The Atheist Billboard That Was Banned in Central Arkansas

The is the ad the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason wanted to put up near Little Rock to launch their group:

The ad would have been placed on 18 buses at a cost of $5,620.

You won’t be seeing them, though, because the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) and its advertising agent, On the Move Advertising, rejected the ad.

Maybe they reject all religious and non-religious advertising?

Nope. Religious advertising happens all the time. There’s no policy against it. This is, simply put, discrimination at work.

So the United Coalition of Reason is filing a lawsuit, with the help of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association.

In the brief, UnitedCoR alleges that CATA and On the Move violated UnitedCoR’s free speech rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. UnitedCoR asserts that the First Amendment prohibits CATA, as a governmental entity, from using its disfavor of the nontheistic message of UnitedCoR’s ads as a reason for refusing to run them on its buses. UnitedCoR argues that CATA also may not impose burdensome requirements, such as a damage deposit, on speech it labels “controversial.” Such acts, the legal brief states, amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination against UnitedCoR’s speech.

“It’s only fair that, when religious groups are allowed to advertise on Little Rock buses, atheist and agnostic groups be allowed to advertise as well,” declared LeeWood Thomas of Central Arkansas CoR. “The world needs to know that people can be decent human beings without believing in a god or gods.”

The press release stops there… but the facts emerging from this case are incredible.

Like the initial reaction from the advertising agent when UnitedCoR sought to purchase the ad:

In response to an e-mail message dated February 28, 2011, from Plaintiff’s media broker to the Advertising Agent conveying the content of the Proposed Advertisement, the Advertising Agent forwarded the message to Betty Wineland, the Executive Director of the Authority, stating in her accompanying message (in its entirety): “Dear God……HELP!” Ms. Wineland replied: “I need Him now more than ever. Good grief. I think we need to throw religion into the advertising policy – as a negative. Stall while CATA reviews.” Lydia Robertson, president of the Advertising Agent, then replied to Plaintiff’s media broker, stating that “we are placing this order in a special category” due to the risk of “damage/vandalism done to the buses or signage due to its message.” She then stated that “in reality, Arkansas is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I can easily envision zealots or upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out.”

CATA and On The Move also wanted to make sure they were in the clear in case anyone vandalized the billboard — or the buses they were on — and wanted a $36,000 deposit for anything they might have to replace.

The Defendants insisted that any contract with the Plaintiff contain a provision providing that the Plaintiff indemnify the Advertising Agent against any damage to the signs displaying the Proposed Advertisement or the Authority’s buses and provide a damage deposit against such contingency in the amount of $36,000.

In an e-mail message dated March 3, 2011, Ms. Robertson admitted that “I have never before required such a deposit.”

… the New Contract Offer (i) requires that the Plaintiff “indemnify and hold harmless the [Advertising Agent] against all personal; [sic] injury, damage or loss to person or property caused by… persons, theft, burglary, assault, vandalism, any criminal act… acts of terrorism, acts of public enemies or other causes, unless same is due to the gross negligence of [the Advertising Agent]…”; (ii) permits the Advertising Agent to remove all of the Proposed Advertisements from the Authority’s buses if “any damage occurs to the signs, Advertising Space, or any other portion of the property on which the… advertising appears” unless due a cause “purely accidental in nature”; and (iii) requires that the Plaintiff name the Defendants as additional insured entities on an insurance policy with a coverage limit not less than $1,000,000 per occurrence and $3,000,000 in the aggregate covering “contracted liability, hired vehicles, advertising liability, and acts of vandalism and terrorism.”

Did you catch that middle part? If the signs or buses were vandalized, then the company wanted all the atheist ads to be removed immediately — that’s like a Bat Signal to all the Christian vandals out there.

And acts of terrorism?! More on that in a second…

I’m at a loss to explain why this ad’s message is *so* controversial. Probably because it’s not controversial at all.

But CATA and On the Move think so. Really. They said that.

In an e-mail message dated March 8, 2011, the Advertising Agent stated that the Authority “is concerned about image in the community” and referred to signs such as the Proposed Advertisement as “controversial.”

Not only that, the reasons for rejecting the ad only got worse:

The Authority’s attorney sent a letter to the Plaintiff’s attorney dated May 12, 2011, that referred to “the history of terrorism that follows the intentionally inflammatory advertisements sought to be placed by the [Plaintiff].”

