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Op-ed: Atheists' billboards should offend no one

Published October 26, 2013 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I'm Greg Clark. I'm a husband, a father, a neuroengineer, an associate professor at the University of Utah, and ...

... I'm an atheist.

There's no need to be offended.

Unfortunately, many people are.

The organization American Atheists recently tried to advertise their upcoming National Convention to be held in Salt Lake City Easter weekend, 2014. One proposed billboard ad stated simply, "Utah's families. All religious? Think again."

Yet the proposed ads were rejected by multiple local billboard companies, including YESCO. "It was deemed to be too controversial for our Salt Lake market," YESCO explained. "We reject advertisements that we find to be... offensive to the moral standards of the community."

Atheism. So offensive, it changes YESCO to NOCO.

Then again, perhaps what offended community standards was the word "think."

Such negative reactions to atheists, simply for being atheists, are not unique. Psalm 14 preaches that, when it comes to atheists, there is "none that doeth good."

Forty-three percent of American would not vote for an atheist for president, compared with only 18% who would not vote for a Mormon.

Multiple states retain (unconstitutional) laws that prohibit atheists from holding political office, or serving as a witness. Despite legal challenges, people in Kentucky can still be sentenced to a year in jail for not acknowledging an Almighty God.

And North Americans consider atheists more dishonest and more likely to commit theft than even rapists. Seriously?

The empirical reality is far different. Prison rates for self-identified atheists are far lower than for Christians. Likewise, divorce rates are lower for atheists and agnostics than for fundamentalist Christians and Jews.

The National Academy of Sciences is composed of our nation's most distinguished scientists, and 93 percent of its members are atheists or agnostics.

Yet it's hardly a hotbed of heinous hijinks or sexual shenanigans.

In everyday life, most atheists are much like most theists.

Well, not counting religious fundamentalists. (It's curious, eh? Religion's best defense is to reject its fundamentals.)

Like moderate believers, atheists don't believe that drowning babies characterizes a model father who loves all his children unconditionally. Even "militant," "angry" atheists don't believe that preachers should be tossed into the deep with a millstone round their necks. Atheists don't typically believe that women should hold no position of authority over men. Or in slavery. Or in taking from he who hath not, to giveth to he who already hath. Or that gays and lesbians are full of deceit and malignity, and worthy of death.

The Word of God notwithstanding.

Heck, atheists don't even need to sacrifice their children in order to forgive other people their transgressions.

Speaking of which: Happy Easter weekend, everyone!

So, yeah: The atheists are coming to town. Many are already here.

But don't worry — they're actually much like you.

As Stephen F. Roberts famously remarked, "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do."

In a certain sense, atheists and theists are indeed quite alike. Both groups reject the overwhelming majority of proposed gods, yet often live happy, fulfilling, even sometimes-awestruck lives—despite Oprah's dismissive remarks to swimmer Diana Nyad.

But in another sense, Roberts was incorrect.

Even theists largely reject the god they claim to worship as both silly and brutally mean-spirited. They just don't have the honesty to admit it. To others. Or to themselves.

Honesty. Sometimes, it's the most offensive trait of all.

But thanks for sparing us the millstone.

Gregory A. Clark is a member of Atheists of Utah and American Atheists. The views expressed are his own.






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