Atheist Billboard Prompts Angry Reactions

The response to an atheist billboard put up by the Center for Inquiry in Grand Rapids has been quite predictable. While I’m sure most Grand Rapids residents, including those who are Christian, don’t much care about the billboard at all and are perfectly happy to let others have their say even when they disagree, the zealots are climbing up on the cross to crucify themselves and spouting their anger.

WOOD-TV 8, the local NBC affiliate, did a story on the billboard and the comments are coming fast, furious and full of ignorant attempts to claim persecution. A lot of is coming from one Rich Valk:

If we said that we were offended, would they have to take it down, no. They have their freedom of expression and yet when we use the name of GOD in public, we are ordered by the court to take signs like this down. Ten Commandments in court rooms and even prayers in school.

Does he really not recognize the difference between a private organization taking out a billboard and government-run schools requiring students to recite government-written prayers? Is he really that clueless? Apparently so. He’s also flat wrong about such signs being taken down. There are, in fact, thousands of billboards around the country with religious statements on them and no one has ever been ordered to take one down, nor does anyone even attempt to have them taken down.

In another comment he says:

This country was founded on Christian values, to all those who think we have to bow to you, your wrong. In God We Trust. Thank you Barb Gallert, I stand behind you all the way. My constitution says that I also have the freedom of speech and yet if I offend someone, I have to shut my mouth. NOT IN MY LIFETIME.

Yes, you’re such a martyr. And yet here you are declaring your beliefs in public and no one is trying to stop you. I doubt the government has ever prevented you from expressing your religious beliefs.

Speaking of Barb Gallert, her comment was just as bad:

@ James Gleason…..Thank you for your post…….there are too many things in society today where the non-christians get heard and there way. Some non-christian didn’t want prayer in school…..they complained….no prayer. Another non-christian didn’t want a picture of Jesus hung up in school….if was offending….theyhad to take it down. The Ten Commandments can not be posted on State land or in State Court because some non-christian didn’t like it. Non-christians have been whining for way to long and getting there way. I say to all Christians…..don’t stop fighting….keep posting….stand up for what you believe in….don’t let non-christians push us around and keep taking away our rights as a Christian because that is what they have done so far….it is time for us to win back to being a Christian Nation….the way God intended it to be….the reason Jesus died on the cross.

Another one who can’t distinguish between private speech and government endorsement. They simply are not the same thing. She actually thinks that it’s a violation of liberty not to force students to pray in school. That’s positively Orwellian in its perversity.

And speaking of James Gleason, here’s his disgusting comment:

Please God!!! One bolt of lightning please!!! Help me burn the billboard down with one strike!!!! What a joke!!! Our society is a joke!!! Burn the sign down!!!!!!

Perhaps he needs to be reminded of the bolt of lightning that burned down Touchdown Jesus in Cincinnati last year — while leaving a porno store across the street totally untouched. Apparently God has very bad aim.

36 comments on this post.
  1. Bronze Dog:

    Well, I called it, but get no points because of the sheer obviousness of the reactions.

  2. Mr Ed:

    Please God!!! One bolt of lightning please!!! Help me burn the billboard down with one strike!!!! What a joke!!! Our society is a joke!!! Burn the sign down!!!!!!

    And god did just that. Today because of those retched billboards he sent his mighty earthquake to Alaska. It is not for us to question understand the ways of god.

  3. matty1:

    .it is time for us to win back to being a Christian Nation….the way God intended it to be….the reason Jesus died on the cross.

    Questtion for Christians, is claiming the purpose of the crucification was to establish the USA as a Christian nation, rather than say to save sinners, a heresy?

  4. feralboy12, der Ken-Puppe Sie außerhalb in 1983 verlassen:

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t hallucinate this billboard. No one forced them to take it down, it just started to look kinda silly after May 21. No lightning bolts required.
    Yes, non-Christians didn’t like prayer in school or Ten Commandments being posted in government buildings…so they wrote the first amendment, giving each of us the right to ignore most of those commandments.
    The idea that Jesus died on the cross for a nation that didn’t yet exist, on a continent they didn’t know was there should tell you: reason will not work on these people.

