A Church’s Billboard Gives Atheists a Second Chance for Publicity

Here’s a simple question: Why do atheist groups put up billboards?

Here’s a simple answer that no one seems to get: Because they get attention. They get press coverage. They get people talking about atheism and religion and the local groups. And, yes, they catch the eye of people who might be atheists but unsure of who to talk to about it.

So if Christians *really* wanted atheist groups to stop putting up the billboards, all they’d have to do is stop drawing attention to them.

Thankfully, that’s not happening.

Back in September, the Bluegrass Coalition of Reason in Kentucky put up its first billboard:

In response, the Lafayette Church of the Nazarene put up this sign outside their church:

The media took notice… and I suspect that surprised everyone at the church because they’re not used to press coverage like that.

So now, they’re taking it up another notch. They’re buying a billboard of their own, mimicking the atheists’ sign, in a hope to draw even more attention their way:

“They asked ‘Don’t believe in God? Join the club.’ We responded with “We believe in God. Join the right club,’” said Jared K. Henry, pastor of the Lafayette Church of the Nazarene.

The pastor hopes their new billboard, which goes up on Monday, will lead lead the curious to his church. He says church members were the ones who pushed for the response.

The design started out on a bumper sticker, one he’s glad to hand out.

“There’s people that believe in God, not only that he exists but that he’s active in our world,” said Henry.

Amazing! There are people who believe in God in Kentucky! Who knew!

The best part is that the atheists’ campaign was over. The billboard was taken down a month ago, at the beginning of October, and that meant the resulting publicity had pretty much stopped, too.

But the church just resurrected the Bluegrass Coalition of Reason, giving them new life and another chance to introduce themselves to local residents who may not believe in God — hell, that might even include members of that church :)

Everyone thank Jesus!

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.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    so many believers are so much like insecure teens on their first venture into the dating world. it’s sad and pathetic to realize that a large number of adults basically never left the teen mentality, on the subject of religion. the ‘right’ club? please. if you have to call it that, you’re really only calling attention to the fact that you, as well as those who don’t agree with you, understand that there is a legit argument against your claim. projection, insecurity, hypocrisy, avarice… if i were a believer today i’d be really ashamed, being intellectually honest as i am and try to be always, of the leaders and speakers for my religion, who can’t seem to understand how pathetically defensive they seem, over and over.

     what is it the right wing always likes to say? “if you’re innocent, you have nothing to hide.” similarly, if you’re so sure you’re right about gawd and jeebus and all that mythology, you don’t need to put up billboards in response to the tiny minority of atheists’ campaign. 

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

      Agreed. I’ve come to the conclusion that religion is for those who can’t or won’t grow up.

    • C Peterson

      Yeah, and if you think the hazing and ostracizing you faced in high school if you were in the “wrong” club was bad, just have a look at what this new “right” club has planned for you! Lovely folks, those.

    • houndies

      a very good comparison you made likening the mind of a teenager to that of an xtain.

  • Matto the Hun

    Well, at least he’s got the Holier Than Thou smugness down…

  • Luther

    Paraphrasing:

    Here’s a simple question: Why do RELIGIOUS GROUPS COMPLAIN ABOUT ATHEIST billboards?
    Here’s a simple answer that no one seems to get: Because they get attention. 

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      To me a more confusing issue is why atheists complain so much about atheist billboards…

      Every time an atheist group spends a meager few thousand dollars on a billboard, and obtains more media coverage than any atheist group’s money could ever have hoped to buy, the result is that every atheist blog is filled with fellow atheists making nasty comments about the font, the color scheme, the tone, the word choice, etc., rather than saying “Woo Hoo! High-Five! Good one, folks!”Open critique is great, but it amazes me how easily we tend to lose perspective. These billboards move forward the normalization of atheists existing here, having groups, speaking up, etc. They break the taboo that religion tries to hold that would prevent anyone from admitting they don’t believe the religious woo. 

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

        everybody in america is a media critic. we all like to think we know what sort of advertising is most effective, even though the evidence points to different messaging in different markets and that variety is better than a monolithic message. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

        I don’t find this baffling at all. Atheists are a huge chorus of different voices. Sure, we can all agree on our non-belief in god(s) but that aside, we are VERY different. Nothing like Christians who agree about quite a lot of nonsense.

