Atheist Billboards Prompt Rage and Violence. Film at 11.


American Atheists recently put up billboards in Charlotte and Tampa, where the two major parties are holding their national conventions, and they were — very predictably — greeted by violent threats, rage and hatred. Here are a couple of emails they received in response:

“ALL OF YOU ARE FUCKING IDIOTS! I HOPE ALL OF YOUR DIE OF ASS CANCER AND BLEED OUT OF YOUR ASSES. BURN IN HELL… GO FUCK YOUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS, YOU PIECES OF SHIT.

P.S. HAVE A NICE DAY… HOPE YOU GET HIT BY A TRUCK.”

And:

“I hope your children are raped by a herd of goddamn NIGGERS and then their throats are slit and they die a slow painful death. Now that would be fun to watch. I hope it happens to all of you atheist parents.”

And we’ll know they are Christians by their love…

Comments

  1. raven says

    What, they haven’t been vandalized yet?

    AFAICT, the probability of an atheist billboard being vandalized approaches 1.

    The probability of their god striking them with lightening bolts is…zero. So where is he, drunk, dead, or just doesn’t care anymore?

  2. gesres says

    “And we’ll know they are Christians by their love…”

    Not really a fair criticism. Take a large population of people grouped by almost any category, and you’re going to get a fair number of nut jobs. If we plan on talking usefully about the religious, it probably can only be done on a statistical basis. I’m skeptical that publishing this sort of hate mail is useful, except as a means to enrage the base by demonizing our opponents.

  3. schism says

    And we’ll know they are Christians by their love…

    That’s a terrible thing to say! I’m sure most religions would share those sentiments and erasing their contributions to the tribalistic bigotry scene is just rude.

  4. Stevarious says

    The bible is very clear in 1 John 3:9. Real True Christians™ are incapable of sinning. So if a person commits any sin ever, he was never a Real True Christian™!

    That is to say, there are no Real True Christians™.

  5. says

    Take a large population of people grouped by almost any category, and you’re going to get a fair number of nut jobs.

    Enough to make the threats consistently credible, to the point where it’s considered very unwise to ignore them?

    The big difference with authoritarian religions is, they’re explicitly based on the kind of mindset that reacts with over-the-top hatred, or at least doesn’t have the basis to defuse it.

  6. lclane2 says

    When a similar billboard went up in Omaha a letter writer in the local paper commented that if it were a Christian billboard it would be vandalized immediately.

  7. dingojack says

    gesres – all that would lovely but for the inconvenient fact:
    religious nut jobs >> non-religious nut jobs (based on the evidence).
    Sorry ’bout your theory.
    Dingo

  8. says

    Not really a fair criticism.

    On the contrary: I think it’s a very fair criticism. Many Christians are very eager to portray themselves as having higher moral standards than others, particularly the ‘godless.’ Evidence that shows their religion fails at providing a firm moral compass for all of its followers is fair game in my book.

  9. d cwilson says

    Stevarious @5:

    You’ve got it backwards. Anything a Real True Christian ™ does is by definition, not a sin. Thus, if a Real True Christian ™ threatens somone with murder, assault, and rape, it’s because they were sanctioned by God.

  10. gesres says

    Dan J said:

    “Evidence that shows their religion fails at providing ”

    Now you’re making the statistical argument that I advocated, which is fine and fair. But Ed’s post attempts to tarnish the entire group of Christians with the hatred of a few. That’s the sort of strategy that the religious apologists use. We should be better than that.

  11. MikeMa says

    I believe the NC billboards were voluntarily removed due to threats against the billboard company, Adams outdoor. That is, for some values of voluntary.

    As to the ‘true christian’ bullshit, if the actual true christians made a loud, public point of protecting the apposing billboards AND demonizing the threat makers, the threats would diminish. This never happens. Christian love is bullshit, a convenient mask to hide their hatred and ignorance behind.

  12. says

    There’s an important distinction about using threatening emails for demonization versus demonstration. If you’re inflating the significance of a very tiny cherry-picked and non-influential minority of disgusting individuals, that’s unfair demonization of the overall group.

    With Christians, however, we’re not so sure these extremists are that tiny of a minority, and I’m confident they’ve got influence because we’ve got politicians who feel obligated to heavily pander to them. Granted, there are plenty of morally decent Christians worth a disclaimer, but when we’ve got a lot of vocal crazies wielding power, it sometimes feels hollow and probably sounds insincere to keep using such disclaimers.

