Billboard Vandalism

Jesse Galef over at the Friendly Atheist mentions a case of billboard vandalism. While I can understand someone who strongly opposed the message on the billboard actually acting out their anger by changing the message, it does seem to underscore the hypocrisy of the message that the good (presumably) Christian vandal was trying to make.

So, in the spirit of the moment (whatever that moment happens to be for you) I thought I’d offer some atheist vandalism of Christian Billboards. Click on the images below to see the originals.

christian billboard two

christian billboard one

jesus_billboard

Brainwashed-Jpeg

christian_billboard3

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53 thoughts on “Billboard Vandalism

  1. Out of curiosity, are these examples of vandalism or photoshops? Because the former – what happens to atheist billboards – stifles our free speech by preventing others from hearing our message. Photoshops like the ones shown here are parodies that do not limit anyone else’s free expression.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks for the link to my post though!

    • Since I didn’t have the time, nor the inclination, to go out to all of these billboards, climb up each one, and do such a nice job editing them, I’d be lying if I said they were actually vandalized.

      Atheists don’t actually stoop to that kind of stuff, do they?

      [And I revised the post to note the true author]

      • Whew – I was worried that those were examples of atheists vandalism! It wouldn’t change the discussion, but it sure would be embarrassing…

        Also, thanks for providing the originals – I genuinely didn’t know that the first was was a fake.

        • Jesse –

          Whew – I was worried that those were examples of atheists vandalism! It wouldn’t change the discussion, but it sure would be embarrassing…

          Question: even if these billboards were **actually** vandalized, how would we get from there to “atheist vandalism” such that you might be embarrassed?

          Anybody could’ve vandalized them; how would you know it was an atheist?

  2. You should check out the book Abject Expressionism by Ron English. He’s a pretty amazing artist, and the guy has an entire “subvertising” campaign where all he does is vandalize billboards.

    For example, this McDonald’s sign.

  3. Ex,

    Do billboards ever influence anyone?

    Can you recall any notable billboards? If yes, I’d say the answer to your question is yes, in that you were at least influenced enough to retain the memory. When I scan my mind for memorable billboards, it’s all just a blur. But I can remember almost every one of the ones in Ron English’s book!

  4. Do billboards ever influence anyone?

    Sure – particularly when I’m looking for a good place to eat.

    Why are both theists and atheists so eaten up with roadside messages?

    One thing I hate about billboards is that they’re eyesores. With regard to content, I know I’ve become more aware of religious billboards since I’ve been an atheist than I was before. When I was a Christian, religious billboards, church signs, little memorial crosses at the sites of deadly car crashes, etc., seemed normal to me. Now that I’m on the other side of the religious divide, I’m much more aware of public displays of religiosity. I honestly can’t remember seeing any Muslim, Jewish or billboards from other religious groups on American roadsides. Can you? If not, or if the examples are very few, don’t you find that curious? I see it as yet another example of the extent of Christian privilege.

  5. One thing I hate about billboards is that they’re eyesores.

    Luckily the interstates aren’t as peppered with them due to the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which was one of the pet projects of Lady Bird Johnson.

    • Lately a new kind of Billboard has been creeping into the area – Giant TV screens with ads that rotate every 5 seconds or so. In color.

      I’m waiting for the first fatality that can be ascribed to the couch potato lulled into distraction looking for the remote under the front seat, so he can change the channel to something more interesting, while he plows into the car in front of him. Then they’ll be banned. 😉

      • There’s been one on 95 here for at least a year now and nothing. I think the stupid merge from the left is more dangerous. Besides, you think people are going to look up from their texting screens, their breakfasts, or their mirrors as they put on make up or shave to see ANY billboard? No way.

        • Besides, you think people are going to look up from their texting screens, their breakfasts, or their mirrors as they put on make up or shave to see ANY billboard?

          No, I don’t, and there, we can finally agree.

  6. Chaplain,

    I see it as yet another example of the extent of Christian privilege.

    I’d suggest caution. Since there’s no law preventing billboards from non-Christian religions, I think it might actually be an example of the extent of Christian pervasiveness.

