“You Gotta Not Believe” should be the campaign slogan of an atheist group spending a cool fifteen grand to put up billboards at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
“Our political system is rife with religion, and it depends too much on religion and not enough on substance,” says David Silverman, president of American Atheists, the organization mounting the assault. “Religion is silly and religion has components that are inherently divisive.”
The convention will run September 3-6, but the billboards will stay up about a month. The anti-Christianity version shows an image of Jesus on toast and a capsule summary of the faith: “Sadistic God, Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hates, Calls it ‘Love.’” The group gives equal space to Mormonism, with a billboard showing an image of man in white underwear and this take on it: “God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry.” Talk about silly.
Both billboards include the un-ironical tagline “Atheism: Simply Reasonable.”
“Presidential conventions are for ideas, not ideology – platforms, not platitudes,” Silverman asserts. “If a person believes stupid things, we have every right to question his or her judgment, and that directly impacts how the nonreligious voter votes.”
Some religious poo-bahs, of course, weighed in.
“That billboard makes the most common high-school error when it comes to atheism,” the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, told CNN. “It’s not arguing against the existence of God, but against religion. The American Atheists need to go back to school on this one.”
Just not to high school in Tennessee, we’ll caution, if they want to get their facts straight on atheism.
“Petty and vindictive,” was how Terryl Givens, a Mormon professor at the University of Richmond, described the American Atheists’ undertaking. “When atheists organize to serve the poor and needy of the world, they will be taken more seriously.”
Never mind that atheists outnumber Mormons in America by a factor of ten or so.
The debate is indeed silly, but what the heck–it’s silly season. The religious should fight back with some billboards of their own. How about: “They put Jesus on bread because He’s a hero.”
Or: “Atheists: You’ll Be Hot in the Future.”
Or: “Atheists Knocking on Heaven’s Door. No Answer. We Told You So.”
Silverman says that American Atheists will stage protests at both the Democratic and Republican conventions. (The organization wanted to have billboards at the Republican convention, but no billboard company in town would lease them the space.)
If American Atheists really want to gain converts, they do need to lighten up. Here’s an idea for a placard:
“Go Ahead and Party! No One’s Watching.”