A Brief Homage to Atheist Billboards

American Atheists legal director Edwin Kagin offers some poetry about the recent “You Know It’s a Myth” atheist billboard (and a few other similar ones):

But let some atheists post one sign saying reason should prevail
Over the myth of Christmas, and you will hear the Fundies’ wail
That atheists are not respectful, that they should die, leave, or go to jail.
And thus we learn the lesson, from what we see with solemn awe,
That they think Christians are the only ones protected under law.

It’s really incredible the reaction the billboards are getting from Christians. They don’t just disagree with it. They find them offensive! They want them taken down! They won’t drive buses if atheist ads are on them!

Then, they go to a church where a pastor tells them non-believers are going to hell and barely bat an eye…

  • billybobbibb

    A couple nights ago I was asked my daughter’s friend (an 11 year old girl), “Do you believe in God?”

    “Absolutely not”, I replied calmly and smiled.

    “Really? Wow! That’s so cool. I didn’t want to say something that would make you, you know, all mad”, she replied.

    This conversation took place here in the Bible belt, btw. This gives me hope still, that future generations will behave better than the current one.

  • trevor

    Its a common fact that more young people are leaving established churches now more than ever, and this. Is a good thing. Some are moving to new churches, one close to here is “church on the rise” which gets kids to come by having a lot of tvs and video games. Its these so called “non-denominational churches” that are taking in the people that don’t like their current church. Although I have many religious friends, some say that they really only believe in a god and they go to church out of respect for their parents.

    Anyhow, atheism is free to everyone, you don’t have to wake up early on sundays, you can celebrate holidays without going to church and without actually believing in christ.

  • Danielle

    I see these Jesus/Going to hell billboards all the time here in Arizona. All I think is, “well, that isn’t for me,” and I just keep driving on.

    Dunno why its so hard for most religious people to do that. It’s just a billboard.

  • Rabid

    “Dunno why its so hard for most religious people to do that.”

    Because unlike us, they have a supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being with the attitude of a jealous toddler to mollycoddle into not having a tantrum and destroying us all.

  • Chris

    Fact is “most” religious people do ignore it. What you are doing is called stereotyping. Ironically, it makes you look as stupid as you claim theists are.

    The most surprising thing about this billboard is not the response by theists but by the atheists! I mean, we must look pretty stupid acting like we didn’t know this would be the reaction amongst the fundamentalists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Well said, Rabid. This almighty creature needs protection from mere mortals? Actually, it’s their weak, weak faith that they’re afraid of losing.

    billybobbbibb’s comment puts me in mind of how my daughter’s friends were always telling her that they didn’t believe in god either but they didn’t dare let their parents know that. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the demographic of 20-something’s even higher than the general population for those unaffiliated with a religion?

    There is indeed hope. Religion can’t stand up to knowledge. It is doomed.

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  • Brian

    Ya know, I have a deep FAITH that canned beets make women bowlegged. Christ-tards laugh at me. Sauce for the goose….

  • Robert W.

    Trevor,

    Its a common fact that more young people are leaving established churches now more than ever, and this. …Some are moving to new churches, one close to here is “church on the rise” which gets kids to come by having a lot of tvs and video games. Its these so called “non-denominational churches” that are taking in the people that don’t like their current church.

    I have edited your comment to reflect that portion that I agree with. I attend a 6000 member plus size church here is Texas that is designed to reach out to those far from God (or as they say the unchurched). our members include alot of former members of more fundamental churches or more traditional churches. Our youth group has over 600 kids every Monday night, most of whom don’t come from a religious background. The church is strongly based upon reaching out to the poor and outcasts of society here and worldwide.

    Yet at the same time it is very conservative in its theology.

    This type of nonjudgmental approach along with social justice for the poor, homeless, orphans and exploitation of others resonates with the younger generation. It shows that this can be done through the Christian framework and that those young people who are upset with fundamentalism do not need to leave the church to find what they think is a more open yet strong Christian environment.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Muggle

    There is indeed hope. Religion can’t stand up to knowledge. It is doomed.

    Unfortunately it takes generations to see this. Generation Y are only 48% religious, 32% unsure and 20% atheist. Our children (Generation Z) if anything are less religious and hopefully we’ll see that in the next decade or two as they become more outspoken and obvious. Their children may not even consider the question of gods worth addressing.

