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Oct 05 2013

New CFI Billboards Go Up

The Center for Inquiry has a new billboard campaign and we’ve got three of them up in West Michigan. It simply says, “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion” and it points to the Living Without Religion website. Here’s the one in Grand Rapids:

GRbillboard

This is almost exactly two years after the last such campaign, which prompted all sorts of furious response from some of the good Christian folk in Grand Rapids. Some of the comments in response to a newspaper article on the billboard were astonishingly idiotic, like this one:

and we dont need God haters! Period. Atheists dont believe God. His Son still died for their sins too. “Only a fool says in his heart, there is no God.” They dont believe in God because they dont want to be held accountable for their actions.

Just because atheists dont like God— Keep your opinions to yourself instead of trying to take our rights as Christians away.

Safe to say we’re not dealing with a Rhodes Scholar here.

So, I have this really distinct feeling that if a Christian organization decided to post ‘Yes it does’ billboards around this area, that very same Atheist organization would be up in arms about Christians ‘Posting their religious beliefs in the public place.’

Perhaps you should try thinking instead of feeling. One of the very first comments on the article was about how if Christians put up billboards, the ACLU would sue to shut them down. Absolute stupidity. In fact, there are lots and lots of religious billboards in the area. No one has ever disputed them. Churches have every right to put up a billboard and no atheist group has ever tried to prevent them from doing so. They can hardly make the same claim.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    cptdoom

    So they’re OK with Mormons, Southern Baptists and other non-Christian groups enticing children into their wickedness but not atheists? That’s not very neighborly.

  2. 2
    trucreep

    Mr. Brayton, this is kind of off topic, but as I would drive I-96 back and forth from Grand Rapids to the Detroit Area, I have always been curious about the CBS logo that’s below almost all of those billboards. Would you be able to shed some light on this?? Just WHAT is the deal there?!

  3. 3
    colnago80

    Re cptdoom @ #1

    Southern Baptists aren’t Christians? Since when.

  4. 4
    raven

    Southern Baptists aren’t Christians? Since when.

    According to the Mormons they aren’t. The Mormons claim to be the only xians.

    The Catholics say they might be but they are going to hell anyway

    There are 42,000 xian sects. Only one is the True Xian Cult. No one knows which one..

  5. 5
    W. Kevin Vicklund

    Mr. Brayton, this is kind of off topic, but as I would drive I-96 back and forth from Grand Rapids to the Detroit Area, I have always been curious about the CBS logo that’s below almost all of those billboards. Would you be able to shed some light on this?? Just WHAT is the deal there?!

    CBS has a media division that rents out billboard space:

    https://www.cbsoutdoor.com/media/billboards

  6. 6
    raven

    These billboard campaigns have been incredibly effective.

    When they first started going up, they routinely got vandalized. That doesn’t seem to be happening any more.

    It means some xians have gotten over their reflexive rage towards people who find their fairy tales to be…fairy tales. It’s gone from reflexive rage to dull constant hatred. That is progress.

  7. 7
    Félix Desrochers-Guérin

    @2: CBS is in the buisness of billboard advertising. That’s the deal there.

  8. 8
    pocketnerd

    Extra props for using a non-white female on the billboard.

  9. 9
    timgueguen

    CBS also runs ad billboards n Canada.

  10. 10
    Michael Heath

    I think numbers four and six are effectively contradictory, though not pedantically so. The web design doesn’t allow me to link to the page showing those FAQs, so here they are verbatim:

    4. Are you trying to convert people?

    No. People can reach their own conclusions about how they want to live. But we want people to know what being nonreligious really means, and we want an end to the unjustified prejudice many feel toward nonbelievers. We want to dispel the myth that says a life without belief in God leads to loneliness or a lost sense of purpose or meaning. That’s just simply not true, and there are millions of people to prove it.

    6. Why spend money on billboards when there are so many other programs that could benefit from that kind of funding?

    Come speak to some of our members—people who have lived for years censoring what they say, suffering rejection by their families, being cast out of their community—until they found the nonreligious community. The funds we spend on outreach campaigns are a small price to pay to reach others like them, to start a discussion in their community about why it’s okay to live without religion, and to show how it’s possible to be happy without religion.

