Our harshness knows no bounds

Last week, the atheist movement kicked its assault on religion up to eleven.  Fuck it, we rolled up our sleeves and cranked it up to fucking twelve!!!

No introducing legislation dictating the private lives of those outside our in-group; no blaming natural disasters on our enemies.  Fuck that.  Those tactics are for snuggly, lesser wimps.  Our campaign used a terrible weapon: words.  Not just any words, the type of words that would send the most hardened man into a balled up fit of hysterics.  Our target?  A church right here in Columbus, OH – sitting by the road innocently, unaware that the gnu atheists were about to unveil our most heinous, offensive, religion-destroying message to date on a billboard right nearby.  Quiver and behold!!!!

Yes…I feel the evil flowing through my veins like godless ice.  I feel damned just glancing at the bright neon-green and the soft, rounded letters of this despicable eyesore.  The church, feeling the horror of such a wicked, wicked sentence, complained to the advertising company…who is now moving the billboard to another location.

The fuck?  The notion that someone can be good without god is a threat to a church?  I guess there’s nothing to do but start writing emails every time I see a religious billboard complaining that now I can’t use this road.  Who wants to bet that they’ll treat me the same way as the church?

This says a lot about religious people.  Note how we react to their billboards all over hell and creation, many of which make moral judgments on anybody not of their faith, and then note how they react to the rare billboard we put up displaying a completely innocuous (and observably true) message.  I can’t help but wonder if the Chris Stedmans of the world, the ones who would have us think twice before offending these people by being miffed and vocalizing it, read about this shit. I wonder how they see a faith to which the idea of non-believers being good is so abrasive that it must be censored, as being something we can work with toward realizing equality for atheists.

While the cuddly ones are leaving skid marks in their rush to assure these assholes that their beliefs are respectable just because, y’know, they’re held, I will be out speaking the damn truth in no uncertain terms: we are not merely good without god – we are better without god.  Our beliefs are based on better reasoning and more evidence.  We are good because virtue is its own reward, not because we fear punishment.  Our moral condemnations are generally based on what generates the most happiness or alleviates the most suffering, not on some arbitrary commands handed down to us by a people who were sexist, largely xenophobic, and ignorant of virtually everything mankind presently knows.  The idea that some ideas are sacred is one of the principal concepts in operation keeping us (and our children) from understanding the universe further and should be battled tooth and claw, not respected in the slightest.  In short, faith and religion are enemies of our effort to be better, and because I love humanity it would be immoral for me not to oppose them.

Can we put that on a billboard?  Might give them some damn perspective.

The plot thinnens.  Hemant did some digging into this.  The church says the billboard was put up on their property which, for one, doesn’t change much of anything about my post.  For another, it raises some interesting questions that Hemant hit on very well.

  • Does the church own this billboard space? If so, why was approval granted to put it up there in the first place?
  • Do checks for the billboard get made out to the church? If they were paid in full (as was the case here), are they returning the money?
  • Why was the church so offended by this billboard? If they dislike that it portrays atheism in a positive light, have they removed other billboards in the past?

This could get interesting.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://www.thegodvirus.net Darrel Ray

    Has anyone thought to write an open letter or a letter to the editor (from a local) thanking the church for demonstrating so clearly the intolerance of Christians for any message but their own? Maybe accompanied by photos of local church billboards.

  • http://www.hcco.org Sharon Moss

    The church owns the land where the billboard is, and rents it to the advertising company. They simply requested that it be moved, much as any of us would probably prefer not to have an advertisement for a church on land we owned. The billboard is being moved to a new site.

  • http://messiasnonest.wordpress.com/ Tony A.

    @Sharon Moss

    How does that change anything JT said?

  • http://www.twitter.com/jubydoo Andrew Juby

    The particular church has been found, and some exchange on their Facebook page has thickened the plot: http://friendlyatheist.com/2011/06/27/church-responds-to-columbus-billboard-removal/

  • Russell P

    I was not aware that the church could dictate what is on the sign after renting the space. Isn’t that a lot like renting a house to only whites?

  • http://hornyheathen.wordpress.com Mel

    Tony A, that doesn’t change anything JT has said. He’s right that it is silly and stupid for anyone to be offended by that billboard. My morality, empathy, compassion etc., should never be called into question merely because I don’t believe in the supernatural. Atheists are one of the least trusted groups in America (if not THE least trusted), and it is important for people to know that morality cannot be defined by who you do or do not worship.

    However, if the church owns that property and rents out the space to the advertising company then, as private property owners, they have every right to display or to not display a message that contradicts their own. Even if they’re intolerant and stupid, they can still control the content of that billboard. Were they even calling for a complete removal or just for it to be moved from their property?

    If I owned a billboard, I certainly wouldn’t want to rent it out to a church or someone who wishes to put a religious message on it. Even if the message was totally benign, I wouldn’t let it happen. Maybe that makes me intolerant. I don’t care. I can lose the money, they can advertise elsewhere.

    I’m curious to know if the church had any idea of the content that was going up. I’m also curious to know who picked out that particular billboard, and why? Were they paying attention or not? Very interesting story indeed.

  • Ed

    Why did they move it? If I was the one who rented the sign I’d be pissed and want my money back, go with a billboard company that aren’t pussies.