    Personally I think that the “unsure” category will increase until the question of gods just gets ignored as a stupid and irrelevant question. As it is in much of Europe today.

  • Richard Wade

    I agree with Chris about the importance of not stereotyping. Although the whining and condemning we hear about these billboards are annoying and perplexing, they’re still from a minority of the Christians who are actually out there. We don’t hear from all of them or even most of them, so we don’t know their attitude. To assume that the vocal ones accurately represent the majority is an unwise leap.

    If skepticism is the basis of your atheism, then don’t be sloppy and inconsistent about it. Don’t let anger or annoyance tempt you to make exceptions to that discipline. Apply the willingness to wait for evidence to all assumptions that come up in your mind, especially those about people.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    It is true that not all christians take on the billboards as a cause. Those making comments about the billboards tend to fall into 2 categories (1) Those who are “true believers” about being in a spiritual war and who see demons and attacks behind every bush and chair and (2) those who make their livelihood from stirring up controversies and soliciting donations from the “true believers” (and no, I’m not going to give the pompous NY windbag the gratification of seeing his name in print as an example).

    The former need our concern and compassion while being shown the real world without their spiritual overlay, and they latter need to be exposed, repeatedly, for lining their pockets through creating fear in others.

    As for the “christians” such as those mentioned by @Robert W, it is funny how they claim to be working within a christian framework, when their beliefs and actions disregard clear and explicit portions of scripture (such as Paul in Eph. 5:5 speaking of who can’t have a part in god’s plan or jesus saying some alive in his day will be there to see him come back) in favour of vague verses being interpreted in ways that directly contradict the explicit passages (“god so loved the world” and “no one knows the day or the hour”).

    Is that truly a “christian framework” or simply a humanist framework with a few bible verses thrown over it like cheap veneer in the hopes that no one will notice the inherent contradictions and instead accept the good moral sentiments as proof that christianity is good.

  • http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer Hugh Kramer

    While I know Edward Kagin is a smart cookie who knows a lot about reason and even a little about rhyme, when it comes to keeping meter (IE: rhythm structure) in a poem… he needs to stick to his day job.

    Sorry, Ed. I love ya but it’s true.
    :)

  • Robert W.

    The “Eh theist”,

    Is that truly a “christian framework” or simply a humanist framework with a few bible verses thrown over it like cheap veneer in the hopes that no one will notice the inherent contradictions and instead accept the good moral sentiments as proof that christianity is good.

    It is the heart of Christianity to assist the poor,the broken,the widows.

    Frankly I don’t understand your claim of a contradiction based upon Ephesians 5:5.

    Maybe you could explain that.

    Christianity consists of both helping those here on Earth and promising salvation of eternal life. The best part is that turning your life over to Christ and following his commands actually helps you here and assures your salvation so it is a win win situation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Man, hoverfrog, I hope you’re right.

    The grandson is totally confused even though we explained to him when he asked, some people think god is real, others think he’s not and others say they don’t know if he is or not and that I say he’s not and Mommy says no one can really know. When he hears some reference to god on TV or some such, he’s is that god and points to one of the characters or people talking and asks is that god. I tell him no. No one believes you can see god and he looks at me like that’s totally imcomprehensible. What the hell can I say to that but that’s one reason why Grammy doens’t think he’s real.

    I’m thinking of dropping Richard a line. Or buying one of Dan Barker’s books. Honestly, my daughter was never this confused by it. I’d explain things like some people believed in god but I didn’t and answer her questions on belief and she’d just wrinkle her brow and say but that makes no sense. Now she calls herself Agnostic but she is unequivocal that the Christian god couldn’t exist.

  • http://irrco.org Ian

    Trevor said: “more young people are leaving established churches now more than ever”

    Donna said “There is indeed hope. Religion can’t stand up to knowledge. It is doomed.”

    Is there evidence of this? I know that this age group is the most disengaged with established religion. But is there evidence that this is a one-way trend? Do we know what the re-engagement rates are when these folks settle down and have a family?

    I’m not trying to make a point – it would be great to think that young people are on a one way trip out of religion. But anecdotally I know lots of people who have re-engaged (particularly with non-fundie churches) later, especially because they still want their children to have their dose of myth and morality.

  • Robert W.

    Ian,

    I’m not trying to make a point – it would be great to think that young people are on a one way trip out of religion. But anecdotally I know lots of people who have re-engaged (particularly with non-fundie churches) later, especially because they still want their children to have their dose of myth and morality.

