Atheist Billboard Comes Down in Ohio After a Christian Complains

Last month, a few different billboards for the Mid Ohio Atheists went up in the city of Mansfield:

Incredibly, that middle one turned out to be the most offensive.

Today we received the news that the owner of the land where one of our billboards was placed has threatened to cancel his lease with Lamar if they do not take down our billboard. Had I been forced to guess which one of the three we put up people would find most offensive and which one we would be forced to take down I would have been wrong. Apparently what people fear the most in Mansfield Ohio is not being told there is no God or that God is an invention of man. No my friends what they fear more than those two messages was a message encouraging the use of reason over faith.

So this baby came down yesterday with a week left on the contract:

To their credit, Lamar Advertising offered the atheist group an extra week on one of their other billboards or money back for the time owed on this one.

Michael from the group informs me that, this complaint notwithstanding, the reaction to the billboards has been pretty positive overall:

We’ve gotten messages, emails, and tweets from people all over Ohio. Most were happy to find out our group exists and many more were looking for local groups in their areas. We were able to point quite a few people to their local groups and make contact with a lot of local people.

So at least everyone isn’t offended by the suggestion that reason is a good thing.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • pato

     Incidentally, the third billboard turned out to be the most offensive to the eyes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

    the owner of the land where one of our billboards was placed

    I guess it’s not that that billboard is the most offensive, it’s that this was the only one placed on that guy’s land, so it was the only one he could get his pants in a twist about.

    • http://twitter.com/crankyhumanist Cranky Humanist

       Exactly. Likely the landowner would have balked at any of the three billboards.

  • http://evolvedmonkeys.blogspot.com/ Mike Meyers

    I would have thought the third one the most offensive to the religious sheeple. How odd that they found the second one offensive. Usually when you point out that god is just an imaginary friend they go on the warpath.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tony.agudo Tony Agudo

      I think a lot of Christians have become used to ridicule of the god concept. But they still unthinkingly hold faith as a virtue, so they perceive the second sign as an attack: “They’re saying my faith is not a virtue! That’s wrong, I *know* my faith is good!”

  • Artskibeach

    Why not go for the jugular next time.  Ad this disclaimer, “If you’re offended by what’s on this billboard, you’re a f**&)*(ing idiot!”

    • Iatwood

      Why not? Because responses like yours are what convinces people that atheists have no morals or character.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Dawson/1348578033 George Dawson

         I think Artskibeach may have been being sarcastic. I employ that at times myself, though it does not communicate well in written form among strangers. Better in person with people one knows.

  • Aimee

    How about this for a billboard….”You’ve tried being faithful, now try being reasonable.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Dawson/1348578033 George Dawson

       Now that would be offensive to many, because you are implying their stupidity. Believe it or not, there are intelligent, reasonable, religious people in  all denominations and religions. The religions themselves is another issue. But the wording you suggest attacks the individual, not the claim about God.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003293001320 Diana Winters

        “Rational arguments don’t usually work on religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people.”-  supposedly spoken by Gregory House. It just came to mind after reading Mr. Dawson’s comment. 

      • Sup Homie

        Well they are stupid… that’s the whole point.  Faith is belief with lack of evidence.  The only scenario in one’s day to day life this is reasonable is when we’re talking about magic sky pixies.

      • Nigelttf

         No I don’t believe it. Intelligent, Reasonable, Religious: pick two.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    Maybe we should keep a file of these incidents to use whenever Christians start whining about how persecuted they are because atheists ask to have their monuments removed from taxpayer funded land.   

    • Lmaris

       Maybe?  

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Just point them here: 
      http://atheistbillboards.com/

      • Brian

         Wish the design of that site wasn’t so friggin’ ugly.

  • Sdufort

    That’s actually not surprising to me. Pointing out that using reason is a better way, is like pointing out that they are idiots. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Dawson/1348578033 George Dawson

      People are righteous in their own eyes by nature, and so are offended by anyone  who suggest they may have a shortcoming.

  • breezanemom

    So now we all need to complain about every Christian/Catholic/church billboard we see out there to get them taken down.  What a bunch of whiners they are!

