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The atheists are coming! The atheists are coming! Run away!

This is a complete paraphrasing of recent emails notifying me that some godless bastards put up a billboard announcing that it's OK not to believe in a supernatural being.

Note: "Godless bastards" is another paraphrase. It refers to the Utah Coalition of Reason, who put up the billboard, a fact for which coalition members are going to hell. Or so I've heard.

The billboard is on the right side of Highway 201, half a mile west of Exit 11. It says — you may wish to avert your eyes at this point — "Don't Believe In God? You Are Not Alone."

As billboards go, it's fairly benign. Truthfully, I like it better than the religious ones implying that I'm doomed for believing in the wrong Jesus, not reading the right Bible or simply being of the wrong faith (Mormon).

Notifications about the atheist billboard ranged in temperament from slight annoyance to hollering about how we're living in the last days. Surely God would see the billboard and decide it was time for the Great Apocalypse.

Maybe. In the meantime, those of us who aren't going to hell need to figure out how to cope with this new and truly hideous brand of atheism — the evangelical one.

It used to be that atheists and agnostics kept their horrible opinions to themselves. When they didn't, they were shouted down and put in their evil place by the rest of God-fearing America.

If you don't understand the difference between atheism and agnosticism, it's relatively simple. Even a newspaper columnist can figure it out. Sort of.

Atheist: Absolutely convinced there isn't a god.

Agnostic: Doesn't know and, moreover, doesn't particularly care.

Believers: "Burn them all!"

OK, I just threw that last one in for laughs. Proof of anyone's claim about God is, at best, an idiot's argument — two sides arguing over a color neither has seen before.

The mistake many believers make is to point out their own righteous behavior as proof that God exists. Irony being life's greatest teacher, atheists point to the same behavior as proof that he doesn't.

The mistake many atheists/agnostics make is to believe they aren't equally loony without belief. Proof being the arguments that rage among them as to the most appropriate form of not believing.

I have my own opinions about the matter, namely that atheists are no better or worse than believers. Some are extraordinarily kind. Most are average. A few are every bit as smug and insufferable as the worst televangelist.

If you're looking for proof of something, consider this: Everything comes down to how we treat each other — a matter for which there is ample evidence that we're all doing a lousy job.

I'm just as guilty as the next person. This growing atheist need to evangelize alarms me. Eventually, they may adopt other forms of approach normally reserved for the religious. For example, nonmissionaries knocking on my door.

Them: "Hello, neighbor. We just stopped by today to share our untestimonies about something that isn't really there at all."

Me [to my wife]: "Get the dog."

Robert Kirby can be reached at or