Why offending Christians is ok

Just this week, the American Atheists (great organization) paid $20,000 to put up a billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel stating “You KNOW it’s a Myth – This Season, Celebrate REASON!” Great message… if you’re an atheist. However, like normal, people immediately began to bitch and whine about how this billboard “OFFENDED” them. So, although this billboard is a perfect example of free speech – the right that allows them to bitch and whine – they have to create a controversy over it. For me, that’s fine – the more attention it draws, the better.

But it made me think… “Why are people so concerned about offending people?” I understand not wanting to offend friends and family (you do have to spend a lot of time around them). But, why are we so concerned with religious sensitivities. I am often told that atheist should sit back and remain silent – church doesn’t hurt anyone. As I’ve show in another post, this isn’t true. Even if it was, it doesn’t hurt anyone for me, as an atheist, to express my opinion. No one ever got the feelings hurt, went home, woke up with cancer, and then died. No, it doesn’t happen that way. We are adults. Grow up, stop whining, and respect the fact that if your pastor can go around telling people stories from a 2,000 year old myth, then I should get the same right to complain about it… even if it makes Baby Jesus cry. (crying baby photo by: Jill Greenberg)

Do Christians care about our feelings with their messages of faith? Some do but others really don’t. They just want to convert us and “show us the light”. I often have the “True Scotsman” argument used on me and am told that I must not have ever been a “real” Christian because if I truly felt the warmth of god’s love, i could have never departed from it. Bullshit. I felt it. I was as deep in it as it gets. But, I woke up. I don’t go around telling them that they must have never “really” read a science book or couldn’t possibly have a “real” brain if they believe what they do. Of course not (although now that I think about it…).

I make it a point not to troll Christian groups online. I know some atheists and while it is very funny the shit they stir up sometimes, it isn’t what we should be doing. The billboard from American Atheists is exactly what we should be doing. David Silverman, President of American Atheists, talks about this on FOX News. As he puts it, we aren’t trying to convert believers, we are just trying to help those on the fence realize that there is a community of people (millions of us) who, like them, DON’T believe in the fairy tales of the bible.

The numbers don’t lie – churches are losing numbers in the United States and around the world, especially young people! The next generation is smarter, better at critical thinking, and has a firmer grasp on science than their parents do. They find it harder and harder to believe the nonsense that is spoon fed to them at church. The internet has become and “atheist church” for many of us. If we sit around silent, as Christians would have us do, then many of those young people will stay hidden in their youth groups and continue to pretend to pray to a god they don’t believe in. If you don’t care about them… then go ahead and keep your mouth shut – you won’t offend anyone but me.

However, if you do care… then speak up. Don’t be afraid to offend. Be proud to be an atheist. Break the stigma (we do’t worship satan – or believe in him either). Get in peoples’ faces when the opportunity arises. Learn the fact we present on this website. Don’t be a stupid atheist. Learn how to debate. Learn the proper questions to ask… but most importantly, DON’T REMAIN SILENT! And, don’t be afraid to offend a few religious groups… they’ve offended us for years!

  • Cary

    I irritated by the lack of attribution for the photograph. I imagine permission was not sought to use it…but the legal ramifications of that are not the point of this comment. It's rude, at minimum, unethical, and likely illegal to hijack someones work. At least have the decency to credit Jill Greenberg for the photo of the crying baby. I expect more out of atheists, not less.

  • Adam

    Cary, so sorry. Someone else sent me the URL for this pic and thought it would be funny to use. I didn't know who's pic it was. I added credit to the site. We don't try and intentionally "rip off" anyone.

  • http://volizden.xanga.com/ Volizden

    @cary – Seriously your irritated at the use of a picture that is on my search many different websites already and many many more of her pictures on a lot more other sites and that's what you choose to whine about?

    Seriously put in toward the conversation, this is something you could have sent a mail to Adam over, instead of broadcasting it here and pulling a troll…

  • http://volizden.xanga.com/ Volizden

    @cary – Seriously your irritated at the use of a picture that, upon a simple search, shows up on many different websites already and many many more of her other pictures on a lot more other sites and that's what you choose to whine about?

