Vandals Put Atheist Message on Utah Construction Sign September 10, 2009

Vandals Put Atheist Message on Utah Construction Sign

A construction sign in Utah that normally warns drivers of delays on the roads was vandalized on Wednesday to read something very different:

Picture 1

Picture 2

The message — “It’s official… God does not exist” — was up there for several hours, ironically, next to a Mormon church.

I don’t think the message itself is as big a deal as the news story would have you think, but it is disturbing to know that some atheist could’ve done this.

Or… if anyone wants to play conspiracy theorist, we can suggest a religious person did this in the hopes that atheists would get blamed. I’m not so cynical.

This isn’t the way to get our message across. It’s not funny and it doesn’t help.

We know how to get bus ads and billboards and we’ve been doing a great job of putting them up in cities everywhere. There’s no reason to resort to such lowbrow (and illegal) tactics.

(Thanks to Mike for the link)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • selfification

    I thought it was pretty funny. As a code monkey, I’m just amused at their technical skill. I would have expected to see this on failblog or on thedailywtf.

  • Demetrius Of Pharos

    I thought it was hilarious – and you’re welcome Hemant!

    Also, not noted here but noted in the article – the sign was very near an LDS Church.

  • While it can be humorous, the sign is there in a safety capacity and toying with it doesn’t seem smart or prudent. It’s all very “high school” type tomfoolery that doesn’t get a message across except that the people that did it are idiots.

  • JJR

    Probably the handiwork of some smart-*ss teenage atheists with more enthusiasm than common sense. Next time, guys, hold a car wash to rent a billboard for FFRF or something positive like that.

  • David

    I can’t imagine that this was done by atheists in order to get the message out. This seems like a prank meant to get the goat of the Mormons, or to amuse the pranksters friends.

  • David D.G.

    This isn’t the way to get our message across. It’s not funny and it doesn’t help.

    We know how to get bus ads and billboards and we’ve been doing a great job of putting them up in cities everywhere. There’s no reason to resort to such lowbrow (and illegal) tactics.

    Well said, Hemant. This sort of stunt just backfires and makes our side look bad.

    ~David D.G.

  • jonathan

    Ok… I’m still laughing…. Sorry. That’s just pretty damn funny. I agree this is high school tomfoolery. But, it’s pretty benign tomfoolery — and a lot more constructive than the pranks I pulled in high school. Let the kids have their harmless fun. Do we really need to be that uptight?

  • it certainly makes us looks bad, and it’s not nearly as funny as the zombie warning

  • Add me to the list of people who think this is pretty benign (and pretty funny).

  • jonathan

    Oh… and I already look bad, so this actually makes me look good! Win/Win.

  • Yeah, my first reaction was to laugh too. Couldn’t help it. Not because it’s an atheist message. Because I love when stuff gets hacked.

  • Staceyjw

    I think its FUNNY, and I wold have been so happy to see this sign- it would have made my whole month!

    If it said “God exists” some idiot would think it was a sign from “above”………

    People need to learn how to relax a little, and take a joke.

    Atheists are almost TOO uptight about doing the “right thing”- when it comes to innocuous things anyway. We are so worried about our image, and about proving that we are not just moral but SUPER well behaved, that we don’t even want to laugh at obviously funny things. RELAX- we are HUMAN, and can act as such.

    I’m not into criminal behavior, but this was not permanent or anything.


  • Um, there’s also a bunch of these signs that warn about zombies ahead. I remain skeptical as to the “meaning” behind this message until I see evidence otherwise. It might have been just something “funny” to say.

  • Alan E.

    Besides, how necessary was the sign with all of the other markers in the road, including the giant arrows that scream “move the f*** over” and a gazillion cones? It’s not all that dangerous.

    Also, this hack was so last season.

  • littlejohn

    I hate to be the lone dissenter here, but this kind of stuff makes us look bad. I share Hemant’s suspicion that the perpetrator may not actually be an atheist. At least I hope not. The standard criticism of us is that we have no reason to behave morally. Some idiot just made that point with childish vandalism. If you’re going to do this kind of stuff kids, make sure it looks like xians did it. Maybe “JESUS HATES QUEERS.” Better yet, just don’t.

