North Carolina Atheist Responds to Vandalism of His Group’s ‘Adopt-a-Street’ Signs

Atheist signs and billboards get vandalized for all sorts of reasons — like when the culprits see the message as “too aggressive,” even when it’s something as innocuous as “Are you good without God? Millions are.”

But this is a new one: Someone has ruined the Western North Carolina Atheists’ “Adopt-a-Street” signs:

Why target those signs? Who knows… maybe they hate atheists. Maybe they love litter. Maybe they think atheists will disappear if you smudge the A-word off of signs?

Or maybe someone’s just trying to intimidate the atheists.

That would explain the “threatening phone call” that was made to the Asheville GreenWorks offices wanting the signs to be removed.

Whatever they try to do, though, it’s not working. Not only is the atheist group not bending, the city is standing firm in support of the group. Replacement signs will be up shortly.

The leader of the group, James Childress, writes:

I’m happy to report that Asheville GreenWorks and the City of Asheville are firmly on our side. They have filed a police report about the vandalism, and they will be replacing the sign as soon as the new one is printed.

I’d like to publicly thank GreenWorks for the support they’ve given us, and for keeping me up-to-date about this whole affair. North Lexington is one the coolest streets in downtown Asheville, and we’re more than happy to keep it clean.

It’s a shame that vandals have to waste the time and money of GreenWorks, who put a tremendous amount of effort toward keeping this city looking beautiful.

Childress also wrote an op-ed piece for the local paper asking why anyone would do this. He also issues a challenge to the vandals:

I would like to take this opportunity to ask the vandals: what were you hoping to accomplish? What does it say about your belief system that atheists are picking up litter while you deface city property?

The folks at Asheville GreenWorks spend a tremendous amount of time and effort to keep our city looking beautiful. New signs are already being printed. All you have done is waste the time and money of an organization that is trying to better our city.

I wish to extend an invitation to the vandals and to those making the threatening phone calls: if you truly believe that your worldview is superior, then prove it. There is no shortage of streets in Asheville that need litter control. Call Asheville GreenWorks and adopt a street of your own. Show us all that your convictions are so strong, and your constituents so dedicated, that you can keep a cleaner street than a ragtag bunch of atheists.

You’ll get your own signs, and we promise not to hurt them.

What a perfect way to handle the situation, don’t you agree?

(Thanks to Mark for the link!)

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://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    What does it say about your belief system that atheists are picking up litter while you deface city property?

    Superbly said!

  • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

    Bravo, James!  That’s an excellent op-ed response to the vandalism.  And kudos on adopting a street, too.

  • Anonymous

    his response was well thought out and rational, but look at who he is dealing with.

  • Poolio

    What a fantastic response.  Kudos to WNC Atheists for demonstrating superior ethics to those who supposedly wrote the book on morality.   Of course we know better, but this will help make the point to thousands who don’t.

  • Mark Palmer

    This is Mark Palmer; I alerted Hemant and the Friendly Atheist about what my Human Tales podcast cohost James Childress is going though up there in NC. Well done James, and thank you FA for getting the word out.

  • Nobody

    What according to the atheistic world view would prevent anybody from expressing their opinion, since virtues are only relevant to the individual ?

    • Trace

      We love diversity of opinion. Vandalism, not so much.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Everyone has the right to express their opinion, BUT no one has the right to do so in a way that prevents someone else from expressing their opinion, or in a way that destroys someone else’s property.  Someone spray painting hateful words on your home is not a legitimate way to express their opinion.

      This isn’t complicated. It’s called a social contract. It’s like everyone driving on one side of the road instead of any side they please. No deity is required to come up with beneficial social contracts.

    • Rich Wilson

      Hm, making assumptions about other peoples’ world view…

      “Christians are only good because they’re afraid of hell.  If it weren’t for that fear, they’d all be looting an pillaging.”

      See how stupid assumptions can be?

    • Anonymous

      You’re mistaking atheism (a lack of belief in gods) with a worldview (a philosophy of life or framework of ideas and beliefs that are used to interpret and interact with the world).  I think you mean methodological naturalism.  If so there is nothing that prevents dissenting opinion but the arbiter of which opinions are of value is reality itself.  What we can see, touch and measure or infer from our analysis is what is of value.  

