American Atheists Billboards Go After Presidential Candidates’ Faith August 13, 2012

American Atheists Billboards Go After Presidential Candidates’ Faith

American Atheists just put up two new billboards that go after President Obama‘s Christianity and Mitt Romney‘s Mormonism (though they never mention the candidates by name):

The billboards will be located in Charlotte, NC, where the Democratic National Convention will be held, September 3 – 6, 2012. All companies contacted in Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention will be held, refused to display the billboard focusing on Mormonism.

Mr. Silverman said, “The election of our leaders in the United States is one of the most important decisions that we as citizens make. Allowing our judgment to be clouded by sheer silliness is unacceptable. We want to show the people of our country the foolishness of mixing religion with politics.”

Teresa MacBain, Public Relations Director stated, “Our great country was founded on the secular ideals of the Constitution. Allowing religion to be the litmus test of our candidates undermines the very core of our freedoms.” Ms. MacBain continued, “Article VI of the Constitution states, ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification’ for those desiring public office. How can we disregard our governing principles so blatantly?”

***Edit***: Here’s video of AA’s press conference this morning:

The billboards will be up for a month at a cost of about $15,000.

You just know people are going to say that Teresa’s statements are hypocritical: “If there’s no religious test for public office, why are you attacking their religion?!”

But we’re talking about different things.

Yes, there’s no religious test for public office. American Atheists isn’t suggesting (and would never suggest) that candidates shouldn’t be allowed to run if they’re religious.

What AA is saying is that when it comes to deciding who to vote for, we ought to have some sense of what’s going on in these candidates’ minds. And if they believe in a religion that requires acceptance of the kind nonsense mentioned on the billboards, do we trust them to make good decisions in other areas?

The billboards are easy to counter, though (if the candidates — and anyone else — dare to address them at all).

Christians would just say that their God is a loving God, Jesus is the path to him, the differences between sects are not as important as the big picture of accepting Christ, and some Christians use the Bible to promote hate but they’re not True ChristiansTM. Obama, especially, can now say that he supports marriage equality, so where’s this hate you speak of?

(I’m not saying I buy any of that, but it’s pretty easy to spin.)

Mormons may have a tougher time rebutting the billboard mostly because people don’t know a lot about the faith. Suggesting their God lives in outer space may be accurate, but it just “feels” like a cheap shot — I mean, it’s not like the Christian God lives on Earth, either. Also, the baptizing of dead people (like Anne Frank and Gandhi) was done by fringe Mormon groups and was later denounced by LDS officials.

Instead of addressing those things, though, I suspect most Mormon spokespeople will just deflect the content by playing the victim card:

Terryl Givens, a Mormon professor at the University of Richmond, called American Atheists “petty and vindictive.”

“If this example of adolescent silliness is what atheists mean by being reasonable, then neither Mormons nor other Christians have much to worry about,” he said of the billboards. “When atheists organize to serve the poor and needy of the world, they will be taken more seriously.”

Actually, we do serve the poor and needy. But notice how Givens bypasses the content on the billboard entirely. You’re gonna see a lot of that.

I’ll admit this: To suggest Romney and Obama believe in everything these billboards say is unfair. Obama is no friend to the Religious Right (they’d love to see him lose the election) and even Romney seems to take the GOP platform more seriously than his own holy book.

I think it would’ve been just as controversial — but easier to defend — if AA put out a billboard that said “The Mormon Church didn’t accept black people until 1978” or “Mormons raised $22,000,000 to fight marriage equality.”

But remember: These billboards are rarely nuanced criticisms of religious belief. They’re designed to get people talking and to get publicity for AA. On those counts, these will be successful.

A couple other criticisms AA should expect:

There’s the implication that Mormons aren’t Christian — which is why two billboards are needed — but many Christians believe that, so I’m not very concerned about that one.

There’s also the issue of the Mormon underwear on the billboard, which seems like a low blow to me. It’s like criticizing Jews for believing in God and including a picture of a yarmulke. (Like, Really? That’s the part you have a problem with?)

This is the frustrating thing about atheist billboards. They’re easy to criticize and the atheist critics, at least, tend to be ones who aren’t putting up better billboards of their own. But AA doesn’t mind that. They want people talking about what Mormons and Christians actually believe because they know most people in both faiths will just try and distance themselves from what their holy books actually say.

That’s the point. Both candidates have sidestepped talking about their religious faith and the media has let them do it. It’s as if asking these candidates what they really believe about the nature of God would be rude. It’s not rude. It’s informative. I’d much rather know where Mitt Romney agrees and disagrees with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than what’s in his tax returns. He shouldn’t be allowed to get brownie points for saying he’s a devout man without explaining what his religious beliefs are.

At least with Obama, we’ve seen instances where good policy (marriage equality, supporting safe and legal abortion, promoting contraception in Obamacare) trumps what many religious leaders want him to do. Obama may be a Christian, but I don’t worry that he looks to the Bible or Focus on the Family for guidance.

I don’t think Romney looks to the Book of Mormon, either. But we deserve to know what’s going on in his mind.

That’s not a “religious test.” That’s a judgment call.

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  • I think the magic underwear thing illustrates perfectly how ridiculous and nonsensical Mormonism actually is. Mormons believe that the holy garment will protect them from fire, bullets,
    knives and other assaults if the person wearing the garments have kept all of
    their “temple covenants”. Last I checked Jews don’t make such claims about the Yarmulke. 

  • Nordog

    Yeah, this will work out well for the atheists.

  • I think the magic underwear perfectly illustrates the ridiculousness of the LDS religion. Mormons believe that the holy garment will protect them from fire, bullets, knives and other assaults if the person wearing the garments have kept all of their “temple covenants”. Last I checked Jews don’t make the same claims for the Yarmulke.

  • Lamocla

    Most republican think Obama is a Muslim so I guess both billboard attacks Romney/Ryan ticket.

  • MegaZeusThor

    My God don’t live in outer-space! He lives on Mount Olympus, where I like it, dagnabbit!

    (As for religious spin – when your deities are made up, it not that hard to make them be whatever you want them to be.)

    It would be nice though if political leaders stopped sound like religious leaders. Let’s hear about real issues and real options (and consequences of those choices.)

  • MegaZeusThor

    Remember in World War II, instead of building tanks and planes, they sent over Momons with their magic underwear? Me neither.

    It’s funny how religious people can live in both mental worlds simultaneously. Part of them knows that training and equipment are what’s going to make the difference.

  • For a presidential candidacy in modern times, you shouldn’t have to answer questions about your religious faith. If that’s the kind of thing the American people need to understand your character and judgement, you’re just not qualified enough. The only candidates that have a possibility to win are the ones that have held public office, have governed in some way that has left a strong record. If you’re one of these candidates with a strong record, you shouldn’t have to answer questions about your religious faith. Your judgement and character should be able to be determined sufficiently by your record in office. If they have a record of deciding on issued with secular reason and logic, I don’t really care what, who or how you worship in your personal time. And none of us should. The people running government aren’t infallible and perfect. They make mistakes and can do stupid things.