  • “If you’re going to do this kind of stuff kids, make sure it looks like xians did it.”

    The irony, it burns. I hope you were joking.

  • thilina

    This is brilliant. I wish i had a chance at a prank like that.

    I don’t quite get why this ended up in the news! if the message was one offending everyone rather than just Christians, no one would have cared and just had a laugh.

  • Well it made me laugh. I think “disturbing” is a bit of an overeaction to an obvious prank.

  • Tizzle

    I would not directly encourage this sort of thing, but it sure is funny.

    I’m sure some people could read something deep into this (like the ones that think Xmas is under attack), but really I’m just glad they didn’t say “so-and-so has a big c*ck”. It feels about the same maturity level to me. I like it because I don’t think the instigators of this kind of thing are trying to convert anyone, like they would be if it were pro-god, or pro-politician.

  • Erp

    I agree with it going over the line because stunts like this could be potentially dangerous though it is a bit funny.

    Admittedly it did bring to mind the joke about a priest and a rabbi holding up signs by the road saying “The end is near”. Cars roared by, many speeding up. After some time the rabbi turns to the priest and says, “Perhaps we should have written, ‘Bridge out ahead'”.

  • Tyler in SoCal

    Its well after a ton of cones and a functioning sign with arrows.

    I find it hilarious.

  • Jay

    I think it was funny.

  • Miko

    It’s a message on the level of “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” If you try to take it seriously, you’ll only reinforce the stereotype that atheists have no sense of humor.

    Besides, I’ve been told that “the government is really just us,” so it’s not really illegal to change what the sign says since we own it, right?

  • Jay

    I don’t see how this makes ‘us’ look bad. I didn’t join any ‘us’. I have nothing to do with the individuals who did this.

  • Shannon

    Part of me thinks it’s funny when signs get highjacked, but really, it is a safety concern, so yeah, I’m not really for it. But why assume it’s *not* an atheist? Atheists are human you know. We’re not all perfect 😉

  • I also think it’s funny, hardly a conspiracy material. Posing as an atheist to cause real harm would have to be something way more serious, IMHO.

  • ChameleonDave

    Damn, Hemant’s such a goody-two-shoes, sometimes. This is a funny prank, and no big deal. It doesn’t ‘make us look bad’.

    I bet that if someone had thrown an egg at Hitler in the early days, there would have been a ‘friendly anti-fascist’ chiding him for ‘making us look bad’.

  • Revyloution

    I’m saying its good for the proverbial ‘us’, even though I agree with Jay when he said he didn’t join any group.

    When we talk about us, I assume were meaning ‘people who would like to see more atheism, and recognition of atheism in the public sphere’. If that’s the ‘us’, then this stunt is a good thing. It shows that atheism isn’t a thing just for ivory tower eggheads. Its not just for black wearing goths to rebel with. It extends to malicious pranksters too! Anyone can be an atheist. You don’t have to be smart, honest, educated, wealthy, or anything else! There are no requirements, other than a lack of belief in any deity.

    I would report anyone I saw doing this. Just as I would report anyone I saw vandalizing, regardless of the message. Yes this was a stupid stunt. Yes I would distance myself from the actions of these individuals.

    Is it good for atheism in general? Yes. Anything that gets people talking about godlessness is a good thing for atheism. Deities tend to vanish when people turn on the lights.

  • Jen

    I don’t know, I think it is funny, and since we haven’t heard that there was some sort of terrible accident that resulted from it, I am inclined to say no harm, no foul.

    Getting upset about this reminds me about every time Christians protest The Da Vinci Code or South Park. I always wonder why they can’t take that energy and have a food drive. Here, I think this is barely worth worrying about- let’s focus on, say, shaming the government for having a National Day of Prayer.

  • The christians this pisses off won’t think any less of non believers because of this. Those that don’t care one way or another, won’t care about this either.

