Drive long enough on any main road in America—especially in what Sarah Palin calls “the real America”—and you’ll see a slew of billboards and church signs giving various bits of advice and warnings about the necessity of believing that Jesus of Nazareth died for your sins. Some signs are subtle. Others not so much:
There's nothing "free" about selling your soul to an eccentric preacher from the 1st century.
But the asbestos blankets will.
SPF 1 million please.
The sheer volume of these signs is something to behold, but is hardly surprising given the religiosity of the general population. According to the latest Gallup figures, more than 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians; 55% percent say that religion is “very important” to them; nearly half of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago; only 15% believe that humans evolved without the hand of God guiding the process; and 61% of Americans said they would never vote for an atheist for president. These kinds of figures are not found anywhere else in the developed world.
In response to the prevalence of signs advocating Christianity and other religions, atheist organizations across the country have taken out ad space on billboards in more than 30 states to promote freethinking and secularism. Such billboards have included:
And bad ones at that.
Like the tortoise and the hare, but the Bible has nothing on Aesop.
Better to be good without God, than bad with him.
The billboard campaign has been spearheaded in large part by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, founded by former evangelical pastor-turned atheist Dan Barker. Although the amount of atheistic billboards is minuscule compared to those advocating religious causes, that hasn't prevented a good number of Christians from complaining that their feelings have been hurt by the signs. These are the same individuals who assert that anyone who does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah is destined for -- and even worthy of -- an eternity of torment in the pits of hell.
In response to one billboard in Dallas criticizing the Catholic Church's record on women's rights, the archdiocese responded by saying, "We're very offended that an entity that has no knowledge or understanding of the church would erect a billboard of this nature."
In Columbus, Ohio, one church succeeded in pressuring a local billboard company to remove an ad that depicted a student with the caption, "I can be good without God."
In Pennsylvania, controversy ensued when an atheist billboard dared to quote the bible, specifically Colossians 3:22, which reads, "Slaves, obey your masters." The billboard was even vandalized.
And most recently, in Idaho, the Christian folks of that state have bemoaned being subjected to a similar campaign of non-Christian-themed advertising. Perish the thought.
The persecution-complex harbored by many of the faithful in the United States is a completely irrational and unfounded response to the growing acceptance of atheists and other freethinkers. (Witness the outcry against the supposed "war on Christmas.) Quite often these days, it is no longer necessary for atheists to hide the fact that they hold no belief in any god whatsoever. That's not to say that we don't have a long way to go when it comes to being more tolerant of this growing demographic, because we do. But as the ranks of the faithless increase, we can expect the screams of outrage from the religious to become louder, but hopefully less effective.