The Mildest Anti-God Billboard You’ll Ever See

I’ve said before that atheists could put up a billboard saying, “We exist,” and Christians would find a way to get offended.

Case in point: The Center For Inquiry recently put this billboard up in several cities:

“You don’t need God — to hope, to care, to love, to live.”

Pretty mild, right?

Now, check out how the local NBC affiliate in Niagara Falls, New York reacted to it:

Really?! *That* billboard is too “anti-god” for you?

The message isn’t anti-religious at all. It’s saying that atheists can hope, care, love, and live — without god — just as religious people do with god. It’s saying we’re all pretty much alike despite our religious differences. It’s not an insult to Christians.

Makes you think American Atheists had the right idea with their more aggressive “You KNOW It’s a Myth” billboards. If theists are going to be offended no matter what you say, why not just go all out?

Here’s the clip the article refers to:

Of course, if you watch it, there’s only one person offended by the billboard. Apparently, that’s juicy enough for someone to make it the headline.

If you want to complain about the biased headline, you can contact WGRZ here.

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.

  • Anonymous

    I have been told that I don’t exist because I don’t believe in god. I’m pretty sure I do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    “The video you’re trying to watch is currently unavailable. Please check back soon.”

    Might be because I’m from Hungary.

    • GentleGiant

      I could see it just fine from Denmark.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23430830 Matthew Shepherd

    Seems to me they’re on a media campaign to make atheists look bad no matter what we do.

  • Maevwen

    In our area, where there’s been alot of mudslinging for the same billboard, CFI is going to be holding a panel discussion.  Here’s the link to the news story about it.  http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/09/provocative_you_dont_need_god.html#incart_mce

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5300663 Ashley Slye Stephens

    I saw one of these in the DC Metro last night. Love it.

  • zeus thor

    I don’t love the phrase “You don’t need God”, “good without God” or “Godless”. While all true, there is an implication that somehow god is a real thing/creature to be without.

    “I can be good without believing in a deity.” – I know, it needs work, but something like that. I always try to be careful about framing the concept.

    I am, of course, happy for the The Center For Inquiry. Good job guys. These things do change some minds. 

    P.S. the local station did a poor job of editing at the end (goes on without sound; padding for live air broadcast to avoid going to black, but looks silly online.)

    • Trina

      I agree.  Nit-picky as semantics seem, they are very real in how  things read.  The phrasing of the billboard does, unintentionally, sound as though a deity is acknowledged to exist, and that people are being asked to ignore that being.  While we can’t create something that believers won’t object to in some way, we can at least be clear in our statements.

      IMO, even a change to “You don’t need *a* god …” would have been an improvement.

      • Anonymous

        Or “You don’t need gods…”

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

        I’ve mentioned this numerous times on this and other blogs for the last several years. For some reason, there is a fanatical resistance to using the term “a god” or “gods” as opposed to using “God”.
        As long as atheist continue to appear to acknowledge the existence of this deity by referring to it as if it is real, I continue to be harshly critical of atheist proselytizing efforts through billboards. They only serve to unnecessarily antagonize the deluded xtians even more than usual and they make us look like morons.
        There is no being that should be referred to as “God”.
        Words are important.

        • Anonymous

          Except, in ordinary parlance, gods are what other people believe in. Christians don’t think they believe in gods, they believe in God.

        • rocker

          what about Clapton?

    • Anonymous

      “I can be good without believing in a deity” still implies that God/gods
      may exist, but not believing in them doesn’t necessarily lead to immoral behaviour. The argument thus lies on the wrong ground.

      I think the statement should be something like “There is no one good who isn’t good without God.” or “Everyone who is good is good without God.” Every system of human morality comes from humans. Pretending that God/s invented or distributed morality is irrelevant to the facts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562278053 Anonymous

    I thought the title said, Middle East anti-god billboard.  Now that would have been a story.  This is pretty much par for the course every in the country.

  • Meg

    The worst part for me to watch are the 3 younger guys standing beneath the billboards. The guy who was standing to the left gave a response that just sounded so canned and automatic. You can see a belief in a fictional god has been pounded into him as a child that he can’t even think for himself when he sees a billboard like this. 

  • Liam Ogg

    This is really getting ridiculous. American Atheists could put up a billboard that just said “Jesus Loves You” and had their URL at the bottom and these people would complain because the billboard had the word “atheists” on it. 

    *facepalm*

    • Rich Samuels

      Yeah, they’d assume it was sarcasm. 

    • Rich Samuels

      Yeah, they’d assume it was sarcasm. 

  • Kbradley

    What’s so annoying is that you can’t  have “no God” on a billboard without someone being offended, but we can encourage people to smoke, drink, play the lottery, shop to excess and gamble. But we can’t ask them to think for themselves or consider alternatives. What do I know though.

    • Anonymous

      Or a billboard that tells people that they will burn in hell

  • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

    “Take them somewhere that atheists are big, we don’t really need them here.” — It would be pointless to take them where atheists are “big,” if the point is to point that fact out to those who think we can’t live normally without God.

