Atheist billboard in Chicago!

They finally made it to my town, and you can see the product at Lasalle and Grand:

s-BILLBOARD-large

My only question is:  why are billboards like this so controversial? It’s as if many people can’t abide the idea that atheists can be moral.  Denying this message is about as smart as denying evolution.

The Chicago Tribune has a piece on the billboard.

9 Comments

  1. Sigmund
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Of course its controversial – it directly contradicts the ‘atheism = communism = Stalin (and Hitler!)’ argument that is one of the staple attack points of ‘moderate’ religions such as Roman Catholicism.
    This tactic is not unique to the USA – the Catholic church in Ireland occasionally trots out this line – but in most other places in Europe equating communism with atheism will just get you laughed at. For instance, here in Sweden there is a secular majority in a country currently governed by a conservative party and people are constantly bemused to see the country as described as being ‘socialist’ in the US media – particularly in the light of the current health care debate.

  2. rimpal
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    They should have used the lower case g or simply said belief or some such thing. Because by referring to “God” the good folks are taking the classic atheist position – one that is included in doctrines of the Church. But of course we aren’t quibbling over meaning so that is OK.

    • Becca Stareyes
      Posted October 22, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Then wouldn’t it be ‘without a god’, to encompass all the possible choices?

  3. Becca Stareyes
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I wonder if it’s a conflict of worldviews. The sign-makers refer to the idea that the non-churchgoers, the non-devout, the non-religious, and the non-believers can all be virtuous people. The protesters take this as some kind of cosmic significance statement, assuming that if you don’t believe, you learned goodness from your theist family. If you were raised secular, you learned it from our Judeo-Christian culture. If you live outside of Europe or the Americas, and away from Western culture, then maybe God just gave people the innate ability to be good. So, in this worldview, their god is the ultimate source of all goodness, regardless of the beliefs of the person, his/her family, or his/her culture.

    Of course, the problem is that if you take this approach to God, it becomes impossible to falsify. And kind of arrogant — you are claiming all goodness in the name of your god, and rejecting all not-goodness. Very no-true-Scotsman.

  4. newenglandbob
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Denying this message is about as smart as denying evolution.

    There you go – they are not smart.

  5. Occam
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I always find the modesty of atheists puzzling. So little “a”, so much “theist”.
    For one thing, it should be “poly-atheist”, the unwarranted assumption of monotheism representing an historical accident.
    For my part, I answer questions about my (lack of) religious beliefs as follows:
    “I have no reason to believe in any number of gods, where n(gods) > 0.”

    • Michelle B
      Posted October 22, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Apolytheist may be a clearer term perhaps.

      However, the monotheists take so much pride in what they consider their brilliant embracing of the one true supernatural belief system (since they have so very piously ditched all other gods), that the term apolytheist may actually be mis-interpretated to mean lacking belief in the obviously false and a multitude of Pagan gods instead of lacking belief in all gods, including their silly one.

      I also refuse to capitalize the word god as the capitalizing gives the monotheists exactly what they want–they can readily project unto the capitalized word the emotional import that their god is the only true one instead of the reality that their god is just one of thousands that has been encountered in the human imagination.

      • Occam
        Posted October 23, 2009 at 5:49 am | Permalink

        A small matter of Greek syntax:
        The negative determinator prefix “a-” usually operates on the determinand immediately subordinate. Thus, “a-polytheist” would mean “non-polytheist”, as you correctly surmise in your second paragraph; whereas “poly-atheist” is equivalent to “multiple non-theist”.
        Just as a small exercise in logical sanity (and to incense any stray kooks reading this blog), let’s imagine a negative number of gods. Better still, take the root of such a negative number 😉

  6. Posted October 22, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    There certainly is a stigma in the U.S. to publicly professing a non-belief in God. The fact that you cannot get elected to public office in many places if you profess non-belief shows it is an extremely serious problem. After all, if an entire class of people are ineligible for serving as elected officials precisely because they adopt a rational-based world view … well that explains a lot wrong in the U.S. today.

    God should be capitalized. It’s a proper noun.


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