Blunt Billboard

Check out this billboard:

all-religions-are-fairy-tales.jpg

It’s much more straight-forward than the ones put up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

And it was losing business for nearby companies in Orange County, Florida:

The billboard was on Colonial Drive near the Old Cheney Highway. Although the popular Straub’s Seafood restaurant often advertises on it, this wasn’t their billboard. The sign was taken down after Channel 9 started asking questions.

The billboard came down around 4:00 Friday afternoon and nearby business owners are relieved. Straub’s restaurant can replace the sign with the night’s specials.

At first glance the sign looked like a children’s cartoon, but the message next to the fairy princess stirred emotions.

“When you condemn all religions and say they are a fairytale that is wrong,” said Rich Stormes, a nearby business owner.

The billboard went up a week before Easter and business at the restaurant went down.

“Easter Sunday is usually a busy good day,” said John Russel, an employee at Straub’s. “Easter Sunday business was down by two thirds.”

Since there’s no website or group name on the billboard, there’s no telling who put it up. And no group that I know of has claimed ownership of it.

The billboard rents for $1,400 a month. If an anti-religious group paid to rent it legitimately there is [no] telling how long it would have been up.

The company that owns the billboard says it didn’t approve the message, though. They say someone “put it up illegally in the middle of the night.” Which means no one would have paid for it.

In any case, the billboard has been taken down.

That’s unfortunate. It’s hard to pass judgment on either side until more details are available, but the billboard would be protected by free speech.

If someone paid for it, it should be allowed to stay up. Let it start some conversations. Let it make people upset. It’ll get some of them thinking about why the statement was made.

The original article from WFTV news is no longer up but back up and the full reprint is available at Black Sun Journal.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Sam

    Let it make people upset.

    Tell me again what makes you “friendly”?

  • Jen

    If it was put up illegally, then take it down. If someone paid for it, and the company is lying (perhaps) then I hope the group got a full refund.

    I wonder if it really cut into business all that much. I can’t imagine people would really care about eating next to the sign if they are inside the building where they can’t see it. Then again, maybe.

    I think it’s pretty cute.

  • Milena

    I could see a sign like that hurting business on Easter. It’d be almost like a gut reaction for the people who were offended to keep driving and not stop at that particular restaurant.

    It’s a cute picture, but it doesn’t say much. At least the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s sign and the “Imagine No Religion” signs invited people to think (although how many did we can’t be sure of). This one is more of an insult to the people it targets. Still, if it was payed for, it shouldn’t have been taken down. If it was illegal, taking it down is definitely within the rights of the billboard company.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 Ben

    I don’t know whether I hope the billboard was put up in (essentiallY) an act of vandalism or whether the company is lying. Both are bad.

  • http://blackskeptic.wordpress.com blackskeptic

    The “Imagine No Religion” sign is tongue in cheek and much classier. It’s not as offensive, but it gets the same message across. Not to mention it was legal (it’s sad that it was pulled down although it was legal).

    “That’s unfortunate. It’s hard to pass judgment on either side until more details are available, but the billboard would be protected by free speech.”

    I don’t think you’d be saying that if Christians illegally put up a billboard that said, “All Atheists Are Stupid.” Name calling is childish, and we really should rise about that and figure out more productive ways of getting our message across.

  • Miko

    It’ll get some of them thinking about why the statement was made.

    Just a guess, but I’d say it was made for exactly the same reason that another group earlier put up a billboard asking “Why Do Atheists Hate America?” Namely: spite, pure and simple.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 Ben

    I don’t think you’d be saying that if Christians illegally put up a billboard that said, “All Atheists Are Stupid.” Name calling is childish

    This billboard did not name-call.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    For crying out loud! It’s just a sign! A cute one at that. I like it. It just shows that people are entitled to express their own opinions.

    I don’t get why it would make anyone angry or concerned. I’m a Christian, and I’m not threatened one bit by it whatsoever…

    That, in my opinion, is exactly the problem with religion.

  • DaveS

    I’d gently point out that “all religions are fairytales” is not directly calling anyone a name, like “all Atheists are stupid” does, and it doesn’t tell a provable lie, like “why do Atheists hate America?” does. All theists have to say about it is that “it’s bad”.

    One strange thing about the whole religion debate is that you can’t accurately portray an Atheist in any way that will offend him, but is still true. Theists, on the other hand, usually get upset when faith is portrayed as unreasoning, which by definition, it is.