  • Dan

    It’s really disappointing to see so many fellow atheists, including some people at AA, not understand what the ‘no religious test’ clause in the US Constitution means. It means the government can’t impose a religious test for office, not that individuals or groups of voters can’t have a personal religious test on who to vote for. If I as an individual only wanted to vote for Buddhist I would have a right to do that and not violate the Constitution in any way (although it would be dumb). It is only violates the Constitution when the government imposes the religious test; I wish secular people would understand that. It doesn’t help our case when we make elementary errors about the Constitution.

  • Luther

    In 2008 there were two religion debates. A Science debate would be much better. But in fairness there should be a religion debate this time. 

    I can guess why there is none.

  • 1000 Needles

    I appreciate everything American Atheists does. Really, I do. But it’s time for them to find a new graphic designer.

  • Ashley Will

    Sorry but I am annoyed by this. As long as politicians keep their religious beliefs completely private, that is fine by me. I want to know how they will change the economy and social issues. Religion may have an influence on them but it is possible to have a wall between the two as I have seen occur. 

  • It seems there is some confusion as to our intentions with this billboard campaign. Our goal is to point out the silliness of religion in politics. We think the future of the United States is serious business, and its leadership should not be based upon the influences of religion in our political system. Take Rep. Paul Ryan’s comments, for example. Ryan stated, “Our rights come from nature and god, NOT from government.” Is this the type of leadership we need in our country? How does he choose which god? What would our rights be under Ryan’s god? The Bible doesn’t give equal rights to women, gays, or those who are not a part of their tribe. The Bible promotes theocracy, not democracy. There isn’t a system of checks and balances, trial by jury, or even racial equality in the Bible. Is this what we want? NO! We are a pluralistic nation. Our intention with this billboards is to show the absolute foolishness of allowing religion to be the litmus test of our policies and government. The framers of the Constitution knew this very well, which is why they ignored their own religious beliefs to create a secular document devoid of religion. At American Atheists, we take a bold stand for equal rights, as we work to protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. –American Atheists

  • I don’t see this as violating the “no religious test” clause or proposing that the government do so.  I see this as making an issue of the faith they propose to use while governing, which they have done and will continue to do.  Why can there be a no religious test clause but not a “not use your religion in governing” clause?

    That said, I don’t care for these particular billboards.  They seem more like at attack than a position statement, and I prefer our secular and/or atheistic billboards to be stating our position rather than attacking religious believes.  These come off a little intolerant for my taste.

  • Was supposed to be a reply… moved to reply.

  • I couldn’t possibly agree with you more.  I want a completely secular government as well.  I just don’t like the negative, attacking wording of these specific billboards and feel they will work at cross purposes.

  •  I would agree, but they’re getting better. At least there’s some nice grunge themed detail to the background. Much better than the usual ugly solid colour.

  • Do you actually think Romney/Ryan have a wall between their religion and soocial issues?
    To me the ‘religious test’ means that a president must not be of a specific religion. He/she can still be asked about it. As soon as one brings up ‘their god’, do we not have a right to more details?

  • My main complaint is that these further the mistaken belief that atheists are anti-religion. In that sense, campaigns like this can backfire, and end up being counterproductive towards the broader community (using the term lightly) of atheists.

    The same signs from FFRF would be great; from an organization that appears to represent atheists, not so much.

  • Py

    “Atheism: Simply Assholes”

    That would be a more accurate tag line for these billboards.

  • edgar ayala

    Romney said that it didn’t matter who was president of the U.S, as long as it was a person of faith. Obama has stated that his faith directs his decisions. Both are for war interestingly enough.

  • AxeGrrl

    For a presidential candidacy in modern times, you shouldn’t have to answer questions about your religious faith.

    In general, I agree with your sentiment, but I’m sorry, if there’s a question of whether or not one’s religious beliefs will affect how
    they run the country
    , people should definitely be allowed to question the candidate about it.

    The boys on the ‘Reasonable Doubts’ podcast did an episode featuring former Mormons (Ep #99 ‘Formons’) who raised a couple of interesting questions regarding Mitt Romney’s Mormonism and questions about potential conflict of his ‘interests’ (specifically in regard to some of the oaths Mormons at his level must take). Very interesting ep……

    Can you imagine if a Scientologist were running for president?  Do you think there’d be a little red velvet rope of ‘respect’ around his/her religious beliefs that would prevent him/her from answering questions about how their faith would inform their decisions as president? 

    If a candidate followed the lead of JFK, who made a specific statement to declare that his duty to the American people was more important to him than his duty to the Pope and/or his Catholicism, then I’d see no need to ask them any more questions on the matter……but if any citizen has any sincere questions/concerns, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to ask them.

    When you’re handing over the keys to your car, you have every right to question
    the person about how they intend to drive it.

  • AxeGrrl

    To me the ‘religious test’ means that a president must not be of a specific religion. He/she can still be asked about it. As soon as one brings up ‘their god’, do we not have a right to more details?


  • LesterBallard

    So, the candidates can spout off about their beliefs, say things like Ryan does about rights only coming from god and nature, but they can’t be asked about their beliefs, and those beliefs can’t be criticized?

  • Dan

     Of course these ads don’t violate the ‘no religious test’ clause. Please read my post again. My whole point is that the no religious test clause only applies to the actions of the government, not to individuals or non-governmental groups. The spokesperson for American Atheists is the one who seem to think that the ‘no religious test’ clause applies to individual voters, not just the government, which is a mistaken view I see all to often from atheists who don’t seem to understand the Constitution.

  •  Politicians in the US do NOT keep their religious beliefs private, and this is exactly the point. Every time they say “God bless America” they invite us to ask exactly what they mean by that. If they did keep it to themselves — as European politicians largely do — then they would indeed be entitled to not be asked about it.

  • You mean, you couldn’t actually find fault with the argument… so you call us assholes for telling you what you don’t want to hear.

  • Glasofruix

    Oh my, did the vile atheists huwt youw feewings? I assure you, that was completely intentionnal.

  • Guest

    Personally, I like the ones that say “Atheism: Where a bunch of biological life forms with advanced cranial capacity called human beings invent illusions of morality and purpose to cope with the fact that they are otherwise no more valuable than a garden slug, and in the meantime living a life imposing entirely subjective values (again, illusions as we all know, meant to give us warm and fuzzy feelings of being worth more than a garden slug), on everything and everyone around them, in the hopes of avoiding the truth of ultimately being nothing with more value than a garden slug.”  If that could be put on a bumper sticker, I think we’d have something.

  • Actually, I happen to agree with you.

    And, I’m as far from religious as you can get….

  • AxeGrrl

    invent illusions of morality and purpose…..

    (sigh) not this tiresome, vacuous canard again.

    Just because human beings create morality and purpose doesn’t mean they’re illusory, dear.  It just means that they weren’t ‘given’ to us by some speculative entity whose existence no one can substantiate.

    We’re meaningful to each other and we value each other ~ there’s nothing illusory about that.

    The sad thing is that to you and yours, unless there’s some ‘outside’ thing to value us, then us valuing each other is utterly worthless to you.  Very sad indeed…..

