Penn State Responds to Campus Preachers September 1, 2010

Penn State Responds to Campus Preachers

The Penn State Atheist Agnostic Association decided to set up shop next to some campus preachers on Monday.

So while the Christians stood here…

… the atheists (and others) were just a short distance away (in the background of the pic below)…

… with Biblical references of their own…

… and other entertaining signs…

Looks like they blunted any damage the Christians would have done.

Clinton Leinbach, who traveled to campus from Selinsgrove, Pa., said he came to warn people about the dangers of not accepting Jesus.

Leinbach said he thought it was possible to convince the atheists — who were standing across from him in protest — to accept Jesus.

But Dan Farbowitz, a member of the Penn State Atheist Agnostic Association, didn’t seem to budge from his convictions.

He was cloaked in a brown, hooded robe — garb familiar to Jedi masters like Luke Skywalker and Yoda — and held a sign that read “Consider Jediism.”

Excellent 🙂

It’s not like the campus preachers had much of a strategy, anyway. They just came to preach the hate and then acted shocked when they realized it wasn’t working:

After preacher Shawn Holes told the crowd that being gay is a sin, counter-protesters held up rainbow flags — a symbol for gay rights.

But Holes said they had taken his message the wrong way.

“I love homosexuals,” Holes told the crowd.

Too many jokes forming with that last line…

An article in the school paper says that the barrage of signs just caused more confusion than anything — I’m fine with that. Whatever gets the focus off the preachers. It also helped that the atheists weren’t the only ones with amusing signs:

Causing even more confusion was a group of students holding up signs with nonsensical phrases like “Words on a sign” and “My arms are tired from holding this sign.”

Nate Johnson (sophomore-aerospace engineering) said the signs were created to poke fun at both sides of the protest and weren’t really targeting anyone at all.

I’m loving these recent stands against campus preachers. There’s no need to get angry. We just need to be clever. Ridicule them with their own Bibles. Say something equally as absurd as whatever they’re saying. Play Bingo. Worship a boot. Use them to raise money for charity. It’s all better than letting them speak unchallenged.

(Pictures via Matt Becker (on Facebook) and reader Emily)

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  • fea24

    what’s nonsensical about a sign that says “My arms are tired from holding up this sign”? I daresay it was the only really truthful sign out there!

  • Brice Gilbert

    Ugh I had a feeling you would get people who would be like “Those atheists are wrong too!!” They are just as bad as the Christians, because they are doing the same thing. And then go around with signs saying “Words” or “My arms hurt” all the while forgetting that the atheists were only there to counter the stupidity.

  • Tim

    Gahhh, I wish I was still there this semester! I’ve sat on those rocks, but never had time in my schedule to attend the PSUAAA meetings. Hopefully I’ll get back there someday!

  • The article said:

    As Christians and atheists lined up across from each other to speak out in front of the HUB-Robeson Center on Monday, there was one thing they could agree on: that they could convince the other side they were right.

    I seriously doubt that the atheists were expecting to change the minds of the Christian protesters. While these Christians apparently had little experience dealing with atheists, atheists have plenty of experience with Christians.

  • jose

    “Words on a sign”

    lol, that’s so dada.

    What was the point of the whole thing again?

  • I can’t figure why campus preachers are always of the unhinged variety. We had a guy at Indiana U. that everyone called Mad Max. I remember him once getting on a roll about fornication, and threatening us with, “how’d you like to be in hell, forced to fornicate forever with someone whipping you with a whip?” You can imagine the reaction!

  • Matt Becker

    I don’t think we anyone in the group’s goal was to convert anyone. We just wanted to be there as a way to prevent all the hateful crap they say to go unanswered. A lot of people approached us, theist and nontheist alike, and said they appreciated what we were doing: especially when the preachers started raving about how women should be subservient to men.

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there the whole time because of classes and I missed photographing some of the more crazy happenings. I don’t believe all the signs were affiliated with the PSUAAA, but a lot of people saw what we were doing and decided to join in.

    Other amusing signs/antics:
    -“Believe in evolution: bulbasaur, ivysaur, venasaur”
    -“This sign keeps the sun out of my eyes”
    -“F***ing magnets. How do they work?”
    -Students holding signs and speaking about raptor Jesus
    -Two guys with Twilight posters trying to figure out which team is more popular

  • talynkotr

    Oddly enough I thought the Jesus sign in the first picture was on the Penn State Atheist Agnostic Association side. Seems more like a pointed criticism of Christians not following Jesus then the other way around. Besides the fact that atheists don’t usually call Jebus “Lord.”