  5. Steve LaBonne:

    Since I’m rather lazy, I find it wonderfully convenient that I have the magical power to persecute Christians merely by existing.

  6. Brother Yam:

    Perhaps he needs to be reminded of the bolt of lightning that burned down Touchdown Jesus in Cincinnati last year — while leaving a porno store across the street totally untouched. Apparently God has very bad aim.

    No, god just has good taste…

  7. raven:

    Matter of time until it is vandalized. The probability of an atheist billboard being vandalized is around 100%.

    CFI needs to get a camera to videotape the vandalism for Youtube.

    Atheist billboard cost = a few bucks.

    Xians demonstrating the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of their religion = priceless.

  8. The Lorax:

    Atheist billboard despised
    And no one is surprised

  9. Rieux:

    Matter of time until it is vandalized. The probability of an atheist billboard being vandalized is around 100%.

    I’m not so sure. Fred Edwords, of the American Humanist Association and United Coalition of Reason, has been involved in a bunch of disputes on behalf of local nonbelief groups trying to put up billboards; according to him, vandalism is actually pretty rare.

    Online comments like the ones quoted in the OP aren’t, though.

  10. MikeMa:

    Why are these fundies so unpatriotic? The constitution explicitly calls for schools and gov’t action to be free from religion or religious influence. A billboard, as Ed states is private and exempt from that. I’ve seen plenty of christian billboards. Don’t like ‘em but at 70mph, my annoyance is very short lived.

    Not a christian nation. Get over it.

  11. DaveL:

    This country was founded on Christian values, to all those who think we have to bow to you, your wrong. In God We Trust. Thank you Barb Gallert, I stand behind you all the way. My constitution says that I also have the freedom of speech and yet if I offend someone, I have to shut my mouth. NOT IN MY LIFETIME.

    We should start a database of these remarks for a future lawsuit to remove IGWT from our currency. We could present countless examples of how the phrase, far from devoid of religious meaning, is in fact understood to be an endorsement of religion over non-religion.

  12. teawithbertrand:

    Wow. Some of the comments on that site are Poe material. Fucking ignorant fools. The cognitive dissonance of these people defies belief. They’re always 100% in favor of freedom of religion and expression – but only when it’s their own.

  13. steveinmi:

    Ed, I don’t know whether you’ve seen the comments on “mlive”, the online arm of the Grand Rapids Press.

    They carried a short story on this billboard, which now has OVER 600 comments attached. The vast majority of the comments are quite supportive of the message, although there are a few (<12?) high-volume commenters who've jumped in… plenty of familiar anti-atheist canards to be found there.

    http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/08/you_dont_need_god_billboard_is.html

  14. Chiroptera:

    …the zealots are climbing up on the cross to crucify themselves and spouting their anger.

    Personally, I think this is the best reason to be putting up atheist billboards.

    I know, I know; my coworkers think I’m a trouble-maker, too.

  15. anteprepro:

    Apparently the phrase “You don’t need God- to hope, to to care, to love, to live” is so fucking offensive to religious types to warrant this hysterical reaction. If they are offended over such an innocuous statement, than they have forfeited their rights to be viewed as people who I would give a fuck about offending. I hope the accomodationists are paying close attention to the reactions to these atheist billboards: It doesn’t matter what you say in them, if it even suggests THE POSSIBILITY of people being able to live as atheists, they will act as if you were posting billboards of Zombie Jesus or Piss Christ. It is hilarious, in a “Why don’t we just nuke ourselves and get this thing over with” kind of way.

  16. D. C. Sessions:

    You know, I really do kinda regret that they can’t have what they claim to want. Like prayer in schools, for instance: several times a day, get the whole class down on the floor facing Mecca, and pray.