    • There may be no law, but it certainly doesn’t stop someone from preventing it. There have been billboards erected in my own area where people have protested by saying, “It causes a disruption to our city/town,” or something of the sort and it’s been torn down.

      Of course, these billboards were everything but Christian. Including several atheists ones.

      So, there is a certain degree of Christian privilege in society. It’s hard to deny.

      • WritingShadows,

        So, there is a certain degree of Christian privilege in society. It’s hard to deny.

        Correct, and I would never deny the undeniable theocracy. What I questioned here was Chaplain’s implication that her perceived lack of billboards from other religions was attributable to “Christian privilege.” Surely that is true in some subset of instances, but I felt her comment risked approaching the “too broad a stroke” status. In many cases, it’s just a numbers game.

  7. Well, to coalesce, they are privileged because they are pervasive. The majority dictates privilege.

    It’s one of the reasons minorities are protected by the Constitution and its Amendments. As if some Christians actually understood that.

    • Well if what you understand is that the US was founded as a Christian nation, and that the Constitution is an embodiment of Christian values, then naturally anything which promotes and favors Christianity MUST be constitutional.

      • SI,

        Pervasiveness is no guarantee of privilege.

        The majority dictates privilege.

        In theory, sure, but in practice — at least here in America — powerful minorities often dictate privilege.

        PhillyChief,

        Well if what you understand is that the US was founded as a Christian nation, and that the Constitution is an embodiment of Christian values, then naturally anything which promotes and favors Christianity MUST be constitutional.

        Correct, and I believe this is exactly why the undeniable theocracy self-feeds itself the “Christian America” lie — a means of exacting political leverage over the unthinking religious masses.

        • …theocracy self-feeds itself the “Christian America” lie…

          Good point, but to expand on it, I think that is just a manifestation of the apparent need religionists have to constantly reinforce their beliefs. Going to church every Sunday, using the Bible as a source for everyday life, Bible study groups, Christian fiction and music, etc. It seems to me that if religious beliefs were self-evident, and easily substantiated, they wouldn’t need such constant and (shall I say) mind numbing reinforcement.

          This is not to say that I don’t understand the attraction of people of like minds getting together because they have something in common. This blog, for instance, attracts like minded people (along with the occasional troll). But they seem to go out of their way to reinforce their beliefs. I don’t have weekly atheist scripture readings, or rituals designed to imprint beliefs in one’s mind.

          Does that make any sense to anyone?

          • Does that make any sense to anyone?

            Yes, when viewed in the limited context of the subset of believers whose sole motivation for religious study or ceremony is reinforcement of belief, but…

            It seems to me that if religious beliefs were self-evident, and easily substantiated, they wouldn’t need such constant and (shall I say) mind numbing reinforcement.

            The problem is that such assumes all who study their Bible daily do so for epistemological reinforcement. Your comment lends well to pictures of luke-warm believers who only read Scripture for reassurance, when that is simply not the case.

    • quantum_flux,

      There are atheist signs on buses and in buildings all over this country and others. Who said that “theists can put up their signs but atheists can’t put up theirs?” Did I miss some new law that’s been passed?

      • I think he’s referring to the vandalism of the sign in the Friendly Atheist post. Someone (presumably Christian) seems to have objected to an atheist billboard, and defaced it. Atheist signs on buses have caused controversy. Atheist billboards have engendered opposition in numerous cases.

        Christian signs don’t seem to do that. To complete Quantum’s thought, I think his statement was shorthand for:

        I can’t believe that theists can put up their signs but atheists can’t put up theirs without someone defacing them.

        • Someone (presumably Christian) seems to have objected to an atheist billboard, and defaced it.

          I ask you the same question I ask Jesse: why do you tack the “presumably Christian” qualifier into your argument? I see that as unjustified assumption, possibly attributable to bias. All sorts of people vandalize signs for all sorts of reasons, and God is not a Christian concept. Anyone who believes in God could have vandalized that sign. It also could’ve just been some drunk teenagers who thought it’d be funny to piss the humanists off. Who knows? Without evidence, your’s and Jesse’s presumption are just unfounded assertions with no evidence.

          Atheist signs on buses have caused controversy. Atheist billboards have engendered opposition in numerous cases.