      In this case litter is a public nuisance and health hazard.  Removing it is a valuable public service.  Wanting to be recognised for this public service is natural and understandable and it promotes the value of public service without the interference of churches and religion (and by extension, gods).  Vandalism is the wilful destruction of property and the petty and vindictive attack on points of view that differ from the criminal’s.  

      While I agree that expressing dissent is of value I must object to the method of expression chosen by these criminals.  If they truly wanted to make a point that their own worldview was of greater value then they could offer to clean up the next street and put up their sign to show how they did it all for JesusAllahVishnuSobecwhatever.

    • Michael

      Enlightened self interest. Or to over-simplify, you don’t go around randomly shooting people because you want to live in a world where people don’t go around randomly shooting people and you lead by example.

  • Annie

    This should go in the atheist play book as a great example of how to handle problems.  Childress’ response not only made his group look good, but it made the vandals look bad, without stooping to name calling or any of tactic that could possibly backfire.

  • Margy

    What a terrific response! Classy and on target! Bravo!

  • Trace

    Why would anybody do that? So unnecessary.

  • DonSevers
  • Observer

    What kind of a world are we living in where God-hatin’ Atheists  are cleaning our street to make it look beautiful? These heathens should focus on cleaning their souls rather then our streets.
    I mean, what if kids see these hell-bounders picking up my trash, and wonder why anyone who doesn’t believe in God would bother doing such good deeds? I’ve worked my kids’ whole lives to get them to focus on God, how dare these people show that being cleanliness is next to godly-less.
    Here’s an idea, lets throw some Chick Tracts into the street, hopefully they’ll read them.
    “Litter Laws”? Don’t BS me with that immoral, imperfect Man’s law! why are you prosecuting me for my beliefs? all I want to do is litter the whole city with God’s love, or you’ll burn in Hell!

    …Right, I’m done.

    • http://www.facebook.com/robert.jumalon1 Robert Jumalon

      Spoken like a true bigoted Xtian. I don’t need a fictitious fairytale made up by superstitious sheepherders from the Middle East 3000 tears ago to threaten me with eternal damnation to be a good and moral person. It’s YOUR Hell…You burn in it.

      • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

        Robert, your Sarcasm Detector™ is a bit off…

    • Charles Black

      I call Poe’s Law on this one. :)

  • Tom

    anecdote here, but I lived in Asheville for 2 years, and volunteered at the Asheville GreenWorks offices weekly!  They are a great organization, stuffed many envelopes for them :)

    I’ll give them a call tomorrow to let the know they have support from those who have been part of them!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    Childress For President!

  • Anonymous

    When the people resort to vandalism, what makes you believe that we can win with an appeal to their moral sensibilities?

    • Rich Wilson

      I don’t think the vandal is really the intended audience.

  • Daniel Foster

    It’s just the work of amateur vandals. Any deeper readings into just gives more legitimacy to the stupidity of angsty Christians with too much time. We’ve had “vandals” post sticky notes to our Adopt-a-Street signs in Greensboro NC.  At least they were somewhat coherent ramblings, and more importantly, easy to remove.  http://uncgatheists.blogspot.com/

  • http://thatweirdatheistgirl.wordpress.com That Weird Atheist Girl

    This story actually makes me smile. Sure, someone out there was a stupid jerk, but GreenWorks actually stood with the atheist group! That’s pretty great. 

  • ORAXX

    Destroying other people’s property is okay if done in the name of Jesus.  Just ask any fundy, they’ll tell you.

    • Michael Appleman

      ANYTHING is ok if it is done in the name of jesus, allah, etc. Thats what makes it so disturbing.

    • from the other side

      I disagree. And I’m proud to be a fundamentalist Christian! Jesus commands to love everyone including those who are considered our enemies. The Bible is also clear that all people are imperfect and thus should not pass judgement on others. Jesus’ name is not an excuse to do whatever you want.

      If defacing the signs was done by a Christian, (which we don’t know who did it) it was a petty and misguided action.

  • Alex

    Well, somebody has to make replacement signs and put them up. The vandals are supporting jobs, I guess…


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