There has never been a terrorist incident related in any way to the Plaintiff or its advertising campaigns.

Quick! Name one “act of terrorism” caused by someone who put up an atheist billboard!

I’ll give you more time…

You can read the rest of the legal filings here.

Again, all this because a group of atheists wanted to say that there are people out there who are “good without god.”

It’s amazing how many Christians see that message as a threat to their well-being.

***Update 1***: A few minor edits have been made since this article was first posted.

***Update 2***: Fred Edwords of UnitedCoR points out the statistics behind atheist billboard vandalism:

… while vandalism of UnitedCoR billboards gets talked about a lot, and thus serves as the basis for fears by CATA, this is really an uncommon phenomena. We’ve run ads in 36 markets now, with only four of these markets having vandalism incidents, and only one resulting in permanent property damage (a Florida billboard). More frequently we get what I call “drama” in the form of shrill reactions.


  • Claudia

    Lovely. I hope they don’t sue for a “smybolic amount” but actually go all the way and relieve them of a considerable amount of money. I hope they then take that money and use it to buy billboards next to the bigoted agencies headquarters, where they keep their buses and any main transportation hubs in Arkansas.

    The message has to be hammered home in the same way as the Muhammad crazies: the harder you try to stop speech you don’t like, the more of it you’re going to see.

  • Josh

    Kind of ironic that a religious group is claiming that atheists will cause an act of terrorism.

  • Not Mike South

    Well holy balls. I live in Little Rock and I haven’t heard a thing about this. It really says a lot about religion when people are afraid Christians will vandalize buses just because they disagree with an advertisement.

  • Reed Braden

    Hemant, it’s amazing how many Christians see our very existence as a threat to their well-being!

  • John Small Berries

    Again, all this because a group of atheists wanted to say that there are people out there who are “good without god.”

    And CATA seems to be tacitly admitting that they don’t expect such goodness out of the people who do believe in gods. To the contrary, they expect there to be vandalism and even “acts of terrorism”.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    The fact that people can be good without God is a direct attack against Christianity because Christians are taught from a young age that non-Christians are evil and wicked and having the ability to be moral and good without him… that just doesn’t happen.

  • Steve

    “Upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out”, in other words, religious fanatics. One word…………mad!!!! Glad I live in the UK, despite the same thing creeping its insidious way over here, Silver Ring Thing, anyone?!!!

  • http://pinkydead.com David McNerney

    @Reed Braden

    They’re not threatened by our existence, they just want us to admit the truth that we couldn’t possibly good without their big pixie (otherwise they’ve wasted their lives).

    I wish I could elaborate, but GTG – those babies are not going to eat themselves.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    She then stated that “in reality, Arkansas is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I can easily envision zealots or upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out.”

    I don’t think you can call people who vandalize buses and billboards “upstanding citizens”.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Will it take federal troops to integrate CATA in Little Rock, as it did for schools?

  • Parse

    [Lydia Robertson] then stated that “in reality, Arkansas is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I can easily envision zealots or upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out.”

    Sorry, Mrs. Robertson, but if they act out the way you’re afraid they will, you can’t really call them upstanding citizens.

    Also, reading the story on Fox 16 about the suit, I’m kinda surprised that there’s no quotes from anybody defending the transit authority. (I’m not surprised at the lack of quotes from CATA, as most places have policies about commenting on active litigation. Rather, I’m surprised they didn’t contact a religious advertiser, preacher or ‘Family’ group spokesperson for some quote about why their ads are okay and not the CoR’s.)

  • Steve

    I’d actually be fine with a policy that prohibited all religious ads. Given the amount of Christian billboards that would be a victory. Though in this case, we are talking about buses and not billboards…

  • http://www.unitedcor.org Fred Edwords

    It’s important to note that the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association has donated the legal services for this suit. UnitedCoR is extremely grateful for that. This will allow us to go the distance.

    And please understand that, while vandalism of UnitedCoR billboards gets talked about a lot, and thus serves as the basis for fears by CATA, this is really an uncommon phenomena. We’ve run ads in 36 markets now, with only four of these markets having vandalism incidents, and only one resulting in permanent property damage (a Florida billboard). More frequently we get what I call “drama” in the form of shrill reactions.

  • Udo

    Steve – Why would an atheist advert be considered religious? Would it not be secular by definition?