          Of course, but there are no laws against them, right? That was the implication I got from quantum_flux’s comment. Now, even with your clarification (defacement), it still doesn’t make sense, because theist signs and buildings get vandalized just like the atheist vandalism Galef originally cited.

          Christian signs don’t seem to do that.

          Christian signs don’t seem to cause controversy or engender opposition? Come on. You yourself oppose them, as does practically everyone else here, and if there’s no controversy over them, from where do we get “signage campaigns” from organizations like the FFRF? Very clearly, Christian signs do cause controversy and engender opposition; I believe you’ve spoken in error.

      • Well, it does seem like there was a significant struggle to get something along the lines of “there’s probably no god so stop worrying”. In fact, just to put that up creates all sorts of controversy and bus drivers refuse to go to work over it, people won’t even get on those busses, etc. The idea of advertising the mere extreme probability that there is no god, it seems, is being fought against very much by the theists. Why is that such a big deal? And yet the theists get to put up signs such as SI posted here and nobody seems to care because they are partial to the privelidged bias of the theists, Christian theologists to be more specific, I’m sure a Muslim wouldn’t like a “Jesus is watching you sign” every bit as much as an “Allah probably doesn’t exist” sign.

        • That brings up another point….Would Christians allow a sign that says “Allah is watching you” or would they want to vandalize it just like they want to vandalize the “There is probably no God” sign?

        • Well, it does seem like there was a significant struggle to get something along the lines of “there’s probably no god so stop worrying”. In fact, just to put that up creates all sorts of controversy and bus drivers refuse to go to work over it, people won’t even get on those busses, etc. The idea of advertising the mere extreme probability that there is no god, it seems, is being fought against very much by the theists. Why is that such a big deal?

          Well, you tell me: in a country ostensibly founded on the idea of religious freedom, why is the idea that there is a God such a big deal? Remember, atheist backlash to theist symbols preceded the atheist sign campaign you mention. In other words, it was atheists who started complaining first. Now, I’m not denying that religious people who overstep their political boundaries do not deserve reproach, because they most certainly do.

          ..yet the theists get to put up signs such as SI posted here and nobody seems to care..

          I disagree; people object to theist signs and symbols. The current atheist sign and symbol campaign was born in protest of theist signs and symbols.

          Would Christians allow a sign that says “Allah is watching you” or would they want to vandalize it just like they want to vandalize the “There is probably no God” sign?

          You’re asking me to make a blanket statement about what the general group “Christians” would do. You should know better. And, as I did when SI and Jesse made it, I object to your assumption that if an atheist sign is vandalized, we can just say it was “presumably by a Christian.”

          • I think that statement is more about the odds. The odds are, in this country, the person vandalizing is Christian. And more people would protect/not prosecute/etc. a Christian who defaced a blasphemy against their God.

            And, this is meant to be a general statement, not one to nit-pick at.

            The answer to the question though, instead of “I won’t say,” is yes, a Christian, at least the vast majority of them, would object to such a public sentiment for Allah. We’re not saying ALL Christians would object or that ALL such-and-such would object. We’re saying that the majority would surely object. It’s a statement borne of history.

            Also: Yes, atheists have been ordered to remove billboards and signs from several places, again, in my neighborhood because they caused controversy. Whereas, the Christian advertisements, including a neon sign on one Church, is allowed without fuss, even from the atheistic community.

            • That’s all fine, WS. The specifics of sign tolerance where we live is one thing; general statements that extrapolate that situation to the larger scenario not as much so.

              It’s all relative; perhaps you live in a place where there’s a Christian majority. Not everybody does. Here in SF, Christians certainly DON’T have that upper hand.

  8. I think its pretty obvious that both atheist and theist signs and symbols have been defaced in the past. I have seen it happen more frequently to the theist’s just for the fact there havnt been very many outwardly expressing atheists. This is a relatively new phenomenom.

    Philly

    Good quote from lenin!