    This reminds me of someone’s random comment on a Facebook discussion I was recently in concerning if we can actually point to differences in society in the last 200 years that resulted from a rise in freethought, and someone felt the need to interject that “life is nothing” with out God, “nothing at all.” 

  • http://pinkydead.com David McNerney

    The ad should read:

    “If you believe in god then you are complete moron. (And BTW Jesus was gay!)”

    If people are going to get offended at whatever you say, then you might as well go the distance.

    • J. J. Ramsey

      I’d conclude precisely the opposite. If the sign were to call theists morons, then theists could object to it on the grounds that it was both crass and false, and they have an easy excuse for blowing it off. If the sign offends despite not saying anything even remotely cruel, then it lays bare that theists have a problem with atheists and not just how atheists present themselves.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not so sure I’d consider this the mildest atheist billboard.  It’s possibly the mildest anti-god billboard, as the post title suggests.  It is definitely an anti-god billboard.  Not that I mind, of course.

    This is not a billboard message that calls to people who don’t believe in god and asks them to join a community of like-minded individuals.  This is a message that tells people, believer as well as non-believer, that they don’t need god for these important things, and invites them to the web site to consider living without religion.  Both messages are worthwhile, but they are not the same.  I would say the former, for example “don’t believe in god? join the club”, is milder than the latter.

    This message is definitely not simply telling people “we atheists exist”.  It is telling people they don’t need god.  I can understand religious people feeling offended by being told they don’t need god.  Just as I feel offended by being told I need god.  We’ll both live.

    • treedweller

      I was thinking along similar lines.

      Specifically, I disagree that this is the mildest possible phrasing because of the pronoun used. To say “I” don’t need a god is perfectly reasonable. To say “You” do not need a god, when, in fact, the reader may strongly believe that’s untrue, is deliberately inflammatory.

      I don’t mind, as Sackbut said, and wouldn’t be opposed to more direct statements, but let’s not pretend this is us poor atheists getting put upon without any cause whatsoever.

      Having said all that, the modus operandi of every TV news program, especially the local ones, is to sensationalize anything to draw in more viewers, and this is a blatant example of overstating the “problem.” I wish there were a hell so they could burn in it.

      A bit off topic, but the billboard I would most like to see:

      “I love it when people claim to speak for God.” –Satan

      not a promotion for atheism, just a shot back at those annoying billboards / facebook posts / etc. that we’ve all seen.

      • Jim [the other Jim]

        I like your idea, but I would reword it slightly:
        “I love making people think that they are speaking for god” — Satan

        Now THAT would rattle a few cages.

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leia

    It seems like people need to learn to deal with hearing or reading things they don’t share the same view on. Maybe Jr/Sr High School debate class should be a mandatory class. That way you can learn to not only accept that people are sometimes going to say things you don’t like, but you will also learn to fight a point you might not agree with.

    Sounds like people need to hike up their big girl panties and grow up. :) But I am pretty sure we all knew that already.

  • Bryan

    Your timing with this article couldn’t have been better.  On Sunday (9/11) a lot of my “christian” friends were posting anti-muslim statements on facebook.  I posted my own statement later that simply said “End war, hatred and intolerance – abolish religion.”  Some of the more zealous “friends” immediately took offense and some how interpreted it as a direct attack on christians.  So thin skinned and insecure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Reed/692599362 Paul Reed

    “It’s not meant to offend anyone. Its meant to make people think”
    Sadly, to some Christians this is the same thing.

  • http://sucktackular.com sucktackular

    Christians, like most religion subscribers, feel that their faith is unquestionable and deserves honor. Why? 

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    … The tiny version of the billboard on his desk is really cute!

    And did they really him off, his audio at least, at 1:55? Or is my stream messed up? Was his next statement so threatening?

  • Jesse

    Wow, this is actually the local news station in Buffalo. Can’t anyone ever notice us for something good?

    • Anonymous

      They have noticed you for something good. There is nothing at all wrong with that billboard. They fact they think differently is their problem.

    • Kb2tdu

      At least the bb went up. in many parts of the country it would have been vandalized by now.

  • Anonymous

    So anything that doesn’t support “God” is anti-God?  That actually explains a lot about the mindset that some Christians seem to have.  It certainly explains why some seem to think that “secular” is the same as devil worship and science is evil and scary.  Well I don’t believe in gods and I’ve never eaten from Satan’s fridge.

    • bigjohn756

      If you ever get a chance to eat from Satan’s fridge, don’t try the ice cream…it’s very soupy.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    The best religious ad campaign I’ve seen are the “I’m a Mormon” youtube vids. The pieces present happy, attractive people living there lives, and at the end they identify themselves as Mormon. Yep, it tells you nothing about Mormonism or the LDS, but it does work to destigmatize the faith.