  • julie marie

    The fairy tale concept was stiff stuff for me two years ago. I was deeply offended. And if the objective is to get people talking constructively, opening the conversation with something you are pretty sure will raise ire isn’t going to get you where you want to go. Not unless someone is REALLY motivated to understand you.

    I know one of the complaints atheists have about Christians is that they are so touchy, and take so much personally. I agree, its hard – really hard – to talk when people are like that. And when they are deeply insensitive anyone else’s point of view too boot – that makes is even harder. So sometimes the objective isn’t to converse but to just say what you feel needs to be said and let the chips fall.

    But when that is whats been done, I think it is irrational to think there won’t be an unpleasant backlash. Emotions are visceral things, aren’t they?

    Personally, I liked the FFRF signs better. But this one is cute — it reminds me of the “fractured fairy tales” fairy on the old rocky and bullwinkle show. (gulp, yes, I am that old.)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Just a guess, but I’d say it was made for exactly the same reason that another group earlier put up a billboard asking “Why Do Atheists Hate America?” Namely: spite, pure and simple.

    Yeah, I really don’t see any difference between between the two. Though it doesn’t surprise me that many of the folks here are more willing to give this one a pass while condemning the other one as bigotry. Double standards seem to be par for the course for both sides.

  • Shane

    The “Atheist Hate America” sign and this one are quite similar. The only difference is that this one is slightly less direct. If all religions are fairy tales then those who believe in them must have the intellect of a child, but it doesn’t actually say “Why Are Religious People Intellectually Immature?”. Neither sign is useful.

    Maybe it would have been a bit more truthful if it read: “Every religion except yours is a fairy tale”. That would work for almost everyone except those who hold to some general, ill-defined, feel good, “spirituality” nonsense.

    But in all fairness religions are just fairy tales, and maybe atheists do hate certain aspects of America (Gasp! I know it’s one of the deadly American sins to be unpatriotic, and that has always struck me as kind of bizarre and illogical). I can think of several aspects of America that I hate, but I’m Canadian so I guess I’m allowed (and, yes, I can also think of many aspects of Canada that I hate as well).

  • http://adventuresinmultiplicity.blogspot.com Heidi

    I know many Buddhists, myself included, who would quite willingly say our religion contains fairy tales. Well, actually we do say archetypal myths and legends.

    Quite powerful stuff that.

    A fairy tale is an honorable thing to be, if it can be understood as such, and the wisdom gleaned from it can be much more appropriately tolerant.

  • http://atheistisland.wordpress.com/ PrimateIR

    Business was down two thirds due to the sign? Please. Business was down two thirds because the economy stinks and people are tightening the belt.

  • steve

    hey put up what you want. the fact is that STRAUBS SEAFOOD was being accused of putting the sign up. I wasted countless hours fielding questions over something that i had no control of. have an opinion, but at some point people are responsible for what they do. why was I left to deal with all this aggrevation? You have the kahuna’s to do something like that, have the kahuna’s to man up over responsibility. Sit back and giggle and watch someone else get blamed. Real cool. Peace

  • http://www.atheistspot.com/ Freethinker

    It’s a freaking billboard people, not the end of the world.

  • Maria

    I don’t think you’d be saying that if Christians illegally put up a billboard that said, “All Atheists Are Stupid.” Name calling is childish, and we really should rise about that and figure out more productive ways of getting our message across.

    I agree, although it isn’t name calling, it’s much in the same “tone”.

    Yeah, I really don’t see any difference between between the two. Though it doesn’t surprise me that many of the folks here are more willing to give this one a pass while condemning the other one as bigotry. Double standards seem to be par for the course for both sides.

    I’ve noticed that too, and it’s really starting to get on my nerves.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 Ben

    I wasted countless hours fielding questions over something that i had no control of. have an opinion, but at some point people are responsible for what they do. why was I left to deal with all this aggrevation?

    Oh, agreed. If it was vandalism as opposed to a legit ad, that was very wrong.

  • Claire

    Though it doesn’t surprise me that many of the folks here are more willing to give this one a pass while condemning the other one as bigotry.

    Maybe, maybe not, but if so then it’s for a legitimate reason. There’s an important difference between this billboard (and the FFRF ones) and the “why do atheists hate America” billboard: this billboard questions ideas, and the other one attacks people. That’s a major difference, and in my book, it makes this billboard far less offensive than the other.