  • Kate

    Isn’t this what most athiest’s are afraid of and we must stand up against? Why shouldn’t we be allowed to put athiest “propaganda” on our vehicles, billboards and busses without fear of retribution? My husband is a lifelong athiest (I am new to the club) and is afraid to put a Darwin or Flying Spahgetti Monster decal on our vehicles for fear of vandalism. I am really sick of the religious nutball Christians dicatating to the rest of the world what is and is not accaptable? This is typical Christian fear mongering at it’s best. Stand Up, every one of us for our right be believe in a REAL Non-”prophet” organization. Who gives 2 craps about the bible belt? Let’s tand up and tell them that they don’t run the damn world!

  • http://donaldmorton.wordpress.com Donald Morton

    The email chains from the FOIA request provide for some very interesting reading. Check them out here:

    http://unitedcor.org/sites/default/files/edit-contentfile/national/Exhibits.pdf

  • Mike

    The irony of that lawyer’s statement. They’re worried about terroristic acts following “inflammatory” billboards. Who would be performing said acts in response to those billboards? That’s right…Christians.

    So they’re claiming that they’re worried Christians, err, I mean, “upstanding citizens with a strong faith” committing acts of terror. Love it.

  • Mabans

    Too funny.. Take it down! The loving Christians will go nuts!

  • cass_m

    I find it hard to believe that a lawyer wrote that response and if so I really despair of the legal system in the US. We’re talking advertising on buses. In a normal country the worse that would happen is defacing the artwork but this guy seems to be upping the ante by using death references that suggest an upstanding citizen would firebomb the bus (or the CATA offices).

  • Claudia

    @Donald Morton, very interesting indeed. Here’s what one “Ashley Foshee” had to say to her boss in an email titled “Idea!”

    Betty,
    This Coalition of Reason REALLY has me thinking! And I hope I’m not over stepping my boundries. Please let me know if I am.

    Maybw we should let them run their signs. We’ve told them in several emails that if there is vandalism to the buses, their signs will be taken down, and their entire balance is due immediately. If we have, let’s just say, 10 complains in a span of 2 weeks, then the signs will all come down and their money will be refunded. That way, we all win. They get to run the ads they want, and we get their money. Honestly, the likelyhood [sic] of their signs NOT being vandalized is like one to six billion. Just something to think about. That way, we avoid getting sued. And by the way, they did agree to those terms, IN WRITING!

    Have a good day!
    Ashley

    What a nice girl, to give the lawyers something so fun to read.

  • Rusty

    I’m a christian and would like to apoligize for the close minded thinking of my peers. Do I agree with your lifestyle choice? No, but my stand on it is this….we live in a free country and we must get along. Several friends of mine are athiests and I don’t judge. If we, christians, are as close to God as we claim to be then fight for the freedom of all people not just those who agree with you.

  • theskepticalape

    Wow, such bullshit! The president of the ad agency is a bigot. She says that if the atheist sign gets vandalized it’s probably from “an upstanding citizen with a strong faith acting up” but I wonder what she would say if the sign was a religious one of her particular faith?

    No Gods, No Masters
    Cameron

  • Tom

    What sort of “christians” would deliberately damage public property?

    Where I live (Massachusetts) I think atheists have it relatively easy compared to the south. Apparently, when it comes to religion, people don’t like free speech there. Hearing about these sorts of things can make one glad to live in a less oppressively religious environment.

  • Jon

    Right, so five thousand dollars for billboards that say ‘we’re good people’ raises a big stink and businesses refuse to post them…

    But millions of dollars spent to terrorize the world into submission before Judgement Day? No problem.

  • http://www.magpiesmarbles.com The Pint

    Lydia Robertson, president of the Advertising Agent, then replied to Plaintiff’s media broker, stating that “we are placing this order in a special category” due to the risk of “damage/vandalism done to the buses or signage due to its message.” She then stated that “in reality, Arkansas is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I can easily envision zealots or upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out.”

    Erm, I would assume that once someone engages in an act of vandalism, that person ceases to be an “upstanding citizen.” Unless of course Ms. Robertson is making yet again another exception for Christians with tender sensibilities. *heavy sigh*

  • Hank Vatican

    Sad indeed, but expected. I grew up near Little Rock, and experienced first hand the the insanity that would literally course through peoples’ veins at the mere mention of something anti-Christian. Once, while visiting some old “friends”, long after I had moved away (and become atheist), the discussion turned to evolution. I spoke up in defense of it, and literally got pushed out of the house & told never to come back. These were guys I had been good friends with since childhood.

