In Response to City’s Jesus Display, FFRF Counters with ‘Jesus is a Myth’ Banner

For five years now, city officials in Streator, Illinois have allowed a sign to go up in a local park reading, “Jesus died for your sins”:

Last month, they also allowed the erection of three Christian crosses:

This is the same park that hosted a nativity scene this past winter, by the way.

Eyebrows went up at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, I’m sure, when they heard about this. So they asked city officials what they were thinking:

The city’s attorney… responded that displays would continue to be allowed because the city is treating its city park as a public forum.

Oh, it’s a public forum?! You didn’t say! Well, that’s good, because it turns out FFRF has a sign to put up right next to the other ones…

That’s the banner seen in the background of the picture near the top of this post.

“We think the city would be wise to exclude all displays from the park. Our banner is a protest of the city’s continued decision to permit public property to be misappropriated to promote an exclusionary evangelical message,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “There are tax-free churches on practically every other corner where manger scenes and crosses may be placed. City parks ought to be free of religious divisiveness,” she added.

The banner will stay there through April 13th. Say what you will about the bluntness of the message — the FFRF may very well achieve its goal of getting the city to stop treating taxpayer property like the outside of a church.

(Hey, Scientologists, did you hear the park in Streator, IL is a public forum for religious expression?! Get some of your signs up! Muslims, I’m looking at you, too!)

Happy Easter! :)

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://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    Cue screeches from Christians about how mean atheists are ruining the most holy of holidays, blah blah blah.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      The vernal celebration of fertility was a LOT more fun before the Christians showed up and ruined it with their holiday!

    • FSq

      Yes, far be it from us to try and mock something that has a “savior” pulling a three-day zombie act, celebrated by a bunny that delivers colored chicken eggs and chocolately treats. Yes, for us to point out the crazy there would be awful!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001612243746 Rory Barclay

    I think they may swiftly decide that it’s not all that public a forum after all…

  • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

    Pardon my disloyalty, fellow atheists, I’m munching on a delicious toasted easter bun (with pastry cross) while reading this article.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001612243746 Rory Barclay

      It’s time to punish you according to our doctrine!.. Oh, wait…

    • Fentwin

      Ha! we’re having bunny shaped biscuits…made from self rising flour of course.

    • Scott Howard

      So you’re mixing worship of the mythical Eostre with worship of the mythical Yeshua? Is that about right?

    • FSq

      Shit, I love Peeps! And ham…..so color my eggs and call me Frank, I must have become christian….

      • Anonymous-Sam

         Aside from that whole bit about the bunny and eggs not belonging to Christian practice at all — just material stolen from pagan holidays that took place around the same time of year. :p

  • Stp

    A slight problem, and only slight. 

    Regardless if the resurrection took place or not, historically, the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is a confirmed fact, no separate from other historical religious figures such as Buddha or Muhammad. The topic to press is the validity of the resurrection, rather than the historical existence of Jesus. 

    The room for a logical assault on this point of topic opens the FFRF for a pretty nasty barrage. Hopefully the goal of closing the park to taxpayer funded religious expression will be worth the cost. 

    • Kmorganlfc

       Actual historical evidence for his existence is very flimsy. I wouldn’t like to be sentanced in court for omething on the same strength of evidence.

      http://nobeliefs.com/exist.htm

    • Marguerite

      Actually there are several books based on the premise that Jesus was never a historical figure at all. It’s not actually a “confirmed fact,” as he is not mentioned in any contemporary historical record (except for one which is pretty universally agreed to be a later-added forgery). It seems likely that Jesus existed, but it’s not an absolute certainty. In any event, as someone else pointed out, “Jesus Christ” is indeed a myth, even if Jesus of Nazareth actually existed.

      • chicago dyke, venomous lesbian

        thank you, you beat me to it. 

      • jjramsey

        “except for one which is pretty universally agreed to be a later-added forgery”

        If you are referring to Josephus, then there are actually two references, the Testimonium Flavianum, which is largely agreed to be a partial forgery, and another reference that hasn’t been given a flashy name, where “brother of Jesus called Christ, James his name” is mentioned in passing. The latter reference is almost universally considered genuine among actual scholars.

        • Marguerite

          Cool. Thanks for the info; I’ll go Google that. The only one I think I’ve heard of is the first one.

        • Harry Keijzer
        • Anonymous

          There’s a counter-argument against the “brother of Jesus” thing (as well as other arguments against Jesus being a historical figure) at 
          http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/667

          Basically, summarized: “brother of the Lord” may have been used as a title, indicating a baptized Christian. Thus all that it indicates is that this was a Christian, not that he was literally Jesus’ blood brother.