    The other difference between the two billboards? This one was taken down just like the FFRF billboards, while the “why do atheists hate America” billboards were allowed to remain. I think that’s by far the bigger story here, that the more offensive billboard attacking people is still standing, and the milder ones questioning an idea were promptly yanked. Of course, if it truly was illegal, it should have come down, but the principle still holds true for the FFRF billboards.

    What does it say about where this country has gone, that hate speech against a group of people is allowed to stand, but free speech about ideas isn’t?

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Are billboards a protected form of free speech? I’m betting that vandalism isn’t.

    Edit: I just read the full article on Black Sun, and it says it is protected free speech.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    An opposite of this would not be “Here’s why Atheists hate America” or “All Atheists are Stupid” but rather “Atheism is Stupid” — one is picking on ideas, the other are picking on people. Why can’t all you Christians see the difference? If the billboard had said “All Christians are retarded” then you would have something to be offended about.

  • cautious

    The owner of the Black Sun page is totally right; I find it extremely unlikely that this billboard was put up illegally. I see spraypaint tags on billboards quite often, but all that’s needed for that is one person and a few cans. Billboards are multiple huge pieces of vinyl that are held in place by an adhesive. That kind of installation doesn’t happen without some level of professionalism.

    Some group paid for the billboard, for some reason everyone involved in that business transaction is refusing to talk, and for some reason this billboard was taken down because it stated an uncomfortable position.

  • stogoe

    I for one would be willing to put up a couple bucks towards a billboard that said “Christians are Torture-Worshipping Cannibals”. You christians get offended at the slightest, merest hint of a breeze of disagreement. I think it would be good for you to get a good look at what real, vocal criticism actually looks like.

  • K

    Yeah! SOMEONE finally posted the story that’s been hidden for days. I put it up on my blog this morning in the hopes that SOMEONE, ANYONE would see it and realize that Florida isn’t completely a cesspool of morons. The vast majority is, no doubt, and the public schools are dumbed down to pathetic levels, but look! Not everyone is a fundie!
    And I don’t believe for a SECOND that someone went up and snuck a professional billboard up in the middle of the night. Bull.

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    The company that owns the billboard says it didn’t approve the message, though. They say someone “put it up illegally in the middle of the night.” Which means no one would have paid for it.

    In any case, the billboard has been taken down.

    That’s unfortunate. It’s hard to pass judgment on either side until more details are available, but the billboard would be protected by free speech.

    I’ll have to check my constitutional law books but if the sign was put up illegally then it was not free speech. It was an act of vandalism. And those responsible for the vandalism are subject to prosecution.

    Unless someone has… umm… evidence that the company is lying about the this being posted in the middle of the night then we have to take their word for it.

    I noticed on my way in that a number of people have checked their skepticism at the door. Funny how quickly we can ignore the means when we agree with the message.

  • Claire

    Unless someone has… umm… evidence that the company is lying about the this being posted in the middle of the night then we have to take their word for it.

    We do have evidence. Putting up a professional looking billboard correctly is not something just anyone can do, you need to know how, and whoever put this up did know how, because it looks professionally done. It’s not conclusive, but it is enough to cast doubt on the company’s version.

    And since when do we have to take their word for it, just because they say it’s so? I haven’t seen them present any evidence. Just who checked whose skepticism at the door here?

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    We don’t have to take their word for it but before we start calling people liars I would presume some kind of evidence would be required. The official story sounds fishy and should be used as a reason to pressure the company.

    I actually have firsthand knowledge of how to put up a billboard and all you need is a couple buckets of adhesive and a large push-broom (both available at Home Depot) and anybody can put up a half-decent sign in a few hours. Where the real expense comes in is in the printing of the vinyl billboard itself, that’s not something you go to Kinko’s to print out. And that could be traced I would think.

  • Claire

    I suppose it depends on whether one considers internal inconsistencies in a story as sufficient evidence of a possible lie. I think it’s enough, but I can see how someone would prefer more concrete evidence, but until more investigation is done, there’s some evidence that it’s not true, and no evidence that it is. I’m not calling them liars, I’m just not sure they are telling the truth.

    I’m also still not convinced about the ease of putting up a billboard well. I’ve watched novices try to put wallpaper up, and it’s not that easy to make it look decent. Billboard vinyl would be similar, but heavier and harder to handle, plus working on a platfom.

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    You’d be surprised how forgiving hanging wallpaper on a sign 150 feet in the air can be :)

    I really didn’t want to argue the point, I just didn’t want to see perfectly good people demonizing a company without any “proper” evidence. I suppose you are right, my “evidence” would consist of something more than a fishy story.

