Reactions to Atheist Billboards

In Moscow, Idaho today, a billboard placed by the American Humanist Association was vandalized:

It’s really incredible what little you have to do to offend someone.

This particular billboard was simply saying there are those out there who are good without a god. What sort of person do you have to be to see that as a slap-in-the-face to your own religious beliefs?

At least the AHA has a sense of humor about it:

“I knew there would be some disagreement with the billboard’s slogan, but I do wish that those who objected would have opened a dialogue with us rather than trying to stifle our message and damaging property,” continued Speckhardt. “A phone call would have been much nicer.”

The American Humanist Association has filed a police report with the Moscow Police Department. In addition, it has alerted the billboard company they contracted with, Lamar Outdoor, who said they will assess whether or not the billboard can be cleaned. If not, the American Humanist Association will pay to have the billboard replaced.

“If we replace the billboard our next slogan might read ‘Being good without God clearly not for everybody’,” Speckhardt joked.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Coalition of Reason’s billboard has been up in the city for just two days…

photo

… and the reactions are running the spectrum.

Since I’m fortunate to be on the receiving end of all the email sent to the ChicagoCoR website, I thought I’d share some of the comments I’ve been seeing.

Again, just note what the message is:

“Are you good without God? Millions are.”

It’s a callout to other atheists.

It’s not trying to convince others not to believe, it’s not antagonistic, it’s not aggressive, it’s not demeaning religion.

But apparently, that’s not how everyone sees it…

I wonder why a group of self-proclaimed atheists would feel the need to push their point of view onto others? Is this not one of the fundamental problems with established religion? How is your organization furthering the atheist agenda? Let’s face it, you’re just trying to incite anger. Why don’t you do us all a favor and keep your non-beliefs to yourself, just as I would like established religion to keep to themselves.

If we wanted to incite anger, there’s a whole slew of other slogans we could have used. This one was the least offensive out there.

There seems to be three words left off. The billboard should read: “Are you good without God? Millions are — until the judgment.

WTF?

… Why does the organization feels the need to plaster anti-god adds all over Chicago and the rest of the United States. I am not condemning or judging you, because that’s not my job. I understand that there are people out there that are atheist, and that’s their own choice, but why blatantly throw it in America’s face? Is this some vendetta against religion, or some kind of teenage rebellion that was never grown out of?…

I responded back to a couple of these by posing a few questions of my own:

What part of this ad is anti-god: The part where we say atheists exist or the part where we say it’s possible to be good even without religion?

Christians have TV stations, churches on every corner, advertisements on seemingly every highway in the country… all we atheists did was put up a few billboards. And you’re singling *us* out for “throwing it in America’s face”?

On the flip side, some people have been very supportive of the billboard.

… I want to thank you for forming a community of like minded individuals. It’s time we consider the human value of our existence with what’s in front of us, here and now. I think what you’re doing is beautiful. I’m excited for what we’ll see in each others eyes when we’re alive, with each other now, without the story of what might be.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

These billboards are up for those last couple people — the kind who also don’t believe in God but who rarely see atheism expressed in public.

Ideally, they’ll go to the websites on the billboards, join a member group, attend an event, meet some like-minded people, and no longer feel alone in their beliefs.

  • Gwen

    I saw the Idaho vandalization on the local news today. Maybe pointing out the senseless vandalism will show a few more people how silly it is to try to muster up being offended by these signs.

    I had to wonder about the spray painting. One would think they would have added something like an “n-apostrophe-t” to the second word, so it read “Millions aren’t good without God”, or maybe crossed out the second half of “without” (“Millions are good with God”). Just spray painting over “without” makes it read “Millions are good God,” and that just makes no sense, or is blasphemous, or both. But I live near north Idaho, and that’s the typical level of sophistication I see around here.

    I had a feeling something would happen to this sign, but I’m proud they got one up there anyway.

  • ckitching

    I wonder how many of those who found those atheist advertisements so offensive would walk by this Christian one without a second thought:

    http://imgur.com/DGEfA.jpg

  • Bleatmop

    Assuming the person who vandalized the sign was a theist, wouldn’t it have made more sense to just black out the “out” part of “without” so that it read “Millions are good with god”??

    Then again, maybe it’d come off a bit hypocritical.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    I’m guessing the vandal wasn’t bright enough to just black out the “out” part.

  • Revyloution

    I’m with you guys, my first thought was ‘Why not just cross out ‘out’?’

    Im a painting contractor, and I do quite a bit of graffiti repair. If you know the group, send them to a Sherwin Williams store, and look for the product ‘Graffiti Remover’ by Krud Kutter.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000P0KNIE

    Its the best remover product I’ve used for cleaning up these messes. A stiff nylon brush helps too.

  • Jonas

    I was thinking “Millions are Good, God.” as a statement to God. Something like:

    “Millions are Good, Please don’t drown us again, God.” (Reference to Noah’s Flood)

    “Millions more than 144 are Good, God.”
    (Some religion which thinks only 12 dozen get to heaven)

    It would be a shame if AHA has to buy a new sign.

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Victor

    The wording of the billboards does make for much more creative vandalizing possibilities. Though, that would require enough reasoning skill to leave religion.

  • Luther

    Here is what the mutilated billboard proves:

    SOME ARE BAD WITHOUT GOD.

    Since:
    – Someone was bad
    – and there is no God.

  • Alex

    Maybe a good ad would be “Working to make heaven on Earth” ChicagoCoR.org

  • http://gremlin.net Gremlin

    What this has me wondering now is what the reaction would be to a billboard reading Millions Are Good without Zeus. And whether Millions Are Good without Al’lah would get accused of some sort of profiling. And whether it’s too soon to pull Millions Are Good without the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    But maybe that’s just me. I disacknowledge the meaningless word ‘god’, holding out for names: Jehovah, Odin, et cetera; if these people want to have deities, they should know the things’ names.

