based on a reasoned discussion of the issues surrounding abortion, rather it will be an emotional appeal meant to equate a fetus with a fully-grown Heisman-trophy winner. We shall be manipulated to imagine a mother killing her beloved son Tim Tebow sometime in early 1987. It is the standard anti-choice sucker punch, and I regard it as utterly misguided if not actively dishonest.

… Honestly, if an environmental group could gather enough steam to host a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl to raise awareness of global warming, I’d be PayPaling my way to help fund it and cheering them on.

Author Susan Jacoby thinks the ad won’t have much of an impact at all:

That said, I don’t think the Super Bowl audience is likely to be enthralled by an anti-choice ad. I can’t imagine a worse background for thinking about or debating any serious social or moral issue. I wonder if CBS would have accepted an ad, paid for by the Alzheimer’s Association or the American Medical Association, about the higher incidence of early Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders among ex-football players who have sustained concussions? Oh, bummer. Pass the wings and salsa.

I still haven’t seen the ad in question — has anyone? — and I’m starting to wonder if this may be getting blown out of proportion when the ad may not make any splash at all.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I wrote my commentary on it HERE.

  • Lynn

    I think pro-choice activists should make an ad of their own. They could tell the story I heard from a social worker about a baby whose mother was convinced by a clinic worker not to have an abortion. The little girl was abused from the very start, and ended up in foster care where she tortured animals and terrorized the other kids until she finally committed suicide at the age of 6. (No, that is not a typo.)

    “Abortion: for some, it IS the better choice.”

  • Deiloh

    Planned Parenthood has put out a YouTube video in response.

  • catherine

    focus on the family is sure getting a lot of free publicity out of this

  • colin

    Hear hear, up until these quotes:

    “I can’t imagine a worse background for thinking about or debating any serious social or moral issue.”

    “I still haven’t seen the ad in question — has anyone? — and I’m starting to wonder if this may be getting blown out of proportion when the ad may not make any splash at all.”

    The debate and splash are both happening now. What happens during and right after the airing, as well as the contents of the commercial itself, are now irrelevant.

  • noah

    I just can’t imagine the Super Bowl ad committee allowing a pro-choice or pro-atheism ad. That’s the only problem I have with the Tebow ad, at this point.

    That said, unlike a lot of critics, I’m simply uncomfortable criticizing the content of something I haven’t seen. I may have content-based complaints once I’ve seen it.

  • sideshow billybob

    I think it’s sort of a no-win. If there are lots of complaints, they get publicity and the chance to pull the oppression card. If it gets by without much fanfare, they get publicity, a case of smug pollution and wonder how much harder they can push the next time.

  • muggle

    I basically don’t think it’s fair that they’re allowing this political statement when not allowing any others. Otherwise, I wouldn’t give a shit.

    I didn’t like any of these responses. Susan Jacoby’s was the best but they all sounded rather stuck up and like they thought themselves superior to football fans. I don’t like football but c’mon, that was not the way to approach it at all and the overgeneralizing about football fans is just plain wrong. They’re basically complaining about bigotry using bigotry. The phrase intellectual snob comes to mind.

    I did like Lynn’s idea. How I only wish one of the three quoted had shown such good sense and simply asked for equal time. No maybe no one organization could afford it on their own but if they joined together and asked for donation… I’d send in a check, wouldn’t you?

    And sadly Lynn, I didn’t take that as a typo. It’s scary to think of kids as young as my grandson committing suicide but it’s not the first I’ve heard of it. Nowhere near as bad (I wasn’t suicidal until I was teen; I’m feeling much better now) but I have screamed at anti-abortion protesters that I wish my mother had instead of bringing us into this world to beat us. I got rather pissed off at their signs saying what if your mother had had an abortion? (What of it? I wouldn’t exist to know the difference.)

  • A couple of comments:
    1. You and Susan Jacoby are being the voices of reason here. In the long run, few will care what a college football player thinks about a social issue.

    2. I too squirmed when I read that lead sentence by Professor Dawkins. My reason: I suppose that, as a college mathematics professor, I see Mr. Tebow as a college student. And yes, his reasoning ability fits right in with that of many of my non-technical major students, and it just feels a bit unseemly for a wold class professor to call out a well intentioned but not-so-intellectual undergraduate student in public.
    Of course, his criticism is accurate and the rest of the article is excellent, and Mr. Tebow did put himself out there, etc.

  • fritzy

    Other than the blattent inconsistency that CBS is shooting themselves in the foot with (hopefully), I am bothered by two things that were not brought up in this post:

    1. The Tebows were in the Phillipines when they claim that the doctors strongly recommended she consider an abortion. This is highly suspect as all abortion in the sickeningly Catholic Phillipines is illegal.

