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Atheist Billboard Hits Grand Rapids

The Center for Inquiry’s Living Without Religion campaign has reached Grand Rapids, Michigan, where a new billboard now displays this message:

You don’t need God — to hope, to care, to love, to live.

I like that. It’s a positive message, better than some of the alternatives I’ve seen in such campaigns. Below the fold, a picture of the billboard along with two friends, Jeff Seaver and Jennifer Beahan, who run the CFI Michigan chapter that I’ve long been involved with.

And yes, they really are that tall. They tower over the entire city, frightening children and the elderly. But we still love them.

Comments

  1. Taz says

    And yes, they really are that tall.
    Oh, sure. How do we know it’s not just a really small billboard?

    Grand Rapids is a good choice.

  2. teawithbertrand says

    I wish it said something more like “God Doesn’t Exist” or “There is No God” rather than “You Don’t Need God.” A lot of people misunderstand atheism, mistaking a lack of belief in deities for an angry rejection of them. The language here contributes to the confusion. I feel like I’m always having to explain that I just don’t see any evidence of god, not that I accept the fact of his existence but don’t like him.

  3. Nentuaby says

    teawithbertrand:

    Personally I disagree. I think the arguments for there actually *being* a god are so very weak that they dissipate on their own; but attempting to attack them directly is futile, because believers cling so desperately to them. So if we can disengage several cylinders of the cognitive dissonance engine FIRST by convincing them that disbelief will not make them horrible persons, we’ve made a huge advance.

  4. cgauthier says

    While “non-belief in” too often gets confused with “anger at” I always feel a little cheated, that in order to get the former across one has to downplay the fact that, hypothetically, even if I did believe in it, I be angry w/ it. Every possible idea of a omnipotent supernatural master, no matter how benevolently imagined, represents a repugnant evil and an insult to basic dignity, so in the slightest of possiblities that one or several do exist, fuck em. Fuck em hard and if death were an option for a deity, they should go kill themselves, slowly, and I’d pay to watch. Even if god really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him, or however the quote goes.

    The real challenge with believers isn’t explaining any particular position to them, but getting them to understand hypothetical thinking at all. If they understood that you wouldn’t have to try and drill your position into their heads over and over and over again.

  5. piguy says

    And yes, they really are that tall.

    If the nice billboards don’t work out I say we breed them and create a whole army of Frightenlingly Tall Atheists [TM] to tower over churches and the people on the set of ETWN.

    Victory will be ours!

  6. Ellie says

    I’m a Theist. I don’t object to the billboard at all….although the really big people are a little scary.

    If you do need a god (of any kind) to care and to love, then you probably aren’t doing it right and should just hang it up as a lost cause because that’s not what faith is about.

    I like the billboard…for more reasons than the authors had in mind, I’m sure.

  7. gesres says

    I also wish it hadn’t said “need God”, because it implies that one exists, but the atheist rejects him, which is something that many theists think anyway. “You’re an atheist? Why do you hate God?”

    Better, I think, to have said “need a god” or “belief in a god”.

  8. teawithbertrand says

    Nentuaby

    I dunno. The arguments for god’s existence fall flat with you and me, but to fundies they are irrelevant. They know there’s a god because they just know there’s a god, and they find it very hard to understand that we’re are not as convinced as they are. I guess I feel like this billboard concedes the point to them, or that they would interpret it that way. I also think that to a lot of these folks, kissing god’s ass is the very definition of being a good person, so disbelief makes us “bad people” automatically, and so the moral quality of our actions and character does not matter.

  9. JoeKaistoe says

    I also think that to a lot of these folks, kissing god’s ass is the very definition of being a good person, so disbelief makes us “bad people” automatically, and so the moral quality of our actions and character does not matter.

    Ah, True Christian(TM) morality. Experiencing this is what turned me from an apathetic agnostic to an atheist.

    The entire basis is that God is the great equalizer, passing judgement on all, and handing out all reward and punishment. Thus, the only ass that needs kissing is his. In order to be moral, one must beg forgiveness from Him. No reparation to the wronged needed.

    This is why they fear atheists as amoral beasts. They can’t conceive of being accountable to anything but a higher power.