  9. When QF asks if Christians would do this or that, I don’t read it as it’s a blanket statement that they ALL would do this or that but rather more of ONLY Christians would do this or that. For instance, I’ll state that white people watch Lawrence Welk reruns. Well I certainly don’t, and I’m plenty white, but are there non-whites out there watching Lawrence Welk? If so, good luck finding them. So when QF asks, “would Christians allow a sign that says “Allah is watching you””, it’s along those lines.

    I also agree with WS’ comment about it referring to odds and a majority, but I want to expand on the majority aspect. I know as an atheist I’d be annoyed by the Allah sign, and I’d bet that Jews, Hindus, and other non-Muslims would be as well. The question is, if backed by the power of a majority, would an atheist, Jew, etc act on that annoyance and deny such a sign to be posted? I’d hope not, but we can’t know for sure.

    So as a majority, odds are vandals are Christians. Also as a majority, Christians may be more inclined to act on their hatred of a sign backed by the shared opinion, and thus support of that majority.

    • For instance, I’ll state that white people watch Lawrence Welk reruns. Well I certainly don’t, and I’m plenty white, but are there non-whites out there watching Lawrence Welk? If so, good luck finding them. So when QF asks, “would Christians allow a sign that says “Allah is watching you””, it’s along those lines.

      Good lucking finding them? I who talk to you am one.

      I also agree with WS’ comment about it referring to odds and a majority, but I want to expand on the majority aspect. I know as an atheist I’d be annoyed by the Allah sign, and I’d bet that Jews, Hindus, and other non-Muslims would be as well.

      I do, too, but what’s the point of belaboring numbers? Further, I don’t understand your personality at, Philly: if we’re about being open-minded and rational, then why should we be “annoyed” by the presence of other ideas? When I see tactful atheist signs, I feel challenged, not offended, annoyed or insulted. I tend to think it has something to do with security in what one believes, vs. the insecurity that demands the constant reinforcement SI mentioned earlier.

      So as a majority, odds are vandals are Christians.

      I still don’t think that works; it assumes the sole motivation is religious, when it could have just been some drunk teenagers.

      • I find people who don’t get things, who insist they do but don’t, who keep making the same failed arguments, and a host of other things annoying. Tolerance of one’s right to speak doesn’t mean one can’t be annoyed with the speech, jackass. When someone keeps insisting the Earth is only 6,000 years old, my annoyance is not from insecurity. What ridiculously moronic points you raise, which, btw, I find incredibly annoying which is why I usually don’t even read your comments because that’s all the purpose they serve, provocative annoyances.

        You’re a non-white, Lawrence Welk watcher? You look white enough to me.

      • I still don’t think that works; it assumes the sole motivation is religious, when it could have just been some drunk teenagers.

        It could have been, but if we’re still talking odds, it probably wasn’t, unless those drunk teenagers were also Christians. Just look at the vandalism in question. Whoever it was took an explicitly skeptical message and turned it into an explicitly Christian message. Drunk teenagers, bent on pure vandalism, more likely, would have spray painted gang tags, or “Killroy was here” or simply set the sign on fire.

        We could play the “it could have been someone else” game all day, (it could have been a space alien) but in the end, not knowing, it’s safe to say it’s an act of Christian vandalism, and proceed from there. I’m sure that’s what the authorities are doing.

  10. I know I’m nit-picking here, cl, but bear with me.

    When I, or any of “Team Scarlet A” or any other atheist, freethinker or skeptic that comments here makes blanket statements about Christians, you usually zero in on them to point out the over-generalization. Perhaps rightly so, in a technical sense.

    But if you read us enough, you know that we are talking about specific Christians, (or whatever brand of theism we’re dealing with at the moment) when we use the generic word. We know that there are the silent majority of theists who believe what they want and go about their lives perfectly content that others don’t agree, because they are secure in their own beliefs. Out of habit they may bless you when you sneeze, or say “Thank god” when something good happens, but they are not proselytizing on a regular basis.

    But there is a subset (your word) of theists that are so insecure that they need to vandalize billboards, or picket abortion providers (as they are doing up the street from me at this very moment) or otherwise shoving their religious beliefs down other’s throats. These are who we react to.

