November 16, 2008

Atheist Billboards And Bus Signs

There's lots and lots of panties in a wad over atheists and Christians and their various billboards and bus signs. I'll not bother putting up links, they're easy enough for you Readers to find if you care to look for them. Suffice to say that the internets are all abuzz over things like these:

The bus signs in particular are getting a lot of press. That's in part because they are sponsored by a popular British TV writer and columnist for the London Guardian named Ariane Sherine.

Here's the deal. Christians have every right to proselytize. That activity is absolutely, 100% protected by the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause. (And not by the free exercise clause.) Britain, lacking a written Constitution, nevertheless has a very strong legal tradition of freedom of speech, one that the courts and Parliament labor to protect, albeit not without some inconsistencies and struggles along the way not at all unlike the same labors and struggles that we have on our side of the pond.

We atheists, non-theists, secularists, non-believers, skeptics, rationalists, humanists, and agnostics have no choice but to tolerate evangelizing in all of its forms. Indeed, we atheists, non-theists, secularists, non-believers, skeptics, rationalists, humanists, and agnostics have no choice but to tolerate stuff like this:

But we atheists, non-theists, secularists, non-believers, skeptics, rationalists, humanists, and agnostics have the identical right to spread our point of view, and those actions are protected by the same legal guarantees of free speech. We have the same, identical, and co-extensive right to put up signs that offend Christians' sensibilities as they have to call us traitors and criminals and try and make people feel guilty when they buy pornography:

Which means that if you are a Christian who is not secure enough in your belief system to tolerate any remote challenge to it, too bad, because you do not have a right to be free from criticism. Or from marketing links:

Living in a free country means tolerating people who make different choices than you. You will be challenged in your beliefs and opinions. You have no right not to be. You have no choice but to deal.


bobvis said...

Thanks for writing this. I think it needed to be said, and I haven't seen anyone else yet.

I personally wish we could just get rid of *all* of the ads and call it a draw, but I suppose that isn't likely.

meenu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Burt Likko said...

Post removed for violation of both the no-advertising policy and the "inapposite comment" policy. This post has nothing to do with whether you can or cannot cure HIV with herbal medicine or magnets (and, for the record, with existing medical technology you cannot cure HIV that way, or at all).

David Mintz said...

You probably know of Richard Dawkins and his book The God Delusion. He has a good treatment of the double standard and inordinate respect accorded to religious belief. You could get dragged off to the psych ward for mumbling to your imaginary friend, but do the same thing in church and you're fine.

He also makes a really solid, dispassionate argument to the effect that God is highly improbable. Because he's a scientist, he doesn't say flat out no. Just extremely -- very extremely -- improbable that there is or was a creative, intelligent being capable of creating something as complex and improbably as our universe.

Still, I like to preach thus:

Praise Him not, for He is truly not anywhere.

Unknown said...

I appreciate your thought-provoking post on Christian signs. I would like to point out that both sides of the ongoing "culture wars" have every right to voice their opinion. My viewpoint on this is simply to spark conversation. Billboards, bumper stickers and the like do not offer the opportunity for a response to their message.

@bobvis: The best way of approacing the topic of religion is simply to admit that neither party will be right, and that it is not a debate, but rather a conversation that is ongoing in our world. I have recently become a fan of the book "Lord Save Us From Your Followers" by Dan Merchant. It covers both sides of the culture war issues, and points out that the best way for a religion to gain followers is simply to share the message of God's love, not to point out the shortcomings in other people's cultural mores or norms, religions or philosophies. It is a very good read if you have the time or interest in learning how to preach the gospel of love without alienating the very people you are trying to convert.