          • jjramsey

            And as it has been repeatedly been pointed to Carrier, especially on the comments of a related blog post, the problem is that Carrier’s reading doesn’t fit very well with the two uses of “brother of the Lord” that we actually have in the New Testament. Take 1 Cor. 9:4-6, for example:

            Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do
            the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a
            living?

            If you were unaware of who the brothers of the Lord were, it would be easy for you to conclude that they, like the apostles and Cephas, had a right to refrain from working for a living. Carrier spends a lot of verbiage dancing around that obvious point, and later when I reiterate that point, saying

            … the way Paul brackets the question, “Do we not have the right to be
            accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the
            brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”, implies that the people he lists have
            at least one right besides just the right to have a believing wife [i.e. the right to refrain from work].

            he apparently tries to declare “victory” by saying, “As I myself said. You seem to have lost track of the argument.” Wow, that’s just … nonsensical. Carrier also seems to think that it’s reasonable for Mark to invent a brother of Jesus who just happens to have the same name as the guy that Paul called “brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19:

            Since all Christians are brothers of the Lord, the probability of one of
            the brothers invented by Mark matching some apostle or early Christian
            is 100%. So no matter what Christian Paul happened to attach the
            pleonasm to the odds are better than 1 in 4 that it would just happen to
            match one of the four brothers invented for Jesus (since the four names
            Mark chose are among the most common of all).

            No, seriously. He wrote that.

            Back on his earlier post, “Ehrman Trashtalks Mythicism,” his counter to Ehrman’s claim, “prior to Christianity, there were no Jews at all, of any kind whatsoever, who thought that there would be a future crucified messiah,” he writes in response, “Daniel 9:26 says a messiah will die, and the pre-Christian Melchizedek scroll explicitly identifies this passage as being about the messiah, or at least a messiah who would cleanse the world of sin,” and quotes a translation of the Melchizedek scroll that quotes Daniel 9:26. However, the scroll is fragmentary, and in the place where a quote from Daniel would be, there’s a lacuna. Funny that the translation to which Carrier chose to link didn’t indicate where the lacunae in the text were. In his old “Dying Messiah” post, he claims that Psalms 89 is one of “two OT passages that explicitly predict the humiliation and death of the messiah,” a claim that makes no sense if one reads the psalm from the beginning. He even originally cited the Targum of Isaiah 53 as an example of Jews identifying the “suffering servant” with the Messiah, though he backtracked when others pointed out that this same Targum avoids having the Messiah suffer (so that, for example, the original Isaiah 53:4, which reads, “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted,” becomes “Although He shall be in contempt; yet He shall cut off the glory of all the wicked, they shall be weak and wretched. Lo, we are in contempt and not esteemed, as a man of pain and appointed to sickness, and as if He had removed the face of His Shekinah from us.”)

            This is why I’m not a mythicist.

    • Anonymous

      You can believe in (or not belive in) Yeshua of Nazareth without believing in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ certainly is a myth, regardless of whether a Galileean laborer named Yeshua of Nazareth existed or not.

    • FSq

      It is not a confirmed fact.

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

    How about a poster of Kali in the park? I think her necklace of human skulls would fit right in.

  • Tyler3

    They know that Jesus can have existed as a historical figure within Palestinian Judaism and Atheism still be correct, right? Seriously, WTF are they trying to prove? That to be an Atheist you have to believe in conspiracy theories?

    • rhodent

      The sign does not say “Jesus is a myth”; it says “Jesus Christ is a myth”.  This may sound like a minor point, but remember that “Christ” is a title, not a name.  “Jesus Christ” means “Jesus the Annointed” or “Jesus the Messiah”.  Therefore, “Jesus Christ is a myth” is likely to be a factual statement even if there was a historical person named Jesus.

    • Anonymous

      I think that’s different.  I don’t think the banner means the person.  Jesus Christ (the name in the banner) means the deity.  Christ is not a family name, it’s a title meaning Messiah.  We can say that Jesus as a God doesn’t exist, without denying the possibility that Jesus may actually have been a real human.

    • http://evolvedmonkeys.blogspot.com/ Evolved Monkey

      Yes, someone may have had the name Jesus 2000 years ago in the Middle East, but I doubt he looked like a white hippie. I agree with rodent and jdm8 that the banner is referring to the son of god and not a specific person named Jesus.

  • Alessia L.

    I.give the banner one day before it’s vandalized.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      Well let’s hope that this time there’s an atheist with a camera nearby.

      • FSq

        I have some motion sensitive wildlife cameras I would be happy to loan/donate to attach secretly to the display. If anyone vandalizes it, they get video and still images.

        • AMythIsNotFact

          Except that “they” would also destroy all evidence and the equipment. That would fall under the “christian love” rule that they are famous for maintaining…

    • Anonymous

       That’s my fear too.  However it probably only has to stay up through Easter, assuming they take down their display of instruments of torture soon after.