  • Richard Wade


    (Ahem) I mean, that is not good. Just gives the fundies ammunition, and not good for safety. There.

    Other ideas could use some of the familiar traffic instructions as part of the new message:

    Jesus is coming…. Expect delays.

    Evangelicals ahead…. Bear right.

    Creationists ahead…. Construction next 7 days.

    Dominionists ahead…. Yield right of way.

  • I have to say, I’d rather see a road sign hacked than an LDS church spray-painted. THAT would have been completely uncalled-for. This is just hilarious, harmless–and reversible.

  • Mathew Wilder

    This isn’t the first sign hacking I’ve heard of, and I think they’ve all been pretty funny.

  • Guy Mac

    I’m sorry, but that is quite funny.

  • hilarious ideas, Richard

  • medussainspiring as those

    This is hilarious!
    Yes, it’s juvenile, and yes it’s illegal, and if I happened to know the perps, I’d sternly lecture them about their future, the law, and traffic safety. And then I’d go beat myself up for not thinking of that myself. And if they were adult, I’d tell them to grow up and use their faculties to the level of their abilities.
    It doesn’t matter how well or adult or perfect I behave, extreme christians will accuse me of idiocy, immoral behavior and blame me for all the ills of the world. I have no delusions of changing their mind by changing my behavior to fit their idea of perfection.

    So, first off, as I didn’t commit this misdemeanor, I don’t need to feel any responsibility for this, and am under no obligation to apologize on behalf of all atheists.
    And second, we (as in the readers of this blog) are not doing “the movement” any favors condemning non-violent expression of non-theism, just because we’re too adult to do it this way. Trying to appease the fundies is not our job, living a good life and doing good things in spite of the best efforts of the bible thumpers to undermine us at every turn is.
    In fact, I think the kids who did it should be commended for using their talents to write a meaningful message instead of something vulgar or hateful.

  • anothermike

    Right on, Jay. I didn’t join any “us” either about 60 years ago when I figured out that there was no invisible, magic man in the sky promising to burn people alive.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Wow. For once, “hackers” aren’t blamed. Calling it “a message that’s anti-religion” is going a bit too far, though.

    In addition to putting “bigger locks” on the sign boxes, they should probably think about changing the default passwords for such devices (if that was a factor in this case, at least). That would be a start towards basic layered security.

    And I also like Richard’s suggestions.

  • I don’t condone it, but it’s certainly preferable to the sort of vandalism some Christians engage in (defacing or destroying atheist or LGBT signs/billboards). This was temporary and caused no damage to anything.

  • RobL

    I love pranks but a construction zone is not the place to do it. Think how many people took their eyes off the road to see if they read it right the first time. And then turned all the way around as they zipped by to see it again. It’s a classic first link in an accident chain. If one of the road crew got killed because of this it would have made national news and you know it would not be fair and balanced reporting. Not a harmless prank, a really dumb thing to do.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    I think it’s great! and would encourage more of the same and lots of other civil disobedience. I for one am offended most days I’ve driving in the SE by the billboards lawn signs on every corner, thank god in every news story and article, and the radio, forget it, it’s all preaching and hate talk. I’d change a few ‘Jesus is Coming!’ signs by changing the o to a u, and perhaps add a ‘use a rubbers’, limit population! The incivility, injustice, and violence, there is due for a wake up call to what offensive is. Coddling the religionists will just encourage them to continue to escalate their rhetoric over increasingly minor things. Many won’t agree with me but tuff crap it’s well past time for sweeping change, the population is exploding threatening Human survival, thanks in part to religion and the undeserved respect they get.

    I think Hermat and other comenters have been sounding like an atheist apologists lately. The sign as do the bus signs simply tell the truth, if someone gets offended stfw, they deserve to be offended for a change.

  • llewelly

    This happens somewhere in Utah every few years. (Or maybe KSL is recycling news. They’ve done that before.)

  • ChrisZ

    Aww, come on Hemant. It’s a little funny.

