Atheists Clean Up After Christians… Literally March 17, 2012

Atheists Clean Up After Christians… Literally

Last year in Polk County, Florida, a Christian group performed “road-anointings” on several streets in an effort to cleanse the city. It was all part of a campaign called “Polk Under Prayer.”

PUP stands for Polk Under Prayer. It’s objective is to place Holy Angels at all roads that lead into or out of Polk County. A strip of anointed oil has been placed over all lanes of highway at the county line and a prayer has been given at each location asking God to have angels inspect every vehicle that travels into or out of this county and to bring under conviction to those who seek evil and we asked God to bring them to a state of submission and repentance. If they will not submit to God’s way of living, then the prayer is to have them incarcerated or removed from the county. We pray salvation for each person and the full knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior. We are asking God to make His presence known when each person crosses this annointed line.

So if you don’t repent, then go to jail or leave the county?!


Whether the Christians thought so or not, it was only a symbolic gesture — not one that had any effect other than making the roads temporarily slicker and more dangerous — so today, several atheists are symbolically undoing their work.

The Humanists of Florida are rallying on CR 98 around 2:30pm to mop the road of any anointing oil that may be left over a year later.

“To symbolically welcome everyone, all citizens, whether they believe or don’t believe,” [Atheist of Florida member Rob] Curry said. “We’re not doing anything to harm anyone. No gods will be harmed in the washing of the roads.”

They plan to bring mops, spring water, and soap…

The atheists call it a fun poke at an anointing they believe never really had any power, anyway.

“I don’t think we’re acknowledging the anointing any more than we’d be acknowledging magic by going to see the Wonderful World of Harry Potter,” Curry laughed.

There’s obviously no oil left on the ground, but it’s not a bad way to drum up publicity for your group while simultaneously bringing attention to the fact that anyone who sincerely believes you can “anoint” the roads needs to get their head checked.

It’s kind of like debaptisms. They don’t actually do anything, but they’re meaningful to the people who had to deal with the “real thing” in the first place. For the Atheists of Florida who dealt with Polk Under Prayer last year, this is one way to counteract the Christians’ silly ritual.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jonni

    This makes me smile. A lot!

  • Ndonnan

    Sounds like another group of people with too much time on their hands

  • Arei

    To be fair, they want nonbelievers to leave the COUNTY, not the country. But regardless, it was a very stupid thing to do.

  • Coyotenose

    Um, if it’s a year later, they aren’t “literally” cleaning up after them.

  • Coyotenose

     Yes, because making it known that crazy bigoted people do not speak for everyone in your county is clearly a waste of time…

  • M G

    Engaging in a symbolic ritual, tongue-in-cheek though it may be, only perpetuates the belief that symbolic rituals have power.  As an atheist, my motto is pretty much “I don’t have time for this bullshit”, so I see this as a monumental waste of time and energy.

  • You know, I hit a patch of oil on my motorcycle once. It was diesel oil, not magical annoying oil, but the results were not pretty.  I wouldn’t be nice to any clowns i saw oiling the road…

  • Isilzha

     Until you go to the page and read the comments.  Then it becomes more of a grimace. 

  • Isilzha

     That’s exactly the point!  It’s a public demonstration and acknowledgment that those oil anointing crazies don’t represent the entire county.  It is also a clever way to symbolically erase the bigotry and hate.

  • Isilzha

     I’m on the line about that.  However, when a religious group tries to speak for everyone in an area then I think that other groups have an obligation to speak out against messages of misinformation, bigotry and hate. 

  • Anonymous

    Such ignorance from the religious group. Everyone knows that to do a Hypnosis spell you need at least 150 Mana and a dragontree root. The oil is fine for the Divine Shield spell they’re trying to cast, but it won’t do any good without 3 lesser Näga scales plus another 125 Mana for each passenger. N00bs….

  • Troy Truchon

     So Gods angels are Highway patrol officers? And I thought their god was the boss, not them, since when do they get to order their boogie man around?