    Seriously put in toward the conversation, this is something you could have sent a mail to Adam over, instead of broadcasting it here and pulling a troll…

  • Cary

    You're*

  • The Coded Atheist

    @cary – WoW! A little harsh there! I've seen quite a few of my own images floating around that I don't receive any credit for. It's the price you pay for posting them on the Internet. Though I would understand your gripe if you can prove that Adam blatantly violated a posted copyright, but not everyone is going to realize when they're using someone's protected material. I mean, have you checked out imageshack or photobucket lately? In fact, I've seen Jill Greenberg's graphic of the crying baby used numerous places before, and I'm pretty sure most of the people that used it were not "hijacking" anything. Anyway, great post aside from the whole "hijacking" issue. Oh, and proud atheist here!

  • http://the-evil-atheist.blogspot.com/ Evil Atheist

    that billboard is just a thing, whoever finds offence in a "thing" commits idolatry as what your religion teaches is what is important..

    if you're not supposed to have religious icons, then you shouldn't get offended at supposedly anti-religious icons either, because you shouldn't recognise them as symbols opposing your religion in the first place!

    in fact, given that Jesus teaches that when you're struck on the cheek, you should offer the other cheek, I would expect true christians to fork out the money to have another atheism billboard put up on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel…

    and if a man steals your cloak, offer him your coat as well.. that's what Jesus taught… none of this crap in getting offended over images, and that goes double for the Muslims and their offence at Muhammad pictures…. they commit idolatry by recognising those alleged images of Muhammad, *as* Muhammad… they should look at Muhammad pics and go "what choo talking about Willis! that's not Mo!" and the chrisitans should look at billboards like that one above and go, "HA!!! crazy atheists! god bless them!"

  • Erik

    I second what Evil Atheist posted.

  • Adam

    Well said Evil Atheist. The advertising company that put up the billboard offered the Catholic Church in the area a same sized billboard across the street. They said they would rather spend $20,000 "helping" people. Which is funny, since a new study shows that only about 5% brought in by churches actually goes to "helping" people.

  • Callie K.

    Really excellent article Adam. I laughed while I cried inside. And beautiful point, Evil Atheist. It's not entirely their fault when we test better on their doctrines than they do. Atheists leading accurate catechism classes, anyone? (If you're doin' it wrong, at least do it wrong right!)

  • Angelina

    While I agree that anyone getting offended over a billboard is a little silly and can appreciate the message of letting people know they are not alone I am saddened by the generalizations made about Christians in this article.

    As a person of faith and a religious educator who is committed to creating safe spaces for young people to ask questions and develop their spiritual identity (whatever that happens to become, theist or non-theist or atheist) and as a person who is happily married to an atheist (and has no intention of converting him) I found those sections hard to read.

    You write, "Christians don't care about your feelings," "Christians want you to be silent," and that all Christians want to do is convert others. As someone who sympathizes with atheists, strives to create space for questions and has no interest in converting anyone all I can say is that I am sorry you have had negative experiences with people who identify as Christian and have acted in a shameful manner towards you.

    I would only ask in the spirit of mutually beneficial dialogue that it be remembered that generalizations can often serve as a barrier to our ability to treat one another as human beings as opposed to stereotypes.

  • Adam

    @ Angela: my apologies. My wife has to catch me on this all the time. I don't think ALL Christians are bad people or hate atheists. I don't mean to make generalizations, but if I had to write "the 20% of Christians in America who identify themselves as fundamentalists" all the time, I would write forever. I feel that the majority of Christians still would rather see atheists go away. If the world was full of more Christians like you… it wouldn't need websites like mine.

  • Angelina Duell

    @Adam: Thanks for the friendly response =) I understand what you mean about having to write long sentences, we really need to come up with an shorthand description, haha. 20%XIF? Maybe one day everyone will be able to co-exist without quite so much nonsense, though that day happening in either of our lifetimes is unlikely. But we can have hope. Have a good week~

  • http://www.mollysdailykiss.com Molly

    I don't know what I am any more but I know I have had enough of the 'church'. It's not a place to go and worship any more its a place you go to for people to gossip about you and then ask you what you can give to the church. I believe that there is something out there, but I don't know what, I guess if I need a label that makes me an agnostic. I don't feel like I need a label though.

    I don't even think the poster displayed is offensive, it's just a different opinion and view point on things. I think differing opinions and the debates they spark are a good thing!