  • Aww, come on Hemant. It’s a little funny.

    No, it’s not.

    The message itself might be ok if it were on a billboard (though I’d want to insert the word “probably” as the British bus ads did).

    But hacking into a construction sign? That’s pathetic. We don’t need to do that. It just makes us look bad.

  • medussa

    But Hemant, YOU didn’t do this! Neither did I, neither did ChrisZ. Why are you feeling like this reflects on you??? This doesn’t make you look bad!

    This has nothing to do with you, just like the behaviour of millions of other Indians has nothing to do with you. Or straight men, for that matter! You don’t speak for all atheists, and whoever did this doesn’t speak for you.
    What lesbians the world over do does not reflect on me, and neither does the behavior of some random teenager, who has the smarts to hack into a construction machine, and is also mature enough to not post a vulgar, obscene or hate filled message.

    This doesn’t reflect your politics, your maturity, or your style. However, your categorical condemnation of a different method of protest makes you look like someone who has forgotten that it takes a lot of different people and struggles to change the world.
    I know you’re the friendly atheist now, but were you never an angry teenager?? I sure as hell was, and I totally identify with this kid.
    Your way is a great way, but it’s not the only valid way, and the friendly approach may not be enough by itself. Don’t condemn this kid for not being as adult as you.

  • Erp

    Are liberal Christians blamed by some atheists for what conservative Christians say and do?

  • Stephen P

    Yes, I think it is funny. No, I do not think it should be encouraged – quite the contrary. But no, I don’t think it particularly serious either.

    One point that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned: these signs should not carry safety-critical information, because they can fail and, yes, they can be altered. Road-works should always be marked by cones, barriers, static signs etc (as is the case here). The appropriate use of this sort of sign is to provide extra information, such as how many metres* the works extend, how many days they will last or whether you can get off at the next exit.

    * or yards, for those of you addicted to medieval units.

  • keddaw

    “malicious attack on someone’s theology”

    This isn’t even a story on local radio for any European country.

    So Christians can shoot abortion doctors, try to have atheist teachers fired, have crosses all over the place etc. but saying god doesn’t exist is a MALICIOUS attack on someone’s theology?

    Malicious: Of, pertaining to, or as a result of malice or spite; Deliberately harmful; spiteful

    This was spiteful? But saying we are going to hell for eternity is not? More Christian double standards.

  • andrew

    That’s hilarious lol.

    FriendlyAtheist, you’re taking it too seriously.

  • cypressgreen

    I think it’s funny. Almost as funny as when hackers put “Raptors Ahead” on a road sign!

    Also, you did say, “A construction sign in Utah that normally warns drivers of delays on the roads “UDOT is considering putting bigger locks on the signs and displaying them in well-lit areas to deter this from happening again.”

    So how vital is the message if they can just move it somewhere else?
    And the article states, “

  • cypressgreen

    Well, I really messed that up!

  • stogoe

    Those signs are notoriously easy to hack. I’ve seen pictures of them warning about velociraptor crossings and such. As an aside, apparently velociraptors might have dropped onto their prey from the trees above rather than chase them down.

    Keddaw, it’s ‘malicious’ in that you have to hack government property to change the display. Also, these signs are used to warn of accidents and traffic snarls – changing it could potentially cause more traffic problems and injuries from further accidents.

  • TXatheist

    The message is funny but the means are unacceptable.

  • Michael

    That isn’t “vandalism”. To be vandalism there would have to be some damage done to property.

    It is a harmless and funny hack.

    The article says the sign simply warned to expect delays so there was no safety issue in changing the message.

  • I LOL’ed.

  • JSug

    I agree that it’s not a constructive way to get a message across, and I’m sure there are a bunch of religious conservatives that will get their knickers in a bunch because all their beliefs about the evil atheists have just been confirmed. Still… It’s a little funny.

  • As others have said, I agree that this does not help promote atheism in a positive way and is definitely not a tactic anyone should be using.