    In my opinion, Arkansas, with the exception of Fayetteville, is a lost cause when it comes to religious tolerance. I feel sorry for those of you that have to put up with those religious nuts everyday.

  • Marguerite

    I like how religious citizens are presumed to be “upstanding” even if they vandalize property.

  • Alex

    In Helena MT I had not only a Darwin fish on my car but a sticker in my back window that read. “Christians, can’t live with them, can’t feed them to the lions anymore.” Never got more than a few dirty looks and one loony lady who accosted my then-husband and shouted, “Why don’t you just shoot us then?” To which he responded, “You’re kind of missing the point, aren’t you?”

    The point here is a lot of this crap is totally being blown out of proportion and the irony is that this silly bus company is pretty much saying they EXPECT Christians to act like terrorists and vandals and attack their buses like enraged animals if the ads are allowed to run. You know, kind of how Muslims react when you draw funny cartoons of their prophet or burn their special collection of fairy tales.

  • http://www.angryvince.com Angry Vince

    “upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out”

    Shouldn’t “upstanding citizens” have an /s/ tag?

    I must admit to still being baffled by the things i see coming out of the bible belt. Maybe not baffled, just saddened.
    Still, keep it going and eventually you’ll get there.
    Meanwhile, back home, we’re on to our second Atheist Prime Minister.
    But then we’re to laid back to get up early for church…

  • http://www.angryvince.com Angry Vince

    “upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out”

    Shouldn’t “upstanding citizens” have an /s/ tag?

    I must admit to still being baffled by the things I see coming out of the bible belt. Maybe not baffled, just saddened.
    Still, keep it going and eventually you’ll get there.
    Meanwhile, back home, we’re on to our second Atheist Prime Minister.
    But then we’re too laid back to get up early for church…

  • Saltyestelle

    I’m really fascinated by the way religion is being discussed in our society right now… things are changing and people are FREAKING out. The secular movement has legs, will run free. Wow. I love stories like this.

  • Annie

    @Donald Morton- thanks for the link.

    Here is a snippit from the 5 page letter the attorneys for the bus and sign company sent to the humanist legal center:

    “Quite honestly, I believe UCoR just needs to get over itself, quit looking for ways it thinks it is being “picked on,” and quit acting like a three (3) year old child who threatens to “cause a scene, if it does not get its way.” By threatening litigation every time UCoR’s commercially unreasonable demands are not met or UCoR does not get advertising space on
    exactly the business terms it demands, UCoR is behaving childishly, irrationally and to a large degree in a terroristic manner.”

    I am perplexed by his use of parentheses.

  • MetaEd

    The link to the image of the bus ad is broken. The bus ad can be seen on this page: http://unitedcor.org/chapter/national/full-view/519/0

  • Jacob Cherry

    http://www.todaysthv.com/default.aspx

    There is a poll at the bottom of this page that asks if you believe in God. I’d like some help in crushing the statistics to help the bigoted people in Arkansas understand that we exist.

    Thanks so much.

  • BrettH

    There has to be a way to publicly point out that the CATA basically just used the moral inferiority of Christians as a reason not to allow the signs. You could even make it in a positive way. “We’re good people, and unlike the CATA we think you’re good people too.”

  • sven

    @Jacob Cherry
    Voted :)

    Do you believe in God?

    – 34.1%
    Yes
    – 65.9%
    No

  • Carlie

    Maybe they nee another version of the billboard that at the bottom says “About to vandalize this billboard? You’re not very good even with God, are you?”

  • Dooeeteey

    FROM: Jason A. Stuart
    To: Bill Burgess

    Mr. Burgess:
    As a result of the threats from UCoR, as contained in your e-mail received last Friday afternoon, I rearranged my schedule in a valiant effort to comply with UCoR’s demands and defend my client against the probability of a crushing onslaught of legal bills, financial ruin and almost certain corporate death brought about by UCoR’s well coordinated threat of an impending attack if my client does not immediately satisfy UCoR’s demands.

    Please review the attached enclosure letter and advertising lease, then ask your client if it would be so kind as to spare the life of my small, frightened client by accepting this meager offering of an advertising lease on standard terms, which equates to the most ransom my client can afford to pay UCoR.

    Jason A. Stuart

    Wow, classy.

  • cass_m

    Love it Carlie. It would even make a good bumper sticker.

