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Reaction to the Grand Rapids Billboard

We have a new billboard up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, part of the Center for Inquiry’s new campaign. It does nothing more than acknowledge the existence of happy non-religious people, saying, “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion.” Predictably, even that mild message has sparked outrage in some circles. Some guy named Conrad, an afternoon DJ on a country station, put up a fevered post on their website that is pretty darn funny to read:

WOW: Atheists On The Offensive To Takeover During SHUTDOWN!?…

I was kind of SHOCKED..wondering Why Now?! Because Christmas is just around the corner?! Or is it because people are unsure during the Federal Goverment Shutdown and they think we are weaker?

Yeah, logic isn’t your strongsuit, is it? What the hell does it have to do with the government shutdown? Absolutely nothing. Does he think that we just whipped that thing up on the fly and reserved the space and got it put up on Monday? And who is this “we” that got weaker? Does he think we think that Christians are somehow weakened by the government shutdown? It’s just a bizarre, nonsensical connection to make.

WHY here in the most religious areas of the US? As a Christian..are you offended? They seem to be friendly from the look of this billboard…but Jenny from Zeeland emailed me to say ‘They should have a picture of the DEVIL instead!!’

Jenny from Zeeland is a moron. And so are you. Some of the commenters qualify as well:

Non-believers DO force their non-belief on us Christians by forcing us to NOT celebrate our beliefs in schools or on public displays. True freedom of speech would be to allow EVERYONE to voice their opinions wherever they like. This includes prayers in schools (if you don’t wish to participate plug your ears) Most Christians have become complacent and are afraid to stand up and share their beliefs… so sad

Any bets on how quickly his capitalized EVERYONE would shrink right up the moment they did a Muslim prayer in school and told his kids to plug their ears if they don’t like it? He’d lose his freaking mind over it, I guarantee.

I want to put up a billboard that says.. Im a Christian and I celebrate Christmas and i pray every day! Im if sorry that offends you! Have a blessed day!

Good for you. Have at it.

I think the reason that this is a ” big deal”, is that when we, as Christians, publicly show our faith, in a prayer at school, a nativity scene on our lawn, etc, WE are being offensive and TOLD we CAN’T do that and offend others– even though it is our FREEDOM to Worship/RELIGION . But, when the atheists put out a public display like this , even though WE might be offended, they call it their Freedom of Speech, and how DARE we take that away from them. I’m sorry, but that is NOT equal rights……………..

I get so tired of this reflexive persecution complex. The fact is there are dozens of Christian billboards in the area. I see them all the time. No one has ever or will ever try to prevent them from being put up. But this person is absolutely immune to facts and reason. They have a narrative and they’re going to keep repeating it no matter what the reality is.

Lets see, we can’t have Christian Christmas things on government property, public libraries, court houses, AND just who bitched about that? Surly not the atheist!! TAKE IT DOWN

Apparently the concept of a distinction between public and private property is completely lost on this person.

We are a country that was built on Christianity. If you don’t like, then leave!

How about no? Better yet, how about “go fuck yourself”?

A local Christian radio station posted about it on their Facebook page, too. The result was the same. There must have been 30 messages or more with a variation on the old “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship with Jesus” argument, which is disingenuous bullshit.

Maria Reich Rodriguez Sad. If it was a “promoting Christianity” billboard, it probably wouldn’t last a week up there.

Right. Like all those church billboards up around the city every day.

I saw it yesterday as I was on my way to serve at an international ministry. Gave me a sick feeling.

Mentioning the mere existence of non-believers gives you a sick feeling? I’d say you need some counseling.

Sad thought, if this billboard contained something racist instead of anti-religion, it would have been taken down immediately, if it even got put up to start with. Sad.

It doesn’t say anything even remotely anti-religion. These people really are quite dense.

Hummm CBS sign too. Communist Broadcasting Systems. It all fits.

Wow.

Carla Bryan Anybody have an extra long extension ladder?

If (when?) the billboard gets vandalized, I think the police have their first suspect.

Comments

  1. says

    “I want to put up a billboard that says.. Im a Christian and I celebrate Christmas and i pray every day! Im if sorry that offends you! Have a blessed day!”

    Why does that sound like, “Fuck you, you fucking GODLESS piece-of-shit!”? Is it just me?