    That said, it was funny. (Sorry. I guess I’m going to hell for that. Oh, wait…)

  • Joffan

    I doubt, given its position, that this could have been truly regarded as a safety sign. An information sign perhaps, like “Construction next 2 miles” or something, but if it has anything safety-related to say it’s in the wrong place anyway – drivers are too busy coping with the lane reduction at that point.

    Any outbreak of justified indignation would require knowledge of what the sign said before it was altered. Given the prevalance of active signboards in distracting roadside locations, I hardly think this is the worst offender, and some church signs are much worse in that regard.

    So on balance I wouldn’t temper my mild amusement at this techno-grafitti, but I would say that it’s only funny once.

  • Agree with Paul. Would rather see this kind of vandalism than someone damaging a church or religious building.

    I thought this was funny, too.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    Hmm most here so serious. Very disappointed in most of the posts here. I think Defiantnonbeliever & medussa have hit nail on the head.

    I think it’s great & I’m sure it put a smile on many peoples faces that night seeing that sign. I don’t have any sympathy for the making ‘US’ look bad, or not the way to get ‘OUR’ message across comments. ‘OUR’ & ‘US’ …… It’s a joke, It’s funny, It makes a point. I once passed a gas station that said YOU ARE GAY, instead of the prices & that had me giggling for days.

    Next step = Oooo Bill Maher is not getting ‘OUR’ message across & is making ‘US’ look bad
    Next step = Oooo Christopher Hitchens……..

    Also It REALLY makes me cringe people making a big thing about it being dangerous. What is the world coming to. Try living in Asia for a while, where you get to live in a modern society, without all this over the top nanny state health and safety non-sense. Take some responsibility in you lives people. Life goes on and works very well without all that ‘nothing is my fault’ attitude & EVEN IF some1 had crashed from looking at the sign….. It WOULD BE THEIR FAULT, & they would be a seriously crap driver & shouldn’t be on the road. 1000’s of others managed to pass it without crashing just fine.

  • RobL

    Also It REALLY makes me cringe people making a big thing about it being dangerous. What is the world coming to. Try living in Asia for a while, where you get to live in a modern society, without all this over the top nanny state health and safety non-sense.

    I think there is a grain of truth to what your saying but your going way too far. I have never been to Asia but I have driven and flown through south America and those people scare the crap out of me. Workers in South America (and Asia I’m guessing) die at rates FAR higher than here. It sounds like your saying that is actually good thing? Maybe that it builds character? Maybe we should use 20 story bamboo scaffolding like they do in Asia and if a few construction workers fall to their death it’s not a big deal cause’ there are a lot of them over there? I don’t think the fact that life is cheap in Asia is a very good argument do to stupid things here.

    There is a balance between safety silliness and common sense and I think your missing it. It may have to do with perspective. My guess is that you don’t have a job where you are actually responsible for the safety of others. I employ 70 people in the electrical construction trade and have seen first hand what happens when someone is careless – they don’t go home after work ever again. Pretty serious business especially if that person was working for you – I really cant joke about it. If I operated as your attitude suggests I should and one of my employees got killed I would be (and should be) held criminally negligent. To you it’s the nanny state interfering with your right to play a practical joke, to me it’s taking reasonable precautions to keep employees safe. If you want to go out and bungee jump or hang glide and you don’t put anyone else at risk that’s fine. I do all sorts of dumb high risk things myself. But if you think it’s OK to monkey with signage on a road you go too far because your potentially creating a dangerous situation and putting someone else’s life at risk which is a really chicken shit thing to do.

    I agree that the sticker on my boat which says “WARNING-GASOLINE IS FLAMMABLE” is a ridiculous example of lawsuits run amok but your never going to get me (or anyone else in the construction trade that has a brain) to agree that it’s OK to monkey with road construction signage. Horsing around and playing jokes around construction is just stupid and dangerous. Whoever did this needs to grow up.

