Christian Reply to Atheist Billboards – “Why Fight a god that does not exist?”

atheistbillboard-atheistI put up a posting yesterday about the observation that some Billboards will provoke a rather negative reaction, and sure enough, I’ve come across an article that illustrates this precise point quite well.

Over at Charisma News we have … “Why Are Atheists Investing So Much Money on Billboards Fighting a God They Don’t Think Exists?” and to that we can but roll our eyes, because quite clearly, to those that give it some thought, the bone of contention is not a fight against a mythological god who does not exist, but rather is an argument being presented against religious assertions that are not actually true at all.

OK, so let’s take a quick peek inside the article itself …

the launch of the American Atheists’ annual campaign to mock Christmas.

Sigh! … indeed yes, the poster is telling them that they are a bunch of clueless idiots, and so the emotional reply to that is to dig in. The campaign is winning no friends within the community of those that believe.

presents a deceptive portrayal of churchgoers

Sadly, that is indeed perhaps a correct observation, because humans are just not that simplistic. You have a community of believers who will gather once a week (or perhaps more) and find a sense of meaning, hope and also emotional safety and security. It is not an intellectual exercise but rather is more akin to an emotional experience that people do truly feel. Yes, it is true that that is nothing supernatural going on (but they will disagree with that), and so while individuals will feel and experience real religious emotions, and use words such as spiritual to describe it, to then tell them that they are idiots and simply believing in myths will not cause anybody to sit up and think, “Hey yes, it is indeed all fiction” and proceed to walk away from their social circle and community.

OK, I do get that American Atheists are actually targeting the non-believers who for cultural reasons wear a religious mask, but even those within that camp may indeed not respond all that well to a negative campaign.

There are of course things in the article that are simply not factual at all …

“It’s well-proven that the life of Christ ranks among the most historically documented facts of the ancient world. And data shows that the average worshipper in the United States is not someone grasping at fairy tales but actually a well-educated person. Atheists would have us think that only the ignorant could believe in a man called Jesus. But once again, truth is not on the atheists’ side.”

It is true that highly intelligent humans can and are also religious, and it is also true that most would believe that … the life of Christ ranks among the most historically documented facts of the ancient world. However, this claim is not factual, that is simply a popular thought that smart intelligent people use to rationalise the belief.

As an aside …

  • The earliest account of Jesus is the gospel of Mark, written about AD 65 … and that is rather a lot of decades after the supposed events it describes.
  • There are also exactly zero credible independent historical references to Jesus – Yes, I’m aware of the Josephus references, but they were both written in AD 116, and also also deemed to be fraudulent by most scholars (if curious ask me and I’ll give you all the details) –

… and so we are left with the observation that there was a chap who supposedly raised the dead, caused the blind to see, and nobody at the time felt it was noteworthy, so the claim may indeed be asserted and believed, but it is not actually factual to claim that the life of jesus is the most “historically” documented.

Stat Match

The article also claims that believers are more educated than non-believers, and while I’m sure they truly believe that as well, it is also not a factual claim. I note that various studies are claimed to prove the assertion, but are not specifically referenced … there is a reason for that … the data they use has been cherry picked.

To be frank, I’m not sure that such correlations from either camp actually establish a causal relationship, and also that throwing such statistics around does not really help to convince anybody of anything at all. The underlying assumption that intelligence equates to rationality is false, highly intelligent people can also be highly irrational, the smart people simply dream up really smart ways to rationalise utterly absurd ideas.

There are a few more arguments in the article that warrant a passing mention …

Why are you fighting god?

The question is asked …

why invest so much time and energy opposing something you don’t even believe is real?

The though that millions of people embrace myths as facts and also assert that facts are myths is truly frightening, it leads to voters voting into office individuals who will proceed to enact policies that impose absurd beliefs upon everybody, and that is why there is such resistance.

Burden of Proof

Then there is also this …

Atheists build their philosophy on the rejection of God, but they’re unable to shoulder any burden of proof for their position. 

Non-believers have no burden of proof, they simply reject the claims made due to the complete lack of evidence for such claims. If indeed the religious wish to assert a god claim, then they need to provide evidence for that claim.

If I asserted that magic pink invisible unicorns were real and provided no evidence for that claim, you would quite rightly dismiss that. I could not then claim it was true because you had failed to provide evidence to disprove it, and this is because the things that are asserted without evidence can be happily dismissed without evidence.

In Summary

There is a real need for a meaningful dialog, because clearly there is a great deal that is simply not understood …

  • No the life of jesus is not a well-established historical fact
  • No we are not fighting god, we are opposing bad ideas that lead to bad behaviour
  • No we do not have a burden of proof, those asserting a claim do
  • etc…

And so attempting to start that dialog by telling the religious that they are jerks is not really going to work out all that well, they will instead become even more entrenched.

Not everybody gets it wrong, there are others who have billboards that are far more positive, for example …

  • “Don’t believe in God? Join the club” (United Coalition of Reason);
  • “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” (UCoR);
  • “This is what an atheist looks like” (with a picture of a friendly, smiling atheist; Freedom from Religion Foundation);
  • “I can be good without God” (FfRF)

Now that is better, it is more akin to “Hey, here we are, and we don’t have horns growing out of our heads”.

2 thoughts on “Christian Reply to Atheist Billboards – “Why Fight a god that does not exist?””

  1. Actually the negative campaign, which i don’t like any better than you do, WILL reach some people, especially the younger ones, who tend to be more putative in general. They’ve been raised on negative political ads and discount any kumbaya type of message (you know, the ones us old guys prefer). So while I am with you in your longing for a kinder and gentler atheism and agree with every word you’ve written here, I do have to take exception to the notion that those billboards are wrong because some leadership xtians attack them by pulling out the same stupid, tired arguments.


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