Atheists Bus Shelter Ads Go Up in Orange County, California

The Backyard Skeptics have put up ads on 30 different bus shelters in Orange County, California (around Anaheim and Mission Viejo) and they look fantastic:

Now, if only they could fix up their website… (I know, I know, who am I to talk. I’m working on it.)

The entire campaign cost $8,000 — you can donate to the group here — and it’s already generating controversy:

Some passing motorists and people waiting at the bus shelter said they were offended by the ads.

“If they don’t want to believe in God then they should just be quiet about it. Why do they have to buy a poster and put it in public view?” said Melinda Holt of Anaheim, who was waiting for a bus next to the ad earlier this week.

“I’m a Christian and to see the Holy Bible in an ad that questions its worth –- that’s just not OK,” she said.

[Director Bruce] Gleason said he doesn’t mean to offend any one religion.

“If we put one up that said something about Muslims or Mormons, they would be offended, too,” Gleason said. “We are against any supernatural belief that harms the world. And that’s what we believe religion does.”

Christianity is the biggest player in the American Religion game, so the skeptics are going after them. Just as they should.

And Melinda Holt’s comment is the exact reason these ads need to be up. People are not used to seeing the Bible criticized, but it needs to be. If that shakes people up, so be it. There’s absolutely no need to be quiet about it. (No doubt Holt would have no problem with a bus shelter ad for a church.)

No word yet regarding any vandalization… but when the atheists’ ads are so close to the ground, it’s hard to believe some of them won’t be defaced.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/HealthyHumanist The Healthy Humanist

    I’d love to see some of these in my area.  If the South is the Bible belt, then I live on the Bible tie clasp.

  • Jim

    Bring the ads to Memphis, TN….

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

       Oh yeah, the skeptics group could record the line of vandals that would form while the ad was being installed so networks would have additional controversial footage to air.

      • Michael

        Has anyone actually tried putting an atheist billboard up where it is likely to be vandalised and setting a camera to watch it? A few good photos of the vandals, even if no prosecutions followed, could reduce the number of vandalisms in the future.

  • Rich Wilson

    Here’s the Christian coverage (which mostly just regurgitates the OC Register)
    http://www.christianpost.com/news/atheists-storm-calif-bus-shelters-with-no-god-ads-53124/  

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Hi Rich, you’re doing a good job in the comments, such as your replies to “Buzzy.”  I added my own effort there. Since this is in my part of the country, I’ve been commenting on the OC Register for two days, but finally gave up in the face of remarkable pig-headedness.

  • Jason W.

    Ha, Rich, I love the headline:  “Atheists Storm Calif. Bus Shelters With ‘No God’ Ads.”  Oh dear, where will this horde of marauding atheists strike next!

    • Rich Wilson

      And I have yet to see an ad that actually says “no God” or even tells the faithful they should change their beliefs.  It’s the standard “You can be good without God” and “you’re not alone” stuff.

      What?  Atheists exist? How offensive!

      • Anonymous

        Atheists? *runs away screaming in terror*

  • Anonymous

    “If they don’t want to believe in God then they should just
    be quiet about it. Why do they have to buy a poster and put it in public
    view?”
    or:
    “If you don’t believe in our woo, then shut up about it”

    Huh.

  • TheBlackCat

    “If they don’t want to believe in God then they should just be quiet about it. Why do they have to buy a poster and put it in public view?”Let’s make a deal: atheists will be quite about their beliefs as soon as religious people are quire about theirs.  Somehow I doubt they will accept that.

    • Dzarr

      Religious people are quiet? Gee whiz, don’t think so. If you don’t like the ads don’t look.

  • Anonymous

    And of course Christians are always quiet about their beliefs and never put up ads. It’s almost like it’s impossible to be religious without being a hypocrite

  • Anonymous

    On my way to Central California from Portland, OR, every summer to visit family, I pass no fewer than 9 religious billboards.  A few in Oregon (the “don’t let them make a monkey out of you” ones), some little signs on private property, and a HUGE shipping container along I-5 in Northern California with an outstretched arm and a bleeding hand proclaiming he died for me (SO offensive). 
     