    2. No one should be encouraging a pregnant mother in a similar situation to turn down an abortion. Both Tim and his mother should have died and both are incredibly fortunate to have lived through the ordeal. Evidently most with this medical condition are not so fortunate. To advocate against choice in such a circumstance is immoral.

  • Dave

    Am I missing something, or has it already been mentioned? Tebow’s mother refused the chance of an abortion – this meant that she had a choice! Precisely the opportunity they are trying to deny everyone else!

  • Jim

    Everyone is making assumptions concerning the FOTF ad. Who cares what they say? Does anyone here really believe it will change anyone’s mind? Let FOTF spend their money…waste would be a better word.

    Why get worked up about an ignorant religious organizations attempt at propaganda? Don’t we have better things to discuss?

  • Greg

    Hmmm, am I the only that things that showing that Tim Tebow could have been aborted as actually a pro-choice add?

    I am so, so, sick of this guy and the hype around him, the world may have been a better place with out him.

    Okay, this is a little tongue in cheek, but it goes to my point that add will have little to no affect on anybodies stance on the issue.

  • Revyloution

    Why is this ‘Superbowl’ thing such a big deal? What is it, some kind of sporting event?

    And who is Tim Teabag, er Teabow?

    I will never understand why people care what athletes think or do. The only redeeming social value I see in professional sport might be an encouragement to get some exercise. Unfortunately, most people just sit on the couch eating Doritos and drinking crappy beer.

  • Hannah

    I always get so irritated when I hear the argument that abortion should be illegal because there are some great people alive now who were “almost” aborted. I am here BECAUSE of abortion. My mom had an illegal abortion at the age of 16, then went on to break up with her high school boyfriend, go to medical school, marry my dad, and have 2 kids. Would my sister and I be here if she hadn’t had that abortion? No way. So whenever I see a bumper sticker that says “Smile, your mother chose life,” I think of all the people who that doesn’t apply to – all the kids born after their mothers had an abortion that allowed her to go on with her schooling and her life and have kids at a time when she was ready for them.

  • Jim

    FoF isn’t releasing the video until it airs during the game. The PP response is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utcxpuHF7jg&feature=player_embedded
    Notice that they don’t use the hot-button word “choice” even once – its all about trust in women to make the right decisions.

  • Kevin

    I’ve always wondered if the proper response to this fallacy would be an equally emotive “anti-waiting-until-marriage” campaign – have people testifying that “if my parents hadn’t engaged in pre-marital sex, I wouldn’t be alive today”. Maybe (doubtful, but maybe) that would at least get through to the 5% of the anti-abortion crowd capable of clear, critical thought to realize that whether their position on abortion is valid, *this* particular line of reasoning is substance-free.

  • muggle

    Jim, PP’s response is excellent. I gave it 5 stars.

    I like Kevin’s idea but that’s the snark in me. PP’s was classy and well stated. The positive statement of trusting women was succinct, strong and emotional.

    Go, guys!

  • Devon

    Is this a display of logic? To Elisabeth Cornwell. She said “The Focus on the Family anti-choice ad”. Are you so intelligent that you presume that choosing life is not a choice? Is “choice” only to go in the one direction prescribed by you? This is like when FORD motor company said, you can have any color car you want, as long as it is black. That definition of choice is antiquated. The ad is not to make any emotional appeal, it is to say simply,CHOOSING LIFE IS ALSO A CHOICE.

  • Devon, surely you are aware that Focus on the Family does not support legal abortion and believes that no woman should even be allowed to make that choice.

  • I wrote about this ad and the survivor bias that underlies it at my site.

  • Car

    Since I don’t watch the barbaric sport called the super bowl, I didn’t see the add or care to. I will say that watching a bunch of million dollar men running around the field and the most domestic violence day towards women is usually on this day, that should give you enough reason to support abortion hands down.

  • John

    I read a Near Death Experience of a 3 year old boy who told his mother, “I met my older brother in Heaven and he told me you paid a man to tear him out of your stomach.” Her mother was very embareassed because her mother and sister were there and they didn’t know of her abortion.

    Also, a bar owner had sex often with his waitresses and if they got pregnant he would arrange their abortions. When he had a NDE he met the souls of the children he had aborted. NOT a very happy reunion.

    Freedom of choice ends w/pregnancy!

    An employee of Planned Parenthood watched a fetus being aborted and fighting desperately to avoid being killed.


  • Al

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions on the matter of abortions, but it’s the woman who is pregnant who actually makes the ultimate choice. I may well differ with her on this ultimate choice, but I don’t differ with her on her supreme right to make it. Indeed, it is precisely …her supreme choice to make and her’s alone. This matter of choice is so obvious that there is no need to advertise regardles of what the woman’s choice might be.

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