  • Alex

    Some atheist terrorist needs to fly a plane over the Little Rock churches on Sunday and drop Good without God leaflets on them.

  • Annie

    @Jacob Cherry- voted… 75% don’t believe in god. I know it’s skewed, but it still sounds so good!

  • http://wordsworthsharing.com Tom Hartley

    Interesting news. Theism is on the decline IMO and such conflicts over the placement of signs and other media in public spaces is only going to get worse. I live in one of the bible belts in Canada. On a regular basis I see people standing in the downtown core on public sidewalks holding signs supporting Christianity, and have never seen any atheists do anything similar, at least, not yet! :)

  • http://sixmetamorphoses.blogspot.com/ jordan

    Oh boo hoo! We don’t get bus ads! As if something read on the side of a bus has actually spurred a productive debate about anything.

  • Chris Seguin

    What a bunch of bullshit – kind of funny how they are worried about Christians potentially performing criminal vandalism on the ads . . . and they don’t have to worry about atheists vandalizing christian or religious ads . . . which are far more insulting to the intellect and to humanity in general. Get off your pedestal you bunch of faith hungry twats . . . I would call for whoever made this decision to be fired on the spot . . .

  • Steve Ride

    It’s amazing how many Christians see that message as a threat to their well-being.

    I am constantly surprised at how fragile is the faith of so called ‘Christians’, particularly the fundamentalist kind, that it can feel so threatened by such a simple thing as a proposed advertisement.

    Although I guess I shouldn’t be.

  • Dan

    The validity of the sign is a matter I do not wish to address here. The validity of your message is. If there is, as you say, no God, then what does it profit anyone for you to say so? If evolution is entirely true, what will preaching the ‘good news’ of your faith commitment to atheism (and it is a religion, be honest with yourself, Richard Dawkins is your high priest), do for anyone? Will it make your country a better country? Will it make the world a better place? Why not put that money to better use? You could relocate. There are plenty of, as you say, ‘secular’ states (no such thing exists) you could move to. Why not move to Russia? Or China? Or North Korea? Those places would welcome you and give you a good life in the worker’s paradise. Something to think about.

  • Sigh

    I’m an atheist, and if this were one of those provocative Freedom From Religion Foundation ads I would just groan and shrug it off.

    But this? There’s nothing inflammatory about this at all. Ridiculous.

    I especially like the part where they’re worried the American Taliban will bomb buses advocating atheism.

    Steve – Why would an atheist advert be considered religious? Would it not be secular by definition?

    Uhhhh…. No? An ad advocating for lack of religion is still a religious ad. It’s not a political ad or commercial ad, is it?

    Atheists: Stop acting like religious nuts. You’re making the rest of us look bad.

  • Stogoe

    If there is, as you say, no God, then what does it profit anyone for you to say so?

    Well, increasing public acceptance of atheism is likely to decrease violence against atheists. Also, school boards not fighting tooth and nail to outlaw the teaching of science and promote fiction in the classrooms will 1) increase funds available for actual student instruction and 2) result in better education for students, leading to a more productive and better-informed society.

    The rest of your troll-spew I’ll just leave where it is, because damn.

  • Rich Wilson

    @Dan

    People are afraid to say openly that they are atheists because they feel isolated and alone. Why should you care if people who already don’t believe in God know that they are not alone?

    Your ‘move’ suggestion implies that you do care, and that you think atheists are second class citizens (or in the words of Bush Sr., not citizens) who should just shut up and move to the back of the bus. As a citizen of the United States of America, I am entitled to all the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other citizen. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it. If you don’t like your constitution, then maybe you should check out a theocracy.

  • Charles

    This group, CAT, takes in (according to their website) some $8.8 million in local gov’t “dues” and $3.3 million in federal and “misc” money.

    This is CRIMINAL to squash freedom of speech in this manner, regardless of the excuse.

    The board of directors should be sued and public money yanked from the program until they see that their “way” is not the only “way”.

    Nice site! Keep up the good work, Richard and crew!

  • William Robertson

    and it is a religion, be honest with yourself, Richard Dawkins is your high priest

    That’s right, we have ceremonies where Dawkins leads the chanting and reads from our sacred book, wearing robes and blessing babies. He arrives in his Dawkinsmobile. Before I go to bed I pray to, umm, nothing. It’s exactly like a religion.