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    The problem with the 2nd billboard is not the proclamation that Reason is a Virtue, but the fact that they make the point by crossing out faith, which implies that faith is not virtuous at all. That, of course, is the point, but you are insulting people of faith by saying that, and they will react negatively. Personally I would prefer for the message to simply be positive, Reason is a Virtue without the dig at the faithful.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      It’s NOT a dig at “the faithful”. It’s a dig at faith itself. It’s not saying “Faithful people are bad people,” or anything like that, it’s implying that faith is not a virtue. And it’s not. It’s not a pathway to any kind of truth, and it’s not something we rely upon for any other facet of our daily lives.

      • Darwin’s Dagger

        What makes the faithful? Faith. That is the quality that defines them as faithful. And even those with little actual investment in the articles of their faith tend to be extremely invested in their identity as people of faith. So no matter what intention behind the billboard is, they will take it as a personal attack.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          Oh, I agree that they take it as a personal attack, but it clearly isn’t, and that’s what they need to understand. If I say that Glee sucks, am I personally attacking fans of the show? I don’t even think many Glee fans would take it as personally as religious people do when their beliefs are attacked.

          • Darwin’s Dagger

            Try that with some Star Trek fans.

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              Oh, I wouldn’t dare. I’m one of them. Our religion should be just as privileged as Christianity is. ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

      It’s right though – Faith isn’t a virtue. Faith can inspire virtues (compassion, love, self-control, etc), but it can also inspire vices (hate, fear, a desire to control others, etc).

  • Craig Duckett

    My, how this tight-sphinctered religious types hate the use of Reason. How utterly appalling that atheists should go around promoting critical thinking, rational inquiry, and practical reasoning. It’s an abomination! 

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

     Why the hell would you agree to lease some of your land for a billboard company if you’re not prepared to accept the inevitable “controversial” advertisements that will surely go up at some point? If you can’t take the heat, keep your land to yourself.

    • icecreamassassin

      I would say that the *vast* majority of billboards put up by Lamar would be of the non-controversial type.  So I’m not sure ‘inevitable’ is really applicable.  Replace that word with ‘possible’ and I think you’ve made a valid point.  And probably get rid of the word ‘surely’.

  • judith sanders

    I’m not entirely happy with the whole concept of  “Virtue.”   Maybe that’s because for women, it’s had another meaning with potentially deadly consequences.

    • judith sanders

      - and, I should add, “virtue” is determined by whoever’s is in power.  It’s not a real thing or even a consistent concept.

  • Rodger

    The wording of the message doesn’t seem to matter. Yes, some folks get their knickers twisted by intentionally confrontational works, but Hemant’s post a few weeks ago about the<href least offensive atheist ad ever points out that the content isn't what offends most complainants. It is the idea that freethinkers exist and have rights. 

    • Rodger

       dang.

      sorry about that.  

      Hemant’s post a few weeks ago about the least offensive atheist ad shows that it’s the existence of atheists, not what they say, that offends. And that offends the daylights outta me.

  • Sharon Hypatia

    I like #2. It’s a new spin on an old cliche; and I really like atheist messages that push reason.
    But #3 has a mixed message. “There is not God” followed by “Don’t believe everything your hear.”
    Um, O.K. I won’t believe it when you tell me “There is not God”

    • Cincinatheist

      There’s a back story behind that billboard. It’s a playful jab at a church in Mansfield that put up the exact same billboard with the exact same message on it. Only, of course, the church was trying to say don’t believe people who tell you there is no God. But the message could be interpreted either way, the Mid-Ohio Atheists thought it was funny, and so they produced an atheist billboard with the exact same wording that the church had used.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    What’s a contract if not an obligation to display the material for the purchased time period? They should get 100% of what they paid back, not just the unused part. And doesn’t the sign owner have a contract with the owner of the land? There are a lot of sloppy legal issues here.

  • Clopecsthemad

    Now let’s just wait a minute here.  Where in this article does it state that the Landowner is Christian?  Where does it site anything about the Landowner’s religious belief being the impetus for the request for the billboard to be taken down or the lease will be terminated?  NO WHERE!  It is an assumption that because the Landowner is from Ohio that he/she wanted the billboard taken down because he/she might be a Christian.  Then this comment section began an attack campaign on people of faith for their narrow-minded pursuit of life.  Reality check time folks.  It is every bit as narrow-minded to make the assumption that this billboard came down because of the Landowners faith when there is zero proof in the article that it is in fact the case.  Please stop attacking religion it only backs them into a corner and when pressed most people will fight back.  If the religious start passing policy that directly impedes upon someone else’s rights, fight that with everything you have.  If they are ignorant, educate and discuss, but attacking them with insults and calling them names only strengthens their position that they are “being persecuted”.  Many Atheists claim that logic and reason are the skill set with value…then us them!  Be the better person.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      It’s likely that the faith of the landowner was involved in his request, but you’re right that we have no proof of that. Fair point.