  •  Agreed. This and asinine billboards proclaiming that atheists are “good without God”, do nothing but lend credence to theist claims that their deity and all of his magical attributes are real.

  • Anonymous

    wait….oil on the ground…on a road cars will be traveling? seems like a bad idea right from the start to me. was the idea that, if you were driving and your car hit the oil slick and you spun out of control and slammed into the guard rail then flipped over and rolled AND survived….that meant god loved you? damn, this god they speak of does drive a hard bargin.

  • Whoops! Fixed. Thanks.

  • alt+3

    “asking God to have angels inspect every vehicle that travels into or out of this county”

    Um, do these angles have a warrant?

  • Anyone sane would agree that the  theists who anointed the county line are deluded and bigoted. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the U.S. Constitution understands that what these theists did was not illegal. I’m willing to bet that they don’t represent ALL Christians in Polk county, just as the The Humanists of Florida don’t represent me with their silly act of mopping nothing. The act is done for their own gratification and that’s cool. Let’s just not pretend that it’s something that it’s not.Timing is everything and I say that the time to have made a statement about something like this would have been exactly one year ago. Face to face.For me, an even better option would be to just ignore them and put my time and energy into something more useful. With our Constitution under constant attack from fundamentalists at the local, state and national level, there’s any number of real and present dangers to freedom to fight against. Take your pick, it’s not hard to find a real issue to take a stand on.This is like shooting fish in a barrel…dead fish in a barrel.

  • Colin

    I would rather they have done an actual highway cleanup – cleaning trash from the sides of the road.  Something that would have made an actual difference, as opposed to empty symbolism.  I think that would look better to everyone, and actually have accomplished something.

  • Annie

    I’m picturing Eric Estrada with big white, fluffy wings.

  • TiltedHorizon


    Really? Come on! Really?

    That’s it, I’m opening up a chain of “Heaven Realtor” shops selling luxury condos in prime cloud locations of Heaven. Any profits I get will be reinvested into the education system, clearly the government has been saving money in this space for far too long.

  • dauntless

    I would watch that.

  • Yes, but that would require effort and commitment…without the notoriety.

  • Tom

    I can’t really see why thinking symbolically and thinking rationally need always be mutually exclusive – I think I’m as rational a being as you could hope to find, but I do like to find ways of being a bit whimsical or poetic now and then.  If I built a rocket, I’d give it a mythological name that sounded awesome, even though it wouldn’t make it fly any better – or I might name it after a person very dear to me.  But these imbeciles seem to think that a pleasing symbolism *overrides* practical considerations – like, say, the sheer idiocy of pouring OIL on a ROAD.

  • I like what they’re trying to accomplish, but the physical act seems sketchy. Washing away the oil as a gesture that all those entering the county are welcome whether or not they follow a deity sounded great… until I got to the part about the oil being placed there over a year ago. So all they’re really doing is mopping pavement purely for publicity and symbolism? Sounds boring.

  • Thatweirdatheistgirl

    Hi. I was out in Polk County today un-anointing the road with this group. We actually did pick up trash while we were out there.

  • Anonymous-Sam

     For that matter, isn’t profiling illegal?

  • Iel Hall

    I cleaned up trash with her. Wtf have you done? Play the devil’s advocate! Good job doing nothing! We got news coverage and shared the truth about a bigot group of government officials trying to force religion into the state.

    Again what have you done? Sitting here and being a negative nelly isn’t doing anything! Is it?

  • L

  • Iel Hall

    Um we drove 4 hours there and back 4 hours. That’s commitment and $$$! That takes effort to get out of bed early on your day off and then wear overalls when it’s hot as balls!

    You’ll never be happy with anything anybody does… I get it, but sitting here complaining on the Internet is what doesn’t take any effort!

    Your snarky comment is great notoriety for being a condescending do-nothing. Congrats.

  • Iel Hall


    This Saturday, atheists are gathering on the Polk County line. The atheists will perform a counter-ritual in opposition to a ritual performed previously by the Polk Under Prayer campaign. In early 2010, Polk Under Prayer (also called “PUP”) – a group of Christian religious and political leaders in Polk County – ritually anointed all roads entering Polk County with a strip of oil.

