An Editorial Cartoonist’s Response to an Atheist Billboard

Last week, the San Diego Coalition of Reason unveiled their latest billboard — and a few years earlier, they had one with this design:

San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial cartoonist Steve Breen, in response to that old design, doesn’t seem to be a fan:

Hmph. Even God is a billboard vandal.

(For what it’s worth, the billboard’s message didn’t really require a response in the first place since it wasn’t asking for a debate. It was just a callout to the closeted atheists in the area.)

(Thanks to @SailorDad for the link!)

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.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Giant invisible hands floating in the sky?

    Clearly some cartoonists don’t manage to keep a close relationship with reality.

    • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

      Isn’t the giant floating hand in cartoons a usual stand-in for the cartoonist? That makes this appear even less original.

      This however showcases the kind of thinking of some theists. They wish something like this would happen, all the while ignoring the fact that it never does.

      • allein

        Well, I suppose in his view, God is the ultimate cartoonist.

  • lady_giggs

    The cartoonist depicts a god that will manifest to change a billboard but not to address suffering, starvation etc Sounds about right…

    • jackietrinity

      I was thinking this exact same thing!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Buchy/542338898 James Buchy

        God’s on a budget these days, don’t ya know. Ink is much cheaper than food and clothing.

    • trj

      Nah, changing a billboard would mean god would have to actually change things in a physical way. We all know he only works in non-physical, invisible, immeasurable ways, ’cause he doesn’t want to mess up our free will and all.

  • joan1985

    The message of the political cartoon doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the complete lack of creativity does.

    I mean, god telling the athiests they’re wrong? Or saying that the acts of vandilism were directed by god? How is that clever in any way?

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

      this is a believer you’re talking about. expecting them to be “clever” is like expecting god to actually deface a billboard.

  • bernardaB

    Being from San Diego, I can tell you that the San Diego Union-Tribune is owned by a hard right wing business man, Doug Manchester. He uses it as a sort of Fux News in print, a propaganda rag for Republican politicians. He hopes to get a Republican mayor and council majority to further his plan to steal public land and get a subsidies for his projected developments, particularly on the harbor front where there is now active port activities.

    He has also stated that he wants his paper to print more “good news”–except when it concerns Democrats of course. For crazy comments, look at its own editorialists, guest ones and the letters to the editor. For opposition see The OB Rag http://obrag.org/ and The San Diego Free Press http://sandiegofreepress.org/

  • coyotenose

    Man, look at that vandalism font. God is apparently a pretentious ass who works ostentatiously at his laptop in coffee shops. Also he has worse graphic design taste than even ATHEISTS. I find my lack of faith shaken, not stirred.

    • Achron Timeless

      Well, at least it wasn’t papyrus, but I think this is probably the only time in human history when comic sans would’ve been a more appropriate choice.

      • coyotenose

        Oh god no, I have a sprained back, laughing hurts so damn much!

      • OregoniAn

        …or “hobo”. =)

    • Boston Atheist

      There is so much to say about that font. I was thinking it’s from an illuminated manuscript – because we know that 13th century monks had the last word on religion

      What was that about working at coffee shops being “pretentious” and “ostentatious?” That’s a weird impression of, what, people with laptops? Anyway, you’d think a god would have a pretty nice home office with fast wifi, not to mention minions to do all the typing.

      • coyotenose

        There is a class of people who write and work, or pretend to write or work, at coffee shops in order to be seen writing and working at coffee shops. They are certainly not ALL the people who take their laptops to coffee shops. But this cartoonist’s choices make me think of that type..

        • Wild Rumpus

          Awwww… explaining it ruins the joke :(. Then again, maybe Boston doesn’t have hipsters and Starbucks… idk…

      • allein

        Would God’s minions be better or worse than Gru’s?
        (Despicable Me was on last night.)

  • newavocation

    As the Dude would say, got to feed the monkey.

  • northierthanthou.com

    I wonder if the cartoonist or his editors would have found it necessary, or even acceptable to post such conclusionary responses to sundry religious billboards?

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

      Yes, imagine a mainstream newspaper doing a parody of a “Jesus loves you” billboard by crossing out “loves you” and making it all say “Jesus is a myth”.

      Would the editorial board have the same “lol, let’s run that one!” response, or do they reserve that for mocking minority viewpoints?

      • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

        It’s not even all minority viewpoints. Can you imagine the furor if the cartoonist for a mainstream newspaper “corrected” a Hindu or Muslim billboard? He’d be fired, I’m sure. Yet he can do this to atheists without experiencing any repercussions.

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

          Excellent point!

        • Sick and tired

          The huge difference being that atheists aren’t going to be nearly as offended as the religious would be, because we own the critical thinking skills that led us to atheism to begin with. I just find the cartoon really stupid, and indicative of the reason the bilboard exists in the first place.

          • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

            Maybe, but I think even if we were offended en masse, they still wouldn’t care. It’s part of the double standard surrounding religion. You’re supposed to be all nicey-nice and PC to members of minority religions, but atheists are fair game.

  • NixManes

    While the god figure was taking the time, why not add the name or the the web site of the One True Religion! We’re still left to guess! Damn, this god is an ambiguous twit.

  • Good and Godless

    An omniscient god would prevent the sign from being written rather than correct it. The old testament god would have just flooded the whole world.

    Pretty much admitting their god is not real.

    • meekinheritance

      If only omnipotence were in the package…

  • http://twitter.com/Ro542124 Gideon

    There is a biblical precedent: Daniel 5, according to a quick Web search. But unfortunately it raises the obvious follow-up question of why the ghost-writer has been so quiet since then. Clearly it really cares more about the administration of the Persian empire than alleged “Christian nations”.

  • observer

    “It was just a callout to the closeted atheists in the area.”

