Advertising atheism

I have said this before: I am an atheist. I am an agnostic atheist.

Approximately 5% of Americans are atheist or agnostic atheist. I am part of that minority. And our numbers are growing every day.

Most atheists are good, decent, honest people. We obey the law, which includes paying our taxes, and we are moral people. We are moral without a god of any kind. Yes that is possible.

Many atheists come to atheism while they are teenagers. Many seem to think that atheism is just a rebellion period and that atheism is a sign of immaturity — “when they really grow up, they’ll see the light and come back to God and Jesus”. I hate to say this, but this is really the kindest thing that is also negative that I’ve seen said or written about atheists. Typically if a person will shed their faith and arrive at atheism, this happens before the age of 30, and typically occurs in high school or college.

And for many for whom atheism becomes their reality, it also becomes a dark secret that must be hidden from anyone and everyone they know. If their secret gets out or they dare confess to their parents…

As such they tend to turn to the Internet for support because they don’t know who in their local area they can contact. And on the Internet there is a wealth of information and support, forums and support groups that can be joined, and on the Internet you may find advertised an atheist organization in your area. I do not belong to any in Kansas City, nor do I feel I will ever join one.

But what if atheists try to advertise their organizations openly, say on a road or highway billboard like this one in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:


OKCCoR is the atheism group Oklahoma City Coalition of Reason. They leased the billboard with the above image in Oklahoma City. Similar billboards have been placed in other major metropolitan areas, such as Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Most of the billboards are being leased by member organizations of the United Coalition of Reason.

In Cincinnati, the billboard was taken down days after it was removed due to “multiple, significant threats” received by the landowner where the billboard was displayed and moved to a new location.1Cincinnati Coalition of Reason. (2009, November 12). “Cincinnati’s Godless Billboard Taken Down“. In response to this, Shawn Jeffers, the co-coordinator of the organization stated:

Everything that has happened shows just how vital our message is. It proves our point, that bigotry against people who don’t believe in a god is still very real in America. Only when we atheists, agnostics and humanists come together and go public about our views will people have a chance to learn that we too are part of the community and deserve respect.

In Moscow, Idaho, the American Humanist Organization erected a billboard that says “Millions are good without God”. The billboard was vandalized not once, but twice, first in October 2009, then again in November.2KHQ. (2009, November 4). “Atheist billboard vandalized a second time“. The first vandalism display removed the word “without”, and the second display showed “out” in “without” painted over. After the first vandalism, Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association responded:3KHQ. (2009, October 21). “North Idaho atheist billboard vandalized“.

I knew there would be some disagreement with the billboard’s slogan, but I do wish that those who objected would have opened a dialogue with us rather than trying to stifle our message and damaging property.

After the second vandalism, David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association responded:

The irony here is worth noting. Some individuals are committing criminal acts while apparently claiming that their religious view of the world leads to good behavior. It’s not a very convincing argument on their part.

This is not just vandalism, it is religiously motivated vandalism which attempts to silence a minority viewpoint. Everyone, not just humanists, should be concerned about such acts.

The North Carolina Secular Association erected a billboard along Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte, North Carolina. It said simply “One Nation, Indivisible”, borrowing on the original words of the Pledge of Allegiance. That billboard was vandalized to add the words “Under God”.4Funk, Tim. (2010, June 29.) “Atheist group’s billboard vandalized“. Charlotte Observer. In response to the vandalism, Chrissy Satterfield of WorldNetDaily said, “Never would I encourage vandalism, but in this case I think I’ll let it slide.”5Satterfield, Chrissy. (2010, July 7). “My kind of vandals“. WorldNetDaily. She added, “Atheists have been vandalizing my beliefs for years, so it’s about time the shoe was on the other foot.”

Other atheist billboards:

  • St. Augustine, Florida: vandalized.6First Coast News. (2010, April 14). “‘Godless’ billboard damaged“. The St. Augustine Record.
  • Sacramento, California: vandalized.7Phelps, Tucker. (2010, February 16). “Atheist billboards put up in Sacramento, quickly defaced“. Oakland Skepticism Examiner.
  • Watertown, Wisconsin: vandalized.8Hesselberg, George. (2010, August 30). “Vandals target anti-religion billboard near Watertown“. Wisconsin State Journal.
  • Rancho Cucamonga, California: taken down following string of at least 90 complaints to the city.9Olson, David. (2008, November 28). “Billboard promoting atheism will be removed“. The Press-Enterprise.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida: demands lodged for it to be removed because it’s “offensive”.10Residents want sign promoting atheism removed“. July 2, 2009. WSVN-TV.
  • Grand Junction, Colorado: vandalized to change text from “Keep religion out of government” to “Keep fags out of government”.11Hoaks, Trina. (2009, October 28). “Another atheist billboard vandalized – FFRF calls it a hate crime“. Atheism Examiner.
  • Boston subway: vandalized.12Florien, Daniel. (2009, November 23). “40 Million Americans… Going to Hell?” in the blog Unreasonable Faith.

Do you see the pattern? Billboards erected by atheist and secular organizations are defaced, complaints are lodged to have them taken down, or threats are made so they get taken down.

Let me ask this question that has been asked by others in various forums: what if atheists defaced a Christian billboard? Imagine the outcry that would result.

Yet when Christians deface an atheist billboard, it’s supported and applauded nationwide. In other words, the people who allege themselves to be morally superior because they have God are breaking local laws and ordinances by defacing property, an act that is inherently immoral. I share David Niose’s observation, the irony is certainly worth noting.

This is especially disturbing given the anti-atheism billboards that have been going up around the country. For example, the Reverend E. F. Briggs of Monongah, WV, erected this billboard:

And then there’s this one by an organization called In God We Trust:

Read around my blog and you’ll see just how much I “hate” America. Answer: not at all. And it seems that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have entered the billboard campaign arena as well with this beauty:

To clarify this billboard, setting aside for a moment that creationists believe that everything came from nothing, albeit with God’s assistance, atheists don’t believe “nothing made everything”. Instead we believe that the current state of the universe is the result of numerous natural processes. If you go to the website advertised, you’ll see banners similar to this billboard.

Or how about this lovely one by the creationist organization Answers in Genesis:

To answer your question, yes that is a picture of the business end of a handgun on a billboard by a Christian organization regarding atheism, basically saying that because we are atheists, we are inherently immoral and will kill at a moment’s notice, probably without provocation. This message can be clearly seen in this advertising spot created by the same organization:

So now all atheists are potential serial killers? Bullshit. I’m not even going to bother quoting crime statistics, but let’s just say the crime rate among atheists is lower than that among theists. Don’t believe me? Google it.

The Dangerous Talk blog has pictures of both atheist and Christian billboards, so you can make the comparison for yourself as to which group is more hostile and offensive.13Billboard Wars” in the Dangerous Talk blog.

* * * * *