    I do feel bad for the restaurant owner who was unfairly punished because of the unfortunate location of the sign and his building.

  • Claire

    Ok, then, I will be content to be surprised and I’ll leave it to someone who is willing to spend some time 150 feet above the ground to verify it, because I’m not, no way… :-)

    I feel sorry for the restaurant guy, too, although I’m not sure why he thinks it hurt his easter business when the sign came down the friday before. Since it was a tv station that started the questions, I’m sure there was time to get his denials out. Still, quite an annoyance for them, if people kept calling them to complain.

    What I want to know is, if it was put up without authorization, is to whom the sign was rented out at the time, and why weren’t they squawking about where their billboard was? The reporting on these stories always seems to raise more questions than it answers…

  • steve

    Again, opinions are like…..anyway dont feel sorry for me, but for the record once again…it came down the friday AFTER easter

  • http://evolutionrules.stumbleupon.com/ Sheila Price
  • dzho

    Skeptigator;
    Would one be able to do this in the middle of the night, as Medianet claims?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    An opposite of this would not be “Here’s why Atheists hate America” or “All Atheists are Stupid” but rather “Atheism is Stupid”

    So if a Christian had put up a billboard that read “Atheism is Stupid” would you be okay with that or would you be offended? If Hemant had posted about someone putting that billboard up, what do you think most of the comments would be saying right now?

  • Claire

    MikeClawson said,

    So if a Christian had put up a billboard that read “Atheism is Stupid” would you be okay with that or would you be offended?

    Honestly? I really wouldn’t have a problem with that. Free speech is for everybody, not just me. Sorry to disappoint you….

  • Richard Wade

    Mike Clawson said,

    So if a Christian had put up a billboard that read “Atheism is Stupid” would you be okay with that or would you be offended?

    Then Claire said,

    Honestly? I really wouldn’t have a problem with that. Free speech is for everybody, not just me. Sorry to disappoint you…

    Well I’d be offended, that’s for sure! I would be rioting in the streets with millions of other enraged, rabid atheists around the world, burning cars, looting stores, hacking up nuns and other innocent bystanders with machetes, demanding a contract hit be put out on the perpetrators, and chanting “Death to the fidels! Death to the fidels!” Then after we felt better my friends and I would go back to the internet coffee house to have an espresso, talk about atheism, existentialism, women, power tools and blog some more.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    my friends and I would go back to the internet coffee house to have an espresso, talk about atheism, existentialism, women, power tools and blog some more.

    Can my friends and i come?

  • Claire

    Richard said

    I would be rioting in the streets with millions of other enraged, rabid atheists around the world,

    Richard, thanks for both cracking me up and recalling me to my duty, and good to see a post from you. I haven’t touched a machete in years, hope I haven’t lost my touch…

    “Death to the fidels” indeed (snort!).

    Hey, Linda, welcome back! Haven’t seen you in a while, either.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Honestly? I really wouldn’t have a problem with that. Free speech is for everybody, not just me. Sorry to disappoint you….

    I’m not sure what free speech has to do with anything. I didn’t ask whether you’d want it to be banned or taken down, I asked whether you’d be offended. You can believe in free speech and still sometimes be offended at the things people freely say.

    In fact, that’s sort of the whole point of protecting free speech. You don’t need to worry about protecting it if you always like what people have to say.

    So again, if Hemant had posted about Christians putting up a billboard that read “Atheism is Stupid”, what would you be saying about those Christians right now?

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    I would be offended, just like the sign that asked why Atheists Hate America offended me.

    The difference is what would I do with that offense. Boycotting a nearby restaurant, no. Protesting to have the sign taken down, no.

    It’s what you do with that offense that can separate people.

    @dzho

    2 guys who know what they are doing can put one up professionally in half a day.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    The difference is what would I do with that offense. Boycotting a nearby restaurant, no.

    Even if you thought that the owners of the nearby restaurant were the ones who put it up? Would you want to patronize a place that had put up a sign saying “Atheism is Stupid”?

    Of course you’d want to find out for sure first whether they actually had, which I suspect is what many of those calls steve got were about. I’d probably call and check too if I wanted to eat at that restaurant. I wouldn’t want to patronize a place that put up either billboard.

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    In general? Clearly what people did was jump to a conclusion and act from there. There are restaurants in town that I do not go to because of their outspoken support for things I don’t agree with.