  • Sindigo

    Am I missing the part where these billboards target the intersection of religion and politics somehow? As far as I can see, they’re just offensive. It’s like AA just stuck /r/atheism with a marginally better Photoshop job on a poster.

  • but I’m sorry, if there’s a question of whether or not one’s religious beliefs will affect how they run the country, people should definitely be allowed to question the candidate about it.

    And their religious beliefs effects how they run government, it will show in their record. Actions speak louder than words. How they answer that question isn’t important. What’s important is how they’ve behaved in their past political positions.

    As I said, these people aren’t infallible, and we shouldn’t hold them up as so. If their personal life is filled with illogical fallacious philosophy, it doesn’t matter as long as they keep that out of their governing duties. If, for example, they’ve made illogical statements about how they’ve voted on bills in the past (religious or otherwise), that should be a cause for concern. But if all their illogical crap has only been observed in their personal life, let it go.

  • Matthew_F

    Wow.  These billboards are not going to do any good getting religious America to accept that we are not a dangerous threat to their way of life. There seem to me to be many less obtuse ways of chipping away at the fallacies of these two religions that don’t include language that will just anger people.

    We should be initiating reflection, not instigating reactions.

  • Guest

    Sure they are.  Because they could all change tomorrow.  And if they do change, upon what grounds will you say they are wrong?  If 500 years from now humanity has concluded Hitler was a great guy, would they be right?  Wrong?  If wrong, why?  Because we in the 21st century say so?  And meaningful?  What’s meaningful?  Define.  Value each other?  No we don’t.  Sometimes we do.  When is it right to do so or wrong?  Is any value placed on any person always right? Why or why not? 

    No, the sad thing (or perhaps the great thing) is that atheism avoids like the plague the logical implications of its foundational beliefs.  Atheists may speak a ‘Cosmos is all that ever will be’ philosophy, but when it comes to real living, they invoke completely unverifiable notions of right and wrong and ought to beat your most devoted bible thumping religious believer.

  • Piet Puk

    Atheists may speak a ‘Cosmos is all that ever will be’ philosophy, but
    when it comes to real living, they invoke completely unverifiable
    notions of right and wrong and ought to beat your most devoted bible
    thumping religious believer.

    Any examples of that?

  • Marco Conti

    The problem I have with both billboards is that they require a certain level of sophistication and knowledge to understand them. 
    Presumably they are designed to strike a chord in religious viewers, but I am positive that most of those supposed to be riled up by either billboard don’t fully know the references and meanings behind them.

    That’s not to say that I disagree with the statements therein, but most Christians and Mormons are going to get very upset at them without really understanding why beyond a very superficial level.

    I believe we have to try harder to communicate not so much that religion is irrational, that simply is not true for a large slice of the population and to them is a foreign concept, but that we want it out of the political discourse. Especially that we do not want any politician that believes is some sort of divine guidance. 

  • Marco Conti

    Any chance we can put this post on a billboard?

  • AxeGrrl

    Again, in general, I agree.  But when someone like Mike Huckabee says something like “that’s what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards” I don’t CARE if such an attitude ‘shows in his past record’ or not, if he’s making a statement like that, suggesting some future intent, then people are sure as hell justified in asking him about it.

  • matt

    Logical implications that atheists avoid? Do tell.

  • Edmond

    I have to agree.  The stated goal of these billboards is to “get people talking”, but isn’t there a way to encourage that talk to be thoughtful and cooperative?  Do we have to deliberately engineer it so that the talk is about how vicious and negative atheists are?  I know we’re NOT really vicious or negative (as a group), but such accusations are all that these billboards will inspire.  These promote division, they don’t build bridges.

    WE’RE supposed to be the more rational, reasonable, intelligent side.  I KNOW it’s possible to put up a message which DOES point out the more ludicrous contradictions of religion (as these do), but which reaches its audience and makes them THINK, rather than make them immediately throw up a wall of resistance.

  • Guest

    Examples of atheists who say the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be?  Or those who use such unverifiable terms as meaningful, right, wrong, good, bad, ought, and other such fluff terms with no real substance?

  • Mike Huckabee is a TV political pundit. In the grand scheme of things he doesn’t matter (anymore).

    When Huckabee asked if Romney would sign a personhood amendment, and Romney said “Absolutely”, THAT is  significant. THAT is what matters. That’s a statement not of just Romney’s personal beliefs, but his political intention.

  • Nordog

    Which God?  Why, the God of the Declaration of Independence.

    It bears noting that invoking that God in the way that the DoI does basically boils down to making the fundamental distinction that our rights do not come from another person, whether that person is a king, a judge, a congress, or a church leader.

    Do you disagree with that notion?  You seem to in your posting here.

    Also, you seem to suggest that Ryan, by turning to the DoI, telegraphs a desire for theocracy.  Is that what you think?

    In any event, a vast majority of Americans are Christians.  Every last one of them is flawed in some regard or other.  Yet they hold dear their faith in God and love for Jesus.

    If you think putting up billboards that say that the Christian God is a sadist and that Jesus is useless is somehow a good thing for you, well, good luck with that.

    A vast majority of Americans, even the non-Christian ones and the non-Mormon ones, heck, even some atheist ones, realize that you’re peddling hate and bigotry.

    Stop the H8.  Start with yourself.

  • Nordog

    Do we know whether or not Py is an atheist?

  • Nordog

    For the record, the billboards offer no argument, just assertions.

    Regarless whether or not the assertions are true, and regardless whether or not Py wants to here them, they are a demonstration of someone being an asshole.

    It is what it is.

  • Guest

    The fact that we are all just biological life forms and everything beyond the material universe are just fanciful illusions meant to give us a sense of meaning while we pass on our DNA before dying and rotting in the ground.  If that’s the case, and we are hip and enlightened enough to get rid of such silly inventions as religion, then why not get rid of any silly invention that we concoct to make sense of our otherwise senseless and meaningless existence?  And once we go there, of course, then it gets ugly.  Again, thank goodness most atheists don’t go there, to the logical implications of their basic premise.

  • “Also, the baptizing of dead people (like Anne Frank and Gandhi) was done by fringe Mormon groups..”

    Ya, Mitt’s not an asshole who would disrespect a person’s beliefs and  do anything ‘fringe’ like that..

  • gds

    AA is towing the line between “promoting conversation” and trolling. 
    It’s pretty clear that the billboards are intended to be offensive, and
    to me it really highlights the reason people can get so annoyed with
    atheists: they tend to be contrarian (arising from some sort of
    superiority complex), and, frankly, juvenile.  This is no way to initiate a civilized discourse on the role of religion in politics.  It’s disingenuous to say
    that these were meant to start a rational discussion when the conversation starter is unabashed
    ridicule.  The messages it more clearly conveys are a) scorn for silly religious beliefs, b) belief that atheist’s religious beliefs are more valid than any other religious belief, and c) that advertising through controversy is more important to this organization than actual progress. 

    And here’s where the superiority complex comes in- Hermant believes it’s a judgement call- as if he can judge who is most rational based on their religious belief.  Actually, if any of you atheists think about it, you have exactly the same amount of evidence that there is no god as the faithful have that there is one: zero.  That is to say, both of your positions are silly, dogmatic, and indicative of trouble with rational thought.  I could make fun of your “religion” with a billboard too, but it would serve no purpose.

