The billboard featured an image of a man holding his hands against his temples, and the following quote from English poet Francis Thompson appeared underneath: “An atheist is a man who believes himself to be an accident.”
The consumer submitted that the billboard offended him as an atheist as he did not consider his existence to be an accident. He added that the depiction of a man with an empty head communicated that atheists were stupid.
The [Advertising Standards Authority] added that the quote on the church billboard suggested that atheists believed their existence was an unplanned event.
The visuals of a man holding the sides of his empty head suggested that atheists lacked intelligence. This was something that would likely offend all atheists in a manner that the code sought to prevent, the ASA ruled.
It added that the commercial would likely cause offence and was therefore in contravention of clause 1 of section II of the code.
The authority upheld the complaint and ordered the church to withdraw the advert immediately and not to use it in future.
Really? That’s offensive?! No it’s not. It’s just ignorant. If it suggests that we’re cosmic “accidents,” there’s no real argument. We are. We’re certainly not here because God “willed” us to be. (Of course, the “accidents” are guided by the process of evolution, but I doubt the people who people up the billboard understand that.) If it suggests we’re stupid, it’s just plain wrong. If that’s the best religion can do to criticize us, they’ve failed miserably.
But here’s a better idea: Don’t fight to take the billboard down.
Raise money to put up another billboard near the same location.
Keep the same image.
Use some version of the quotation: “Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out.” Subtitle: “Religion.”
Ta-da! We win.