Godless Billboards Go Up in Poland, a Country That is Predominantly Catholic

In a country where more than 90% of the population is Catholic — Pope John Paul II was born there — it’s a big deal when an atheist group puts up a billboard.

Forget one billboard, though. The Polish Association of Rationalists and a few other groups have put up two.

The first one features three boxes, each of which is checked off. They translate to “Do Not Kill,” “Do Not Steal,” and — the kicker — “Do Not Believe”:

The second pays homage to an American design used by the United Coalition of Reason and says, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

“In a country considered to be Catholic, it’s very hard to be an atheist,” said Jacek Tabisz, president of the Polish Association of Rationalists, one of the organisations responsible for the boards. “Contrary to popular belief, however, there are many of us although not all of us have let our beliefs be known.

“The billboard action is not aimed at believers,” he added. “It is to show people that in a country where the stereotypical Pole is a Catholic there is a large group of atheists.”

Despite the natural opposition to the idea that you can be good without God, there’s been no vandalism to either of the billboards… yet.

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.

  • cxmiller10

    I have a lot of respect for Polish Catholics, since their faith has helped unite Poland throughout its tragic history. That said, it’s good that Poland is allowing other voices to be heard.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    As an ex-Catholic, with a grandfather who immigrated to the US from Poland, I know this is some big shit right here.   I wish the best of luck to the Polish groups putting up these billboards. 

  • Gg

    One of the few statements I recall from the is ‘not everyone who call me lord will enter the gates of heaven’. Statistics mean little. There is no need to vandalize. Someone just have to put a sign under the atheist one to say, ‘Yea, you are not alone. The devil is with you’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Irvine/506893850 Andrew Irvine

    Same here, except with UK instead of US. My wife is Polish and I have her Polish brother-in-law on Facebook; he is a constant source of entertainment, he’s like my own personal Bill O’Reilly.

  • PolishAtheist

    I’m Polish and I can confirm that there has been vandalism already. One of the billboards was teared a bit so it looked like “Don’t you belive in God ? You are not” in a meaning ‘You don’t exist’. By the way this billboards are first atheist billboards ever put in Poland and it is big deal over here. Churches and fundies going crazy even though there already have been catholic posters like “Saint Mary pray for us. We are dying”

  • Pepe

     St Mary, pray for us. In the meanwhile, we’re just gonna tear up the billboards because god takes time to do something all by himself.

  • Pepe

    “Personal Bill O’Reilly”. Haha!

  • DB

    Slight correction on the translation – it should be “I do not kill”, “I do not steal”, and “I do not believe”. The “I” is understood, like the “you” in “do not kill” in English. In Polish, the conjugation of the verb tells you the target.

  • Tom_Nightingale

    Growing up Polish, you are all too aware of that tragic history.  But it was my own tragedies that helped me shed my practice of religion and belief in god.  Being as religious as the nation is, I think Poles are more ready then most to decide that belief in god is a betrayal to one’s self.  They have been one of the most betrayed people in modern history.

  • Tom_Nightingale

    Yes, this makes it much more effective message to an English speaker. “I” dont do bad things AND “I” don’t beleve

  • JohnnieCanuck

    I agree. That is significantly better. I’d like to see an homage to the Polish message on billboards in English speaking countries. It bears repeating.

    I do not kill. I do not steal. I do not believe.

  • SomeGuy

    Did Friendly Atheist ever cover Adam “Nergal” Darski’s trials? He’s the vocalist and one of the guitarists of the death metal band Behemoth; he ripped a Bible onstage and now he’s being prosecuted because of it, during the first trial the charges were dropped or something, but now he’s being tried once more. Here: http://www.metalsucks.net/2012/10/30/nergal-suffers-a-setback/.

  • Speacetronic

     Sorry for my English but I use google translator.
    I am a Pole and write like here.
    In Poland there is no 90% of Catholics, the church comes about 35% of the population, or as many votes for PISAtheists are treated as inferior by the rules. You’re not a Catholic-you are not a Pole. I say otherwise, przymależność national and religious are two different Polish clergy has too many advantages, also has a big say in politics. The government is unable to move the church from the government, afraid of worsening relations with the church.The ideology of the political party PIS based on the Catholic faith, speak the language of hatred and hostility toward our neighbors, primarily Russia and Germany.Poland as a living history and a realistic outlook message.And the truth is that the church has on its hands of more blood than many other criminals.I am a Polish citizen I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the fact that in Poland instead of state symbols, crosses hungChildren in schools, those who do not attend the religions are Pointing fingers as inferior.To sum up the church in Poland does more harm than good.For me the example of a country free from religion are, the Czech Republic where 70% of atheists. Beautiful country.

  • Liberal

    We have a twenty-first century. 
    For not knowing the Polish language, members of the Polish parliament prayed to the Lord for rain. I do not know, laugh?, Cry?

  • Hammerton

    There is no tolerance in Poland for other religion. Catholic symbols are everywhere. If other religion or atheists wanna say something then it is problem. The big intolerance. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sylkis Kuba Vel Sylkis

    One _very_ important correction.

    The poster does NOT say “Do not …”, but “I do not …” !

    It makes a huge difference, because that way you could translate it as well as “Thou shalt not believe” – quite cocky, innit? Sounds like some kind of an atheist crusade. But this is not the case!

    It is a common atheist declaration, that _I_ do not do those bad things, yet at the same time _I_ am not religious at all. It says “Look! I’m an atheist and I’m still a moral/ethical person!” because actually this is an answer to the common stereotype, that atheists are immoral. I mean, a lot of people around here think that if you do not believe in any kind of religion, then you can’t be trusted, etc. as no moral/ethical rules are imposed on you, that you are not restrained by anything – cause why bother when there is no hell or something? Well, obviously that belief that without religion you have no moral/ethical framework to follow is a terrible misconception that I hope I don’t have to explain it.

    Anyway, dropping those “I”s in the translation completely changed the sound of the campaign, made it look like something provocative, aggressive – while it is not at all that way! So please, I would really appreciate it if you fixed this error.

  • milusia

     Exactly, the proper translation is quite important in this case, as the Catholic Church in Poland insists that the billboards “promote atheism” (sic), which is really not the case and they should not be read that way. If anything, the purpose of the campaign is to promote tolerance and make people understand that morality is not exclusive for the believers.

  • pagansister

     Thank you for your post above.  You did a very good job with your explanation of how things are in your country and how woven into the government the Church is.  

  • pagansister

    This might have JPII turning over in his fancy grave!  

  • Busybee

    So, in the name of God, you and other catholics will destroy what you don’t tolerate. You must forgot, soicjalism in Poland is gone, and the freedom of speech and expression is equally to ALL! 
    Finally, after so many years of repressing such freedom everybody has right to his/her opinions and believes. You and your camrades shows, typical for catolics, violent behavior, lack of tolerance and knowledge of Ten Commandments.
    What a bigotery!