Atheist Billboard in Alabama Makes Christians Angry

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been putting this billboard up across the country:

imaginenoreligionbillboard.jpg

The “Imagine No Religion” is hardly offensive… it doesn’t attack or mock a particular faith. It merely suggests the thought of life without religion using the words of John Lennon.

But when the Alabama Freethought Association helped put that billboard up in Birmingham, Alabama, all hell broke loose.

First, it was rejected by Lamar advertising.

“It was offensive to me,” said Tom Traylor, general manager of Lamar Advertising in Birmingham. “We have the autonomy to decide what’s in the best interests of our company and what’s offensive. I don’t think it was the kind of message we wanted to stand behind.

“You have to know what area of the country you’re in,” he said. “A heavy percent of our population is Christian. That’s who we cater to.”

The billboard did eventually find a home with Bentley Advertising. (Yay!)

Then, the “irate” phone calls and nasty insults began.

I love that the article in The Tuscaloosa News quotes FFRF member Pat Cleveland. She runs the annual Lake Hypatia Advance, is incredibly pleasant, and is impossible to dislike. (Unless, apparently, you’re a Christian who hates billboards.)

She proves why she’s awesome in the article:

Cleveland, 63, said the calls she’s received are “ugly” and “hateful.”

“They said I ought to be where John Lennon is, burning in hell. I’m sorry if anybody is offended, but I’ve seen billboards that offend me, like ones that say ‘Jesus is Lord’ over Talladega.”

“I’m proud to be an American,” Cleveland said. “I refrain from any religion. I’m a good person. I pay taxes, abide by the law and I’m good to my family. I help people. I believe hands that help are better than hands that pray.”

The Christians in Alabama have shown that they can’t handle a simple billboard. If they want to take on a nice lady, they’re going to lose that battle, too.

Can we get atheist bus in Birmingham soon? Give these Christian enough rope, and they just might hang themselves…

(Thanks to Benjamin for the link!)

  • matt

    obviously their faith has never had to deal with freedom from religion

    maybe if the sign had read freedom from zombie worship they would have liked it lol

  • Jessie

    Louisiana next, Louisiana next!

  • Guest Pest

    Cleveland, 63, said the calls she’s received are “ugly” and “hateful.”

    “They said I ought to be where John Lennon is, burning in hell.

    Of course, that must be the outpouring of “Christian love” everyone has heard about.

  • http://drunkenachura.wordpress.com/ Rooker

    “A heavy percent of our population is Christian. That’s who we cater to.”

    Does that mean that Lamar Advertising in Birmingham discriminates illegally against Jews, Muslims and whatever else? ACLU, hello?

  • T Mackiewicz

    Poor Christians and their weak little brainwashed minds. They just can’t imagine why others would want to imagine a world with no religion when the world that they have created with their majority rule has turned out so hate filled, judgemental, and terminal.

  • Peregrine

    I wasn’t very fond of these ads when they first started showing up on buses. In the US and England, that’s one thing, but in Canada I didn’t feel that we needed to deliberately provoke the ire of the religious right. What we have isn’t perfect, but comparatively speaking, it’s pretty quiet, and I didn’t feel we needed to disturb that.

    Then I saw a friend join a Facebook group aimed to ban or reject the bus ads, and I was a little bit hurt. Hurt that she would set out to stifle my freedom of speech, and that of others like me because she found a simple message offensive. Not to mention the fact that there isn’t a very active secular community in our city, so neither she nor I would likely ever see these ads on our city buses in the first place.

    I have nothing against the message. But I choose not to contribute to the ads, because I found them pointless. I still do.

    What they don’t understand is that my choice not to contribute means nothing if I’m not allowed the freedom to express that point of view in the first place.

    I was hurt. You might say I was offended. Perhaps I should have said something, but I didn’t want to offend her. I know how I react to offense; I can take it, but I don’t always know how someone else is going to react. And I value our friendship, so I kept my peace.

    And that’s my choice. I chose not to offend my friend. And she might not realize it right now, but that choice means something, because I have the right to speak up in the first place.

  • Josh

    Does that mean that Lamar Advertising in Birmingham discriminates illegally against Jews, Muslims and whatever else? ACLU, hello?

    Lamar Advertising is a private company. They can reject any ads they want on any grounds they want. The First Amendment only protects speech from government censorship.

  • Veritas

    Peregrine says on July 14th, 2009 at 8:39 am:

    I have nothing against the message. But I choose not to contribute to the ads, because I found them pointless. I still do.

    That’s kinda what I said originally, Peregrine. But I live in the Halifax area, where the public bussing system originally refused to run the ads. To me, the ads aren’t just about inviting others to join the local coalition, but reminding people they are not alone in their secularism.

    In the smaller towns in Nova Scotia, it would be ostracizing to identify as an atheist. The town I live in happens to have a university, so you can get away with it on campus, but I can’t tell you how many rude looks I’ve gotten at things like funerals and Remembrance Day ceremonies for not bowing my head in prayer, etc. I suppose that’s one of the reason I bought myself and my also-atheist best friend one of the Out Campaign pins over the weekend. A quiet, tasteful flag to let people know they’re not alone.

  • Ron Gove

    What I find fascinating about the Alabama uproar is that the statement “Imagine No Religion” could be understood as a PRO-Religious statement asking people to think about how horrid the world would be if we didn’t have religion to keep us good. (not that I believe this for an instant).

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Way back in 1965 Tom Lehrer wrote a little song about nuclear proliferation with Alabama as the punch line. How little things change…. From his “That was the year that was” album.