  • Alz

    The sign might be best left the way it is. It gives those who claim a monopoly on “goodness” something to think about.

  • Neon Genesis

    Don’t you love the irony of people claiming you can’t be good without God by being bad and vandalizing?

  • http://seangill-insidemyhead.blogspot.com/ SeanG

    I have been on the receiving end recently of several “why are you pushing this in our face you angry atheist” retorts to some of my online activity, including sharing funny videos. From people I called friends. I really don’t know how to respond to that anymore, especially from people I used to trust.

    Is this kind of thing just an obstacle in being accepted as an atheist? Do you just plow through it until people stop shouting you down?

  • MaleficVTwin

    What sort of person do you have to be to see that as a slap-in-the-face to your own religious beliefs?

    My first guess would be ‘the kind of person who thinks their morals come from sky-daddy’.

  • http://www.dwasifar.com dwasifar
    There seems to be three words left off. The billboard should read: “Are you good without God? Millions are — until the judgment.

    WTF?

    I think I can explain this. The person is reading “good without god” not as “a person who acts morally without the need for a god” (as intended), but rather, “someone who feels fine without god.” Kind of like when the waitress asks you if you want a refill, and you say, “No thanks, I’m good.”

  • Sean

    A friend of mine just pointed out that, if the vandals had an intelligence, they could have just scrubbed out the “out” from “without God”, so then they’d have “Millions are with God.”

    Instead now they’ve got “Millions are, good God!” Sounds like an Edwin Starr song…

    Edit/update: I see Bleatmop above has already made the exact same point. Whoops!

  • Richard Wade

    Is this kind of thing just an obstacle in being accepted as an atheist? Do you just plow through it until people stop shouting you down?

    Yes. That’s exactly what you do. Just keep on going. These people, so afraid of us because they have nothing to back up their faith except their constant mutual agreement, want to just keep us invisible and inaudible. Intelligent, moral people who don’t believe in their god are a very scary proposition.

    Too bad, chumps. We’re here. Deal with it.

    The vandalized billboard is an excellent example of the mind set of the religiously self-righteous. Doing a bad thing like vandalizing property is “good” if it’s “protecting” their really-really-late-at-showing-up god. Poor deity, no arms, legs or gonads. The vandal can provide the arms and legs, but the rest is missing on both.

    They’re too cowardly to admit they’re only protecting their own flimsy faith, and too dim-witted to actually dialogue with us.

  • AprilRise

    Some people may be offend because they feel the billboards attacks their god.

    I would like to see one of these billboards. It would be nice to see other people who do not believe in god.

  • http://drfrog.net BT Murtagh

    There seems to be three words left off. The billboard should read: “Are you good without God? Millions are — until the judgment.

    So does this mean the judgment makes the good to be bad (which doesn’t say much for the quality of the judge), OR that the judgment will cause those who are good without God to be good with God (which doesn’t say much for the necessity of being with God pre-judgment)?

  • The Rebel Teapot

    A few “thank you”s make it all worth it.

  • muggle

    “Too bad, chumps. We’re here. Deal with it.”

    Beautifully put, Richard. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I totally agree. It’s time to stop cowering from fanatical religious judgmentality.

    I find religion offensive but it’s in my face at every turn. Why? Because they have free speech. That and freedom of religion are exactly why religion has fared so well in this country.

    Well, guess what? They aren’t the only ones. It’s time nonbelievers speak out in numbers. Time for us to thrive. And it appears we are since our numbers keep rising.

  • Pepe Silvia

    To be fair, though, it is the town of the Idaho Vandals…..so, there’s that.

  • Stephen P

    Since I’m fortunate to be on the receiving end of all the email sent to the ChicagoCoR website, I thought I’d share some of the comments I’ve been seeing.

    Perhaps worth putting some of the comments and your responses on the ChicagoCoR website itself? It would seem the logical place.

  • Stephen P

    I have been on the receiving end recently of several “why are you pushing this in our face you angry atheist” retorts … Do you just plow through it until people stop shouting you down?

    I suggest you start compiling, to use as answers, lists of the many, many cases where religion is pushed in our faces – religious billboards, prayers at (what should be) non-religious meetings, Proposition 8, creationist wrecking of science education, etc, etc, etc.

    Greta Christina gives a thought-provoking list of reasons for being angry with religion.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    Assuming this was done by a believer in God and/or Christianity, they obviously have no problem breaking the law in the name of God to make their point.

    Of course, their point fell on deaf eyes with their stupidity (as others above me mentioned with the whole word “without” graffiti’d out)

  • http://www.ethicalfocus.org Ken Karp

    Also coming on Monday, New Jersey CoR: http://newjersey.unitedcor.org/press

  • Alli S

    I agree with you obviously, Hemant, but I do have a problem with the last sentence in the article:

    “Ideally, they’ll go to the websites on the billboards, join a member group, attend an event, meet some like-minded people, and no longer feel alone in their beliefs.”

    Since when is atheism a belief? That just gives theists more fuel to call us militant and whatnot.

  • http://theinevitableknitblog.blogspot.com Amy

    I love it when people say “It’s not my job to judge you!” WHILE THEY’RE JUDGING YOU!

  • Shayna

    What good person would vandalize?
    Apparently some are bad WITH God.
    It’s a shame, I do respect religious people and their views, but too many people (like the one who graffitied the billboard) are just ignorant and hateful. And that’s exactly the opposite of what they’re trying to prove.

  • Sparky

    Any religion that thinks their way is the only right way, is the wrong religion.
    This is a direct insult to anyone who does not practice tolerance and does not encourage coexistence. One thing we do 99% agree on, we want peace.