    It’s hard to pick extreme atheist haters out in “meat space” a lot of the time, which is why a lot of atheists have stories of how one of their friends exploded with rage once they outed themselves as an atheist. As long as the haters think everyone around them is Christian, they can feign normality.

  13. eric says

    But Ed’s post attempts to tarnish the entire group of Christians with the hatred of a few.

    You should’ve read Ed’s link before commenting. These are two of the hundreds of emails and phone calls received by American Atheists.

    These hundreds of emails to the atheists themselves were also accompanied by emailed threats of violence (number unstated) made to the billboard owning company.

    Now, I think its fair to ask: if hundreds of emails to atheists + threats of violence to the people merely renting space to attheists doesn’t say something to you about the population, what would? Gesres, how many such messages would the atheist organization have to receive before you’d consider it reasonably representative of the population doing the sending?

  14. hexidecima says

    gesres, you are trying one of the oldest tricks, the “no true scotsman”. You want to play pretend that “no True Christian would be so hateful as those emails” but until you can show me what a True Christian is, you are stuck with people describing themselves as Christians being seen as just as good a Christian as you are. There is no way to determine who we should consider to be representative.
    Emails like this are absolutely nothing new. the Freedom From Religion Foundation gets hate mail too. And all of those people also think that they are Christians and are the ones that have the “truth” of things.

    right here, http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ffrfcrankmail&oq=ffrf&gs_l=youtube.3.0.35i39j0l5.21873.22498.0.24591.4.4.0.0.0.0.125.437.1j3.4.0…0.0…1ac.YKzFLpG6hLw

    you can hear a pretty woman read such vile spewings from theists against atheists. It’s amusing to watch, all of this evidence that demosntrates that Christians are nothing special, except for perhaps their foul mouths and ignorance.

  15. raven says

    “And we’ll know they are Christians by their love…”

    Not really a fair criticism.

    Yes it is.

    Fundie xian trolls >>>> Moderate xian trolls >>>>> atheist trolls.

    Fundie xianity is based on pure hate.
    No hate = no fundie xianity.

    The difference between the three groups is huge. The fundies are the largest pushers of hate, bigotry, and ignorance in our society.

    2/3 of all teorrist plots in the USA since 9/11 have involved right wing extremists and/or fundie xians. Xian terorism has been a problem for decades.

  16. raven says

    But Ed’s post attempts to tarnish the entire group of Christians with the hatred of a few.

    But Ed’s post attempts to tarnish the entire group of (fundie) Christians with the hatred of a few. almost all of them.

    Fixed it for you.

  17. says

    Not really a fair criticism.

    I think it’s pretty fair. Every time I hear of an atheist message going public–be it a billboard, a book, a documentary, a lecture, etc.–it’s always immediately followed by a slurry of hate mail from mostly Christians, some Muslims, and occasionally a Jew or two. Do other members of those faiths step up and do anything about it? What about when our billboards and “holiday” displays are taken down or vandalized? Are Christians lining up to open their wallets and make things right? No. And I’m not going to hold my breath. The attacks are constant and the show of remorse is nonexistent.

    (Occasionally you get a Christian who will say, “I’m a Christian and this is wrong,” but what does this patronizing get us? Will you and your church help us pay for a new billboard? What about raising money for security so we don’t have any more Madalyn Murray O’Hair incidents? No? Fine then. Sit down and shut up and stop patronizing.)

    However, in the exceedingly rare instances that atheists (and I don’t mean atheists who arrived at that conclusion logically, I mean punk high school kids who’ve plastered mom’s basement in Bad Religion posters) have vandalized churches with atheist (frequently spelled athiest) graffiti, Hemant Mehta is usually first up at bat to raise money to help the church repaint and clean up.

    So, yeah, I think the sarcastic, “And we’ll know they are Christians by their love,” is more than fair. They’re the ones claiming that we will know they are Christians by their love, but I haven’t seen any real Christian love toward non-religious people aside from the occasional Good Guy Christian offering nothing more than patronizing verbal support. Fuck ‘em.

  18. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    gesres:

    “And we’ll know they are Christians by their love…”

    Not really a fair criticism. Take a large population of people grouped by almost any category, and you’re going to get a fair number of nut jobs. If we plan on talking usefully about the religious, it probably can only be done on a statistical basis. I’m skeptical that publishing this sort of hate mail is useful, except as a means to enrage the base by demonizing our opponents.