    First we got the bomb, and that was good,
    ‘Cause we love peace and motherhood.
    Then Russia got the bomb, but that’s okay,
    ‘Cause the balance of power’s maintained that way.
    Who’s next?

    France got the bomb, but don’t you grieve,
    ‘Cause they’re on our side (I believe).
    China got the bomb, but have no fears,
    They can’t wipe us out for at least five years.
    Who’s next?

    Then Indonesia claimed that they
    Were gonna get one any day.
    South Africa wants two, that’s right:
    One for the black and one for the white.
    Who’s next?

    Egypt’s gonna get one too,
    Just to use on you know who.
    So Israel’s getting tense.
    Wants one in self defense.
    “The Lord’s our shepherd,” says the psalm,
    But just in case, we better get a bomb.
    Who’s next?

    Luxembourg is next to go,
    And (who knows?) maybe Monaco.
    We’ll try to stay serene and calm
    When Alabama gets the bomb.
    Who’s next?
    Who’s next?
    Who’s next?
    Who’s next?

  • theShaggy

    Everyone in Alabama! Lamar has the right to refuse any ads they want, but they’ve made it clear they focus specifically on Christian value.

    Everyone! Complain to Lamar about any billboard you see that contradicts Christian values! Anything sexual, immoral, or in any way obscene. Hold them to their principles!!

  • http://www.belgianatheist.be Hugo

    Just a little correction.
    Those are not the words of John Lennon, the FFRF would have to pay too much to Yoko to actually use the words of Imagine (they might not even be allowed to).
    It is a phrase that would fit very well in that song but it is not.
    In the song it goes “… and no religion too”
    ;)

  • http://forgetthisnoise.blogspot.com freelancer

    Bill Hicks:

    “I was in Fyfe Alabama after a show, couple of big guys come up to me after the show, ‘Hey Buddy! We’re Christians, and we don’t like what you said!’

    ‘Then forgive me.’
    (laughter)
    Later, when I was hanging from the tree…”

  • Miko

    Does that mean that Lamar Advertising in Birmingham discriminates illegally against Jews, Muslims and whatever else? ACLU, hello?

    Nope. It means that they discriminate legally against Jews, Muslims, etc. You can’t (and shouldn’t be able to) force someone to display your message on their property if they don’t want to do so. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak.

  • Tankred

    As an Alabama atheist, I have to say that is about god damn time we got an atheist billboard down here. I’m a bit worried about the backlash, though. I have a Darwin fish on my bumper, so Im slightly nevous about driving in the Birmingham area.

  • Bugbear

    I’m in Alabama too Tankred…but its in places like Alabama that this’ll do the most good. Not because believers will become more tolerant or abandon faith delusions, but because their responses will expose their dark and scary emotions and lies about love.

    In the 40 plus years I’ve been watching, religion has been the most damaged when they’ve risen up to counter what they perceive as ‘dangerous’ or ‘persecution’.

  • CybrgnX

    Ron Grove Has an excellent point its too bad the second line of the sign sort-a IDed the athiest. Cuz it could have been the opposite message. It amazin how they all took the negative to religion rather then the positive. They really are weak in faith!!!. My original point was to state there is nothing athiestic in the sign, as it does NOT say ‘imagine NO gOd’. In fact the 2nd line is not even athiestic.

  • Zahada

    Isn’t it sad that we live in a country where it’s perfectly fine for hundreds of christians to put an Ichthus on their car but if I put a Darwin Fish, or any other evolution symbol on my car, I have to worry that these same christians will destroy my paint job or retaliate in some other destructive way? That’s not very christian…

  • San Francisco

    Don’t know if it’s legal, but it would help in the future if you can provide links to the papers, ad agencies, etc. Then we could write to them, boycott, etc.
    In our Gay Rights struggle, we were “in your face” a lot because we needed you to see that your neighbor, clerk, Priest even. were gay.
    Same for non-believers now. We may have to be offensive to some, for the greater good. Offensive, but never rude or violent.

  • HumanistLib

    As an another atheist in Alabama, this is my favorite crazy Christian sign to see when driving through Birminhgam. It’s actually in Clanton, AL, and between that and the ginormous Confederate battle flag next to the interstate, I won’t stop there for gas (not out of fear, but because I don’t want to support their existence).

  • Margaret

    “You have to know what area of the country you’re in,” he said. “A heavy percent of our population is Christian. That’s who we cater to.”

    I think a more accurate statement would be: ‘You have to know what area of the country you’re in, a heavy percent of the Christian population are ridiculously annoying’

    Watch the Darwin fish, I had two ripped off the back of my car in college.. (i.e. that place us stupid southern people go to learn how to read)

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  • Gary Morris

    i’am not one to use foul language but i must
    in this situation

    If you find it offensive then you are a sick FUCK.
    Pretty soon there we not be any kind of free speech in our country because someone and everyone will complain.
    Then we will all be walking aound like zombies in the not to future
    we will be living in fear that if we look at someone the wrong way or smile at anyone we will be arrested for gawd knows what reason.
    So if your offended by that sign I can only say gawd help us all.

  • http:///www.meetup.com/Alabama-League-of-Reason/ Emanuel Blankenship

    Hopefully we at Alabama League of Reason can get a bill board in Mobile Alabama next. We will sure try our hardest in the up and coming months.

    http://www.meetup.com/Alabama-League-of-Reason/

  • jason

    Bring it to Atlanta!!! Its about time the religous right learned that they were not ment to control the world and got over themselves.


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