  • Chris the religous infedel

    I know i lack knowledge of atheism but isnt it (by simple common sense) a form of religion? so wouldnt it just be another religouse advertisment?

    But to the point, you cant blame the religion for things like this or what radicals and/or fake believers do. They just were simply using it as an excuse as so many people do. NO WHERE in the bible does it say to kill, injure, scare, vandalise, or simply ignore non believers. And yes iv come across the radicals and/or fake atheists, the ones who get offended and go off for saying “god bless you” when they sneeze. Honestly, why cant peoople just accept notions of kindness.

  • http://www.GodExists.com I love God

    You all need to learn that why the bill board was taken down/not allowed to be posted. This is NOT an attack on atheists.

    Have you every read the bible? Instead of promting atheism you should promote peace and love. Plus you are all going to hell anyway for what you all are doing. Godlessness is the reason why this country is goign to crap and the reason why we have a terrorist president.

  • Pete

    ROFL. I love @I love God. That last comment made it worthwhile to read everything leading up to it. Hilarious.

  • Dan

    Rich Wilson Says:

    People are afraid to say openly that they are atheists because they feel isolated and alone. Why should you care if people who already don’t believe in God know that they are not alone?

    Your ‘move’ suggestion implies that you do care, and that you think atheists are second class citizens (or in the words of Bush Sr., not citizens) who should just shut up and move to the back of the bus. As a citizen of the United States of America, I am entitled to all the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other citizen. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it. If you don’t like your constitution, then maybe you should check out a theocracy.

    - You raise some interesting points. As I said, I am not attacking the validity of the sign, but rather the message. It is all very well and good that you do not want to feel alone in your beliefs, I would say that is normal. For all I know you could be the kindest most generous person alive, to boot. And yes, you are entitled to your rights as a citizen. I am not an American citizen, so I cannot comment on things said by Bush, Sr., and will not. There are lots of atheists throughout the Western world, and agnostics, too, and I can get along well with many of them.

    But, again, as I was saying earlier, I do urge you to investigate the fruits of atheistic beliefs. Those countries, allegedly secular, where the governing parties run on an atheistic basis, are not the kinds of places most people choose to move to, and for good reason. They elevate themselves into the place of the God that they denounce.

    Look at the French revolution, for instance. There were problems with the church, I cannot say otherwise, in those days and in that place. Same with the absolute monarchs. They were ousted, and what replaced them? A brutal dictator, years of warfare, and a ten day workweek (instead of seven, as based on scripture).

    Fast forward to the Bolsheviks, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, and other such figures of history and you see that there is no room for dissent and in many cases no room for the people who hold views contrary to the governing elite. How many were murdered, for their beliefs, in Stalinist Russia, alone? Maoist China? So, forgive me if I seem unenthusiastic about the virtues of atheism. My point is not that all religious people are good (many claiming to be an adherent of any religion fall far short of the mark) and that all atheists are bad (many of my good friends are atheists or agnostics). But rather, my point is that ideas bear fruit.

    If you read about the life and witness of Christ, and live out his message, I think it will positively change you for the better. Pure atheism I am not so sure about. How can there be any meaning in a random universe guided only by evolutionary forces? Atheistic dogma has been necessary for eugenics, Nazism, and Communism to take root. Notice that I did not say that atheism will lead to these things, but rather, is a necessary precondition.

    I welcome further discussion and urge you to consider where your beliefs, whatever they are, can lead you or others. That is what I ask of anyone, anywhere, holding any beliefs.

  • CatBallou

    Dan, you are making kindergarten-level arguments to a college-level (and even post-grad) audience. Nothing you have said is original or incontrovertible. You are WAY out of your depth here, and even expecting us to refute your arguments is arrogant.

  • CatBallou

    Also, while I’m in rant mode:
    Mr. Edwords, I’ll donate $100 if you learn this new word: phenomenon. I think you need it.

  • Rich Wilson

    Those countries, allegedly secular, where the governing parties run on an atheistic basis, are not the kinds of places most people choose to move to

    I don’t think we’ve ever had a truly secular government. But some of the places that have come close are pretty nice, actually. Denmark comes to mind.

    Fast forward to the Bolsheviks, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, and other such figures of history and you see that there is no room for dissent and in many cases no room for the people who hold views contrary to the governing elite.

