Atheist Group Uses Fake Quote on Billboard

Atheist Group Uses Fake Quote on Billboard November 1, 2011

Color me irritated. Having spent a great deal of time debunking all the fake quotes from the founding fathers used by Christian Nation apologists, I find it highly annoying to find an atheist group doing the very same thing in a billboard. The Huffington Post reports:

A billboard in Costa Mesa, Calif., is getting some attention, but it’s certainly not the kind its sponsors were hoping for.

The sign, paid for by atheist group Backyard Skeptics, includes a quote about Christianity attributed to Thomas Jefferson. But further research reveals there’s no solid evidence that Jefferson ever uttered or wrote the words, the Orange County Register first reported.

The billboard includes a picture of Jefferson with the quote: “I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology.”

Experts at the Jefferson Library Collection at Monticello are constantly asked about the quote, theOrange County Register reports. Some say the former president wrote the words in a letter to a Dr. Wood, but officials cannot find trace of any correspondence to a person by that name.

Bruce Gleason, a member of the group, told the Orange County Register that he should have done a bit more research before putting the words on the sign. The billboard was unveiled on Wednesday, the newspaper reports. Gleason explained that purpose of this sign and others around the city was to “expunge the myth that this is a Christian nation,” as well as to “share the idea that you can be good and do good without a religion or god.”

At least he owned up to it rather than doing what David Barton and Ellis Washington have done when caught passing on fake quotes, claim that they at least thought it even if they didn’t say it. But this kind of thing really has to stop. If we are going to criticize the other side for doing this, we must avoid doing it ourselves.

And yes, there really are atheists who behave exactly the same way Barton does, and worse. On Facebook about a year ago, a guy named John Stone posted a quote from John Adams saying, “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.” I left a comment informing him that, in context, Adams was actually saying the exact opposite:

Oi. No, that is a highly inaccurate quote, completely out of context. It’s as dishonest an out of context quote as the ones the religious right uses all the time from the founding fathers. He actually says exactly the opposite if you include the next sentence. This is from an 1817 letter to Jefferson. This is the full quote:

“Twenty times, in the course of my late Reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, This would be the best of all possible Worlds, if there were no Religion in it.! But in this exclamation I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.”

And he let loose with a torrent of childish abuse that missed the point entirely:

@Ed Brayton the meaning of the quote doesn’t change, what you have provided shows that it affords the opportunity to introduce the concept of xian hell. Contrary to your assertion, that portion is NOT dishonest at all. It is Adam’s words …and does NOT say the opposite. You have not read what it actually says.

BTW Ed, you have confirmed the quote was accurate. Thanks and I appreciate the additional quote. Adams is saying, without xianity there is no hell — something not to discuss — at that time in history — in polite company.

Ed, the meaning of the quote doesn’t change, what you have provided shows that it affords the opportunity to introduce the concept of xian hell.

@Ed Brayton, Let me put Adams in more context:

“The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?” ~John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815

‎@Ed Brayton, Let me put Adams in more context:

“The frightful engines of ecclesiastical councils, of diabolical malice, and Calvinistical good-nature never failed to terrify me exceedingly whenever I thought of preaching.” ~John Adams, letter to his brother-in-law, Richard Cranch, October 18, 1756, explaining why he rejected the ministry

@Ed Brayton, Let me put Adams in more context:

“God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.” ~John Adams, “this awful blashpemy” that he refers to is the myth of the Incarnation of Christ, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

@Ed Brayton, so Ed, now you know what Adams meant! It is not what you wanted, but — as you said — the opposite.

Don’t fuck with me Ed. You are not smart enough!

This is absolutely the last thing we need in the skeptical community. Accuracy matters.

Browse Our Archives