    So it doesn’t do your argument any good to parse our comments, because sure, when we say Christians defaced the billboard, the odds are pretty good that was the case, given the circumstances. You can talk in absolutes and say there is a remote possibility that it was some Muslim who did it, or a Hindu, or maybe even an atheist who wants the Christians to look bad, but we don’t live in an absolute world. We operate on percentages on a regular basis, and make all of our life decisions accordingly. You wouldn’t get into a car every day if you didn’t weigh the odds, rather than know that it is possible you might die in it this time.

    So do us a favor. You keep saying you want to engage us in a debate that is viable. Stop nitpicking the obvious and deal with the issues raised.

    Here, a Christian probably defaced a billboard that he didn’t like. Given the number of atheist billboards and the number of theist billboards out there (acknowledging the sheer overwhelming number disparity that the majority has) the % of atheists billboards being objected to and vandalized is far higher than the % of theist ones suffering the same fate. (And don’t ask me for cites; I don’t have any. It’s anecdotal based on news reports). The one in question most surely was vandalized by a Christian. Motive, opportunity and means = presumable guilt.

    I suspect, given that, you would agree?

    • When I, or any of “Team Scarlet A” or any other atheist, freethinker or skeptic that comments here makes blanket statements about Christians, you usually zero in on them to point out the over-generalization.

      Correct. That’s because freethinkers shouldn’t make blanket statements and over-generalizations.

      Perhaps rightly so, in a technical sense.

      Damn straight, and please don’t try to marginalize that tendency by labelling it undue attention to technicality.

      But if you read us enough, you know that we are talking about specific Christians,

      Then why not mention specific Christians?

      We know that there are the silent majority of theists who believe what they want and go about their lives perfectly content that others don’t agree, because they are secure in their own beliefs.

      Honestly, I would never have guessed that you believe, because the bulk of what I hear is just derogation and vitriol. I don’t expect that you’ll see that, so no need to contest it. Know that I can’t hear what you mean in your mind. Your job is to accurately communicate that to me. Sure, you and Team Scarlet A might be able to translate your loose statements into accurate ones because they’re familiar with your style, but how many people do you think might come here for the first time, read some of the really dogmatic, unjustified and “broad-stroke” statements that you and your commenters tend to make, and come away with either a negative opinion of you as the host, your commenters, or atheism in general? If I was an atheist I would give you guys just as much grief, simply because there’s an apparent lack of concern for any sort of accuracy or belief-justification here.

      But there is a subset (your word) of theists that are so insecure that they need to vandalize billboards, or picket abortion providers (as they are doing up the street from me at this very moment) or otherwise shoving their religious beliefs down other’s throats.

      Correct, just as there is a subset of atheists who are so whacked that they need to picket religious expression, go on murderous shooting sprees in the name of “natural selection”, or otherwise shove their irreligious beliefs down other’s throats. What’s the point? I just don’t see what we gain by noting something that should be readily obvious. It just comes across as bias and a bunch of atheists looking for faults to find with Christians.

      These are who we react to.

      Why? Palliate the cause, don’t merely complain about the symptom.

      So it doesn’t do your argument any good to parse our comments, because sure, when we say Christians defaced the billboard, the odds are pretty good that was the case, given the circumstances.

      No argument I posit here does any good period. Odds don’t justify presumptive statements without evidence, but I fully expect you to say that the odds are the evidence for your presumption. I’m not buying. Detectives don’t operate that way with murder suspects. When the suspect is unknown, the suspect is unknown. Even Catholics adhere to such form.

      You can talk in absolutes and say there is a remote possibility that it was some Muslim who did it, or a Hindu, or maybe even an atheist who wants the Christians to look bad, but we don’t live in an absolute world.

      Those are all valid possibilities, too, but the first two seem unlikely to me. The last one seems plausible, but personally, I imagine some stoner kids or taggers getting a laugh out of the whole deal. In general, is the church crowd running around climbing up billboards with spray paint? I don’t think so. That’s why I say the most we should say is “unknown suspect.”

      Really what this boils down to is a difference in standards of reporting, I guess. I just don’t feel it’s right to interject our own presumptions into things, whether the odds seem to justify it or not. When I hear that a church was burned down, I don’t say it was presumably by an atheist or a devil worshipper. Why point fingers? I just stick to what I know, and say I heard that a church burned down.