    I disagree. It’s quite fair.
    Christians of all stripes tout their ‘love’ frequently. These Christians are displaying attitudes that are light years from what love is.

  19. harold says

    As to the ‘true christian’ bullshit, if the actual true christians made a loud, public point of protecting the apposing billboards AND demonizing the threat makers, the threats would diminish. This never happens. Christian love is bullshit, a convenient mask to hide their hatred and ignorance behind.

    That is a very good point.

    I am completely non-religious.

    Now, as it happens, I do almost endorse the “no True Christian” argument. I consider the people who wrote these messages to be despicable hypocrites. They are Christians in the sense that they claim that label, but not in the sense of obeying the precepts of the Biblical figure Jesus, as expounded in the four gospels in which that character appears.

    See, I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I’m something of a Christian atheist.

    I don’t believe in gods or any other supernatural entities, I’m not sure if an actual Jesus ever lived, and I am sure that even if there was a historical character he had no magical powers.

    On the other hand, much like Thomas Jefferson, I think that if you strip all the magic stuff out of the gospels, there’s still a good message. Am I saying that’s the only source of the message? No. Am I saying the Bible doesn’t have a lot of parts that are brutal? No.

    But I am saying that there are types of behavior which can only be associated with the teachings of Jesus by extreme hypocrisy.

    Just calling some of your fellow human beings “a herd of niggers”, alone, even without the threats of violence, for example.

    I want to emphasize that I am not trying to pick a fight here. The despicable behavior of self-professed Christians, and the passivity of other Christians, pretty much bordering on tacit approval, in the face of it, is a fact of the current US, and has been a fact of history in many places at many times.

    I’m just saying, yes, a case can be made that if Jesus came back, he’d never stop throwing up.

    I can recognize their behavior, and their self-label as Christians, while still noting that the teachings of Jesus directly condemn what they do, and that they are thus hypocrites.

  20. anubisprime says

    Not really a fair criticism. Take a large population of people grouped by almost any category, and you’re going to get a fair number of nut jobs

    The thing is maybe it is only a minority that post and threaten in the name of jeebus…but every other bunny that profess their xianity as the one true religion of lurve’ nod heads sagely and cluck tongues pompously with ‘oh they brought it on themselves’ or even turn their two faced cowardice to look elsewhere to ignore the blatant viscousness of their own fellow delusionals, and not one condemnation, not one sermon on the obvious hatred in their hearts, and not one apology from any of them…not one!

    You were saying…specifically about ‘Take a large population of people inevitably having a few rotten apples?’

    Seems the rotten apples are outweighing the large population here.

  21. matty1 says

    “And we’ll know they are Christians by their love…”

    Not really a fair criticism. Take a large population of people grouped by almost any category, and you’re going to get a fair number of nut jobs. If we plan on talking usefully about the religious, it probably can only be done on a statistical basis. I’m skeptical that publishing this sort of hate mail is useful, except as a means to enrage the base by demonizing our opponents.

    I’m clearly missing something both in gesres post and the responses because I don’t assume Ed was referring Christians as a general group in the first place. I took it as mockery of the letter writers for (presumably) claiming that being Christian makes them loving, while writing such things. If it wasn’t a general claim in the first place then arguing about whether it would be accurate if it was is beside the point.

  22. says

    @ Daisy:
    “Why are her looks relevant?”

    I don’t know why Hexidecima thought them so, but for me the image associated with the more horrible comments is of a guy in a stained ‘wife-beater’ undershirt with a beer in one hand and… and …well I don’t want to imagine what’s in the other, but you get the picture. So describing the spewer as a totally different sort of person might give pause for thought.
    Either that or they just like pretty women talking dirty??

  23. harold says

    Why are her looks relevant?

    They aren’t relevant in the slightest, one way or the other, to the underlying quality of her arguments.

    However, for better or worse, people perceived as attractive, and who have voices that are subjectively perceived by more people as pleasant rather than annoying, have an advantage in the video format. These traits will cause others to view them, at a purely irrational, emotional level, as more persuasive.

  24. MikeMa says

    The only effect her looks contribute is to be the perfect contrast to the crank messages. She reads the ‘fuck yous’ with such enthusiasm.

  25. imthegenieicandoanything says

    The parts of my family who believe they are Christian are absolutely repulsed by these kind of people, just as I can be by the (nearly infinitely more mild) idiots among the thought colonies I can be claimed by.