    I’m thinking that the best billboard would have a picture of a happy family (or maybe  firefighters — people love firefighters) doing some kind of wholesome activity with the tagline ‘We’re atheists.’.

  • Gerry

    Yes, EVERY billboard needs to pass an “inoffensiveness” test before it can be put up. And the test should consist of asking only people who are predisposed to being offended by the billboard in the first place. That system would certainly work!

    • Jim [the other Jim]

      Some people are so anal retentive that a billboard full of nothing but bunnies, puppies and kittens playing together among the dandelions would offend some fool. 

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    I can sort of see how this one might be construed negatively. The use of the second person could it sound almost like it is preaching atheism. Still, one does need to really squint to see it that way. If someone isn’t actively looking for offense they probably wouldn’t notice. 

  • Stefan

    Just to echo some of the sentiments – I think a billboard that said something along the lines of  “We don’t believe in any gods, yet we hope, care and love” would be more inviting to fence-sitters…    When I put on my “Catholic Goggles” which I discarded in my teens, I see the original billboard as strongly Us vs. Them… still divisive.     Of course,  I can’t think of any phrasing that’s going to eliminate that Us vs. Them  thing completely…

  • S.James

    Just replacing “You” with “Some” or “We” or “One”. Some people are just anti-semantic.

  • Sambricky

    As brother Sam Singleton says, it ain’t as though we’re putting up signs that say “Anyone who believes in god is a fucking idiot.”

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanfigdor Jonathan Figdor

    “Makes you think American Atheists had the right idea with their more aggressive “You KNOW It’s a Myth” billboards. If theists are going to be offended no matter what you say, why not just go all out?”

    EXACTLY!

  • Jepumy

    I also had seen an opinion article in the Torch (some school paper) hating on this billboard, posted on reddit before seeing this. So that’s another. :P

    Personally I think the more aggressive approach is a better idea. It’s not like it’s an equivalent of those anti-atheism billboards they’re putting up.

  • Laura Brown

    I live in the area where these billboards are located and I watch this channel every night for the evening news. The Buffalo/ Niagara area is a heavily Catholic area and this station is notorious for telling viewers the best places to get a fried fish dinner on Fridays during Lent. I would say we certainly need these billboards around here.

    • Dave V

      I grew up in WNY, and I agree with that sentiment. What isn’t Catholic is largely fundigelical wackjob (see “The Chapel” on N. Forest), and even more likely to be offended.  Simply stating the there are atheists in the community would be offensive to some around there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502019544 Ed Beck

    Think those headlines and that video are bad? Check out the shameless, blunt framing during the intro to this report…

    http://www.wgrz.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1155980443001

    • GentleGiant

      Wow, that first presenter is certainly not holding back on the hyperbole. Nice that she makes sure any good Christian would-be defilers of the billboards know where they are right away. ;-)

      One sided reporting? You nailed it!How about contacting people, other than the President of CfI, who might be happy about it going up? Noo, that would ruin the sensation of the story.

  • spink

    that’s a great billboard!

  • spink

    that’s a great billboard!

  • GentleGiant

    Here’s the Facebook page for the station’s coverage of the story:
    https://www.facebook.com/2onyourside/posts/114003418705054

    216 replies to it at the time of this posting.

    • GentleGiant

      I just love how one of the obviously religious responders has a “Reality Check Ahead” street sign as her profile picture. How’s that for ironic! :-D

  • Luc Duval

    Hemant, I don’t understand why it bothers you so much that Christians/theists are offended by “mild” atheistic statements.  The things we put on billboards do cut to the core of many people’s beliefs and perspectives; pretending that they’re “mild” and no one should be offended by them is dishonest.

    Let them be offended.

    I try not to self-promote in comment threads, but I’ve made this argument extensively here: http://apatheistorapathyist.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/guest-blargh/

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      To be clear, I’m not *bothered* that they’re offended. You’re right — let them be offended. I’m just surprised that THIS message is enough to tick them off when it’s hardly that brash.

  • Lupita

    I agree with those who have said that this honestly is not the ‘mildest’ billboard.  I would have prefer ‘you don’t need RELIGION-’. Not because I think controversy needs to be avoided but because mentioning God  gives credence to the claim that atheists are just ‘mad’ of God.

    My favorite billboard is the first atheist billboard i saw “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone”

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

     Perhaps we should actually test the idea that theists will find “offensive” anything that atheists say. How about a billboard with really cute puppies playing, and the slogan is,

    Puppies are cute.
    American Atheists
    www (dot) atheists (dot) org

    The reactions could be hilarious. Blustering offense, confusion, bewilderment, paranoid suspicion about what to those atheists really mean, etc.

  • Kenatcb

    Two pictures exactly the same (Fireman, family etc) with one of these is an athiest spot the difference

  • http://twitter.com/kenatcb Ken_Duddle

    Why not have two idendical pictures showing fireman or similar with the tag ‘one of these is an athiest can you spot the difference?


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