    Actually there are quite a few people who come back to the Church as they get older. Quite a few of them for their children I am sure, but also because they have experienced life without God or a church and found it to be empty for them.

    It is not uncommon for people to have a time in their life when they doubt their faith. I personally experienced that time in my life.

  • http://irrco.org Ian

    Robert, Yes, But my point was to ask if there’s any research done on this. Because anecdotes don’t tell you much about anything other than yourself.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    @Robert W,

    Let’s see if I can clarify my thoughts. My thesis is that contemporary christians ignore clear moral commands of their own scripture while adopting a moral agenda more palatable to society and using vague pasages of scripture that they claim as the “inspiration” for said agenda.

    Let’s look at the three points your brought up to see exactly how this works.

    The poor The bible talks about the poor, and solutions for helping them…if they are of the same faith. The OT gives provisions for debt and welfare systems. Of course, one of these provisions is that those deeply in debt could get free by becoming the slave of their creditor. The extensive rules regarding the slave relationship form th basis for a strong biblical justification of slavery, both in the OT, and in the NT with both Jesus and Paul describing appropriate behaviour for slaves-in fact, Paul even describes his relationship to god in terms of slavery.

    In addition, Jesus’ attitude toward the poor is unclear, with his statement that the poor will be with us always, indicating that it isn’t part of god’s will to alleviate their suffering at the present time.

    His two other references, the parable of the sheep and the goats and the good samaritan, were both specifically presented to the Jewish leadership as examples of their failure to fulfill the OT rules regarding welfare to other Jews.

    Acts shows us believers following the same model, with believers helping other believers, a common human trait, rather than some sort of supernatural proof.

    Likewise Paul raised money for poor congregations during a famine, but there is no record that the help extended to other famine victims.

    The more recent “christian” inclinations regarding charity for all and being against slavery, developed at the same time as they did among non-christian members of society and were “inspired” by vague pasages about all being one in christ and non slave or free, while the more specific passages I mentioned above were de-emphasized and/or ignored.

    The broken Like the poor, there were specific references in scripture and the early church fathers to those whose actions had placed them beyond salvation. Both Eph 5:5 and I Cor 6:9-10 provide lists of people who are excluded from god’s kingdom. Such lists include “drunkards” a state condemned by the church of the centuries.

    Science has now identified physcial predispositions to alcoholism, moving society as a whole to have more sympathy for an individual stricken with the disease. Rather than remaining consistent with the pauline injunctions, christians leave these clear texts for vague “inspiration” from parables and other words of jesus to give them a sanctified version of society’s ethic toward those needing help.

    The widows The church from the earliest days did have a policy of helping widows…church widows. Of course there was the dispute in Acts between the two main ethnic groups about whose widows were being properly shown charity-it seems that even among christians, family trumped faith.

    It is also important to note that later on in his epistles, Paul suggests that widows should be remarried as soon as possible, to ease their burden on church finances and to avoid their becoming uncooperative and insubordinate to church leadership. In the mean time they should be put to work in the church to earn what they are given.

    Imagine christians suggesting any of these clear biblical solutions today: limited slavery for debt reduction; encouraging alchoholics with reminders about their lost state and eternal destiny in judgment or providing widows with assistance as long as they remain submissive and try to get married so as to be supported by a man.

    Yet, except for a few fringe teachers like north and rushdooney, these proposals are never made to society as a whole-instead these clear teachings have been dismissed and hidden from view, while christians take on a morality acceptable to society and “baptized” it by interpreting some vague passages in a fashion that directly contradicts the clear passages of scripture.

    Does that make my argument any clearer? Can you provide an alternate explanation why christians over the years have chucked out clear moral commands for a morality not clearly shown in scripture (such as the one you are proposing to us)?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Ian, no, it’s just a conclusion I come to based on Atheism increasing the more we know about the world. I don’t think religion or god belief can stand up to knowledge over the long haul. I don’t expect to live to see its demise (as hoverfrog pointed out, it’ll take generations). I hope my grandson might but I’m not sure even he or his children will. Maybe his grandchildren.

    Anedoctedly, I never did. And neither did either of my grandson’s parents. As of yet. Of course, neither of them was really raised with either. Obviously, my daughter wasn’t and her ex, well, one parent is only nominally religious (not church attending or really even following much of it) and the other just disregards it without much thought.


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