    According to Pastor Frank Smith of Frank Smith Ministries in Winter Haven, the oil ritual was intended to bring those in Polk County to a “full knowledge of Jesus Christ” and to ask “God to have angels inspect every vehicle that travels into or out of this county” and “if they will not submit to God’s way of living, then the prayer is to have them incarcerated or removed from the county.”

    Atheist and Mark Palmer, Executive Director of the Humanists of Florida Association, said, “To spread oil on the roads of Polk County and pray for the incarceration of all non-Christians is dangerous, bigoted, and un-American.” Secular leaders from the Humanists of Florida Association, the Atheists of Florida, the Tallahassee Atheists, the Freethinkers FSU, and more will gather at State Road 35 on the north border of Polk County. There they will anoint the road with pure water, because as Palmer said wryly, “oil and water don’t mix.” Palmer called the ritual a “symbolic gesture with two goals. The first is to welcome all people, regardless of their beliefs, to travel in and through Polk County, as is their legal right. And the second is to make Floridians aware of what religiously motivated political machines are doing in some rural counties. PUP is not just some fringe group of religious zealots, but is the major political force in Polk County.”

    On March 1, 2011, PUP held an event at which Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, Polk County Schools Superintendant Sherrie Nickell, and Polk County Sherriff Grady Judd were the guests of honor. PUP Organizer, Richard Geringswald declared that these three “are coming on board with enthusiasm. Each representative touches three major factors in our county: Government, Education and Law Enforcement.” Below is pictured a billboard whereon these leaders endorse PUP with their names and their government offices.

    Two days after this March 1st event, Sherriff Grady Judd arranged for the arrest and incarceration of EllenBeth Wachs, an atheist activist, after she made public records requests investigating Judd’s allegedly illegal transfers of county property to local churches. (Wachs now serves as President of the Humanists of Florida Association.)

    This Saturday, Florida’s secular leaders intend to “condemn the bigoted actions of PUP and call on the good citizens of Polk County and its government leaders to remember that they are elected to support and represent all citizens of Polk county, not just the Christians.” Palmer continued, “We are Americans. We are Floridians. We must oppose religious favoritism and remember that we stand for liberty and justice for all.”

    See this blog post (written by atheist activists) for details, screenshots, photographs and timelines of the past events described above:

    See the original Facebook event for the March 1, 2011 PUP meeting, indicating the support of Polk county political leaders:

    See the Frank Smith Ministries Blog for details of the original oil ritual:

    These people are in official county positions just in case you forgot. On their PUP billboard they put their name and title and the Sheriff was in his outfit even.

    You’d maybe do something if this was in your backyard! Well this is in my backyard and we are doing something about it! We kept it legal, civil and we had fun.

    We just found out about this a couple weeks ago and we went after it ASAP because these people are still in office!!! This needed to be done. It got us a lot of free news coverage and we got to show our local officials that everybody legally should be welcomed.

    Last thing! If you have never done anything helpful for Atheism then please don’t waste my time with being the devil’s advocate.

  • Iel Hall

    Here is the billboard in plain view! Proudly displaying their positions and don’t forget their mission statement!

  • Benjamin Geiger

    I was there as well, and I have photographic evidence.

  • Coyotenose

     Theists are going to think that no matter what. The Good Without God-style billboards are there to let quiet or closet atheists and skeptics know that they aren’t alone, and to make it clear that theistic bigots don’t have a monopoly on morality. They WANT us to to be quiet; doing so serves them, not us.

  • Cutencrunchy

    Stranger crosses into a town the cops arrest him and he goes nuts. Do these people learn nothing from the lessons of our past?

    This is exactly the kind of thing that led to Rambo first blood. They should go check all their mines and make sure there are not secret exits out the back that could save us all from a lot of sequels.

  • Coyotenose

     I think some context was missing from all this that we’re now seeing in the latest comments. It looks like people weren’t aware of the illegal and abusive activities of Polk’s elected officials until this year, and decided to show their support for those who had fought and suffered already.