        I look forward to the days when our secular government governs a secular majority. There are all sorts of people working to get us there. Some are in-your-face atheists, some are quiet interfaith atheists, some form communities and put up billboards. It takes all kinds.

        Diversity in this case is a plus. The chaos of that diversity is also a plus. The fact that we criticize not only theists but each other is healthy.

        Not surprising at all. Interesting to watch unfold too.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    For the umpteenth time, I fail to see the benefit in using “God” as opposed to “a god” or “gods”. Why do so many in the activist community insist on using  “God” instead of “a god” or “gods”?

    • C Peterson

      It depends on the message. Many atheist billboards are directed specifically towards believers in God, not theists in general who might believe in another god or gods. Saying “I don’t believe in god” isn’t even a sentence that makes sense, since there’s no way of knowing which god you are talking about. You need to say “I don’t believe in a god” or “I don’t believe in any gods”.

      “God” as a proper noun is the name of the Abrahamic god, and should be properly capitalized if that’s the god you are referring to. And when you’re putting up your sign in Kentucky, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re talking to believers in God.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         I’m aware of the use of “God” as a proper noun and name. That isn’t my issue with the use of the word. I guess I’m inclined to think that idiots will capitalize on the use of the proper noun to claim that we (atheists) actually do believe in this deity as we address it in the same way they do. Of course, I could just have my head up my ass…

    • Helanna

      It’s Kentucky. I highly doubt they’re courting the closet-atheist pagans or Muslims. They’re courting atheists who think they’re alone in a sea of Christians. 

      • Pepe

         Actually muslims (Islam being Abrahamic) believe in a ‘God’ too. It’s actually the same ‘God’, but try telling that to a christian or muslim.

        • C Peterson

          Same god, but generally with a different name.

        • Randy

          It”s actually not, and you don’t need to believe any of it to recognize that.

          Christians believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are together the same god.
          Mormons believe God and Jesus are two separate gods.
          Muslims believe Allah is the only god, and Jesus is not god.

          When basic claims like these differ so greatly, it’s pretty clear these are not the same god.

          The stories may have had a common ancestor, but they evolved apart.

        • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

           You are correct. As a former Muslim, I can’t tell you how many times “Allah” was referred to as “God” when I went to the mosque.

        • Piet Puk

          Even christians don’t believe in the same god, why should the muslims?

    • Fred Edwords

      And I’ll answer the question yet again. The words “a god” are two. “God” is one. And studies have shown that effective billboards keep the word count at seven or less. Moreover, when you say “God,” religious believers take it personally, like you’re calling out THEIR GUY (even though we only mean the abstract concept of a supreme being, uppercased because it’s a proper noun). Thus there’s more reaction. As for “gods,” the use of that word makes it look like we are only addressing polytheism. Everybody but us misses the point completely. 

      In billboards I’ve set up, I’ve used both “God” and “a god,” depending on what seemed to work best for a given situation. Keep in mind that the end game here isn’t philosophical purity. People can get that when they go to the website shown on the billboard. As Hemant rightly notes, the end game here is getting attention. So we do what works.  

      • The Godless Monster

         In three years, you are the only person to have answered this question in a way that makes sense (to me). Thanks for your reasoned response. I’m rethinking my stance on this as a result.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    It is *GREAT* that the local christian church is totally on the DEFENSIVE…. 
    The are so insecure that they have to advertise that “Hey, some people here in Kentucky believe in a god! Really, at least some of us do. And there’s even a club for us people who believe in a god. We think he may really exist…. Uhmmm, it’s at least possible…. “

  • Baby_Raptor

    I want to get ahold of these people and tell them how pathetic it is that they feel so threatened by a differing opinion even existing that they have to piss all over it. 

    And I mean piss all over it. They come across like an insecure dog feverishly marking it’s territory. 

    I doubt they’ll like that analogy, though. And It’s insulting to dogs.

  • C Peterson

    Well, that sign isn’t going to change any atheist minds. And the dim bulbs who believe in God will continue to do so, although a few people might shift church affiliation. So while individual churches might be slightly helped or harmed, the only significant result in the end is publicity, which helps atheists and hurts Christians. Good deal- twice the bang for the buck.