    I doubt the lesson would penetrate, much less last.

    Still, it was cool back when I was a high school freshman back in the 60s and the school board was still not up to speed on the whole “no prayer” thing. They figured it’d be all right to require prayer as long as the Board didn’t write it. My English teacher responded by having a different prayer every morning. Maybe Shacharit one day, something Islamic the next, a Hindu prayer on Thursday, a Dine’ morning prayer (complete with corn pollen, he had connections) the following week … You get the idea.

    Needless to say, the parents were not amused and wanted to draft the approved prayer. The Board, bless ‘em, at least had that much clueth and didn’t — but I’ve heard stories that the whole “official prayer” thing fell apart anyway because the people who wanted to dictate their religion to others weren’t about to settle for pablum. The Catholics and the Mormons weren’t going to go along with the Pentecostals, and so forth.

  17. MikeMa:

    @DC Sessions,
    Those founders sure were smart anticipating the ignorance of the religiously entrenched. I’d have liked to see that Dine one as Tony Hillerman’s writing about it was inspirational to this easterner.

  18. fastlane:

    DaveL, I’ve been saying the same thing for years now. That whole ‘ceremonial deism’ is proven to be so much crap every time a story like this comes out. Of course, the SCOTUS will then claim that these aren’t the ‘reasonable observers’ that they use as their test.

    I’d like to know what their definition of reasonable is if the majority of people aren’t…..

  19. teawithbertrand:

    Here’s an idea: take the ugliest and stupidest of the comments on the WOOD TV-8 article and put THEM on a billboard right next CFI’s.

    On second thought, I can just picture these morons beaming with pride as they drive by – “Bolt of lightning? Duuuuh…yup! Thattun’s mine! Spelt out alla dem big words maself, I did…”

    Yes, I’m making fun. They fucking deserve it.

  20. Michael Heath:

    I was able to post a comment pointing readers to this blog post. But I wasn’t able to read any comments at all at the link Ed embedded in his post: http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/grand_rapids/religious-billboard

    How does one navigate to the comments at this article?

  21. D. C. Sessions:

    I’d like to know what their definition of reasonable is if the majority of people aren’t…..

    Those who agree with them.

  22. etoo:

    I’m just in disbelief that these people really can’t see this distinction between what they can do as private citizens and what they can do as government officials. In nearby Giles County here in Virginia, there was a big squabble over the Ten Commandments being posted in the schools. The school board voted to take them down, and you’d have thought Satan himself had come down to lead a celebration! They went apeshit, and students started putting up the ten commandments on their lockers, thinking this would cause consternation in the ACLU. Which came out completely supporting the rights of the students to put them up on lockers! This seems to get it exactly right to me.

    What I don’t think we say enough, after making the public/private distinction, is that IF anyone comes and tries to ban you from saying something or expressing something in a public forum, we’ll be right there fighting with you!

  23. abusedbypenguins:

    I’ve used up 4 green Sharpies by redacting igwt on the back of every bill I spend. I pay cash for everything but rent and utilities and I’ve received only one back that I redacted. Go buy green Sharpies!

  24. D. C. Sessions:

    I’m just in disbelief that these people really can’t see this distinction between what they can do as private citizens and what they can do as government officials.

    Why? Egalitarian societies are rare in human history. Feudalism, theocracy, feudal theocracy, etc. are much more common. The American South has been basically feudal since the first colonists arrived, and it’s not far under the skin today.

  25. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne:

    I’d like to know what their definition of reasonable is if the majority of people aren’t…..

    They can’t define it, but they know it when they see it in the mirror.

  26. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne:

    They went apeshit, and students started putting up the ten commandments on their lockers, thinking this would cause consternation in the ACLU.

    Some people have no clue. I sell apparel at CafePress.com and I remember a conversation on the users’ forums a couple of years ago where a fellow shopkeeper was touting a new bumper sticker design of his. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was to the effect that people should send Christmas cards to the ACLU because it would really piss them off.