    So imagine my glee when this summer, I passed one little lonely billboard in central California sponsored by the San Joaquin Valley Coalition of Reason!  I was so tickled, I sent them an email telling them how much I loved seeing it.
     
    Until theirs come down, ours go up… and they’ll just have to deal with it.  I so wish I could see something like that in our little Northwest Bible Belt up here (southwest of Portland is VERY evangelical and fundie, as well as very heavily Mormon).  I feel so alone here!

    • Dzarr

      Geewhiz I live in Portland and I don’t see a whole hell of a lot evangelical people here. Maybe on the outskirts in the sticks. Portland is very liberal!

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    “If they don’t want to believe in God then they should just
    be quiet about it. Why do they have to buy a poster and put it in public
    view?”

    Ok, let’s turn the boat around in the other direction, shall we?

    If they want to believe in “God” then they should just be quiet about it.  Why do they have to buy a poster and put it in public view?

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    Not too keen on the first ad, as singling out a particular religion can backfire. From a cursory glance, the top ad (the one with the Bible) could just as easily have been from a Muslim, Jewish or other non-Christian religious group. The second one’s okay.

    • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

      I can’t see that, at least from the groups you mention, as they all have some connection to the Bible and wouldn’t likely relate to it in terms of doubt. Hindus maybe, but even they don’t emphasize doubt.

      • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

        I can assure you as one who was raised Catholic and Muslim simultaneously that the Bible is NOT seen by Muslims as an accurate or inspired holy book, but as a bastardized, corrupted book used by deluded Christians. Same goes for the Jewish texts. Nope, they all have a monopoly on “The Truth”. Everyone else has got it wrong because their books have got it all wrong.  Just ask ‘em.

        • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

          My point is that I don’t think they would be emphasizing doubt. That said, I’ve had Muslims pull the “There is not God….but Allah” line and tell me atheists claiming there is no god are halfway to Islam, so there is really no telling what they may use.

  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    This is offensive to Christians, but the billboards I saw telling me that I was going to hell right after I got back from my most recent deployment are completely reasonable expression?

    I don’t care if your journey from your apartment to the bus stop is fraught with danger due to the “offensive” assertion that atheists *gasp!* exist in the world and want to converse with like-minded people.  If that’s your biggest problem then you, my friend, are the definition of a privileged class.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Well I cannot add much to what has already been said. I’ll just continue to like the outstanding post by others.

  • Charles Black

    Why should we let religious bullies keep us quiet?
    Take away what they thrive on which is fear & they will wither away.

  • Bob Becker

    The number of people in this land who think they have, or should have, an right not to be offended is scary.   

  • cipher

    Apparently, a group of Christians have been conducting a Bible study beneath the billboard as a form of “silent protest”:

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/billboard-301740-speech-bible.html

    Longbrake, a member of Calvary Chapel Westgrove and a 40-year Orange
    County resident, said he and other Christians respect the atheists’
    freedom of speech, but want their voices to be heard as well…

    “I guess you could call it a silent protest of the billboard,” he said.

    If they’re silent, how will their voices be heard?

    • Anonymous

      Why can’t they realize that theirs is the ONLY VOICE OUT THERE?!  We put a little squeak of a message out there, and all of a sudden, they’re persecuted into silence?  Jeebus Freakin’ Christ.  We must do more, politely, with big smiles on our faces, until they get it.

      Hubby is not in favor of these types of things because he feels it just causes the religious to “circle the wagons” and pull out their big guns, which is counterproductive.  He realizes the ads are not there, necessarily, to “persecute” the religious or change their minds in any way but rather to let silent nonbelievers know there is a group for them.  But a group of scared believers is dangerous.

      • cipher

        Do I have to smile?

  • PJ

    Finally a voice of reason. If I had I dime for every unwanted religious billboard, signpost, etc., I could fund my own media campaign for logical thought. Cheers to you guys, keep up the good work.


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