  • maplebar

    I agree to a point. Vandalism is illegal, yes, but I think it was pretty funny and although I wouldn’t encourage similar acts, I think it’s fine to say that it was probably some kids just being kids and we should have a good laugh and leave it at that. Apologize for the vandalism but enjoy the creativity…

  • Rrvyloution

    RobL I run a construction company also. I just wanted to point out something. That bamboo scafolding you were down talking is actually fantasic. I’ve had the opportunity to work on both_ and I definitely prefer bamboo over the plank and frame system we use in the US.

  • Injun Trouble

    *pulls stick out of RobL’s behind*

  • Mitur Binesderti

    It’s definitely funny. VERY funny. And it got MY message across brilliantly so I don’t really care if it didn’t get YOUR message across.

    There was zero damage done so it can’t even be called vandalism. Most of all those signs are useless anyway because they never post the information you actually need. “Amber Alert! An Amber Alert is when… (10 mins later) Watch out for a car or maybe it was a truck.”

    It’s just a funny ass joke… lighten up.

  • dmf

    it absolutely funny. and it absolutely shows that atheists are just like everyone else.

    i don’t understand when people talk about atheists as a “people” that need to “get their message out”.

    i’m not a people. i’m not in a group. atheism is a lack of a group. so please don’t count me in yours.

    theists vandalize. atheists vandalize. the world continues to rotate.

  • JettaJameson

    Not funny? Sure it is! It’s not like they spray painted or defaced anything. I think this is hilarious. And, I support it. If I was able to figure out how to do it, I’d give it a shot. Some people need to remove the sticks from their asses and get a sense of humor.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    To RobL

    Simple question.

    If someone had crashed the car would it be their fault?

    Your personal example is kind of meaningless. We are not taking about that, I’m taking about this case. I, and everyone here could litter this tread with examples of health and safety/ nanny state nonsense that is way over the top, but it has no baring on this incident .

    You hit the nail on the head, btw

    “I employ 70 people in the electrical construction trade and have seen first hand what happens when someone is careless – they don’t go home after work ever again. Pretty serious business especially if that person was working for you – I really cant joke about it. If I operated as your attitude suggests I should and one of my employees got killed I would be (and should be) held criminally negligent.”

    Let me have a go at clarifying what you are implying here.
    If some is careless at work, doing a dangerous job, the boss would/should be negligent
    Even if you took my attitude at what you think I meant…

    Someone else is CARELESS!!! (Your choice of word) & you think the blame should be yours????

    L O L

    You are covering your own ass because you have to by law, & you live in fear of being sued. I bet you could own up to tones of pointless things you have to put your staff & yourself through to legally cover you own ass, because if some employee does something stupid and hurt themselves….. It’s your fault. Blame culture.

    Or course there is a balance, but common sense left this arena a long time ago.

    You will not get me to agree that someone who crashes a car after reading that sign is not 100% responsible for crashing the car. (See I’m not sure if you disagree with that, but that was the ONLY point I was making.) They should have there licence taken off them if they are driving a dangerous weapon like a car and can crash and injure themselves or others because of…….. A potentially upsetting message on a road sign.

    Also where did I say it was ok to monkey with a road sign.


    “Also It REALLY makes me cringe people making a big thing about it being dangerous”

    Of course its not ok to monkey with road construction signs, it was just not in this case, what I consider dangerous.

    Read the article:

    “The sign on Foothill typically displays a warning to drivers to expect delays”

    Are you going to tell me that this sign is vital for road safety?

  • Vas

    Thank you so much for informing me as to what is not funny. Also I would like to point out that I am somewhat confused as to what “Our” message is, I was not even aware that we were in the same group, club, movement or whatever you think qualifies “Us” as being “We”, really what the hell are you talking about. By the way I was planning on watching SNL this weekend but will record it instead, perhaps you could tell us all if it is funny before any of your readers, including myself waste the time and effort of deciding for ourselves if it is funny. it would be very helpful if you could do this for “Us” as we all depend on you to tell us what we think of things.
    Thanks for the help.

  • Tom S.

    It is funny, but not a smart idea. Leave safety equipment alone.

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