  • Tony

    Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you for bring peace to the world you created.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you for protecting our house during Sandy.   Thank you , Jesus. …..

    • Baby_Raptor

      This is a joke, right? The world is far from peaceful. And if Jesus cared so much, why did he let the storm hit people in the first place? 

      And why are you spamming us with this, anyway? Hoping that your hypocritical, sinful public prayer will suddenly convince everyone who reads it that your sky daddy exists?

    • WildRumpus67

      Fuck you Jesus. Fuck you Jesus for allowing Americans in Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians and for the bloodshed in Syria. Fuck you Jesus. Fuck you for killing over 114 people and causing $50 billion in damages in Hurricane Sandy. Fuck you, Jesus…( I mean, if you believe that nonsense then you gotta give credit where credit is due, right?)

      • Envy Burger

        Amen.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Jesus you’re an asshole. You stopped protecting a 2-year old and a 4-year old during Sandy. Get the fuck off my property before I put some double-ought buck in you.

    • Sue Blue

      Thank you, meteorologists, for your timely forecasts, warnings and predictions so that we could prepare and evacuate.  Thank you, scientists, for the technology that detected Sandy out in the Atlantic so we had some idea of what was going to hit us.  Thank you, first responders and emergency services, for staying on the job and risking your own lives to save others.  Thank you.  

      Oh…and fuck you, religion, for doing nothing at all, as usual.

    • Piet Puk

       I think your sarcasm went unnoticed here :)

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

       Tony, I’m glad you were safe during Sandy, it was a horrific time. However, it’s extremely uncouth and just plain bad to use thanking God as a cudgel. You aren’t praising, you’re trying to shame others. Please think about your actions and how you can best be Christlike. (Volunteering to help with the Sandy cleanup is a great start btw!)

  • Skeptico

    “There’s [sic] people that [sic] believe in God..”

    …although apparently they don’t believe in grammar.

    • Antinomian

      It’s Kaintukee where Jesus saves and grammar is the Devil in the details..

  • Jonas

    I’d swear that’s a misquote of John 3:16, but then again swearing would make baby Jesus cry.

  • JWH

    I’m glad the church did this, actually.  It’s exactly the right way to respond to atheist billboards.  

    • Drew M.

      My thoughts, as well.

    • Piet Puk

      Indeed, it shows that rlegious values are about competition and superiority, while the atheistic values are about understanding and getting along.

  • Reverend Clyde H. Higgins

    Mr. Hemant Mehta, why are you atheists plotting to buy up our church signs?  We caught your handywork here and demand you give this church’s money back and say a few pryares asking forgiveness.   http://christwire.org/2012/11/hemant-mehta-friendly-atheists-trick-church-pastor-into-bogus-church-sign/

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

      should i tell the Rev, or are you folks going to? /snicker

      • JohnnieCanuck

        From one Blonde (now an ex-Blonde) to another. I think he already knows. Google him./who snickers last, snickers best.

    • Baal

       Rev. Higgins – I want to thank you for your site.  It’s hillarious!  Really, it took me like 20 minutes to decide you are not a Poe (I’m open to correction on this).

      Since you seem sincere, you failed to read Hemant’s post properly.  There is no plot to “buy out” christian signs.  Hemant’s point is that xtians counter advertising is helpful to atheists.  He’s right on that fwiw.

      Also (from your link):

      There is no such thing as a hateful Christian!  If this were only 500
      years ago, I would climb upon my steed and demand anyone who claimd so
      be drawn and quartered, then thrown into the town gallows so their
      bosom’s remains would stand as a festering warning of what happens if
      you dare disagree with my gentle and moral beliefs!

      Your lurid prose denies the first sentence.  Said differently, you seem damn hateful when you suggest death as the proper response to disagreement. 

  • Randy

    Instead of directing their attack just at atheists, they attacked everyone who isn’t them.  I wonder how well this would have been received if the billboard had said “We believe in Allah.   Join the right club.”

  • Keulan

    I am shocked, shocked I tell you to hear that there are people in Kentucky who believe in god! I mean, it’s not like they’re the majority or anything…


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X