    Specifically, me? I’d like to think I wouldn’t do that. It’s hard in this circumstance since I know a little bit about the billboard business and it is highly unlikely since most billboards like the one in the picture (steel/concrete footings, super high in the air) are owned by large media companies and not some restaurant owner who owns just one of them (the cost to file for and utlimately erect one, maintain it, sales staff, all of it, just doesn’t pan out unless you have a lot of these signs).
    Unfortunately I have too much information to be the “average Joe”.

  • Claire

    MikeClawson said:

    You can believe in free speech and still sometimes be offended at the things people freely say.

    Free speech with me really goes right down to the bone (not claiming a big moral or character strength or anything, just pretty much how I’ve always been): if it’s ideas being attacked and not people, my first response is almost always a mild “what a idiot” and virtually never an offended “how dare they say that”.

    So again, if Hemant had posted about Christians putting up a billboard that read “Atheism is Stupid”, what would you be saying about those Christians right now?

    I’d be thinking “what idiots” but I wouldn’t have felt strongly enough about it to bother to post.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hey, Linda, welcome back! Haven’t seen you in a while, either.

    “Hey” right back at you, Claire! Haven’t found much time for blogging lately… :-(

    Just a thought about boycotting… Maybe I have no morals, maybe I’m oblivious, or maybe I just don’t care… Whatever the case, if the food is excellent and the service is good, I’m there regardless of what the owner’s religious or political views are (as long as they don’t promote hate and violence). I’d pay good money too. Yep. It’s all about the food. Life is too short to miss out. :-P

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Just a thought about boycotting… Maybe I have no morals, maybe I’m oblivious, or maybe I just don’t care… Whatever the case, if the food is excellent and the service is good, I’m there regardless of what the owner’s religious or political views are (as long as they don’t promote hate and violence). I’d pay good money too. Yep. It’s all about the food. Life is too short to miss out. :-P

    I usually won’t boycott something if it’s just about my own personal self-righteousness and won’t actually make any bit of difference. But when it comes to contributing my money to things I’m against, I try not to. For instance, I won’t buy Oberweis milk anymore since Jim Oberweis is running as the Republican candidate in my congressional district and I vehemently oppose his hard right and anti-immigrant positions, and because his despicable campaign tactics embody everything that is wrong with American politics these days. His company makes good milk, but I don’t even want pennies of my money potentially finding their way into his campaign.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hi Mike!

    Yes… You are quite right. That’s why you will make a difference in the world (hitting home runs), and I will be watching from the stands munching on hotdogs and cotton candy. :)

    despicable campaign tactics

    I didn’t know there was any other kind…

  • Vicki

    That billboard was awesome. Whoever did it should be proud and start taking donations so we can raise money to put up more. Those holy rollers have no problem when we have to to drive down the road and see “God Listens, Talk To Him”, signs, when all might not agree with that statement. Therefore, whoever put up the billboard great job! Let’s do more!

  • aera

    Okay, so let me explain to you why this billboard isn’t a double standard:

    Athiests are a minority of people in the world (by “world” I mean the whole Earth, not just what revolves around you), being put down by a majority of people who are the “religious” majority.

    Here, in North America, we have things pretty good, but that can be said about almost every aspect of North American life compared to the rest of the world. Homosexuals are generaly treated better too, but that doesn’t mean both groups arn’t being prosecuted or feel outcasted at times.

    So, let us look back to the time of any minority and consider how they reacted to the majority, we have three choices: conform to the ideal, fight against the ideal, or ignore and turn away from the ideal. Athiests are choosing to fight against the ideal, the most effective way to initiate change.

    Their are numerous instances during a day where religion is stuffed down the throat of an athiest, and it’s discomforting and akward. We can ask to keep these religious displays private,or at least not have them preached to us by government, corporation, or in the comfort of our own homes, but then we are “un American” and prosocuted.

    So we attempt to force athiesm down their throats in a similar manner. Not so much to change their beliefes, but to have them acknowladge what they put us through (in a way thats not nearly as intrusive as theirs) and we are prosecuted once again for not being sensitive to others beliefes and ideas – when truly that’s all we want in the first place.

    The only reason this poster flame war started in the first place is because a group people can’t fathom what athiests are trying to acomplish (an equal respect of non-faith). We don’t hate religion, or people who are religious. It is the relgious majority who has shown a much greater hate and fear for athiesm.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X