    I think it’s an obvious attribute of those who self-identify* as non-religious and who are either socially or politically active to desire influencing others to give up faith, belief, and religion. The button on the home page even points out why. That’s because we support science, reason, and secularist values, where we also realize that religion is the primary enemy to all three. In particular fundamentalism and other religions (Catholicism) which abuse children by attempting to indoctrinate those children while also attempting to develop them into authoritarians so they childishly and slavishly submit even in adulthood.

    And yes, I know that there are people who are religious and believe they support science, religion, and secularism, including many Catholics; but I’m not describing the religious here but instead the non-religious who subscribe to those values and again: a) mark themselves as non-religious and b)* are socially and politically active while identifying as such. From my perspective we most certainly are trying to convert people, so number four is demonstrably wrong. It just isn’t a primary agenda item within in the non-religious movements like it is for some religionist groups.

    It’d be better to concede that we think the evidence convincingly reveals humanity and extant life on this planet would be far better off if everyone wasn’t religious and subscribed to science, reason, and secularism. Where we also concede that there are many millions of religious people who have and continue to successfully contribute to all three of those ideals. Where we honor them for their contributions while respectfully disagreeing with them utilizing faith to believe in certain religious doctrines.

    Barack Obama and Andrew Sullivan immediately come to mind when I consider those who are religious and have had a positive impact on these ideals. Still, I’d be far happier if our movement could convince both of them to abandon faith because it’s such a juvenile thinking defect.

    *I’m attempting to distinguish between those who should self-identify with the CFI and those who are not religious while also not considering their non-religiosity as a marker of who they are in social and political venues. I don’t seem this group being part of any movement to convert anyone, so this wouldn’t be an attribute for them. But I certainly observe this for those non-religious people who do or should identify with CFI.

  11. 11
    Sastra

    Michael Heath #10 wrote:

    I think it’s an obvious attribute of those who self-identify* as non-religious and who are either socially or politically active to desire influencing others to give up faith, belief, and religion.

    I agree — and I’m also getting rather tired at the knee-jerk reflex atheists are apparently supposed to experience when someone suggests that atheists are trying to convince more people to be atheists.

    “No. Oh dear, no — that would be awful, wouldn’t it? No, people can reach their own conclusions about how they want to live and what they want to believe and if we were to try to persuade them that their first conclusion was mistaken by leading them rationally through the evidence then that would be EXACTLY like not allowing them to reach their own conclusion and believe what they want! It would be tyranny! Like a Democrat telling Republicans to shift parties. It’s disrespectful to their identity. Changing people’s minds takes away people’s rights! We’re just a safe haven for atheists, that’s all. Don’t worry. ”

    Come on. Let’s not buy in to the religious privilege too easily granted to the “virtue” of having faith — and the monstrosity of trying to “take it away.” It’s a legitimate issue for public debate.

    I might balk a bit at using the word “convert,” though, since it’s so closely associated with the underhanded tactics of religious proselytizing. But what sort of second class status are atheists accepting by so readily and eagerly reassuring religious people that our message is not for them?. It’s fine if they’re religious, we wouldn’t ever want that to change. So don’t worry, we’re ONLY addressing other atheists and trying to get the religious to ease up on the hate.

    No. I’m out to get you. And your children. Worry.

  12. 12
    sumdum

    I always wonder why that quote ‘only a fool says..’ is supposed to be convincing. Only a fool says in his heart there is a god. There, now you have the opposite. Is this any less credible just because I wrote it just now, instead of a thousand years ago? I don’t see why.

  13. 13
    julial

    Truely a fool says in their heart that there IS no god.
    A more reflective individual says that there could be a god but evidence thereof is so lacking that no thinking person would consider any claim for that existance as truthful.

  14. 14
    sigurd jorsalfar

    Sastra #11 – That’s why I prefer the term ‘de-convert’. Every believer starts out an atheist then is converted to a faith by family, friends, etc. Atheism doesn’t convert anyone. It de-converts people back to the original state of not believing religious nonsense.

  15. 15
    Modusoperandi

    “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion”

    Are they? Are they, really? Or do they just think they’re happy, on account of all the marihuana and coitus Athiests have all the time?

  16. 16
    Ed Brayton

    I agree with Mike and Sastra on this and I am always annoyed with the “we’re not trying to change anyone’s mind” position. Bullshit. Of course you are. Every single time you make an argument on anything, you are saying something you believe to be true. And if you don’t want others to recognize that it’s true, you wouldn’t bother saying it at all. It’s just completely disingenuous.