  27. Occam's Blunt Instrument:

    Someone needs to do a sign that says “THIS SIGN PERSECUTES CHRISTIANS”

  28. anteprepro:

    Occam’s Blunt Instrument: “Someone needs to do a sign that says “THIS SIGN PERSECUTES CHRISTIANS””

    Half the people wouldn’t get the joke and shrug it off, and the good chunk of the remaining would also not get the joke and throw a fit. How dare you insult Christians, somehow! How dare you propose that people should start persecuting Christians! (That’s what the sign was for, right?). The fact that such a sign could be put up just PROVES that Christians are being persecuted in this country! Repeat hysterical, humorless, nonsensical objections until the end of the time itself.

    I think that what we should do is come up with a standard “This Persecutes Christians” symbol to stamp on signs like this, to make the joke more obvious to the clueless, and to steal the thunder from those who wax apoplectic about the evils of having hope and love without the involvement of Space Ghosts.

  29. sqlrob:

    “I think that what we should do is come up with a standard “This Persecutes Christians” symbol to stamp on signs like this”

    A lion?

  30. 386sx:

    This country was founded on Christian values, to all those who think we have to bow to you, your wrong.

    Ha ha he said “your wrong”. (Yeah I know it’s valid internet shorthand for “you’re”, but still…)

  31. dingojack:

    Perhaps he needs to be reminded of the bolt of lightning that burned down Touchdown Jesus in Cincinnati last year — while leaving a porno store across the street totally untouched. Apparently God has very bad aim.”

    Or, perhaps, very good aim. There’s no commandment against porn*, building ‘graven images’ however… ;) – Dingo
    —-
    * unless your neighbour is a porn star* (with a curvaceous ass), and how likely is that?

  32. moralnihilist:

    I wish I could just walk away from that comment thread, but the vitriol is just too much for me to ignore. I’ve been told I was never a true Christian (that ever-changing, vague term), that I’m choosing to go to hell, and that I really do believe in God and I just want to rebel. *sigh* That’s Calvinists for you. I basically responded that deep down, they’re atheists, and isn’t it fun when I tell them what they think?

    I tried to be polite at first, but the gloves had to come off.

  33. argos:

    “Apparently God has very bad aim.” Very funny Bones quote:

    Booth: Right now I’m more worried about a safe distance between you and me.
    Brennan: Why?
    Booth: Why, because we’re going to a church, and you tend to get blasphemous in churches.
    Brennan: Are you afraid that if God smites me with lightning that you could get hit?
    Booth: Yeah, since I would be standing right beside you.
    Brennan: The Greek God Zeus also used lightning to incinerate his enemies, although Zeus apparently had better aim than your God.
    Booth: Exactly, stuff like that. Just don’t say stuff like that.

  34. Sastra:

    Another one who can’t distinguish between private speech and government endorsement. They simply are not the same thing.

    I think the part that really messes them up on this issue is the common assumption that democracy means “majority rules.” Very plain and simple. Once you’ve got a majority that wants prayer in public schools then that school for all intents and purposes belongs to the majority. It’s their school. The majority is the true government. Under God.

    Interfering state officials who try to mandate that government be neutral is just like someone coming into your own house and telling you what you can and can’t do.

    This is of course exacerbated by the belief that human rights “come from God” — as if God was a parent who’s handed out a gift and those who ignore the parent thus have no right to the gift or right to believe they can share the gift.

    I can sort of see where these commenters are coming from if I remember back to how I used to think about rights and ownership when I was 4 years old.

  35. fifthdentist:

    In high school I had an AC/DC “Highway to Hell” T-shirt I’d wear. It absolutely drove this one fundie asshole nuts. And when he asked if I wanted to go to hell and I responded, “Yeah, if that’s where you won’t be,” it totally blew his tiny mind.
    Good times.

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