  10. Michael Heath says

    Here’s a second take based on some criticism in this thread with which I agree.

    You don’t need to conjure up God – to hope, to care, to love, to live.

    My less pithy sentence would require a small enough font size to add an additional row to fit my additional text where I’m not sure the message would still be readable when driving past. I purposefully used a proper noun for God to focus on the message, rather than open oneself up for diversionary rants (if I’d instead written, “You don’t need to conjure up a god – . . .”

    But this is a trivial pedantic criticism compared to the benefit Mr. Seaver and Ms. Beahan are bringing by getting more in the game relative to my Monday morning armchair quarterbacking.

  11. raven says

    The CFI should have a camera of some sort on that sign.

    The probability of an atheist sign being vandalized is pretty close to 100%. Might as well film it for Youtube.

    The vandalism is worth at least as much as the sign. Fundies never miss a chance to display their moral bankruptcy.

    A xian billboard, one of Harold Campings Rapture Now billboards, was vandalized near here. The police actually caught the guy. It was a xian from another cult.

  12. raven says

    The content and graphics of atheist billboards pales beside the fact that there is such a thing as atheist billboards.

    Some of them do work better than others. Positive messages and humor go a long way.

    The best one I saw (on the net) was in Florida. It showed a winged fairy with a magic wand that looked a whole lot like Tinkerbell. The message, “All religions are fairy tales.”

    I was just leaving xianity behind and it was funny but pointed out something that bothered me for a long time. There are myriads of religions and they all look like something humans made up.

  13. tonyfleming says

    I noticed only yesterday that the Living Without Religion ads have appeared in the DC area – specifically on the DC Metro trains. On the train I was on, no one seemed put off by it, but most Metro ads are just visual pollution and are ignored. I’ll keep my eye on them for any vandalism.

    Tony

  14. Aquaria says

    If you do need a god (of any kind) to care and to love, then you probably aren’t doing it right and should just hang it up as a lost cause because that’s not what faith is about.

    Funny, a lot of theists do say just this. They say we atheists can’t love or be good because we don’t believe in the sky fairy they do.

    That’s what faith is about to them, and they think anyone who doesn’t see it that way “probably aren’t doing it right and should just hang it up as a lost cause because that’s not what faith is about.”

    I wish you True Christians(TM) would make up your minds.

  15. teawithbertrand says

    Michael Heath:

    I like it. It kind of strikes a balance here, doesn’t it? And “conjure” puts God where he belongs – in the company of fairies, unicorns and Harry Potter.

  16. Ellie says

    I’m sorry, Aquaria, that as a True Christian TM, I fail in your eyes, not marching in lockstep. I’d say I’ll try to do better, but I probably wont.

  17. tfkreference says

    I think the “need God” phrasing works, because it addresses the argument that believing in a god gives comfort, regardless of facts. Fundies don’t hold that view, but they’re not the primary target. The people who are going to absorb the message are those who hold onto their belief, but go to church only for weddings and funerals (and maybe Midnight Mass with grandma).

  18. Rob Monkey says

    Wow, this almost cancels out the fact that every time I drive to Grand Rapids I have to pass a billboard advertising Pictured Rocks National Park (one of the most beautiful places in MI) that says, “Featured in Kid Rock’s shitty music video!” Seriously folks, Kid Rock fans are to be found at monster truck rallies and tractor pulls. Unless you’re offering a 40 of Mad Dog with admission to the park I think this advertising campaign’s gonna fail.

  19. teawithbertrand says

    Ellie:

    It sounds like you’re a Christian who understands that theism is not a prerequisite for morality. You agree with the billboard.

    My friend (I’ll call him Bob) is also a Christian. He says this billboard is nonsense and should be torn down. God is the source of all things good, so no one can be a good person without him in their life. Atheism and evil are the same thing, according to Bob, and not to be tolerated.

    The thing is, if you both call yourself Christians, how is anyone to know which of you is the TRUE Christian and which of you is confused, or lying, or misled? Any argument between you and Bob on the matter would be a stalemate. I think that’s the point Aquaria was making.

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