    Fucking crybabies for JESUS.

  2. manfromflanders says

    Jenny from Zeeland is a moron

    I’m more shocked by the fact that there’s any city named Zeeland in the US. Stop stealing our European names, you darn Americans ! (Snark mode off).

  3. rdmcpeek43 says

    1. “…includes prayers in schools (if you don’t wish to participate, plug your ears).”
    How ’bout if *you* don’t like the billboard, you close your eyes. Better yet, close your eyes, then tape your mouth;
    shut!

    2. “…nativity scene on our lawns, etc.” Etc? Hey, recreate the resurrection; Adam and Eve with that talkin’ snake;
    part a sea; a faux crucifiction or two. No more 3 wise guys and a manger; that’s so overdone and really boring. Then, post a video on You Tube. I’d watch. I wouldn’t like, but I’d watch (and then laugh, respectfully, of course).

  4. Ellie says

    I see nothing offensive on that billboard. I hope the morons don’t vandalize it.I do wonder in what world the person lives who thinks people aren’t allowed to put Nativity scenes on their lawns. Perhaps the laws are different in Michigan?

  5. sumdum says

    Sadly, I’ve noticed quite a lot of dutch sounding names among American creationist and fundamentalist Christians.

  6. John Pieret says

    … when we, as Christians, publicly show our faith, in a prayer at school, a nativity scene on our lawn, etc, WE are being offensive and TOLD we CAN’T do that and offend others

    If you are really being denied the right to pray at school publically (at approriate times and places, e.g. “See You at the Flagpole”) or not being allowed to put a nativity scene on your lawn, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with the ACLU which will promptly move to stop such violations of your rights … and really blow your small minds.

  7. scienceavenger says

    I’m so sick of the “offended” canard. It has nothing to do with anyone being offended. It has to do with being unconstitutional.

  8. siveambrai says

    Well I only lived there over the summer while on internship but Grand Rapids did seem to have a particular density of religiosity. It was a bit unnerving the number of churches I passed on the way to work. And then there was the multitude of church billboards on the blocks between churches.

  9. cottonnero says

    West Michigan is very religious, Ace of Sevens. The influence of the very conservative Christian Reformed Church is strong.

    I wouldn’t put it up with Mississippi, for example, but it’s on a par with South Dakota or (non-Austin) Texas, places I’m relatively familiar with.

  10. moonglaive says

    I saw a sign today that said “If you die tonight, where will you be?” followed by one picture of fire and one of the sky. There was also a website that I don’t remember because these kinds of signs are so common I barely acknowledge them anymore. It was pretty close to Houston’s Planned Parenthood too, hmm.

  11. Michael Heath says

    I saw it yesterday as I was on my way to serve at an international ministry. Gave me a sick feeling.

    I don’t think this comment belongs in the same set as the rest, which are all worthy of our ridicule. Criticism of course; but not ridicule.

    The other comments were dependent on false premises, which is standard for conservative Christians reacting to secularism. We should continue to vilify them, they’ve earned it. What I quote here is at least honest and understandable if you believe in a god who promises to punish unbelievers for all eternity. In fact it’s laudable if that was this person’s premise.

  12. Michael Heath says

    To be more precise, southwestern Michigan is very religious in a manner that demands others submit to their dogma. Especially notable are the Dutch Reformed Calvinists (here, “Christian Reformed Church”). Not just for their numbers but far more importantly to humanity, a few families of enormous wealth and power who spend a lot on conservative political causes. The Prince, Van Andel, and DeVos families are three of the most influential.

  13. smrnda says

    You can put all the nativity scenes you want up on churches, your lawn, and you can pray all you want in school. What you can’t do is to use a public school as a vehicle for promoting your religion nor compelling people to take part in your rituals. Freedom of speech *does not mean* anyone can say anything anywhere – public schools are regulated in what they can say the way the government cannot officially declare some religious beliefs valid and others invalid.

    Go ahead and pay $ to put up your Xtian billboards. It’s your right to do so, and I’m not *offended* by the signs for churches etc. I see just because they happen to exist. I just laugh; if religious organizations need marketing, they must be losing influence.

  14. Chiroptera says

    I saw it yesterday as I was on my way to serve at an international ministry.