    At risk of sounding rough, I think people like Steve would prefer those atheists would stay in their closets, lock the doors and throw away the keys.

  • DougI

    Just a long tradition on the part of Christians to edit the secular and Pagan to make them more Christian friendly. Kinda like the days when they used to change solstice celebrations into Christian holidays, or edit Pledges or works of authors like Josephus.

  • JD929

    God writes in a gothic font. Who knew?

    The cartoon is a bit silly. If a giant ghostly hand came out after a billboard was posted, that would be pretty interesting. It would most likely be a hoax though.

  • C Peterson

    I see lame responses like this as an indicator of religionists running scared. If they were actually confident in their beliefs, they’d just ignore the billboards. But they see which way the winds are blowing, and they know- unconsciously perhaps- that their own beliefs have some serious holes in them.

    • meekinheritance

      I understand what you’re saying, but I think “they” would say that the original billboard is a “lame response” and an indicator of “atheists running scared”.
      My point is that while you are probably correct, the end effect is neutral.

      • C Peterson

        But their logic would be poor. The sign isn’t a response to anything, but a show of support for people who don’t believe in gods. The editorial cartoon is a response to the signs.

        I don’t really care if there is some “neutral effect”. The reality is, atheism is on the offense with its messages, and religion is frequently on the defense with their responses. I don’t think that most atheists feel under attack by religion in quite the same way that religionists feel threatened by the societal shifts that are currently underway.

        • meekinheritance

          Again, I understand what you’re saying, but you contradict yourself when you say you don’t care if there is a neutral effect, and then say atheism is on the offense and religion on the defense. It’s like saying you don’t care if water tastes like nothing, but bottled water is popular and tap water is not so popular.
          I’m really not trolling. I’m just saying that as valid as your comment is (and I really do agree with you), it doesn’t help make any real progress..

          • C Peterson

            I think you’re missing my point, though. I’m not defending anything that either side is saying, nor arguing against anything. Nor am I trying to create any “progress”. It was just an observation about what I see as the underlying motive in the creation of the cartoon. I don’t really care if any religionists agree, or even if they are aware of my viewpoint.

      • Sick and tired

        Atheists ARE scared. We are watching are secular lives being intruded upon more and more every day by religion we don’t buy in to. Getting others that don’t believe to realize that they are not alone and that its OK to speak up against religious oppression (yeah it goes both ways, you can be oppressed BY a religion too).

        • C Peterson

          I don’t see atheists as scared at all. Atheism is rapidly growing in social acceptability. Virtually all religion is on the decline. We see a massive trend among young people away from religion, with the hope that a large part of the next generation will be raised with no religion at all. We see religionists running scared- making outlandish claims of victimization, trying to pass laws that will never stand, and failing completely in their efforts to tarnish atheism.

          Atheists are angry at the effort being made by some Christians to reduce secularization in government, but we also see these efforts failing. And for the first time, we are developing the political clout to accelerate that failure. No, it is the religionists who are scared, not the atheists.

  • Matto the Hun

    It’s always fun to see the Christian butthurt whenever they have to face the slightest little thing that shows not every little thing is dictated by their precious faith.

    Christian billboards, churches with their weekly messages out front, etc are all over the place. Many times the message is something along the lines of “you aren’t moral if you aren’t in our special group” I can even recall one billboard that depicted Jesus with explosions and all four branches of the military behind him. I’m certain there are plenty of Christians who don’t jive with that message.

    Yet where are the responses to all these Christian messages… oh right, there aren’t any. But when an atheist speaks up, Whoa! Look out! When need to have something to say about that! Let’s make a cartoon making it clear how wrong we believe they are because that message is no where in the public discourse!

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    and as soon as the hand of god does that, I’ll believe.

    • Wild Rumpus

      Exactly my thought. If a god wants to convert me, that’s all it has to do – write on a billboard. C’mon, create the world in seven days, no problem. Mass genocide by drowning, no problem,. Surely writing on a billboard would be an easy trick for an omnipotent being.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Well, not one billboard. But every billboard in the world, in their native language, that might do it.

        • WillBell

          Well if a large hand of god comes down from the heavens in front of several witnesses of varying faiths I would be inclined to change my views on religion.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Would it matter if David Copperfield was in town?

            • WillBell

              Actually probably, yes.

    • TicklishMeerkat

      I would be inclined to believe too, but that would never mean I’d worship. It takes a pretty dickish sort of god to vandalize a billboard but leave people starving and in pain all over the world.

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

      I would suspect David Blaine or Darren Brown, or some other human illusionist.

  • Cortex_Returns

    I wish they’d at least try to be clever.

  • aoscott

    Clever!

  • http://vinimarques.com/ Vini Marques

    So this cartoonist is about as creative as every other atheist billboard vandal? Not impressed.

  • sam

    Funny how god only shows up in cartoons…

  • Tom

    The cartoonist would have a point, if only what he depicted weren’t something that NEVER HAPPENS.

    • Edmond

      My thought too. Gee, thanks, God, for FINALLY weighing in on this, and for correcting those mistaken people. But where’ve you BEEN for 2000 years?

    • baal

      The day that it can be conclusively proven that god defaces billboards
      (complete with strike through and new text, not just a hurricane or
      other weather event) and not one of its followers, I’ll join a church.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Don’t stand there gawping like you’ve never seen the Hand of God before!

    • BrowncoatVoter

      Did that hand come out of the Pacific? And when did he wake up?

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I might be in the minority with this, but I think believing (or not believing) can’t be a mistake. Of course, a belief can be expressed in a statement about something, and that statement can be wrong.

  • Jan Kafka

    Shouldn’t God’s ‘correction’ be on stone tablets? Or at least appear as multiple contradictory statements?

  • Sick and tired

    No surprise, the UT is the Fox News of Print media these days.


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