    But then I noticed the one holding the sign was in an 18th century school marm outfit. Oh well.

  • L. Vellenga

    i LOVE the counter-demonstration idea! they could even include chanting: “hey hey! ho ho! mindless chanting has got to go!” confusion to robespierre!

    but i hate it when these folks are the “christian” voice on campus and when they are assumed by others to be representative of mainstream christian (or evangelical) belief. they are equally nasty to christians who disagree with their content and conduct. i understand why they get labelled as christians but…


  • MeryMer

    The students that didn’t belong to either side are NOT worse than the xtians – I think they are brilliant! Yes, even us atheists can get too wrapped up in our own causes, but we have to remember to laugh at ourselves (otherwise we are no better than the cRazY preachers!)

    Great job on creating laughter, insight, and chaos! I wish I had been there!

  • popvox

    Sounds like the Internet came outside for a day. 🙂 When Westboro Baptist Church came to my campus we responded with a similarly ludicrous counterprotest — knowing that if you can’t beat them, you can still have a lot of fun.

    Looking through the pictures, some of the best were “The cake is a lie,” “God hates fags, he loves pipes and cigars,” and even “I like Ike.”

    People were generally amused, supportive when they found out why we were there, and we used the opportunity to collect money for local LGBT groups and I believe a food bank. Protests in this vein are a great way to subvert attention from people like WBC that really thrive on it.

  • The article from the campus paper highlights the challenge of some of these activities. Many times the christians appear to win with regard to motive.

    “Wanting to help” sounds somewhat noble initially. You’d want someone to pull you out of a burning building.

    However if you are in a building with 20 other people taking a course in fire eating, then the “helper” is mistaken and any “help” provided is useless at best.

    It needs to be clear that nontheists respect any desire to help others on the part of christians, but that christians are mistaken about what help, if any, is needed.

    Nontheists need to share the motive that theyare at the event to help christians understand reality so the christians can channel their desire to help into something useful and productive.

    If it doesn’t get beyond the initially beneficial disruptive effect of pirates and jedi to something more substantial then you have the public reacting negatively to both groups-as shown in the article. Nontheists should avoid getting tarred with the cynicism that dogs the religious these days.

    Witty teaser signs that showcase errors and contradictions in the bible and christianity appear to be a great way to make people curious, prompting them to discover the truth on their own.

  • pennstatejoe

    When I attended Penn State in the 1990s, there was a fire-and-brimstone style preacher in front of the Willard Building (just down the street from where these photos were taken) that was creatively known as the “Willard Preacher.” He assailed students with bible passages, ranted about how we were all going to hell, and generally created a lot of amusement for hungover college kids. I wonder if he’s still around.

    Anyway, I’m happy to see that there is a Penn State group that is willing to have some fun at the expense of these fundamentalists in a very high-traffic area of campus.

  • Traziness

    Where’s the like button?! Oh well…

  • mthrnite

    “But Holes said they had taken his message the wrong way.”
    Did anyone else read that as “buttholes” or am I just weird?

  • Did they really spell evolution incorrectly in that first picture? “evilution”

    Or maybe it’s supposed to be a play on words?

  • muggle

    mthrnite, you’re just weird. Not really. I couldn’t resist the opening to bust your chops. I didn’t pick up on that one but I notice shit like that all the time and, at 52, still get an immature giggle out of it. So thanks for pointing it out. lol.

    The pics don’t really show what the Atheist signs say. I love the third group’s signs and think they’re possibly even more effective. I’d actually like to see a more diverse group protesting these campus preachers and those are inclusive of everyone, from Atheists to liberal Christians to theists of any other ilk. Let the whole world protest the nonsense. I think that’s really great.

    Of course, I also cherish my Americans United membership in part because it’s so diverse. Church-state separation is important to everyone, not just Atheists. And, as long as they’re respecting others’ beliefs and not jamming their own down our throat legally, Christians (or any other theist for that matter) are not a problem.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    In Georgia, the UGAtheists hold Stone Heathen Day

  • Ron in Houston

    It does seem that they would be excellent opportunities for fund raisers.

  • Kimpatsu

    “I love homosexuals,” Holes told the crowd.

    Well, bugger me!

  • Delphine

    Well, the crazies got something right. White board with giant red, black, or dark blue letters only.

    The atheists boards are hard to see and impossible to read.

    It’d also help if they had more amusing signs to mock the situation.