      So do us a favor. You keep saying you want to engage us in a debate that is viable. Stop nitpicking the obvious and deal with the issues raised.

      Excuse me Mr. Authoritarian blog owner, but freethought doesn’t have boundaries. We’ve all raised our independent and intersecting issues here, and I can address whichever ones I want. You began this comment by admitting it was nitpicking, so don’t turn around and blame me; don’t be silly.

      And don’t ask me for cites; I don’t have any. It’s anecdotal based on news reports

      Ha! Right… So you accept your own anecdotes as evidence for your own arguments, yet you refuse to even seriously consider mine. You’ve really got some nerve sometimes, SI.

  11. It seems to me that if religious beliefs were self-evident, and easily substantiated, they wouldn’t need such constant and (shall I say) mind numbing reinforcement.

    The problem is that such assumes all who study their Bible daily do so for epistemological reinforcement. Your comment lends well to pictures of luke-warm believers who only read Scripture for reassurance, when that is simply not the case.

    I really wasn’t postulating on an individual’s response or reasons for reinforcement, I was looking at it in the historic, memetic sense. How religion evolved to be what it is today, seems to me to explain why there is such a strong reliance on repetition of scriptures, rituals, etc. Religion is based on faith in the unseen, and presumably unknowable. In order to maintain faith based on something like that, there needs to be some form of reinforcement, to keep faith alive.It’s human nature.

    I think the way the brain works, without reinforcement, faith tends to dissipate. A spouse believes, has faith, that his wife loves him, but without an almost daily showing of that love he might lose that faith, and in fact would lose it. I believe the sky is blue, but if it was constantly orange, I’d tend to lose that belief over time. Same with god. Without someone constantly reinforcing his existence (since he doesn’t make personal appearances), one would tend to forget he exists. Hence weekly services, scripture readings, Christian music and fiction, etc. It’s not intentional, it’s how it evolved. It’s success is proof.

    (I’m not sure I like these nesting replies. I think I may go back to a linear comment page. It’s too hard to keep track of comments this way)

    [EDIT: Just got an email from Amazon. on the subject, which looks interesting, though there’s not much description]

    • In order to maintain faith based on something like that, there needs to be some form of reinforcement, to keep faith alive.

      Whatever you say. I’m done talking for now, and I’ll just say I think the nested comments suck, too.

  12. But there is a subset (your word) of theists that are so insecure that they need to vandalize billboards(SI)

    Would you consider the same to be true of the Atheists, freethinker, and skeptics that vandalize the Theist billboards?

  13. Philly

    I would imagine many of the Theists would base their reasons on resentment, anger and frustration. Isnt that true of most people who dont get their way? Human nature, dont you think?

    • Well it’s all speculative of course as to motivation. The “don’t get their way” bit seems misplaced. I don’t think people being lorded over by others are angry and resentful for not getting their way. I find that a universal sentiment. On the lording side, yeah, theirs would be from not getting their way absolutely.

  14. I would imagine many of the Theists would base their reasons on resentment, anger and frustration. Isnt that true of most people who dont get their way? Human nature, dont you think? (T4T, to Philly)

    I would agree, T4T, but remember it’s also human nature to imagine those we oppose are inferior, when in fact we all bleed. This causes breaches of logic like tolerating or justifying a behavior for our own group, while simultaneously decrying the same behavior in the group we oppose.

    Well it’s all speculative of course as to motivation. (Philly)

    Then that equally applies to your speculation that the religious were more likely to vandalize out of insecurity than resentment, anger and frustration, right?

    I don’t think people being lorded over by others are angry and resentful for not getting their way. I find that a universal sentiment. (Philly)

    I find that a universal sentiment, too, but I think you’re overreacting if you equate “roadsigns you find annoying” with “lording it over others.” I mean, the edifying concepts of America are plurality, democracy and diversity, so you might as well get used to the expression of beliefs that differ (even radically) from your own.

    I’ve got my own idea of a “perfect world” too, Philly, and I mean the best when I say that I hope your tendency to esteem your own views as superior is finally starting to come to light.

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