    Once we know that, this isn’t a dated response, because those scoundrels are apparently still in office.

  • Lyvvie

    Pouring oil on the roads is stupid. Why aren’t they charged with driver endangerment? Why not pour the oil on the grass next to the road? Anoint the Welcome to wherever signs? Why pour oil across the roads? I don’t think the atheist group presented their side well by mopping up the oil for reasons of hurt feelings and alienation. Do the clean up for the betterment of the county, not because you want to poke them back.  (I have no idea if olive oil is dangerous to drive over but I’d not be willing to risk it for even the slightest chance)

  • I don’t agree at all.  I think that it can be just for fun, which it seems most of the people participating in this particular event feel.  But, also, it can be therapeutic.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been religious or not, but religion can seriously damage a person and recovering from that damage after leaving a religion can take a long time and in many cases require therapy.  So, if someone wants to do a debaptism as part of their transition out of religion, I think it can be a very good thing.  

    I used to be Mormon, and so I had a picture of the First Presidency (the leader of the church and his two counselors) hanging on my wall.  Burning the picture was very helpful in me overcoming the hold that Mormonism had over me.  It certainly wasn’t a waste of time.

  • Anonymous

     Uh… wow.  Is there perhaps a fund set up for your legal assistance?

  • Mervviscious1

    don’t forget dried blood of a Newt Gingrich….

  • Anonymous

     Congratulations on your escape.

  •  Castrol 5w-30 works just as well seeing as it is almost the same thing anyways.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, and if the small, dead fish are simply ignored, then the big, live fish that are deemed by some to be worthy of speaking out against, only grow bigger and more powerful. Any actions against circumstances such as this are useful in my opinion. No matter how small or how off the time frame may be, speaking out against unconstitutional and/or bigoted actions seems to me to always be important enough, regardless of the scale.
    He who is silent is understood to consent.

  • Anonymous

     That test seems right on par with something biblegod and his sycophants would come up with, based on prior tests.

  • How much of what you choose to do or don’t do is dictated by theist opinions?

  •  Literally “after”?

  •  Perhaps you’re missing my point. The billboards are missing the mark by referring to a specific deity by name as if he/she/it is real. If the billboard stated, for example: “Good without a god”, I’d see that as more concise and accurate communication.

  • Jason Torchia

    How are they “literally” cleaning up after them, if it’s already been a year? This is 100% symbolic.

  • “You’ll never be happy with anything anybody does…”
    That’s simply not true.
    “Your snarky comment is great notoriety for being a condescending do-nothing.”
    Yes, I get your point. Anyway, you couldn’t be more wrong. I actually was and am actively involved in counter-fundamentalist activity, but of a different nature. This goes back over 20 years, btw.
    My earlier off the cuff comment about effort and commitment was shitty and unwarranted. For that I offer an apology. I don’t know anyone involved in the project and therefore should not have made the statement without knowing or understanding motivations, etc. Mea culpa (my bad).

  •  Wouldn’t it have been great if this had been included in the story? Nobody would know this based on the coverage of the event. Good on you for bringing this to our attention.

  • I’m not getting your question’s connection to my comment.

  •  Okay, the caffeine has kicked in.
    You asked, “How much of what you choose to do or don’t do is dictated by theist opinions?”
    My answer: Quite a bit if I’m trying to influence them directly. Otherwise, I couldn’t give a flying fuck.

  •  Well then, another case of a post missing relevant and much needed information. Annoying in the extreme.

  • Iel Hall

    I accept your apology. Thank you. I apologize as well for being so ill…spending 12 hours doing this today has taken it’s toil.

  • Jay, that’s hilarious!  Annoying oil! I thought of the danger of oil slicked on the highway, too.  Now I see how it was especially dangerous for motorcyclists.

  • Iel Hall

    Yeah but as a skeptic I have found that we have to do our own research to avoid this mistake…I too have done it so I’m not going to be a d-bag about it. They don’t EVER put the full story in…but we got it figured it. 