    The “silliness of religion in politics” is clear to most people here, but this relationship solely exists because of the religious vote: religion is important to some voters whether you like it or not.  If you want to change the role of religion in politics, you have to start by appealing to, and not offending, the religious voter, discussing important issues like the separation of church and state rationally.  However, rational argument requires keeping the snark and the disrespectful images to yourselves. 

  • onamission5

    The constitution makes two mentions of any sort of possible deities by that I can find. It says, “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God…” and then it says ” endowed by their Creator…”

    Note that it does not say “the christian god” or “god of xyz faith/denomination/religion.” It says nature’s god and creator, which leaves the use of that word god up to hefty interpretation. You want it to mean your god who you believe is also a creator? Fine, then that’s what it means to you, but that’s not what it actually says by any means, so don’t expect the rest of us to fall into lock step. Some pagans might interpret that to mean the Green Man who is reborn each spring. Other faiths might say it’s Vishnu. Still other people, also tax paying, law abiding americans, may believe that nature’s god and the creator refer to Mother Nature, or something else, and that our rights are innate just because we are sentient beings, not something granted by kings or despots, be they earthly or “heavenly.”

    The DoI by no means specifies that the US should be under christian rule, or that no religious belief should ever be questioned by anyone. Even harshly.

  • Piet Puk

    The last part.

  • Piet Puk

    The last part.

  • Nordog6561

    “The constitution makes two mentions of any sort of possible deities by that I can find. It says, “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God…” and then it says ” endowed by their Creator…” Note that it does not say “the christian god” or “god of xyz faith/denomination/religion.” It says nature’s god and creator, which leaves the use of that word god up to hefty interpretation.”

    Well, actually, it’s the Declaration, not the U.S. Constitution, to which you refer.  But your point, applied to the Declaration is, of course, correct.  The wide latitude of interpretation was intentional.  But it was never meant to mean “men” or “governments” which is my main point here.

    “You want it to mean your god who you believe is also a creator? Fine, then that’s what it means to you, but that’s not what it actually says by any means, so don’t expect the rest of us to fall into lock step.”

    On this point I have no such expectations.

    “Some pagans might interpret that to mean the Green Man who is reborn each spring. Other faiths might say it’s Vishnu. Still other people, also tax paying, law abiding americans, may believe that nature’s god and the creator refer to Mother Nature, or something else, and that our rights are innate just because we are sentient beings, not something granted by kings or despots, be they earthly or “heavenly.””Exactly.”The DoI by no means specifies that the US should be under christian rule, or that no religious belief should ever be questioned by anyone. Even harshly.”

    Of course.

    I can’t help thinking that in your mind you’ve attributed to me certain positions on this subject that I simply do not hold.Just sayin’.

  • AxeGrrl

    Well, of course Huckabee’s comment doesn’t matter now, it mattered when he was a presidential candidate (which was precisely when he made the statement).

    And that’s not just a ‘statement of his personal beliefs, but his political intention, just as the example you’ve given.

    If any candidate makes comments about how he would change the consitution to ‘more fit’ his own religious beliefs, of course that’s something that should be addressed, questioned and critiqued.

  • Piet Puk

    Wow, you are really losing it, aren’t you?

  • Earl G.

    The fact that we are all just biological life forms and everything beyond the material universe are just fanciful illusions meant to give us a sense of meaning while we pass on our DNA before dying and rotting in the ground. ”
    Part of passing on our DNA successfully before we rot in the ground involves morality – social contracts, reciprocal altruism, familial love, etc.  Humans didn’t make these things up.  Animals all the world over are doing them too.  These things have tangible, beneficial results.  Now, religion on the other hand?  That is a made-up pack of lies used to control and abuse people.  Kind of a big difference there.  

  • It is not being an asshole to make an assertion, even one that many people will disagree with. And a billboard is hardly the place to present an argument! Billboards are for advertising, and this is an advertisement, pure and simple. Get people’s attention, hopefully make them think, hopefully make them explore further.

  • Guest

    And if humanity comes to the point where those things are not needed, we will easily be able to discard this invented notion of morality.  Sure they have tangible, beneficial results.  Religion says nothing less.  Oh, and read the Bible and you’ll see looking at animals for examples didn’t just pop up in modern times.  But that doesn’t prove anything about morality one way or another.  Religion says it comes from God, you say it comes from convenience.  The difference is, like anything based solely on convenience, when such notions of morality are no longer needed, they can be discarded.  Which brings me back to my question: If humans down the road come to the notion that Hitler was really a swell guy, then you’re saying at that point Hitler would then be a swell guy, or if not, why not?

  • Guest

    If I got an answer that dealt with the issue at hand, I might say you’re right.

  • Guest

    Read the above comments.  Why they’re dropping terms like meaningful and good and right like nickels and dimes as if those words have any real meaning beyond what makes us feel warm and fuzzy and helps us, for the time being that is, pass on our DNA.

  • Nordog6561

    I just wanted to note that your post here, and my post to which you just responded, are not mutually exclusive.

  • It’s irrelevant if we have evidence for no god, which is a silly statement to make to begin with.  We are not using our assertion that there is no god to pass laws to discriminate against people.  We wish to make laws based on reason, integrity, and honesty.  They are using the god, for which you state they have no evidence, to do just that.

    And atheism is not a religion.  Gee willikers.

  • TiltedHorizon

    I enjoy the “I am an atheist/agnostic” campaigns, they present a positive message about nonbelievers by humanizing it, the message lessens the stigma and serves to remind theists that we are not the evil, baby eating, unethical, heathens their faith declares us to be. I’d love to see more like these.

    Unfortunately these billboards do the exact opposite, they openly mock faith while trying to assert atheism is “Simply Reasonable”. Ugh. Seems the American Atheists have failed to speak for me yet again.  Is it really that hard to promote atheism without stooping to insults?

  • TiltedHorizon

     There was an argument? I saw a word followed by a ‘silly’ definition. This will push people away from the discussion, not draw them in.

  • You’re goal may have been to point out the silliness of religion in politics, but your billboards don’t do that, they waive a giant middle finger at Christians.  While I suppose that can be satisfying on a visceral level, and what they say is true, that doesn’t change the fact that you’ve utterly failed to get your purported  message across.  The blame for that does not lie with those who don’t interpret your billboards the way you want them to.

  • Nordog6561

    Of course we have that rigtht.

    I just don’t think it’s reasonable for some to become apoplectic over a U. S. politician’s appeal to the Declaration of Independence to make the point that human rights are in their very essence, not subject to positive law

  • Randomfactor

    “Also, the baptizing of dead people (like Anne Frank and Gandhi) was done by fringe Mormon groups and was later denounced by LDS officials.”

    Then why, pray tell, were the databases which revealed this had been happened locked so nobody in the outside world could tell whether it continued?  The Mormons have got a lot to hide, and they are doing their best to hide it.

  •  I agree. But I don’t think we should be dissecting every corner of their personal beliefs. We shouldn’t need to.