    They are the exception, though, in that they actually would speak up and condemn such people to their face in the way someone might scold an unhousebroken dog. What perhaps most bothers me about your ordinary “Christian” is that, except in the most extreme and criminal cases, the bigots can get away with ANYTHING so long as they spraypaint “Jesus” on it, either before or afterwards. Anything short of lynching simply doesn’t register in their eyes, and whatever does brings a shocked face, a “tut-tut” and immediate erasure from memory.

  26. Michael Heath says

    gesres,

    The fatally defective flaw in your thinking is that some monolithic population of Christians exist where it’s unfair to accuse a few of bad behavior not demonstrated by the many; that the few are not part of the many, i.e., the old ‘no true Scotsman’ argument. A more accurate representation is to consider a handful of populations who are both U.S. citizens and Christians. Where those respective populations have a distribution of behaviors which overlap, just like any distribution curve.

    From this perspective the outliers who publically and vociferously hate on atheists exist and are enabled by the behavior of those close to the median of the conservative Christian population which condones and less publically promotes such behavior. Where the other end of that very distribution have another set of outliers – those who vociferously condemn the haters in their own group. Since those people are far rarer than the haters, we can be confident this distribution curve isn’t a standard bell curve. But the key to understanding why we see so much bigotry and hatred from conservative Christians is the midpoint, which does reveal its attitudes in statistically significant surveys. Knowing where the midpoint is also helps us understand why the extremes stretch to where they do. If the midpoint began to embrace our founding American values, it’d be rare rather than common for a few Christian haters to act out as Ed reports here.

  27. iknklast says

    Harold

    “They are Christians in the sense that they claim that label, but not in the sense of obeying the precepts of the Biblical figure Jesus, as expounded in the four gospels in which that character appears.”

    That depends on which Jesus you read. There are several Jesuses in the New Testament, and you can make a nice, sweet, moral Jesus by leaving out the nasty, vile things he also says. Or you can make a nasty, vile Jesus by leaving out the nice, sweet, moral things he says (most of which are insipid, unoriginal, and in some cases, just plain bad advice).

    So what is a true Christian? Good Jesus or Bad Jesus? Either way, it’s delusional. And either way, an atheist will get an earful from their friends, as my moderate-to-liberal Christian friends look at me oh so sadly and tell me how horrible it must be to be me (they say it in other words – like, I wish you had some joy in your life – apparently Jesus real name is Joy). My not so moderate Christian acquaintances and friends will just condemn me to hell. And the nice ones will tut tut, but they can’t really bring themselves to actually stand up for the atheist.

    I don’t know if Jesus ever existed; if he did, there is no way to know if it was nice Jesus, nasty Jesus, or some other Jesus altogether – maybe schizophrenic Jesus. It’s totally irrelevant, because nice or nasty doesn’t make it true.

  28. jayarrrr says

    OK, so the violent, hateful Fundy minority doesn’t represent the “RealChristians”.

    If that’s true, then why are the RealChristians so hesitant to say anything against those who are setting a bad example of what a Christian is?

    Could it be that the RealChristians are perfectly happy to let the Fundy hate-wads do the heavy lifting so they don’t have to get their hands dirty?

    Hey, they claim kinship in Christ to *YOU*
    *YOU* need to do something about them.

  29. harold says

    inknklast –

    Our primary dispute here is whether or not the writers of the emails illustrated above can be described as “hypocrites”.

    You make the highly valid point, in my paraphrase, that one can open the Bible anywhere, including in the four gospels, and come across angry or offensive language within a short period of reading.

    Based on this, you argue that any behavior whatsoever is perfectly compatible with the self-label “Christian”. This is the party line of the “atheist movement”. And this is certainly a highly accurate description of how many Christian people behave.

    I take a slightly different perspective. My perspective is that the Bible is an highly inclusive and complex pile of folklore, but that it does, even in its rather imperfect and cobbled together state, prioritize. For example, the Pentateuch contains the Ten Commandments. The “nasty Jesus” mainly rails against people who don’t recognize the “nice Jesus”, or endorses harsh behavior by God. There’s no Jesus telling people to lie, cheat, steal, exploit the poor, or the like.

    Therefore, I do argue that certain behaviors are incompatible with even the harshest possible coherent interpretation of the Christian Bible, and that it is possible for a charge of hypocrisy to be leveled against self-professed Christians.

    I am NOT personally religious, nor defending the Bible as a clear guide to ethics, and I strongly agree that American right wing Christians behave despicably. I am merely noting that in my opinion, it is valid to call them hypocrites.

Leave a Reply