WOC Dispatch: Atheists Strike Hard in Illinois

Remember the Atheist Sign that ruined everything for everybody up in Washington State? Well, now those damn free thinkers are going to impose their freedom of speech on the god fearing (or should that be "atheist fearing") people of Illinois.

Here's the sign being provided by the Freedom from Religion Foundation:

And it will be placed in the Illinois City Hall in Springfield. Right down from Homer and Marge's place.

Hat tip: The Friendly Atheist.

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I just want to put up a completely blank sign, as the ultimate holiday Rorschach.

I'm not sure what to think about this. I agree that the message is accurate; I think that decades of attempting to appease Christians by being non-confrontational have proven to be folly; and I reject Matt Nisbet's claims that we should continue such appeasement. But is the plaque too much? Or do I underestimate the evangelical nature of the religious displays that Christians want incorporated into government (an incorporation which I reject as unconstitutional).

...just thinking out loud...

Scote -- I see the sign and its message as entirely appropriate and tasteful. More pertinantly, it offers an alternative point of view regarding religion without proseltizing for atheism. It seems to me that Christian groups need to realize that for the privilege of mounting religious Christmas (or Easter) displays and other symbols on public property comes with a price. In order for their displays to be constitutional, in my opinion, they must allow other viewpoints to be displayed (if desired by other groups) at the same time in the same general area.

I can't help but think a more successful sign might be something that says "During this holiday season, many non-believers will be joining in the celebrations. Others will choose to spend time in their own chosen way. We all wish you a joyous time with family and friends. That is, after all, the true meaning of the season." That's just a first attempt and it needs to be massaged a bit more, but it gives the idea. Be inclusive, play down the strident opposition while sending the message we want.

I co-sign Mike. I believe in God, so I find this sign shocking and too much. I'm not asking any athiest or agnostics to appease me, but being a believer in God is just as mysterious and faith-based as being a non-beleiver.

This god of whom you speak sure is touchy: he (and all monotheistic gods are males - you can tell by their bluster) can create the entire universe inside of an earth week, but any amount, ANY AT ALL, of criticism or doubt is just too much to bear. Sounds more like a human than a god.

@ Urban Scientist:

Speaking as an atheist, I agree the sign seems rather confrontational. But that's exactly the problem!

Here in the US, we are constantly exposed to explicit and implicit claims that God exists - "God bless you" when you sneeze, "God Is With You" on every church sign on every corner, "In God We Trust" on our money, God in our pledge.

Nobody even bats an eye at these incessant claims that God exists. I certainly don't. I'm happy to let you and others believe as you like, and publicly express your beliefs that God exists, and even try to convince me and others that we should believe in God, too.

So why is it shocking and offensive if an atheist group does exactly the same thing? Why is inappropriate to post one sign claiming there is no god, but perfectly fine to post tens of thousands claiming there is?

"So why is it shocking and offensive if an atheist group does exactly the same thing? Why is inappropriate to post one sign claiming there is no god, but perfectly fine to post tens of thousands claiming there is?"

Well, that is a good point. A sign that says there is no God should be no more controversial that one that says there is, especially since such sectarian signs generally are meant to be mutually exclusive implicit the contrary **and** deny all other gods as false.

I still wonder if the "harden hearts and enslave minds" part of the plaque might be too much, even though I do think it is true.

I can't see this sign having any positive affect other than the old "any publicity is good publicity". The tone is definitely combative and considering all the "war on Christmas" rhetoric this can only make us seem more threatening. I think it's important to remember atheism isn't based on denying god(s), that's just an incidental property of the universe. If we want to free people from religion we need to show them that when they give up their faith there will be something to their life besides shouting "there's no god!"

Why not something like

"Friends and family.
Remember what the holidays are really about"

To me that says, it says we don't believe in god without insulting anyone, and while coming across as nice people.

In addition how do you argue against it without attacking friends and family ;)

The people who are clutching their pearls and hogging all the fainting couches would have done so regardless of what the sign said. It's pointless to water down your message to try and appeal to them.

@ aaron

Again, why is it insulting to say God doesn't exist, but not insulting to say He does?

I agree the sign seems combative, but I argue it only seems that way because we've all been conditioned to accept "God exists" statements by theists. Meanwhile, a large fraction of theists work very hard to frame "No god exists" statements as combative, insulting, rude, etc.

@ Scote:

I think you make a very good point. Religion is indeed myth and superstition and it may well harden some hearts and enslave some minds, but it's incorrect and probably unproductive to portray it as only that. There are obviously positive aspects to religion as well.

Better would be to argue that we can achieve the benefits of religion without the false beliefs and without (or with fewer of) the negative effects.

How about "Axial Tilt is the reason for the season, regardless of what the Bronze-Age superstition you believe in tells you"? Or, we could go with Billo - "Christmas is the day that we celebrate the birth of that human philosopher Jesus (who apparently seems to have written the Constitution)" - despite there being absolutely no relation of this December date with the (supposed) birth of this guy. Up until the 1870s, this day wasn't a federal holiday, and in many cases wasn't a holiday period. Let it go back that way.


I think a lot of the problem is that christians don't see their display as pushing god, they see it as celebrating god. Putting up a sign like that specifically attacks religion. They perceive the narrative "we weren't saying anything bad about atheists, we were just trying to celebrate our god and then they put up a really mean sign about us!"

The narrative we want is "oh the atheists put up a nice sign, well it's nice that they seem to be happy during their short time on earth before falling into a pit for eternal damnation."

It doesn't matter if their narrative is wrong, they're still the audience and if your audience doesn't get the message than the onus is on you to fix the message.


I agree part of the sign is excessive; specifically, the part that portrays religion as purely superstition with purely negative effects. As I said in my previous comment, I think that should have been omitted, and a more positive message put in its place.

However, I don't agree it's an attack for the sign to say "There is no God."

Also, I think you're wrong about the audience. I doubt anyone thinks such a sign will convert anyone who's already a strong believer (e.g. anyone who believes atheists are doomed to eternal damnation). Obviously, I can't speak for those who erected the sign, but I imagine their target audience is people who have doubts about God and organized religion. For that audience, the message may well be exactly on target.