    I’d much rather know where Mitt Romney agrees and disagrees with The
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than what’s in his tax

    Exactly where Romney agrees and disagrees with his church is of no concern to me. All we should be concern about are the parts where Romney has, pledged to, or suggests using his political power to legislate the beliefs of his church.

  • Randomfactor

     The DOI and the Constitution are two very different documents.  The Declaration is a sales pitch, crafted to garner support for independence and phrased in such a way as to appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike.

    The Constitution is a working plan for government, and it DELIBERATELY leaves out any mention of gods.  Those who wrote it could’ve easily included gods.  They chose not to.

  • Nordog6561

    Two very different documents?  Of course.  I though I made that clear in the post to which you just responded.

    Sales pitch?  Hardly.  The founders were going to do what they did whether or not anyone bought the idea.

    The Declaration is the primary founding document of the country.  The Consitution is the structuring document of the government.

    The Declaration was not invalidated by the ratification of the Constitution.

    But don’t worry, the DoI does not carry the weight of statutory law, and I’m not arguing that it does.  You are free to ignore it to your heart’s content.

  • Piet Puk

    Poor you, and your grasp of reality was already shaky to begin with.
    I would suggest less religion for you, but that would be as useless as advising a junky to stop using heroin.

  • You can’t always blame it on the graphics person, who may not necessarily be the designer. Sometimes the management/execs/PTB have a concept in mind. Sometimes they may even have “designed” it in Word or PowerPoint (*dies a little inside*) and just has the Art Department “clean it up.” And if we’re really lucky, they will micro-tweak it to oblivion right down to the perfect shade of bright red.

    Photoshop Operator

  • Piet Puk

    I´ve read them and my conclusion is that you are again doing your very best to avoid understanding them. It is a byproduct of your delusion.

  • Coyotenose

     I’m sure you can name a lot of instances where being respectful and deferential to those in power and who were abusing that power won the day for social change.

    The argument that there is as much evidence that God exists as that he doesn’t is old hat for us. You’re going to have to read a LOT more and try harder if you want to advance a pro-religion claim that isn’t obviously fallacious. In this case, the whole thing is dismantled by three words: Burden of Proof.

    And no, there’s nothing silly, dogmatic, or irrational about the concept of the burden of proof. To be consistent, you’d have to agree with me when I claim that you can’t know there isn’t an invisible leprechaun behind you right now, eating your hair and simultaneously replacing it with faerie-hair that is identical to the original.

    If you think I’m wrong about that, you’re being silly, dogmatic, and irrational.

  • TheAmazingAgnostic

    I am not happy with these billboards at all………

    They do not give out any specifics as to why Christianity (and Mormonism) are wrong; they simply make broad accusations that most theologians (and even “average” religious people) would be able to refute.

    Finally, the image of the “magic Mormon underwear” on the anti-Mormonism billboard is a juvenile inside joke that’s been popular in the atheist community for a while. It was funny the first time I heard it, but by the second time, it became stale.

  • Coyotenose

    Agreed, onamission5. You don’t seem to be familiar with nordog, so you’ve attributed to him the position that he is NOT a sorry, lying, projecting troll. The sleazeball isn’t worth a well thought-out post anymore; he’s proven that he simply doesn’t care.

    Even when he apes at intelligent response, it’s just snotty and pedantic. There’s really nothing left to do but mock him for being too angry to quit trying to impress anyone.

  • gds

    Actually I disagree: to the extent that atheism is a belief system that’s founded on a particular belief about the existence of god, I see no difference.  Both are dogmatic and illogical.  But it doesn’t matter- both sides wish to use their positions to change the law.  Reason, integrity, and honesty?  According to whom?  You’re abhorred that they want to use god to discriminate, and they’re upset that you want to use a nonexistence of god to do anything you wish that’s against their morals.

    You would likely vote for an atheist candidate, so, what’s the difference?  I’ll tell you: the difference is in numbers, and that’s it.  Stop being offensive and people will take you seriously.

  • Coyotenose

     When politicians have to express religious belief in order to have a chance at election, and have to make frequent reference to that belief to enjoy support, it is a de facto religious litmus test perpetrated by and on the citizenry, in violation of the spirit of the Constitution.

    That’s usually (not always) what is meant when you see secularists complaining about the religious test clause.

  • We can be unwavering about our values and ideals and still be civil. Attacking believers because you hate their belief is like hating cancer patients because you hate cancer. Such attacks just make believers double-down on their belief. It’s counterproductive and just doesn’t make any sense. It seems like AA loves rhetoric more than effectiveness. Since we are talking about being reasonable, how about a reasonable scientific approach to communication, which means not using tactics that are proven to fail. Hiring a real ad agency instead of dreaming these billboards up yourself might be a good start.

  • Coyotenose

     Existentialism is more an issue for the religious, I think. They have waaaay more illusions to help them cope. I find satisfaction in knowing that I am potentially at least as limitless as the universe itself. Hell, I can casually impress upon a stone something that will be recognizable tens of millions of years from now, if I do it right.

    It may all be a game to help pass the time, but that’s more than “Heaven” has ever offered. An end to all pain? That’s nothing but brainwashing and loss of self, which is a worse death than nonexistence. As Mark Twain said about having already been dead before…

  • Margaret Whitestone

     But they don’t.  They trumpet their beliefs constantly, and they use them as the basis for very oppressive laws against women and GLBTQ people, and to stick their religion into government in direct violation of the Constitution. 

  •  There is a big difference between being civil and being deferential. You can be unwavering in your ideals, not giving an inch on your stance, and still be civil.

  • The DOI is hardly the primary founding document. In many respects, it’s not a founding document at all. It’s a piece of demagoguery, designed to rile up Americans one way, and the British king another way.

    It’s not something to place much weight on when assessing the views of the founding fathers when it comes to actual ideas about governance.

    The DOI can’t be invalidated by anything, of course, because it was never validated in the first place.

  • Margaret Whitestone

    They’re brazen and they’ll definitely have people protesting, whining and so on.  They can always dish it out but they can’t take it. 

  • Coyotenose

     Because Hitler caused vastly more harm than good, and the good he did cause was not even a result of the harm he did. It’s a central tenet of Humanism, and of the basic empathy that MOST humans are born with and can grasp.

    Misinformed opinions by a majority do not and will not change that fact. Just like a misinformed, ignorant majority claiming that a random man claiming to be God and getting himself killed in near-anonymity somehow made everything magical does not make it true.

    You really should read about a subject and try to understand it before hammering away with it. While you’re at it, try reading “1984” and see if you can actually figure out how revising history doesn’t actually magically change what has occurred.

  • Coyotenose

     It will work out terribly, but still better than your trolling does for you.

    Angry much?

  • Nordog6561

    Well, I hope we can at least agree that it founded a declaration of independence, even if we disagree on what the delcaration and that independence amount to.

    Again, that is hardly my concern here.  Rather, I think the important issue is whence we consider the origin of our human rights.

    I side with the text of the DoI on that question, regardless whether the DoI is referring to God, god, Nature, nature, or whathaveyou.

