Are These Atheist Bus Ads Offensive, too? August 25, 2009

Are These Atheist Bus Ads Offensive, too?

There have been plenty of people in the news throwing hissy fits after seeing atheist bus ads like this one:


Most recently, Iowan Angela Shiel was suspended from her job because refused to drive a bus with those ads on the side (she’s back to work now).

Reader Peter wonders if other ads would evoke the same type of emotion. He made a couple of his own:



Yep. I’m offended. Can’t do my job anymore…

Of course, there’s no reason to treat Peter’s ads any differently from the first one. You have to wonder why the questions on them even have to be raised in the first place when they’re all equally ridiculous.

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  • Matto the Hun

    Maybe the Atheist Bus Campaign should run those.

    We all know that those particular theists who crap their pants over the actual add will likely have no problems with ones that involve Thor or Poseidon.

    It would show how full of it they are… that you can never, ever question their deity but they are perfectly fine doing so to other deities.

    It would also be a back handed way of showing that we have some common ground with them (little as that might be).

    Then again they may see the “A” word and loose their crap anyway.

  • Sibs

    The people who are offended with these ads are the ones that have issues with their own faith.

  • Yeah, I actually think it might seen as more offensive… I see these as more sarcastic since no substantial number of people alive today believe in these gods. The original seemed totally simple and honest to me. So I would expect the sarcastic one to be more offensive. But, since I’m totally amazed that anyone could be offended by the original, I’m probably not a very good judge.

    Now, if they said “Don’t believe in Allah?” the Christians would not be offended. But offended Muslims are likely just as bad, just less plentiful in the US.

  • Equally “Santa” or “the Tooth Fairy” would fit…or “Imaginary Friends”. That might upset some people though if they made a connection between the ads.

    🙂 They should so put these ads up.

  • sc0tt

    How about “Don’t believe in Allah ?”

    That would make for some interesting rants.

  • dave

    What about if it said:

    “Don’t believe in the Holocaust?
    You are not alone.

    The Ku Klux Klan of Iowa”

    Would it be equally irrational for the bus driver to refuse to drive the bus?

  • Danny the Infidel

    Last time a bus-driver got suspended here (in Sweden) was because hi had a skirt on instead of uniform pants.

  • I just can’t figure out the offense here. These ads are the equivalent of an ad that says, “Do you have Multiple Sclerosis? You are not alone.”

    It’s just an offer of support to people who don’t believe, not a reason to not believe.

  • Hmmm. I’m not convinced either that the original add isn’t offensive, or that the suggested alternatives would not be too.

    For one thing, surely to some large extent offensiveness is in the eye of the offended? It seems wrong to me to state unequivocally that these people simply “aren’t allowed” to find the atheist adds offensive. Why can’t they? Is the claim here that the ads are objectively not offensive? That seems too strong.

    As David said, above, the alternatives could easily offend because they are so obviously sarcastic and imply a relationship between the Christian God and other, ‘extinct’ Gods. In this case the simple demonstration of lightheartedness and whimsy about something they take very seriously is what will upset people.

    Personally, I think it’s a shame that the various believers find the ads quite so offensive, but they do. And that’s their right. That’s life, right?

  • Rob

    I think the ads would be better if it said:

    Don’t believe in a God?
    Your not alone…

  • Richard P

    Really, if you think about it it only makes sense that they are all upset and in an uproar.
    These religious followers live such bored and empty lives trapped it there mental cages of limitations and empty beliefs. It is no wonder they need to attack everything that threatens those walls. it is the only stimulation their god allows.

    There god has given them the ability to think, to learn, and to grow, But then their god condemns them for doing it.

    It is the same thing as a parent teaching a child to walk and talk, then telling him to sit down and shut up. They will need to do something to entertain themselves, it’s in their nature.

  • I agree with Rob. I think it should say “a God”. By just saying ‘God’ most Judeo-Christians will think it is just aimed at them. When in fact we are trying to say that atheists don’t believe in any supernatural entities. Not just “Your” God.

  • Sackbut

    It was pointed out in another set of comments that people would be offended if the ads asked things like “Don’t believe the Holocaust happened?” or “Don’t believe in a woman’s right to vote?” or “Prefer same-sex relationships?” or some such. I think what causes offense in the actual ad is that some people are offended by the very existence of atheists. To them, it’s standing up and being proud of something they consider disgusting and immoral. It’s not, in their view, simply a matter of religious difference; it’s a rejection of religion outright, and that is heinous.

    For this very reason, I think it’s highly important that these ads get out there. People with attitudes like that should be offended. Offend them frequently, offend them intensely. These people’s attitudes are the reason so many atheists are in the closet. They need to know atheists exist, atheists are plentiful, atheists have rights.

  • Run these ads!

  • I approve of the change to the Impact font.

  • TJ

    Now, if they said “Don’t believe in Allah?” the Christians would not be offended. But offended Muslims are likely just as bad, just less plentiful in the US.

    They’d be blowing up buses.

  • bigjohn756

    Hey! What’s wrong with believing in Poseidon? I’m sure that there must be many more than just me who would be offended by that sign. Furthermore, The Trident should be displayed on the sign to show respect for us true believers.

  • Here’s a subtle change in the ad I’d like to see.

    Don’t believe in gods?
    You are not alone.

    By changing the G to a g and pluralizing it, we’ve completely change the entire message, yet it’s still accurate.

  • Hazor

    @Robert Madewell:
    Some Christians would still find offense in it, I’m certain.

    But I am very curious to see what kind of reaction would be garnered by, “Don’t believe in Thor?”

  • Miko

    They’d be more offended, since then we’d be comparing something (in their minds) worthy of lifelong devotion to something which is clearly false.

  • thilina

    I think you severally underestimate the religious ability to be offended.

    Having the word atheist on a billboard is offensive to them. As far as using the Thor and Poseidon billboards in the hope of showing them the hypocrisy of being offended by “don’t believe in god?”…. don’t hold your breath.

  • Heidi

    I like the plural “gods” better.

    But I agree that these sad little people are going to be offended by anything with the word “atheists” on it. Even if the ads just had the name and phone number, people would shriek that they’re “recruiting.”

  • Just Some Guy

    What’s amusing to me is, it took me a few seconds to recognize the difference. That’s because psychologically, I see

    “Don’t believe in _____________ ?”

    That’s right – after decades of closeted discipline, I’ve trained myself to “blank” the names of deities.

    Because no, I don’t believe in [blank]… 😛

  • my comic take on this is here

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