  • dave

    Love it! It’s one thing to have a single counter-protest, it’s another to make it a scene from something like Life of Brian with preachers and protestors everywhere. I especially liked the Jedi group.

    Just to add to the list, a few of my favorite signs:
    -“Down with this sort of thing”
    -“I was promised cake”
    -“I have a sign”

  • Terradea

    When I get accosted by preachers on public transportation, I try to explain to them that Jesus went to the hillside to preach, on the outskirts of towns. Those who wanted to hear what Jesus had to say had to come to him. In other words, Jesus had followers, NOT prisoners. It is truly rude to push religion into someone’s face, and I cannot see how these shouting Christians, with their signs and slogans, are very Christ-like.

  • Kay

    Yeah… because Christians really do a lot of “damage” by spreading the word of God.

  • siveambrai

    The groups were both out Tuesday as well. I laughed as I walked by into the student union. It was great to hear the guys preaching for raptor jesus.

    @pennstatejoe The Willard Preacher is still there. Although compared to some of the preachers we get on campus now he seems rather tame.

    I’m just waiting for the Collegian to post stupid opinion pieces about how the Atheists should just shut up though. They like to print those clueless responses.

  • MH

    Years ago I saw political cartoon mocking the abortion debate which had four groups holding signs.

    The protesters “against”.
    The counter-protesters “for”.
    The counter-counter protesters “people against for”
    The counter-protester-counter protesters “people for against”

    You could go on all day with increasing meta-levels of debate.

  • Sami

    I guess our campus preachers are really tame. They just bring a chair to the green lawn in the middle of campus, and simply talk to people. No screaming, no huge signs. Just a man, sometimes with wife in tow, speaking to people. And Students for Freethought members are always present, to call them out on facts. The preachers love it when we come, and we typically invite them to our events. Rarely do they come, but sometimes they do. Most of the involved members are actually really tight with the campus preachers. My favorite is Tom, because he’s never mean or rude.

    It’s unfortunate that some schools have such obnoxious displays. The only one we have like this is the pro-life people who come in once a year with pictures of aborted fetuses, lynched African Americans, and Holocaust victims. And THAT gets a lot of counter protests.

  • fraz

    In Georgia, the UGAtheists hold Stone Heathen Day

    As an alum of UGA, I approve! Do they have a website? Can I contribute to this club?

  • Post about UGA coming in a few hours! Hold still… 🙂

  • fraz

    Post about UGA coming in a few hours! Hold still…

    Don’t forget, we were just recently named the #1 party school (which, personally I find to be a crock, since I know the kids today have to do so much better then the days when C’s actually did get degrees – and since we haven’t been recognized as such in about 23 years….well).

  • crookedshoes

    On the Dawkins website someone drew attention to the woman dressed in victorian clothes in the first picture. Is she misplaced from a renaissance fair or is that the way these KOOKS think the “good lord” wants it?

  • ethinethin

    This exact group of people was at my University today (about 30 miles away from PSU). They show up every year and shout from mid-morning (they don’t get out as early as students and faculty) until late afternoon. I guess they go on a tour of all the close Universities and Colleges. I can’t help but think that it’s no coincidence that they showed up on the University’s Day of Convocation.

    I avoided them today, although I did see and chuckle at their signs that read “EVILUTION IS A LIE” and “HAVE THE COURAGE TO QUESTION EVILUTION”. I also chuckled that they kept shouting even while our Carillon bells played “God Bless America”. Those bells drown out all noise in the area.

    I was mostly annoyed when I found that I could hear them from the third floor of the Library, which is a silent study area. Their voices carried up that far. And I was slightly distressed when the head of the New Life campus group stopped me on the other side of campus and told me “None of the campus Christian groups had anything to do with bringing those crazy people here.” (and why are the evangelizing Christians more crazy than non-evangelizing Christians?) He was stopping and telling everyone (and I heard, only moments later, that he got into an extended face-to-face shouting match with the main preacher, although I did not see this).

    It wasn’t as much of a circus as it sounds like it was at PSU, although there were people with signs, rainbows, etc. There was even a student with a guitar who stood directly in front of the preacher, playing and singing as loud as he could.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    “Shawn The Baptist”, as he calls himself, was at the UofA in Tucson last year with some of the same signs, and our student group [Skeptics Club] spent a decent amount of time countering them (verbally, sans signs). They were upstaged by a traveling, somewhat-homeless, end-of-the-worlder dude on their last day there, though.

    This Penn State event looks like quite a riotous day. Humorous signs meant to mock the signs of the crazies are always good fun.