    I reject the notion that our rights, in any realy ontological sense, come from another person, or a collection or persons.  I reject that our rights come from people or governments.

    I would be very interested to know what you think on that subject, and why.

  • Nordog6561

    Apparently not as angry as you.


  • onamission5

    We’re not trying to change the law. We are trying to get the government to uphold the constitution.

  • The reference to natural rights found in the DOI was placed there for one reason, and one reason only: to challenge the idea that rights could be granted by a king. The notion that there was such a thing as natural rights was a novel and inflammatory product of the Age of Reason, a challenge to monarchs.

    Despite the claim, the founders abandoned the concept in the Constitution and were careful to explicitly define what rights people actually had, without referring to them as “natural” or given by any sort of creator. What we call “rights” in the U.S. today were all created and granted by men.

    As a rational person, I can take no position except that rights don’t exist at all, and are nothing more than privileges defined by the strong. That is the view supported by all of history. There isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest that any rights are innate, that any rights come from anyplace other than the minds (and swords) of men. Point me to some evidence otherwise, and I’ll reconsider that position. But so far, I’ve seen none at all.

  • Dan

    That clause clearly is talking about the government not having a religious test, not citizens. However dumb it may be, it is clearly constitutional for groups, reporters, or individuals to have a religious test for who they will endorse, cover, or vote for. Please actually read the Constituion before making claims about it, this issue is a bad example of fellow atheists misrepresenting the Constituion because it fits into what they want to be true.

  • But in that case the designer isn’t really the person from the graphics department. It’s the management clown with the bright idea. So actually using the graphics department’s talent and getting the heck out of their way while they do their job *would* be getting a new designer. lol.

  • gds

    Well, if you’re trying to do that, you’re failing miserably by not even being on topic.  And making enemies along the way.

  • Unless they’re being voted on, amirite?

  • Nordog6561

    Are you right?  By virtue, or by what mechanism does a vote change the essense of a right?

    Do you hold that rights, by their nature, are products of votes (as opposed to rights being upheld or infringed by votes).

    In short, my question is, what is the source of human rights, in your opinion?


  • I don’t think the word “dogmatic” means what you think it means. Because you can’t apply the real word to atheism in any way.

  • gds

    Coyotenose, do you really think these billboards will precipitate social change?  Despite what you’ve made up in your mind, agents of social change do not act like rebellious teenagers.  My argument isn’t “pro-religion,” in fact it’s anti-religion and anti anyone who thinks they know something that they cannot possibly know.  Burden of proof?  Use those three words and prove to me that god doesn’t exist.  Nobody’s talking about something as banal as a leprechaun eating my hair (?), they’re talking about a being that is so magnificent and omnipotent that it is incomprehensible to the human mind.  We know next to nothing about the universe, let alone our own world, and for anyone to say they know anything on the subject one way or the other is an absolute absurdity.  You do not know.  Period.  So why take a stance?

  • Wintermute472002

     Nothing in Coyote’s post is incorrect. While it is perfectly constitutional for individuals to apply a religious test to candidates, it certainly violates the spirit of the constitution.

  • Dan

    Crap, so many iPhone errors in my post.

  • Not a fan of these billboards. People aren’t going to give up their belief system because a billboard said negative things about their religion. In order for people to become atheists, they have to be convinced that their religion is wrong and that the supernatural does not exist. Calling the biblical deity “sadistic” and Jesus “useless” doesn’t help, at least not without a lot of follow-up discussion.

  • J Comeau

    “When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.” — Winston Churchill.

    As an atheist, I think these billboards will backfire. They are too rude.

    If they had any value, they could have been posted on this website without comment, aside from the locations and dates of public appearance. The fact that they needed paragraphs of explanation reinforces that they fail as billboards.

  • Nordog6561

    Actually, that’s not true.  The letter and the “spirit” of the U. S. Constitution is to limit the powers of the national government, NOT limit the rights of the people.

    This is particularly apparent when one reflects that the part of the U. S. Constitution that speaks to the point of a religious test, or more specifically, prohibits a religous test for office, specifically prohibits a religious test for qualification for office.

    It certainly does not preclude religious, or non religious, people from voting as they see fit.

    One must qualify for office to be on the ballot.  Qualification for office does not guarantee election to office.

    As seems the case so often these days, there appears to be a need to reaffirm the distinctions between country and governement, and between government and the people.

  • Richard Hughes

    Bold stand my pasty white atheist ass. The only way you could have been more aggressively inflammatory if you’d driven up to them and thrown shit on their cars as you passed.

  • Guest

    In other words, ‘there is no way we can answer that with logic and consistency, so we’ll have to resort to a childish dismissal in case we start actually thinking about the implications of atheism’s inability to answer that question.’  OK.  That’s a good enough answer for me.

  • Guest

    I don’t know.  As an agnostic, I often got the feeling I was shoving things in the cupboard and not wanting to deal with the logical implications of my own stated beliefs about the question of religion.  I think many do use religion as a sort of cop out.  But many don’t, and religions are often, in fact, radically different.  Take traditional Judaism.  That is certainly not some pie-in-the-sky set of illusions to help them cope.  Look at the ancient Hebrews even more so.  Heck, look at some traditions like the Calvinist tradition of Protestantism.  Sometimes a big problem in atheist debates is the idea that all religions are alike, say the same thing, and therefore anyone who is religious must have the same reasons. 

  • Nordog6561

    Thanks for the straightforward response.

    Quite aside from legal rights, what of what is morally right?  Does that have a source, or is it arbitrary and too simply a product of the strong?

  • Are you an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist?

  • Anon

    I’ve crossed American Atheists of the list of secular/atheist organizations that I would join or support. They have absolutely zero tact. They are complete failures at public relations. These kinds of juvenile insults can serve only to make people who are already members feel superior. There’s nothing persuasive or even thought-provoking. Mud slinging will only shut down discourse.


  • Guest

    No, he didn’t do more harm unless you can prove that redefining what is a human and acting on that definition is objectively wrong and harmful.  If it is not, that means if cultures in the future decide they can redefine what is and isn’t a human, and see Hitler as quite the visionary, then how can you say they are wrong?  What unmovable value can you appeal to?  The best for humanity?  Define that?  Best described by who?  What happens if tomorrow the world calls wrong something you think is right?  Maybe they conclude gays shouldn’t adopt children.  Will they be wrong, too?  Are we at the zenith of moral evolution?  What basis do you even make such claims as ‘fact’? 

    And if you do say it is objectively wrong, then think on abortion.  Why, an entire generation of possible tax payers doesn’t exist right now, does that mean that abortions are bad?  Some say that’s tremendous harm to society and humanity as a whole (at least to the countries in question).  If they are wrong, why are they wrong but you are right about Hitler?  You can’t just say the equivalent of ‘duh, of course he’s like bad dude.’ 

    You, like everyone on this thread, are starting with an assumed infallible set of morals with a confidence that would shame a fundamentalist Christian.  Got back a step and say how you can say abortion good, Hitler bad, and no matter what the numbers, it will always be that way and everyone else who ever says otherwise in the past or future will be wrong.  You have to validate that, you can’t just say it as if it’s obviously a fact.  Especially not when all morality is simply a tool people use as they evolve over time.  