    Mollyxxx

  • http://www.uralarmatu.ru Armatur

    Do not even know what to say here. In my opinion today's trends in the church inevitably decline. The church is becoming less popular. Spirituality is meaningless in an era of technocracy. Sorry …

  • Adam

    @ Armatur: We, at AtheismResource.com, agree with you. We just want to help speed up the inevitable. The more we get people talking about it and being ok with being an "out of the closet" atheist… the quicker it will happen.

  • http://circleh.wordpress.com/ Dale Husband

    You make a good case for confronting the falsehoods and failures of Christianity. What about the absurdities among atheists themselves? Decades ago, many atheists were also Communists and Communism turned out to be a complete failure as well as destructive to liberty. Then other atheists went to the opposite extreme and became “Objectivists”, followers of the right-wing extremist bitch Ayn Rand.

    My point, of course, is that atheism alone does not make people reasonable or honorable. Sometimes they can fall prey to delusions and corruption, just like religious fanatics.

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  • Adam

    @ Dale: Of course any group will have it's crazies. We don't choose who we let into the atheist community. Yes, some atheists were communist, but so were Christians. History shows Hitler was a Catholic and considered his work "god's plan". Being an atheists doesn't make you a skeptic or a "smart person" as a whole… just on this one particular topic.

    Just like with the gay rights movement, as atheist grow as a group, not everyone of us will be representative of the group as a whole or should be the "spokesperson" for atheism. You can't say, however, that atheists have "falsehoods and failures" when we make no claim to a "positive"… we just don't believe in the myth of gods and the churches that encompass them. We can't prove a negative. We just say there isn't enough proof (or proof at all for that matter) to support the claims made by Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other god-fearing, creation-based religion.

    The atheists I have met (lots) are more honorable and honest than most of the Christians I grew up with. Please don't go around making generalizations about us. Our beliefs are far more diverse than religious believers. They believe in a god and lots of other shared morals. Atheists only share one belief… THERE IS NO GOD – the other moral choices are up to the individual, unlike with Christianity which gives you a "moral guidebook" to follow.

  • Adam

    Grady, you are being warned. If you keep leaving mean, and unqualified answers like this one, you will be blocked permanently. We are welcome to discussions with believers, but not when they make up shit like this. You provide no evidence to say that we are the most "unpopular group" in the US. Nearly every major scientist, all Nobel Prize winners, most doctors, and some of the country's biggest philanthropists like Warren Buffet, George Soros, and Bill Gates (the #1 giver in the world) are atheists… so keep your rude comments to yourself, or they will be deleted swiftly along with your ability to post (I have your IP address).

  • Adam

    @ Grady: I trust Gallup. Stating that Atheists are the most unpopular group in the US and then backing it up with that link is fair. I apologize for calling that "rude". You are welcome to keep commenting, but please back up big statements like that in the future and keep the conversation civil. I don't mind dissenting opinions… but let's be nice.

    And, I won't get "ad hominem" with you. Please don't call me weak. You have to understand, running a website like this has resulted in death threats from Christians before. That's why we track IP addresses carefully. I have never had to turn one over to authorities… yet. I wasn't trying to imply that with you. I just have to stop "crazies" before they get started. I don't think you are crazy… just opinionated.

  • Adam

    As far as I know, "Iggy" isn't part of the Midwest Skeptics… it's run by Cole Morgan. As for Iggy's comments, he doesn't speak for all of us. And, we have heard far worse from Christians. I have never sent a Christian a death threat, but I have gotten several from them.

  • http://mitchellks@aol.com Winnie

    Glad to hear that Atheist are forming groups in high schools. We need to be out of the closet and be proud to be an Atheist. I mention my belief whenever someone mentions anything about religion. I have had religion crammed down my throat all of my life until I converted to Atheism.

  • Ariel

    I thought, wow, this is good advice. After all, if you don't fight for the small things then you'll be shut out when they become big things. I tried it in an on-line group I belong to. I was honest about how I felt. I told the truth as I have come to realize it. Then my own agnostic daughter shut me down. I nearly went deaf from the christian whining!! My aura has been completely screwed up and I am having to take some time away from that particular group. Thank goodness for atheist websites like this. Cleansing the aura! Cleansing the aura! Ahhhhh!