  • Tim

    I remember the Willard guy…ranting about how “your professors are teaching you to worship intellectualism, knowledge is the devil, blah blah blah.” I agree with siveambrai though, he’s pretty tame compared to a few other ones. There’s a guy who yells about once a week from the corner between Forum and the PMA; he tells passersby that we’re all fornicators and we’re the cause of HIV and STDs. There was also a huge group of pro-lifers going around once; they set up shop in front of the PMA and then moved to the library.

  • siveambrai

    @Tim “There was also a huge group of pro-lifers going around once; they set up shop in front of the PMA and then moved to the library.

    Ohhh. I hated that group so much. Big signs along the main bus route through campus with aborted fetuses and just horrible things. There was almost no way to avoid them to and from work since I need to take the bus to get from the parking lot to my office.

  • Ron M

    In response to Kay, who said:
    “Yeah… because Christians really do a lot of “damage” by spreading the word of God.”
    You are absolutely correct, Kay … I couldn’t agree more.

  • yawn

  • «bønez_brigade»


  • Hi, I’m the president of Penn State Atheist Agnostic Association (wearing the pink shirt and green shorts in the photos). I was actually quite upset over the response to the preachers this year. I think the focus of counter-preaching should be encouraging discussion within the community, but the people “trolling” the preachers (as they themselves called it) hindered any productive dicussion that we might could had with Christians at Penn State. There were people arguing with the preachers privately–which is pointless. Aruging with the preachers publically is what brings attention to issues where they and many mainstream Christians are united, such as repressing sexuality and the doctrine of hell. These topics are what counter-preaching should focus on, not “My arms are tired from holding this sign.”

  • Citizen Z

    Yeah… because Christians really do a lot of “damage” by spreading the word of God.

    Yes… because Christians really do a lot of damage by spreading a religion that is the prime opponent of gay marriage, a religion that tries to restrict women from having abortions, and is in general anti-woman, that provides justifications to such absurd positions as being against stem-cell research, that in practice shows intolerance for other creeds, but worst of all, it’s a religion that encourages its adherents to abandon reason.

  • MeryMer:

    Yes, even us atheists can get too wrapped up in our own causes, but we have to remember to laugh at ourselves (otherwise we are no better than the cRazY preachers!)

    … You don’t think they were taking themselves seriously, do you?

  • ReligionSucks

    I was looking for “Sign” right next to “CoSign” – or maybe “Sign this, you feckin’ christers!”

    They could have chanted my little rap from years ago:

    Word to all the xian masses
    Stick yer crosses up yer asses – sideways!

  • SeekerLancer

    When I was in college we had a rather violent counter-protest to a Christian group. On one hand I was pleased to see such strong support against the Christian protest but on the other hand it was a major embarrassment to our school. The juvenile way we handled it and we gave the protesters the attention they wanted. They also attempted to (unsuccessfully) sue the police department for moving them off the campus and arresting one of their preachers who was arrested rightfully because he was blocking the sidewalks which prevented people from getting to class.

    A year later they returned but we were ready for them. We unfortunately didn’t really have anything in the way of a freethinkers club but GLBTQ Allies and the Women’s Center were ready to stand in front of the protesters silently with umbrellas. The protesters were given passing glances from people but were otherwise ignored. Afterwords a meeting was held for anyone who wanted to attend to discuss the protest. It was level headed and intelligent and definitely a model for the way these sort of things should be handled.

  • This group just came to my campus today at Shippensburg University. If you click my link I have 2 pictures up from their “sermon” and will be posting more soon.

    According to campus police they had no idea they were coming, so I wasn’t able to do any counter protesting on behalf of the other non-theists and atheists. If I had known in advance, I would have certainly made signs. :[

  • Can’t believe I missed this! Awesome to see the group at my alma mater doing good work. The days of the Willard Preacher seem to have passed.

  • Kiwi

    Worship a boot

    NO!!!! follow the gourd!!

  • Chuck Norris

    Miss Lute: So you know, Nat Jackson supports what we’ve done. You know, the former president of the PSUAAA? Quite a brilliant anthropologist. I’m just upset that you neglected to mention the first day preaching of Chocolate Milk, and the baptism by chocolate milk.

    Other fun photos:
    “Herd u liek mudipz”

    In fact, a few of the members of the PSUAAA endorsed our “Citation Needed” sign.

    Those who are offended have no sense of humor. Please recall that the “discussion” you claim to have has no base when you just spend time trying to poke fallacies at one another. We had fun. We stopped all of the raging. We gave people a few laughs as they walked by the HUB.

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