Two anti-religion billboards have been taken down in Charlotte, North Carolina after the company that rents the billboard space and the organization that paid for the ads were inundated with hateful complaints about their content. Adams Outdoor Advertising has pulled the billboards, paid for by American Atheists, after receiving complaints and threats about the boards, which were scheduled to remain up until after the Democratic National Convention there between September 3 and 6.
The billboards dared to challenge the legitimacy of the religions of presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
The uproar over the billboards is unfortunate, but predictable, as many theists have the awful habit of demanding that their beliefs not be offended. Yet they full-well expect—for good reason—that their myriad signs and advertisements will be displayed prominently without controversy. For example, billboards such as the following tend to generate far less controversy because the seniments they express are closer to established cultural orthodoxy.
Generally, billboards are owned by private companies, which means they may rent space to whomever they'd like in accordance with their own principles and practices. That's what Adams Outdoor Advertising was attempting to do, but was thwarted by an onslaught of complaints from individuals who think it is more important to protect their eyes and ears from speech they find offensive than it is to respect the First Amendment rights of their fellow citizens.
American Atheists disclosed some of the feedback they received regarding the billboards:
"ALL OF YOU ARE F#@KING IDIOTS! I HOPE ALL OF YOUR DIE OF A#% CANCER AND BLEED OUT OF YOUR A#@ES. BURN IN HELL... GO F*&K YOUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS,YOU PIECES OF S#@T.
P.S. HAVE A NICE DAY... HOPE YOU GET HIT BY A TRUCK."
"I hope your children are raped by a herd of goddamn N$%#ERS and then their throats are slit and they die a slow painful death. Now that would be fun to watch. I hope it happens to all of you atheist parents."
One can just feel the loving influence of the lord at work in these colorful messages.
There is without question a double standard when it comes to religious/anti-religious messaging. Anti-religious advertisements frequently stir up a "controversy," even when featured on private property. Yet, the most fervid pro-religion messages warrant no such attention. Granted, these signs are on church property, but qualitatively these are no different from a privately-owned billboard.
Make sure you ask him to suit up first. He did spend a lot of time with that prostitute.
Yes, children. Forget everything you've learned about fire safety.
Our preacher is actually from there.
The most "offensive" implication of an atheist billboard is that there is no god and no after-life, and hence, no heaven to go to. Thus, when even the most ardent and pious members of the faithful die, they simply cease to be -- physically, and if you believe in this sort of thing, spiritually as well.
But the implication of the above fire-and-brimstone signs are far, far worse. Rather than an eternity of nonexistence, those deemed unworthy of entry into heaven after death, will be cast headlong into the fiery depths of hell. There, they will burn forever in great anguish with no relief whatsoever.
That is a far more offensive prospect than merely ceasing to be. The most troubling aspect about much of the rhetoric isn't the content, since, the content is ultimately bunk. Rather, there is a certain giddiness about the tone of those who speak it, as if the pious can't help but engage in a bit of schadenfreude at the propsect of belonging to an exclusive club far up in the cosmos. Indeed, one is reminded of the old Calvinist rhyme oft-cited by the late Christopher Hitchens:
"We are the pure and chosen few, and all the rest are damned. There's room enough in hell for you -- we don't want heaven crammed."