    These are totalitarian regiems. And there are also theocratic totalitarian regiemes. The problem isn’t the religisiosity, it’s the totalitarianism. I’ve been to Russia several times, and in my opinion, the Soviet Union was never and atheist state. Stalin saw the Orthadox Church as competition, so he removed Jesus and replaced him with Lenin. And in North Korea, you literally have the father, the son, and the holy spirit.

    my point is that ideas bear fruit.

    Sure. I’ve met people who I honestly think were better people for their religion. All the power to them. Would never want to take that away from them. And of course there are people who do evil because they think their god wants them to.

    But.

    How does not believing in god cause someone to do evil? The Great Dictators didn’t commit genocide because they were atheists. They attacked the church as part of their drive for power, but not becuase no god told them to.

    The closest I think you can get is that a) religion can act as a stop gap (God says “thou shalt not kill, so don’t”) so b) if they had been religious then they would not have killed people. So, if you will, lack of religion allowed them to commit genocide. But even then, to accept that argument, you’d have to say that beleif in God prevents genocide. But it doesn’t. There have been plenty of religiously justified genocides, including biblical accounts. So there’s no reason to believe that even if Stalin et al had believed in God, that they would not have found some way to justify their killing as “God’s Will”.

    If you read about the life and witness of Christ, and live out his message, I think it will positively change you for the better.

    Tried it. The thing is, if I see four lights, I can’t make myself believe thare are five. Might be five, but I can’t make myself believe what I don’t see. I can pretend, and tell people there are five. I even tried that. But I never saw five lights. Maybe I’m not blessed, or maybe I don’t have the faith gene. Whatever the case, I’ll just have to do my best at being a good person, and if I end up in hell, so be it. If there is a God, I don’t think it would be fooled by pretense anyway.

    Atheistic dogma has been necessary for eugenics, Nazism, and Communism to take root.

    Even if you argue that Hitler was in his heart an atheist, his dogma certainly wasn’t. Nor were most of his followers. So no, atheism is not a precondition to not caring enough about your fellow human beings to be ok with killing them.

  • William Robertson

    Those countries, allegedly secular, where the governing parties run on an atheistic basis, are not the kinds of places most people choose to move to

    Yes, get back to Sweden, see how you atheists like that! That’s funny.

    I always enjoy an Appeal to Consequences: we should accept any absurd supernatural fantasy if it will make us better people, regardless of its factual claims. Living a huge lie is worth it for the peaceful and ordered society it buys us.

    You don’t seem to care what’s true and what isn’t. You don’t have much trust in democracy and human rights legislation either.

  • Dan

    @ William Robertson:

    Sweden still lives off of its earlier heritage as a Christianized country. Like Denmark and the Netherlands, it is an open country that is rooted in Christianity, Judaism, and yes, secular humanism. They have not discarded their belief in God outright as have other countries that are now claiming to be secular. Their status as a “secular” state could be drawing in some new immigrants but I think to be honest that their lavish welfare benefits underlie the lion’s share of immigration. Who doesn’t like the idea of moving to a country, recently socialized, which will give you a life of ease and comfort. Problem is, countries like that can and do go broke. Anyone read the news about the PIIGS lately? Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain? Or for that matter, France and England? Not a pretty picture.

    Again, my point is not to say all who call themselves are bad people or to say that all religious people are good. But, beliefs bear fruit. Atheism is a precondition for a lot of the totalitarianism regimes out there. And, there is of course the debatable “truth” or “proof” of atheism. How exactly is it that “In the beginning, nothing created everything”? as atheism’s high priest Richard Dawkins basically states in his books? Where are the missing links that Charles Darwin himself said in his books that should have been found by our time? There are changes that occur within species, sure, but there are limits to those changes. One problem that has yet to be accounted for is that most (pretty close to all) mutations involve losing, not gaining, information. And those changes have occurred only within what we would call genera or at most families. By now the fossil record should have provided us with some transitional forms but there really are none to speak of.

    If you think me ignorant of these matters, so be it. I can handle that. I could be wrong about everything I have written. But, I have reasons to believe what I do and a conviction to counter views that I believe not only cause individuals to fail to find the truth but also nations to run aground into ruin. Any nation that forgets about God will eventually become hell on earth. History taught me that. By the way, I write as a former atheist who, through studying biology at a “secular” college, found that the evolutionary theory, and with it atheism, offered a less than satisfactory account for the origins and the complexity of our universe. The biblical account of the origins of the universe, and of our fallen state, makes the most sense to me. Things clearly used to be, and should be better. I have read through Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion” and plan to read through his “Greatest Show on Earth” soon. I challenge you to read “The Dawkins Delusion” and “The Greatest Hoax on Earth”. You are free to reject what the authors (Alistair McGrath and Jonathan Safarti) have to say but I think you will find, at the very least, a lot to think about.