  • newavocation

    Matthew, just how effective do you think women would have been if they just  served a nice dinner to their husbands and politely talked to them about getting the right to vote? Nobody gives you rights.  If you don’t have them you need to take them.

  • Guest

    No, I’m merely asking where you get an actual according to Hoyle definition of meaningful or right or ought.  You are assuming something means something as if it is as clear as the sun.  Why?  Where did that come from?  Will it change?  What will that mean if it does?  If not, what are its origins?   

  • gds

    Heidi, I don’t think the word “atheist” means what you think it means.

  • Littleboybrew

    I have to say, I don’t really find these messages compelling in any way.

  • We can do better…

  • I consider the moral concepts of “right” and “wrong” to be societal definitions, generally arrived at by some sort of unconscious consensus.

    Again, the concept of any absolute morality is supported by no objective evidence I’m aware of, so I’m unable to accept it as likely.

  • Pseudonym

    That was my first thought, too. Under normal circumstances,  I would chalk this up as yet another AA campaign where the intention behind the campaign is nowhere to be seen on the campaign materials themselves. That’s not really news, given that it happens almost every month.

    But this comment from Hemant annoyed the crap out of me:

    That’s the point. Both candidates have sidestepped talking about their religious faith and the media has let them do it.
    It’s as if asking these candidates what they really believe about the
    nature of God would be rude. It’s not rude. It’s informative.

    In any other country in the English-speaking the world, it would be considered beyond rude. The religious beliefs of candidates are a non-issue unless the candidates themselves make it an issue. As Alastair Campbell famously said of Tony Blair, “we don’t do God”.I’m not American, and therefore I find it astounding that any rational person would complain the media are separating church and state! I could understand if the complaint was that they are only separating church and state selectively. But the intent seems to be to make religion an issue in the upcoming elections. That’s goes beyond mere rude, right into ignominity.

  • Pseudonym

    Assuming that Py is an atheist (which seems more likely), it’s probably that the stupid atheists hurt his cause.

  • Pseudonym

    You’re correct about that, but to be fair, most people don’t know what the word “dogmatic” means.

  • Pseudonym

    None of the words “government”, “uphold”  or “constitution”, or any synonyms thereof, or any references to them at all, appear anywhere in the billboards.

    The closest they come is the words “Big Money”, which could be interpreted as a comment on the corporate lobby system, but even that would be a stretch.

  • Nordog6561

    “Again, the concept of any absolute morality is supported by no objective evidence I’m aware of, so I’m unable to accept it as likely.”

    Thanks again for the straight response.

  • Pseudonym

    How much longer would it have taken for women to successfully claim their right to vote if the discourse had been at the intellectual level of these billboards?

  • Pseudonym

    Absolutely, they can be criticised. If the had been quotes from Ryan (or the equivalent on any side of politics) with a caption like “Get religion out of politics”, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  No average (or even highly intelligent) person driving down the street
    glancing at one of these billboards could possibly infer that these
    billboards are criticising statements by Romney, Ryan, or anyone else.

    If the billboards even hinted that they were about the use of religion in political discourse, or that America is a secular pluralist democracy, or separation of church and state, or anything even remotely close to this, most would agree that it was a valid point being made, even if they objected to the tone or graphic design.

    FWIW, this is how I felt about the “Exit En Mass” campaign. That was a very well-done campaign. Whatever you thought about the way that particular campaign was presented, its point was completely clear from the campaign materials themselves.

  • AxeGrrl

    Actually I disagree: to the extent that atheism is a belief system that’s founded on a particular belief about the existence of god, I see no difference

    This is precisely where you’re wrong.  When a theist presents his/her ‘case’ for believing in a god and the person listening says “that doesn’t convince me”, how, exactly does that reply constitute a “belief system“?

    Atheism is merely one LACK of belief, and one stance on one issue does not a “belief system” make.

  • AxeGrrl

    How on earth do you get from “could change tomorrow” to “illusory”?

    Sorry, but you’re not making any sense on this ‘main point’ of yours.

  • Drew M.

     Ooooh. Which of you is the mild mannered reporter and which of you is the superhero?

  • Matthew_F

    From my experience, husbands and wives who spend all their time exchanging cheap shots over dinner with one another usually end up divorced and bitter.

    Of course, atheists and christians don’t have the luxury of a divorce.  Whether we like it or not,  we’ve gotta live with each other for the rest of our lives.

  • My blog addresses this: The Closeted Atheist & The Billboard

  •  Not to mention that most people wouldn’t even know that it’s a reference to magic underwear.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    OK, despite the overall response to the contrary, I’ll stand up for American Atheists. 

    I am a member of this and MANY other secular organizations (FFRF, American United, Center for Inquiry, JREF, Secular Student Alliance, etc). I love them all, and send money to them, subscribe to their magazines, etc. 

    American Atheists is on the forefront of boldly challenging the politeness and undue respect given to religions that have not earned such respect. 

    Is AA’s tone more aggressive than most 
    of us atheists are in our day-to-day lives? Yes. 
    Are their ads more “in your face” than most of us atheists are in our day-to-day lives? Yes. 
    Might some people (maybe even many people) respond to the ads by thinking “wow, that’s offensive. Atheists are jerks!” Yes. What do you expect from a group started by Madalyn O’Hair?  

    BUT…. media coverage will help get the message out that people are openly questioning the validity of religion(s),  (perhaps some feeling that this is even obnoxiously questioning religion, but I don’t find the ads obnoxious). 

    Research on “CONFORMITY” shows that all it takes is for ONE voice to be heard challenging the conformity, and it psychologically gives FREEDOM for others to question authority/conformity/dogma. 

    Many folks found Hitchens abrasive. Dawkins shrill. So what? Their messages got heard. 

    When even atheists buy into religion’s taboo that it is unacceptable to directly challenge religion and point out it’s silliness, then we perpetuate the taboo. We would let mythology keep us quiet. 

    When the status quo is so silent in challenging obvious bat-shit-crazy mythology, even a critical whisper can appear like a scream. A guy in suit at a podium with a billboard display is a whisper. Why are we so warped that it appears like a scream? 

    Break the silence. Break the spell. Break the taboo of religions trying to be beyond open critique. The emperor has no clothes, and AA will call it out as such. 

  • bandm

    Also from an outsiders perspective, to me it seems that the Presidential candidates must declare their religion, and get brownie points for being a “Good Christian”, but that is where it is left. If you’re going to get brownie points for something, it should be examined. Blair didn’t do God at all.

  • David F

    Yeah, it is always great for a hated minority (us) to make a highly inflamitory, yet very vauge argument on a bilboard.

  • Oldaughd

    As an atheist and an anti-theist, I’m extremely disappointed with these billboards. They don’t do anything to further the humanist cause. All they do is make fun of Christianity and Mormons.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot that worth being made fun of, but not like this, not on the public stage. All it does is push people away, and closes civil lines of discourse. They are not even promoting anything.