      Then again…why take ours down just because they do? Unless we are ALL required to – which of course is the whole point to begin with.

    • Allison

      Indeed, I’ll be very surprised if it “will stay there through April 13th”.  Some redneck yokel will come along in the middle of the night, no doubt about it.

  • Marguerite

    Love it. But I think we also have to give credit to the city for actually permitting this to go up, and not to ban it on some flimsy pretext. Like Rory, I suspect they’ll rapidly change their minds about letting this sort of thing be put up in the park. But that is of course the point, so if they do that, it would actually be “good news,” to borrow the Christian phrase.

    I’d like to see a nice Wiccan banner in there, myself. How about a banner in advance of Beltane?

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    The next step should be to reprint these blog comment-thread debates and hang a long chain of banners in the park. THAT would make them rethink their policy, especially if you updated the tit-for-tat every day.  Once this thread inevitably devolves into arguments about Barack Obama vs. Pokemon, they’ll have no choice.

  • Chad

    I know some wiccans. If anything causes Christians to loose it faster than atheists, it’s wiccans.

  • Leigh Abraham

    Now if we could just get god off our money and out of the Pledge of Allegience…

    • Harry Keijzer

      …not to mention your average courtroom…

  • http://www.facebook.com/roccim Marlo Rocci

    I would LOVE to see muslims put something up there.
    “Christians and Jews (who believe in only part of the Scripture), will suffer in
    this life and go to hell in the next. 2:85 “

    • Anonymous

      Correct me if I’m wrong here, but  don’t muslims use only part of the scripture too? I thought they only use the Pentateuch and Psalms from the Bible, then they added their own stuff such as the Qur’an.

  • Scott Howard

    As my grandmother says, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

  • Anonymous

    I think they should have gone with something like “Any god requiring blood sacrifice is evil.” And then on the other side “Good thing God is a myth.”

  • Anonymous

    And from the Pagans: “Keep Eostre in Easter”.  And if the policy hasn’t changed by Beltane, I suggest a maypole and some erotic sculpture.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is the best way to go.  Rather that push religion / faith out of the public square we should fight for our inclusion.  Most of the time the result is the same, but it’s the religious that demand that all public displays be stopped. 

    Christians have one objective and that is to maintain the bubble they live in  at all cost.  When we work to push them out of the public square the rally to defend against the attack on the bubble.   When we step into the bubble and place our display there in the public square, the only way to maintain the bubble is to toss our message out of it. And the only way to do that is withdraw their own. 

    Fighting for inclusion puts us in a better light on the public relations  front too.  And it is very entertaining to watch.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.satx Steven Satx

      Christians don’t seem to like inclusion of other people’s opinions any more than restriction of theirs.  Just look at how they react to the two words “happy holidays”

  • Rolland_calgary

    Time for a huge Fundy moon of the sign .. I’ll have my camera ready!

  • Fentwin

    Wouldn’t finding a tomb or ossuary from that time period, with the name Jesus (Yeshua) on it, be about the same as finding a cemetery with someone named Smith buried in it?

  • BenFromCA

    Bravo!  I hope this park is awash with banners from every imaginable “personal belief.”

  • Tinker

    I find it interesting that the article point out that the FFRF is from Wisconsin when it is a national organization. My guess is that we are going to see some more cries of ‘outsiders’ coming in and ruining a good thing.

  • Alex

    It’s sad that a simple expression of our views is a “protest.”

  • Anonymous-Sam

     I still prefer good old Biblical quotes.

    Take one of the rams…. Slaughter it and take the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar. Cut the ram into pieces and wash the internal organs and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the
    LORD, a pleasing aroma…

    We need a little Exodus this Sunday! Any chance of getting this one up around the White House this Monday? :P

  • Noshit

    Regulate you ads bro, they’re all christian! LOL

  • Hizakigp

    I am actually the one who worked with the FFRF and erected this banner.  As of last night, it has been stolen and the posts were bent badly.   I sent an email to their attorney and I am awaiting instructions on what to do about the stolen sign.

  • Sue Blue

    Why not that wonderful synopsis of “salvation” that goes something like “God creates the world knowing that Adam and Eve would sin, then tells them to make blood sacrifices to him to get rid of the sin.  Then he sends his ghost self to impregnate a virgin with himself so that he can be sacrificed to himself to get rid of the sin.  After three days of decomposition, he rises like a zombie, still bleeding, and goes up to heaven to be with himself and let everyone else continue to suffer until he decides to return someday when he’s damned good and ready.”

    I myself celebrated early this morning with a variety of fertility rites followed by some minor sun worshipping out in the garden.

  • Kyshaunhayes

    i really dont see whats wrong with spreading the gospel there not pushing anything on anyone. the sign didnt say “jesus died on the cross so go to church”.  I mean really people this  is crazy


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