    Again, I welcome debate and thank you for sharing your views – especially Rich Wilson, you have offered the most gracious and thought out response. Let’s learn from each other and look for truth together. If you can convince me of the truth of your position then I will change my mind. I ask you only to seek the truth, always. Never settle for easy answers or half-truths.

  • Kamaka

    @ Dan the Preacher Man

    How exactly is it that “In the beginning, nothing created everything”? as atheism’s high priest Richard Dawkins basically states in his books?

    You must be confused. It’s the godbots that claim everything came from nothing. Dawkins says no such thing.

    Where are the missing links that Charles Darwin himself said in his books that should have been found by our time?

    Where are the missing links? Now you are just being willfully ignorant.

    You haven’t said a thing we haven’t heard from ignorant bigots before. Spare us your arrogant, holier-than-thou blather.

  • ACN

    Where are the missing links that Charles Darwin himself said in his books that should have been found by our time? There are changes that occur within species, sure, but there are limits to those changes. One problem that has yet to be accounted for is that most (pretty close to all) mutations involve losing, not gaining, information. And those changes have occurred only within what we would call genera or at most families. By now the fossil record should have provided us with some transitional forms but there really are none to speak of.

    If you think me ignorant of these matters, so be it. I can handle that. I could be wrong about everything I have written.

    Ok. You seem to be EXTREMELY ignorant of the evidences for evolution. Here is some supplementary reading, it sounds like your biology class was very poor. If you’re not inclined to have it explained to you in detail, your specific claim is answered with citations here. The usual follow-up claims are answered in a block from CC200->CC250.

    At this point, no one on the internet owes you a course in evolutionary biology, and it isn’t productive to debate issues like this where there is an OVERWHELMING scientific consensus on one side, and nonsense ignorant of the facts on the other side. You need to educate yourself on this issue. If you don’t, you’ll be laughed at by anyone with a cursory understanding of biology when you try to build a case for your religious views.

  • William Robertson

    Where are the missing links that Charles Darwin himself said in his books that should have been found by our time?

    In the museums, maybe? Seriously, are you kidding? You haven’t actually checked the answer to this one, have you?

    I’m also puzzled at the fixation on evolution. An omnipresent, omniscient, inter-galactic God is, fairly obviously I would have thought, at odds with general relativity. Why is the debate always about Darwin and never Einstein?

    I have not yet read The Dawkins Delusion or The Greatest Hoax on Earth, but I have read Why There Almost Certainly Is A God by Keith Ward, God and the New Atheism by John F. Haught, The Case for God by Karen Armstrong, and doubtless others whose memory my irreducibly conscious brain has mercifully suppressed. Perhaps I will read McGrath (not the anthropomorphic principle, please) and Safarti – but then it will be Tillich, Polkinghorne or someone else, and one could spend a lifetime on this absurd whack-a-mole game and fall way behind on contemporary fiction.

    I see we have moved on a little from the Appeal to Consequences. That’s something at least. And now that we’ve had “Where are the missing links?”, “Where is the proof for atheism?”, “Something from Nothing?” and “Where would be the meaning in a random universe?” I suppose it’s a mattter of time until we get on to “Where is the proof that proof is proof?” or, my favourite, Ontology. I can’t wait.

  • CatBallou

    C’mon, guys—I already told him that his arguments were kids’ stuff—don’t keep egging him on! It’s fruitless.

  • john c

    The number of uninformed fools who state “atheism is a religion” never fails to amaze and amuse me and sadden me also, Atheism is the word describing a complete lack of religion, religion meaning unquestioning belief in a doctrine based on no scientific proof.Atheism means you accept that what you can observe and test is what there is.That is not a religion, it is a position of non religiousness.Calling atheism a religion is a feeble attempt to drag it onto the same sinking foundations as your own delusory beliefs.

  • colivia

    Why do religious people like to ask Atheists to do their homework for them?

  • shadowguy14

    God religious people are so retarded

  • xXElephantGodXx

    It says a lot about the way Christians behave if they’re worried about an atheistic billboard being vandalized. Aren’t they supposed to be “good people”?


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