    Trying to make everyone feel dumb for their religious believes is not going help any cause atheists support unless that cause is making every last non-atheist think we’re all complete assholes.

    The owners of these billboards should take them down.

  • Mjoyw2008

    As a christian I find these posters more offensive than any religious monument an atheist might come across.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    umm, ok. Some religious billboards say that I will burn in hell for all eternity. You think that mocking magic underwear is more offensive. Go figure. 

  • Something is only offensive if you choose to take offense. In this case, if you find it offensive when somebody criticizes your beliefs, it tells me that you are very insecure in those beliefs.

    I’m an atheist, and no religious monument has ever offended me in the slightest.

  • Piet

     No, childish is believing in a invisible sky-daddy.

  • Piet

     You are not making any sense.

  • Pseudonym

    That’s a fair and valid point. This is something else which the AA could take on, but seemingly chooses not to (in favour of intelligence-free insults).

  • Sindigo

    For the record, I’m in the UK so maybe this isn’t my fight but these days with the internet being what it is….

    I agree. These billboards are rude and unproductive. When theists say they hate it when atheists try to jam atheism down people’s throats, this  is exactly what they mean.

    How am we supposed to defend atheists and atheism when people pull stunts like this? Where’s our moral high ground? It’s okay when the guys on Reddit do it, it’s okay when we get a bit arsey on here; we’re just idiots with too much free time and an internet connection. But AA have set themselves up as an organisation which is supposed to represent us. When they pull crap like this is makes us all look bad.

    American Atheists, rethink these billboards for the sake of the rest of us. Please.

  • Py

     There is no criticism of beliefs in those billboards, only mocking. There is a big difference.

  • matt

     So…You’re saying God gave us morals via the bible then? Funny, no other species on this planet needs a holy book from god to be able to get along.

  • Of course there is criticism of beliefs! Mockery is an powerful and effective argument technique, and there’s nothing wrong with using it… although the wise debater knows when and when not to do so.

    That it’s mockery does nothing to change my point. The only person offended when his beliefs are mocked is a person who is not secure in those beliefs in the first place.

  • Nordog6561

    “That it’s mockery does nothing to change my point. The only person offended when his beliefs are mocked is a person who is not secure in those beliefs in the first place. ”

    Yeah, I don’t think that’s correct in a universal sense.

    Certainly it is correct in many, if not most cases, but it doesn’t allow for taking offense at the nature of the behavior itself as an affront to the individual.

    But then one could just as easily argue that mockery is the sign of not having an argument.  Of course that could be the case in many instances, but not necessarily so.

    In any event, I think “being offended” and high dudgeon have been raised to an art form of sorts.

  • Mockery is not automatically a sign of not having an argument. It has been used effectively by some of the greatest debaters of all time. It is merely another tool for convincing people, and like all tools, may be used well or not.

    It should not be possible to take offense at any verbal attack if you are secure in your beliefs… unless you actually respect the the attacker.

  • Dietrich

    “You can’t prove god doesn’t exist”.  What a tired argument.  The burden of proof is on the one making the positive existence claim, which is why atheists don’t have to prove that there is no god.

    Atheists simply claim that theists have not provided enough evidence for the existence of any gods.  That said, the universe appears to operate exactly as it would if there is no god, which would seem to make the existence of god irrelevant.

  • Nordog6561

    I still maintain that abject rudeness can be a cause of offense even for one secure in their position on a particular issue.

    There are many things that should not be.

    Again, I see that we are not really in contradiction here.

  • Ashley Will

     I agree.

  • Of course, there’s nothing rude about the content of the signs. They are simple statements of fact.

  • Nordog6561

    LOL Now that’s funny.

  • Joe

    I think it works. Im not atheist but atheists are finally biting back and showing they arent invisible. Religious people will talk about the billboards. Some will just be offended and call them stupid while others will talk to others and debate about it. Im sure some Christian will do a “in your face” moment to any atheists they know at which point the atheist will (hopefully) correct them and debate their faith. 

  • Not an expert by any means, but I think the Mormon billboard is incorrect.  It’s Scientologists that believe in space aliens; Mormons have a doctrine something like an early form of transhumanism, deriving from the King Follett Discourse (a sermon given by Joseph Smith after the funeral of an elder) where he explained the doctrine of how God was an exalted man and that men could become gods in their own right.

    If one of the points demonstrating how “simply reasonable” you are is flat wrong, that undermines the argument (never mind the silly joke about underwear).  I think this might actually backfire, in that most people who are Christians and who think Mormons are wrong would see the billboard mocking Christianity as well, and decide “Huh – maybe the Mormons aren’t that bad, if they and we are being tarred with the same brush!”

  • I believe that my rights come from my nature as a human being, not from any government.  I do not accept that a government can curtail or take away my rights, and I don’t think they can grant me rights (because those rights already exist; the state merely recognises them).

    Otherwise, you are saying that by a legislative decision, a government can indeed say some people are property and take away the right to liberty.

  • Renna

    At first I thought this was a completely terrible idea. Attacking religion in the most dickish, straw-man way possible is not going to get people to worry about the candidates’ religious beliefs, and it’s sure as hell not going to be beneficial to atheists, who are already a hated minority, and don’t need the rest of America to be even more encouraged to think that they are all insufferable assholes.

    But then I realized that AA’s sole aim here must just be to get a larger membership for themselves. Sure, the rest of America will hate atheists a little bit more every time they see those billboards, and sure this contributes absolutely nothing REMOTELY legitimate to any debate. But some atheists of the douchebag persuasion will love it, and I guess want to join AA, so they can then help publicize the atheists-are-insufferable-assholes point of view with even greater fervour!!

    Why are we supporting this organization exactly?

  • The_L1985

    Those billboards are far more anti-theist than atheist. I am no longer Christian, but I still feel dirty just for looking at them.

    Someone has apparently forgotten that rank-and-file Christians and Mormons exist. And that they’re, you know, people.

  • Charles Céleste Hutchins

    If you’re going to put up crap like this, can you make it clearer that you’re only speaking for your own small group of atheists and not all of us? I suddenly have massive empathy for mainstream Christians when fundamentalists start saying nutty things.

    Aside from being smug and annoying, what are you hoping to accomplish in a country where around 90% of people define themselves as vaguely Christian?  I hope the smugness is worth the ill will you’re engendering. Again, maybe you could change you name to “A Group of Insufferably Smug American Atheists” to distinguish yourself from the rest of us.

  • American Atheists’ idea of PR for atheism tends to make me want to use a different label for my own disbelief in gods and the supernatural in general.  Using such simplistic arguments, and implicitly equating the important strikes against a religion (i.e. funding bigotry) with the trivial ones (naming the planet where God supposedly lives) is the hallmark of a troll.  As Fred Clark observed in linking to this post, these billboards are reminiscent of some of Christian Piatt’s collection of Church Sign Epic Fails.

  • Pseudonym

    The only person offended when his beliefs are mocked is a person who is not secure in those beliefs in the first place.

    That’s not true. The other person offended is the person who laments what just happened to supposedly rational public debate.

  • Nordog6561

    We should just go ahead and formalize this and call it the “Insecurity Offense” fallacy.

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