  17. 17
    Francisco Bacopa

    CBS Outdoor was formed when Viacom and CBS merged. The signs used to say Viacom. Anyone who drives I-10 between the West Loop 610 and Downtown has likely seen the CBS Outdoor operations center just inside Saywer. And yes, in Houston “inside” is a directional term most people understand perfectly. Very difficult to give directions to outsiders.

    BTW, there are religious billboards there occasionally. Mostly the signs are for Louisiana Casinos.

  18. 18
    billdaniels

    The bible quote is not even right. Psalms 14 and 53 both start with “The fool has said in his heart, there is no god.” Note the definite article. I checked that in four bible versions. Three have the verse quoted above. The fourth, the NIV, says “Only a fool would say, ‘There is no god.” The NIV was written by Evangelicals, so it has a distinct Evangelical bent.

  19. 19
    Robin Pilger

    “and we dont need atheist haters! Period. Christians believe God. His Son still didn’t do a thing to mitigate their sins too. “… there is no God.” They believe in God because they dont want to be held accountable for their actions.

    Just because Christians like God— Keep your opinions to yourself instead of trying to take our rights as atheists away.

    FIFY

  20. 20
    danrobinson

    This one of the most annoying things about religious people. They demand silence from me but I have to tolerate religion in my face everywhere I go in this god-soaked culture. They even insist that religion is NOT shoved in my face which shows how blind they are and unaware of how biased the culture really is. I must hold my tongue while they blather on about Jesus, satan and all of the demons, saints and *Dog knows what other magical nonsense they have had planted in their feeble brains. But what can I do? Start a big family argument? No, I just seethe in silent frustration listening to foolishness. That’s why I love these billboards!

    *My dog would NEVER treat me that way!

  21. 21
    escuerd

    sumdum @ 12,

    I think that most of the people fond of quoting that passage are doing so to reassure themselves. It obviously wouldn’t be convincing to anyone who didn’t just take its veracity for granted.

  22. 22
    democommie

    I do not like proselytization, I prefer to convince others by example.

    It has been my experience that most people who really know me say that I’m nowhere near as big an asshole since I’ve become an atheist. Several of them have told me that my being convinced that GOD does not exist is a good start–now if only I could convince them that I DON”T exist, their world would be even better!

  23. 23
    Sandy Small

    Damn, that first comment is like a greatest hits compilation of pig-ignorant atheist bashing.

    “Order now and receive ‘my granddaddy weren’t no monkey!’ for no extra charge!”

  24. 24
    Al Dente

    billdaniels @18

    Psalms 14 and 53 both start with “The fool has said in his heart, there is no god.”

    This Biblical passage has always struck me as one of the most condescending, arrogant, smug things ever written. A book pushing a particular belief has a bit that says those who don’t believe are fools. I realize the palmist was preaching to the choir and if the theists kept it for home consumption I wouldn’t complain about it. However, more than half the time I’m discussing belief with a Christian they trot out this quote. The Christians are ignoring “…whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22 KJV) Another point is that I’m not going to accept a piece of self-serving propaganda. It’s all I can do from saying “and a hardy ‘fuck you’ to you” whenever someone quotes this verse at me.

  25. 25
    raven

    It’s all I can do from saying “and a hardy ‘fuck you’ to you” whenever someone quotes this verse at me.

    Now, now. Don’t bother.

    Just say, “The fool in his heart says there is no god.”

    “The wise and brave say it out loud. And often.”

  26. 26
    grumpyoldfart

    Those quotes from religious folk: I can’t find them anywhere on the Internet except this blog. Anybody know where they originated?

  27. 27
    danrobinson

    They originated in the bible. I’ve had religious people tell me right to my face the one about a fool believing there is no god. Unfortunately I had never heard it at the time and had no ready response although the obvious response was, “Well, the bible would say that now wouldn’t it”
    But it was a good friend at the time and I was at a loss as to how to respond to such a vacuous argument without being insulting and thus said very little that was effective. Alas my godlessness and also my sexual orientation was too much for this person and we didn’t stay friends for long. I thought we had a good friendship and her religion was no problem to me but she just couldn’t get past my points of view and dumped me as a friend. Kinda sad. She was a good drummer!

  28. 28
    grumpyoldfart

    Thanks Dan. Sorry to hear your friend gave up on you.

    I know the bit about ‘fools’ comes from the bible.

    I am still looking for the name of the newspaper which apparently published the comments quoted by Ed.

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