    • Nigettf

       Actually it is a reasonable likelihood. X is angered by a message on their land. The message is anti-faith. The land in question in in the United States. Moreover it is in Ohio. Furthermore, looking at the context of the surrounding foliage it is not in an urban location.

      What are the odds X is a Christian? We cannot give an exact figure, but it is safe to assume it is higher than 50%.

  • Lanie

    The landowner might not be a religious person, but they may have been getting some “heat” from their neighbors.  I hope that the billboard company refuses to do ANY business with the landowner in the future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Cartersmom08 Ginny Yost

    i am a christian and I didnt mind them. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I understand that. How I see it if you dont like it then dont look!!! Im sorry that had to happen.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

      If only more Christians were like you.

  • WoodwindsRock

    This is complete and total nonsense. In my state (Oklahoma) I just saw a billboard the other day which said “Are you headed for Heaven or Hell? Call *phone number* to get on the right path” or something like that (the first part is exactly word for word or very close to it) . If Christians can put billboards like that, threatening eternal damnation upon people and get no backlash of this type, then Atheists should DEFINITELY be able to put up billboards and not have them taken down. These billboards really aren’t even that offensive. Yet whine, whine, whine. Only Christians can have their say, and get to say whatever they want.

    And sadly they win. Like here.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Next time try “Puppies are Cute.”

  • DG

    Nice to see.  After listening to atheists cry titty-baby for decades every time someone even wanted to mention God in any one of a thousand public settings, perhaps this will let atheists know how it feels.  Atheists have gone a long way in helping convince our nation that it’s a virtue to show up to the playground and demand all the kids play what you want, or nobody gets to play anything.  Personally, I wish the individual would have kept quite.  Better to let one side act like the babies rather than join in.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Can you cite a single case in which an atheist has demanded that a Christian billboard come down?  Oh, wait, you did get it ”
      public settings “.  Not public as in view-able to the public, but public as in owned by the public.  You’re comparing apples to skateboards, and I think you know it.

      • DG

        And as the government continues to get its hands into more and more of our society, it’s not hard to see where that is heading – a place many atheists seem to be hoping for.

        • Glasofruix

          Comments like these make me wonder if you actually have something in your head or there’s just a moth banging endlessly around on the walls. So you’re totally ok with the government providing cops for your security, fighting them terrorists around the world (or getting some more oil) and you’re totally against the government providing accessible social security and equal rights for everyone? A government represents all of it’s citizens, not only white xtian males…

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
          Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
          All mimsy were the borogoves,
          And the mome raths outgrabe. 

    • Au_catboy

       Thank you, DG, for openly admitting that you’re dumber than a rock.  Your utter lack of even the most rudimentary comprehension of reality is breathtaking. 

      • DG

        I’m surprised you didn’t accuse me of being a bad baseball player.  It would have been just as relevant! Post-modern atheists, you’ve got to love them!

    • Glasofruix

      “Atheists have gone a long way in helping convince our nation that it’s a
      virtue to show up to the playground and demand all the kids play what
      you want, or nobody gets to play anything. ”

      As opposed to theists who come to the same playground, confiscate the toys and beat you with a rock when you say that it’s not fair?

      • DG

        Ah yes, the tired and ludicrous old comeback that religious people are bad, but atheist are cute and cuddly.   Try again with a real comeback.

        • Glasofruix

          I’m not telling that religious people are bad, you should learn to read sometimes. I’m merely responding to YOUR assumtion that every atheist wants to destroy your little ignorance zone. ANd btw, you’re the guy here with the lamest comeback, not me, so unless you have something smart to say…

  • Antônio

    +.There was no first day. Conscience was built in no measured time.  That’s why reason is a virtue.  It was conquered by long human effort. It is only beginning.

  • Sgeras

    its not fair atheists should have rights too.

  • Sgeras

    okay there are thousands of christian billboards in ohio but, atheists cant have  4 billboards

  • Sgeras

    there are friggin 7 states where ateists cant run for office


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