Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"There are at least two atheists in the world" is now considered an "in-your-face offensive" statement

The Arizona Coalition of Reason has put up what ought to be the least controversial of the various atheist billboards, because all it says is, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." In other words, it is asserting that at least two atheists in the world exist.

Somehow, asserting this fact in public is construed by some bigoted fuckheads as being somehow "offensive":

Phoenix resident Irving Faulkner says his first thought when he saw the billboard is that it’s in your face offensive.

Ophelia Ortiz had a similar reaction.

“I think it’s wrong, because why not believe in God? Everybody has their own beliefs,” said Ortiz.

ARGH! Ms. Ortiz, the billboard does not fucking say that you shouldn't believe in God. In fact, it says exactly what you said, that "everybody has their own beliefs," but those nasty atheists had the audacity to also go and suggest that maybe their beliefs... exist? What??

The other two common atheist advertisements read, "You can be good without God," and the original UK one, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." I can actually understand why someone might find the latter offensive.

First of all, it makes a direct theological assertion: "There's probably no God." In a perfect world, I'd actually rather prefer that billboards and bus advertisements didn't make assertions such as these, because, well, all other things being equal, talking about religion is kindof retarded. That includes discussing or promoting atheism -- in a perfect world. If theists would just STFU and stop trying to push their delusions on other people or influence the political process to conform to
If you find this offensive, okay, I guess I can understand that.
their arbitary dogmas, and if theistic beliefs that condoned violence and torture and hatred in the name of God were rare or nonexistent, in that alternate reality, this entire blog would seem rather silly, wouldn't it? Dawkins' The God Delusion would be nothing but a lot of hot air, rather akin to writing an entire book about why you didn't care for the taste of olives. But that's not the world we live in, is it?

The problem is that similar religious messages -- which I do believe are offensive -- are tolerated all the time. As long as it's okay to put up a billboard that says "Jesus saves!", then it ought to be just as okay to put up a billboard that says "Jesus doesn't save!" On a side note, those cities who have declined atheist bus ads because they don't allow religious advertising of any type, I'm down with that. As long as you can't shove Jesus down my throat, I don't need to shove my atheism down yours.

If you find this offensive, then you are a bigot.
Secondly, the original billboard implicitly suggests that one major result of a belief in God is to make people worry and prevent them from enjoying life. I think this is true for a lot of people, and I am totally on board with the billboard because IMO the target audience is people who are already pretty sure there is no God but still worry about it. But I can understand a happy care-free theist (and yes, they do exist, obviously) being a bit resentful of that implication.

Now, the "You can be good without God" ad makes no such generalizations, and if you have a problem with it, then you are automatically a bigot, because you are saying all
But if you find this offensive, then you are completely insane!
nontheists are bad. However, it does actually make a statement that some people (i.e. bigots) might disagree with. So while it ought not to be controversial, I am not terribly surprised that it is.

But the "You are not alone" billboards? What? So what is the problem here? Is it that these people think there really are only zero or one atheists in the entire world? (I guess that one guy has been putting up a lot of billboards) Or is it that even just mentioning the existence of atheism is taboo? I admit, I am a little surprised people could call the billboards "offensive" with a straight face. Sure, I could imagine stupid assholes saying things like, "That kind of message is not what we need in our community" and "It makes me sad that some people reject Jesus." But to say that the billboard itself is offensive? WTF?!?


  1. If you look really closely that cloud is giving the middle finger... DAMN ATHEISTS!!!

  2. I agree with absolutely everything you've just said.

  3. The Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry put up the "you are not alone" billboard in Charleston, SC, earlier this year. People wrote all sorts of outraged letters to the editor, and sure enough it was called offensive and even mean. I don't understand it. My best guess is that any suggestion that it might be "okay" not to believe in god is perceived as a challenge of some sort.

    I comfort myself by remembering that if I understood why the believers were so offended, I'd probably be one of them.

    (I'm a member of the SHL board, by the way, but I wasn't when we ran the billboard.)

  4. I've been asked not to mention my atheism, at all, in the home of a certain relative. Said relative apparently finds the subject offensive. So, yeah, even our existence is insulting to some folks. Poor ignorant creatures.

  5. I suppose I can understand how it would be offensive to someone if their relative was an atheist. Heh, I mean, while I don't feel compelled to say anything about it, I really don't care for it when my parents talk about their church activities... and they are NOT trying to get me interested, they know better than that, because I respond quickly, aggressively, and consistently when they do so, because I think it's disrespectful of me.

    No, even them talking about, "Well, we had the missionaries over for supper this evening" and such, I mean, it shouldn't bother me, but it does anyway on a visceral level. So I can kinda understand that...

    However, it totally sucks that it's like that :( Sorry, man.

  6. I'd prefer to see billboards of Hamm Riding the Dinosaur vs. Myers Riding the Squid. Humor is the best medicine. Humor, and maybe chemotherapy.

  7. Very dangerous stuff, this "you are not alone" business. Keeps people off buses and everything:

  8. "There are at least two atheists in the world" is now considered an "in-your-face offensive" statement

    For the religious, the existence of a single atheist is considered threatening. Not the atheist him/herself, but the mere knowledge of the possibility of atheism is threatening to their own faith or else to the faith of other "weaker" people. The religious don't have much confidence in their own faith.

    I remember reading something (sorry, no reference) about some public meeting where an atheist tried to speak up and was told he/she shouldn't be allowed to speak because, what if the children found out there was such a thing as atheists!?!?!

  9. @Matt: OMG I am so pissed. The Des Moines one actually had a tiny bit of meaning for me, because I have a friend who is originally from there (okay, I've never been there or ever met his parents who still live there, but still!) That's such crap.

    @Margaret: Woah... priceless. Although, I suppose it goes right along with the whole "protect the children from thought crimes" thing. One of the anti-gay marriage ads includes the line, "If gay people are allowed to get married, our children will be taught a new way of thinking." Heh, I agree, and think that is awesome! The best thing I could hope for my son is that he continues to be exposed to new ways of thinking throughout his entire life.