In weeks past, we’ve brought you some outrageous signs and billboards posted by right-wing Christian churches. It turns out certain people can dish it out a lot better than they can take it. Here are some signs posted by people of other beliefs that caused major upset among conservative Christians.
1. Come out of the Christian Closet!
The organization American Atheists doesn't hate Christmas. They believe in celebrating the holiday season. They just don’t think the religious stuff makes sense. Or, as they put it on a billboard in Manhattan’s Time Square, “Keep the MERRY. Dump the MYTH.” Now, it may look at first glance like these American Atheists are themselves confused. They don't buy the whole son of god thing, but they're OK with Santa Claus? Seems pretty gullible to me. What they're saying, of course, is that they enjoy the Christmas festivities without needing it to be Christian. As the organization’s president David Silverman explained, “If you know god is a myth, you do not have to lie and call yourself ‘Christian’ in order to have a festive holiday season. You can be merry without the myth, and indeed, you should…. We encourage people to be honest with themselves and their families this year. If you don’t believe in God, tell your family — honesty is the greatest gift, and they deserve it.”
The billboard inspired not only honesty but some major wit from Answers in Genesis, the multimillion-dollar Christian ministry behind the Creation Museum outside Cincinnati. They responded by spending $200,000 on their own Time Square ad, which read, "To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you're wrong." As Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham explained, "We're not trying to attack them personally, but we do believe they're wrong. From an atheist's perspective, they believe when they die, they cease to exist. And we say no, you're not going to cease to exist; you're going to spend eternity with God or without God. And if you're an atheist, you're going to be spending it without God." Sounds pretty Christian to me.
2. Merry Xmas and Happy Holocaust!
Lest you think American Atheists limit themselves to flat graphic art, they also posted a video on a digital billboard in Time Square. Guess they like the neighborhood. “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” asked the 40' x 40' installation last December. According to American Atheists president David Silverman, Christmas isn’t just for Christians: “We all love this time of year…Christianity has been trying to claim ownership of the season for hundreds of years. But the winter solstice came first and so did its traditions. The season belongs to everybody.”
But not everyone was so happy about this Happy Holiday billboard. State Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) called the billboard an “expression of hatred,” saying, “Just as millions of Americans are preparing to celebrate Christmas, the American Atheists organization has ridiculed the solemn beliefs of millions of New Yorkers.” What’s worse, this billboard, like so many other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust, will lead to the holocaust: “Religious persecution of the kind that similarly led to the Holocaust began with small baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others.”
3. 1-800-MUSLIMM (leave on the last M for Mohamet)
As an anchor from the Christian-Right friendly My Fox News ominously states, “While most billboards you drive by on the New Jersey Turnpike advertise things like hotels or cars, the billboards getting attention recently advertise a certain religion and are stirring up controversy.” Why the controversy? Because the certain religion is… wait for it… Islam!
One billboard placed by the Islamic Circle of North America has an American flag in the background and the words “Islam, Get the facts.” As if that invitation to learn is not sufficiently incendiary and provocative, another reads, “Ramadan—1.57 billion celebrating—find out why.” My Fox News isn’t the only one concerned. So are some of the people they interview. One concerned citizen says, “I don’t think they should be up there.” Why? Because of 9/11: “Everyone believes that that group did it, religious or not.” I’m not sure what he means, since Muslims are, by definition, religious. He may be suffering from that Muslim/terrorist/Arab confusion syndrome.
4. Guess who's Muslim and has two opposable thumbs and walks on water? THIS guy (Jesus Christ)
Unfortunately, these weren’t the only Muslims trying to terrorize people by suggesting their religion has any validity. Ask a Muslim, an Ohio-based educational website about Islam, decided to teach a little bit about Jesus Christ through billboards, which read, "Jesus is Muslim" and "Muslims love Jesus too." These signs were less than kosher to certain Christians, like Dave Daubenmire of the very holy Pass the Salt Ministry, who responded with a "Jesus Is Lord" prayer vigil and protest. As he explained in a press release, he doesn’t oppose free speech unless it’s free speech with which he disagrees: “Although we support the Islamic community's right to free speech, as well as their right to post messages on billboards, we do not support the hijacking of the name of Jesus Christ in their attempt to lure uninformed Christians into their religion."
He also objected to the way the signs hurt Christian feelings by even suggesting an alternative interpretation of Jesus: "During this most Holy Lenten Season we find the messages on the billboards to be insensitive, dishonest and deserving of a response from concerned Christians. We will be on the streets to proclaim Jesus is NOT Muslim but Jesus is Lord!!”
5. The existence of Atheism is a LIE!
The American Atheists wanted to advertise their convention in Salt Lake City with a billboard which played on an “I’m a Mormon” campaign, and substituted the word atheist for Mormon. But not a single Utah company would sell AA any ad space. Perhaps crossing out the word Mormon was a little too Mormon-insensitive. Fine. But the following signs were also rejected.
Why were billboards daring to acknowledge the existence of atheist students, families and senior citizens deemed unacceptable? The company YESCO explained that, “In rare instances, we reject advertisements that we find to be misleading, deceptive or offensive to the moral standards of the community." I guess there really isn’t a single member of the three populations who is an atheist. Or AA isn’t really having a convention? Or it’s not really in April? Unclear. But somehow, the signs are misleading and deceptive.