  • Christian in the Nor

    It seems to me it's the atheists who are the real whiners here. Atheists, if you "know" it's a myth then why did you spend~WASTE~ $20K on that billboard? Because you see the truth of Christianity as a threat, that's why, and like a bratty child you had to go out and do something to provide shock value! At least a real Christian would've taken that $20K and then done something with charity to help those less fortunate than themselves. Of course, all the atheists can ever do is pull people down rather than lift anyone up. Tell me, where's the atheist soup kitches, day cares, food banks, homeless shelters, grief counselors etc? What can y'all do but scream infinitum ad nauseum, "it's a myth, it's a myth, it's a myth!" If you really want people to give up God and belief systems, maybe you should consider what do you eally have to offer them in return that's better? and trust me if you think it's better to have the sort of arrogance, bitterness, darkness, hatefulness and cheerlessness that you seem to specialize in instead of having joy, love, peace and assurance that God loves them, and will be with them forever… then who's the one that's believing in a myth? Given the choice of myths, I'll take the more positive one Christianity offers than the negative one y'all want to foist on everyone.

    • Adam

      @ Christian in the Northwest: American Atheists spent that money to let atheists out there know it's ok to not believe in god. Then, the Catholic League spent $20K on a billboard on the other side of the tunnel… dumbass. So, take your "Atheists aren't good people" crap away from here. We have loads of charities (Foundation Beyond Belief for one) but unlike Christian groups, we don't require you to come to church, or make you feel guilty until you give your soul to an imaginary man in the sky… we do it to be good people. Even charities like the Red Cross have no religious affiliation – so, they are a secular charity. We yell "IT'S A MYTH" because we are tired of the bullshit it cause in the world around us, to people we care about.

      Face it, it's a myth. More and more people realize it everyday. Your side is losing and doomed for extinction. stop treating this world like heaven's waiting room.

  • Elena

    I think what bothers people the most is that "atheist" messages are almost exclusively directly SOLELY at Christians. As if Christians are the only ones that have some sort of belief if God and try to "convert" atheists. How often do you put up billboards directed at exposing the "myths" of Muslims, Jews, Hindus or even Wiccans?

    Christian bashing has become the last acceptable prejudice in the Western world.

  • Winifred

    What an excellent article. I printed it for some of my on the fence friends. Thanks!

  • Scott

    @Elena

    The reason that “atheist” messages are aimed at Christianity, is simply because it is the predominant superstition in the country and the most likely background of anyone finding themselves on the fence of belief. A billboard aimed at messages against the ideas of Islam, Hindu, or Wicca, is aimed at minority groups even smaller than atheists. Combined, the religious affiliations outside of Christianity compose roughly 4.7% of the US population. Those who are questioning their beliefs in these faiths, are hardly a target audience to spend money on.

  • meso349

    Excellent article! Awesom billboard. I for one an very happy to be able to connect to a community of rational thinkers who value knowledge over make-believe, reason over passion, and facts over falsehoods. Give up the bedtime stories you fools, and your ridiculous attachment to some “new earth” that god is going to make for all you special idiots. Sorry to be rude, but I can see how many trolls come here. GO HOME.

  • http://larro-ava.blogspot.com/ Larro

    Religious faith. However silly we think it is (as atheists) does it really do real harm? If we absolutely remove from the equation any child indoctrination or coercion through real or imagined force including that which results in bodily injury or death of another person and assume that a hypothetical person of faith had arrived at a religious worldview on their own and in turn did not intend to indoctrinate or forcefully coerce others to their religious views can we as atheists truly hold that people of faith are not deserving of equality and liberty to simply be as they are?

    Faith by itself is harmless. If our hypothetical person of faith had no leverage but their own argument to convince others what they believed (ie. no child indoctrination or coercion through real or imagined force) then we can imagine a freer society. One grounded in not only liberty but recognition of liberty. Our hypothetical person of faith would have no choice but to allow other people to make up their own minds.

    I’m confident this is the idyllic world of the freethinker.

    I believe we are barking up the wrong tree.

  • Rich Wilson

    Ugh, off topic, but I HATE this theme. The weird background is really hard to read. So I try highlighting text to get more contrast, and it’s worse. Please, just black on white, or nearly that. Seriously, I’m going to have to do some work in my browser to override the style if I want to keep coming here.

  • Luis Guembes

    I agree entirely with the article, except for One point: Religious people have not offended atheists for many years but for thousands of years.