Last week, American Atheists launched a billboard in Salt Lake City, Utah to promote their upcoming convention. It featured West and Lennie Monnett along with their two sons and niece (of whom they’re guardians). The sign pointed out that they were not Mormons and not just “ex-Mormons” — they were atheists:
At the time, I wrote about the one concern I had with the sign:
The billboard could use a little more clarity since it’s unclear whether just the parents are Mormons-turned-atheists or if the kids, too, left the faith at some point as well. But, you know, it’s a road sign. Not a lot of room for nuance.
The Salt Lake Tribune thankfully settles that matter:
The three children were on board with the ad, Monnett says. He says people have accused him of brainwashing, but he allows them to draw their own conclusions.
“The lack of pushing a belief system is not pushing a belief system,” he says.
Okay, great. Controversy averted, right? Not quite. The Tribune also tries to stir up a little drama by going behind-the-scenes:
“We used to identify as being ex-Mormon, and we are atheists now,” says [West] the stay-at-home dad of he and his wife, Lennie, a finance director at HSBC. They are joined in the photo by their sons Tallen (10) and Bentley (13), and their niece, McKayla (16) — a former Mormon for whom they are temporary guardians.
McKayla’s mother, Melinda Dayley, says she’s “not very happy” that her daughter is in the shot. West is generally “a good guy,” she says, but what he and these atheist groups espouse can be “hurtful stuff.”
“I have friends that are atheists … but they’re not out there knocking our beliefs,” says Dayley, who lives in Syracuse and is an active member of the LDS Church. “West is the type that has to go out and prove a point. He’s always been that kind of person.”
This is the sort of bullshit that newspapers often print about atheists but wouldn’t dare print about anyone with religious faith.
What exactly do atheists espouse that’s “hurtful”? I’d love to know.
Where in the sign are the atheists “knocking” anyone’s beliefs? Nowhere.
What point are the Monnetts trying to prove other than “We exist”?
This is just ignorance at play. Dayley doesn’t understand atheists, so she assumes the worst about them. I have to ask whether the paper would have allowed someone to say the same things about Mormons when the LDS Church launched the “I’m a Mormon” campaign in 2011.