  • Anonymous-Sam

    To everyone who participated in this, thank you for helping keep our country clean!

    I felt it needed to be said. Regardless of what one thinks of the symbolism of the act of cleaning a road, picking up litter is always something I deeply appreciate.

  • Isn’t there an angel exterminator we can call for this infestations? I hear they’re worse than bedbugs.

  • oops *infestation. I hate my grammar slips.

  • Plasticpony365

    It be much easier just sap them .

  •  Great, thanks!

  • This reminds me of that goofball who smeared magic oil around the door that newly elected President Obama was to walk through to be inaugurated. Remember that bit of oily mumbo jumbo?  Then there was some kook who was putting a small smear of magic oil on every seat where Congressmen were going to sit in some kind of conference.  They got their angelic blessings right up their asses. I wonder how much business the local dry cleaners did that week.

    Where the heck do you get magic oil, anyway? I’ve read that originally anointing oil was made from myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and olive oil, but that’s just a greasy, smelly stuff.  How do you get the magic into it? Can you do it yourself at home, or do you have to take it to an Official Anointing Oil Charging Station, or can you just buy it pre-endowed in a store, or on the internet? Does the magic have a shelf life? “Best used before: Nov. 2013 Refrigerate after opening.”

    Magic or not, the evil godless ones found ways to get past the angel road blocks:

  • Coyotenose

     Also, what DDR said in reply to me is even more important. We can’t let people continue to get away with such behavior just because they weren’t countered at the time. I’m sure we all know lots of theists/conspiracy theorists/misogynists/bigots/whatevers who say or do awful things and then complain and play the victim when they get called out on them later.

    Me, I have a bulldog mentality. When one of them pulls something like that (and it isn’t just a momentary lapse, we all have those), I don’t let them get away with failing to address it, ever. They’re bullies, and must be treated the same as any other bully. There are local wannabe columnists pissed at me because I’ve been showing their old nasty posts to all their new readers several years later, with context of course. And you know what? It’s effective. The new readers get super defensive of their new idol… then they make the connections between the old stuff and the subtext in the new… then they stop visiting.

    The line, “Why you bringing up old shit?” from the movie Friday comes to mind. The unspoken answer is “Because your old shit is still hurting us!”

  •  If that were really all, then boring would be right.

    However, there is much more: Not only making sure all are welcomed (religious or not, Hindu or Christian, Muslim or Humanist, atheist or apatheist), but also raising awareness of the dangerous entanglement between sectarian religion and local government. Also, we picked up some trash discovered along the side of the road. OK, maybe that part was boring. Also a social good. How does that balance out?

  • Well, it did have the power to draw local and national media attention. Does that count at all?

    Raising awareness is not a waste of time and energy for those who have connections to the people living under the unpleasant conditions of everyday prejudice, Those include repercussions that range from the bullying of children and other family members to harassment, up to and including arrest, by some hyper-Christian law enforcement. That’s the real bullshit going on, too often unseen by many.

  • Anonymous

     Thank you for posting that link. I feel at least a little better about the world now… but just a little. It’s a long road forward.

  • A little help here, please! Taking pictures means you don’t have to pick up the rubbish, is that it?

  • As one of the road washers, I think we need a laugh.  Some have asked, ” where does one get this magic anointing oil”.  Honey, I can get it for you wholesale!  Just google “anointing oil wholesale”.  I also highly recommend the “River Jordon” Holy Water!  Excellent for all your original sin removals and demon banishments.  

  • Anonymous

    I think Polk County is the one where law enforcement persecuted atheist Ellenbeth Wachs.

    Edit: reading comments below I see that my memory served me correctly.

  • I did a blog post explaining this situation (since I was there):

  • hey click on my pic and friend me on FB. I would like to learn about all of your activism in the last 20 years! 🙂

  • Palmer
  •  okay, publicity, symbolism, *raising awareness*, and a little trash clean up. I guess the problem I have with it is the oil isn’t there. Mopping away something that isn’t there feels pointless and unsatisfying. You could get the same point across by just making a public statement.

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