    IT’S A COOK BOOK!

  15. tbp1 says

    It’s somewhat heartening to see that most of the comments there are supportive of the billboard’s message, or at least not bothered by it.

  16. says

    RE: The correlation between “Dutch-sounding names” and religiosity

    All I have to do is look north. Lynden, WA — where the whole town shares ten last names. Where the cemeteries are segregated (they have one for the Dutch, and one for everyone else). Where there is at least one church on every block. This is a town that pretty much shuts down on Sundays, still has a law on the books banning drinking and dancing in the same establishment, and has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the county. Lynden. WA.

    I’m not sure if I want to troll the town HARD, or just pretend it doesn’t exist…

  17. exdrone says

    I want to put up a billboard that says.. Im a Christian and I celebrate Christmas and i pray every day! Im if sorry that offends you! Have a blessed day!

    Must be one of those long, articulated buses.

  18. williamburns says

    I’m struck by the idea that Christmas is “just around the corner” in early October.

  19. Moggie says

    exdrone:

    I want to put up a billboard that says.. Im a Christian and I celebrate Christmas and i pray every day! Im if sorry that offends you! Have a blessed day!

    Must be one of those long, articulated buses.

    More like an inarticulated bus, amirite?

  20. freehand says

    Michael Heath:I saw it yesterday as I was on my way to serve at an international ministry. Gave me a sick feeling.

    [...] What I quote here is at least honest and understandable if you believe in a god who promises to punish unbelievers for all eternity. In fact it’s laudable if that was this person’s premise.

    I suspect, Michael, that she felt sick just knowing that despicable(1) atheists are out there somewhere, and they don’t have the sense of shame sufficient to want to hide their very existence. The fundamentalists I knew growing up were tickled pink when they thought of those eggheads or Papists or hippies being tortured for all of eternity. They thought Hell’s torture chambers were going to be entertainment for the righteous. I was still a believer and a young kid when I first realized this, and it horrified me.

    (1) dispicable = scary. Knowing that there are apparently normal people who don’t need to worship some supernatural entity is disorienting and terrifying. Merely thinking about them is looking into the Abyss.

  21. Michael Heath says

    freehand,

    My primary point was that this quote was the only comment post Ed referenced that appeared to be honest.

    As I also noted; it wasn’t above criticism as you do here, only that this post distinguished itself from all the other quotes by not being demonstrably dishonest.

  22. says

    I get so tired of this reflexive persecution complex.

    Persecution isn’t just a reflex, it is the core of their whole faith system. If Jesus hadn’t been persecuted, then they wouldn’t have been saved.

  23. Wylann says

    The last time some godbotherer pulled the “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship with Jesus” on me, I just replied, “Good, that means it’s not protected by the first amendment then.”

    They changed their mind rather quickly….which, as Ed notes, just points out it is disingenuous bullshit.

  24. Wylann says

    rdmcpeek43 @ 4:

    How ’bout if *you* don’t like the billboard, you close your eyes. Better yet, close your eyes, then tape your mouth; shut!

    Just as long as they close their eyes and keep driving…. ;)

    ..and chiroptera@17 wins one shiny new internets.

  25. Michael Heath says

    Wylann writes:

    The last time some godbotherer pulled the “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship with Jesus” on me, I just replied, “Good, that means it’s not protected by the first amendment then.”

    I wouldn’t go that far for four reasons:
    1) The religious freedom clause has quite a bit of overlap when it comes to the 1st Amendment protections afforded by the freedom of association clause.
    2) The religious freedom clause has quite a bit of overlap when it comes to the 1st Amendment protections afforded by the free speech clause.
    3) These Christians who falsely claim Christianity isn’t a religion would still enjoy freedom of conscience protections via the 1st amendment establishment clause. That clause limits government powers that infringe upon such rights, where religious freedom rights are a subset to the right of conscience.
    4) If the federal courts are meeting the ‘just governance’ standard as argued in the Declaration of Independence, than the government would still have the obligation to cite the numerated delegated power(s0 that justify the gov’t infringing upon the rights of a Christian who argues Christianity isn’t a religion.

  26. Jason Baldus says

    If it’s not a religion, then churches shouldn’t be exempt from paying taxes, though. So you could try that.

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