I saw a blog post tonight on Hemant Mehta's "Friendly Atheist" blog titled "Questioning God is Apparently Hate Speech." Hemant is the author of I Sold My Soul on eBay (a book that describes his visits to a variety of Christian churches. These visits initially occurred as a result of an eBay auction and the media reaction was the Mehta "sold his soul on eBay").
His blog post is related to my recent blog post on recent American Humanist Association bus ads (When Did Expressing Doubt About God Become a "Negative" Attack Message?).
Apparently, the atheist billboard ad is at the top of this blog post is considered offensive "hate speech" but other billboards in Colorado expressing religious views like the one below are OK:
Here's the news coverage from the Rocky Mountain News about this billboard dispute:
The message is but eight words divided into two short sentences set against puffy white clouds on a blue and black background.
One of the men behind the billboard message says his life has been threatened because of it, which seems an odd thing since those doing the threatening all profess to be Christians.
Just eight words:
"Don't believe in God?" the upper left of the billboard reads. "You are not alone," the lower right says.
The sole purpose of the ads, the group maintains, is what it says: to let other freethinkers, atheists and humanists know there is a group out there for them.
Two of the 11 signs were supposed to go up in Fort Collins and Greeley, the group said. This was so until the moment the media company that owns the two billboards read the message.
The hate mail and nasty, threatening phone messages began almost immediately.
Much of it has been directed at Joel Guttormson, who mostly has been serving as a spokesman for COCORE, as they call it.
Twenty-two and a Metro State junior majoring in theoretical mathematics, Guttormson also is president of the Metro State Atheists, one of the 11 groups that make up COCORE.
"It's been kind of wild, kind of outrageous," he says of days since the billboards went up.
"It has been mostly Christians who've been calling and e-mailing," Joel Guttormson said, "which is strange since the message is not directed at Christians or anyone from any religion.
"You know, if you see an ad for migraine medicine and you don't have a migraine, why would you care?"
Almost all of the feedback, he said, has been from people who say the billboards denigrate Christians. He says he still has no idea how that is possible.
"We are not out to anger people," Joel Guttormson said. "I don't know why people think that. So much of it says we are evil and that we hate everybody.
"Have you seen the billboard? Tell me where any of them mentions evil or hate. Why is everyone so mad?"
There is some good news out of this -- Joel Guttormson reports:
"The cool thing is we've even had some Christians step up and defend us. They know our message is no more offensive than one that reads:
"Believe in God? You're not alone."