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Business Owners, Customers, Unicorns Upset Over Controversial Billboard

"When you condemn all religions and say they are a fairytale that is wrong," said Rich Stormes, a nearby business owner.

The billboard went up a week before Easter and business at the restaurant went down. "Easter Sunday is usually a busy good day," said John Russel, an employee at Straub's. "Easter Sunday business was down by two thirds."

MediaNet said it had no idea the sign was there and someone put it up illegally in the middle of the night.

The billboard rents for $1,400 a month. If an anti-religious group paid to rent it legitimately there is no telling how long it would have been up.

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85 Responses:

  1. ky02121 says:

    Best billboard I've seen in awhile.

  2. tacente says:

    How on earth is it anti-religious?

    • dantheserene says:

      The truth often tends to be interpreted as anti-religious.

    • tiff_seattle says:

      you could say that reality has an anti-religion bias

    • jorend says:

      If I were to say something like: "string theory is a fairy tale," I think it would be taken as an anti-string-theory statement. Which it clearly is. Inasmuch as science is the pursuit of truth, and fairy tales are fiction, it's the ultimate insult.

      Bill Clinton recently said of (some aspect of) Barack Obama's campaign, "This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." It was widely taken as a derogatory comment.

  3. glowingwhispers says:

    That's great.

    The term 'fairy tale' seems particularly charged for some people. E.g. I was in a law society course on their code of professional conduct and this stiffed-backed person who was a bencher relayed the following story of another lawyer who just almost, for them, almost crossed the line with their conduct. In brief, the bencher called opposing council because their client was in jail and, when released, had said that some of their livestock was missing. The responding lawyer's offending comment, that to the bencher fell just under the line of professional misconduct, was: "your client's telling you a fairy tale." The bencher considered writing the person up on disciplinary charges for this? After hearing this story, I began to look far more closely at what sorts of people were regulating lawyers in my jurisdiction.

    Hmm, thinking about it, for those who seek the security of rules-based knowledge systems, I can understand how the term 'fairy tale' has the force to particularly upset them.

    • dantheserene says:

      I normally use the term "mythology" instead. It's more accurate for describing religions because most don't mention fairies specifically, but all of them are myths.

      • rodgerd says:

        I have a religion.
        You have a mythology.
        They are cultists.

        (With apologies to Yes, Prime Minister)

      • glowingwhispers says:

        Your comment has me running to the shorter OED for the meaning of both myth ("a tradition story..."; "a widely held (esp. untrue or discredited popular) story or belief..."; etc.) and fairy tales ("a tale about fairies..."; "unreal or incredible story; fabrication"). The former seems both more inclusive and high-brow.

        Perhaps it's my social scientist rooted identity, I tend to prefer the academic-sounding term "social construction".

        • elliterati says:

          I had a Mythology class in college which included a month on Middle Eastern myths. (Meaning, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.)

          • glowingwhispers says:

            Academics do love to play with words and categories in their power-knowledge categories.

            As an aside, I glanced at the name-concept dropping heavy 'liberal studies' course description list at the NSSR yesterday and got the sense the the instructors were having a lot of fun when they formulated each of their blurbs:


      • dglenn says:

        For the record, I am a Christian (of the Born-again subcategory; the label reflects actual belief I arrived at consciously after a period of agnosticism, not mere inertia-based identification with my parents' faiths), and while I would object to calling Christianity as a whole "mythology", I do routinely use that word to describe large parts (especially story-parts but not only those) of my faith, including parts that I believe are literally true[*], despite knowing that the word "myth" makes some of my co-religionists uncomfortable. Because the function of those stories, what we Christians get from them, is entirely consistent with the function of myths as I understand it, and a) I don't see how a subset of the stories being literally true (the in-my-worldview context) or my believing them to be true (the self-as-psychological-study-object context) changes the how-and-why of the stories' importance in informing my worldview, and b) when discussing religions -- discussing comparitive religion or comparing notes with people of other faiths or even examining the function of belief in conversations with atheists -- the words "myth" and "mythology" simultaneously signal my willingness to discuss my beliefs in a framework where they are not assumed to be true by others in the conversation, and the importance the stories have to me.

        ... Uh, in other words, that last bit could be phrased, "that to me, they're not merely fairy-tales". Hmm. I'd meant to just support the use of the word "myth" and avoid the original main topic, and in the process I've come right around to illustrating what's so upsetting[**] about hearing religious belief described as a "fairy tale" after all.

        Still, if that billboard were in my neighbourhood, I'd just shrug, acknowledge the point of view, and not worry about it or let it upset me.

        [*] Don't worry, I'm not a young-Earth creationist or an evolution-denier (I do believe in a weak version of "directed evolution", but that's a religious belief, not a scientific one, and I know the difference, and I know that it doesn't belong in a science classroom (where straight scientific evolution -- a theory that allows but does not require God to make the model fit the real world -- should be taught without bringing God into it).) But I do believe in the divinity of Jeshua ben Joseph of Nazareth, known as the Christ, and that He died on the cross and was ressurected, and that this event has meaning far beyond mere historical trivia. (And I also know the difference between my belief in the factuality of that event, and unambiguously documented history, so while the formation and influence of the Church can't really be avoided in history class, I'm not arguing that the Easter story should be taught as historical fact in school either.)

        [**] Upsetting, but it should also understandable and unsurprisng, since disbelief is also a reasonable position (and indeed the more rational of the two (which is why Faith is required for theistic belief, after all)) so the existence of intelligent, reasonable non-believers should come as no surprise to reasonable, intelligent theists, and it's not hard to see how our myths can "look like fairy tales" to such nonbelievers. (Er ... then again, some of my mathematically-challenged bretheren actually think they've constructed (or read) formal logical proofs of God's existence, which means they think disbelief is an unreasonable position, which in turns sets them up to be surprised and shocked to hear that someone else thinks our myths are mere fairy-tales. *sigh* If I could delete a meme from my religious community ...)

    • omni_ferret says:

      What's acceptable? I like the ring of "your client's talking out of his ass," though "your client's pants are on fire" still works for me.

      • jwz says:

        God hates fairies.

        And scallops.

      • glowingwhispers says:

        The expression "your pants are on fire" has it's charms. I liked that the Supreme Court of Canada once said, regarding a protester who had thrown a book at a presiding judge as well later 'fired' judges sitting on an appeal court, that he had been 'unkind.' For a group that discusses the usefulness of various "terms of art", it seems to take its art (i.e. words) seriously and can be a sensitive bunch. Heck, but that's just like most religious people I know.

  4. solarbird says:

    I just wish the second and third letters of the TV station were reversed.

    (And I checked. There is no WTFF. At least, not currently. There used to be. There are two KTHXs, tho'.)

    • blaisepascal says:

      Where did you check? I've heard stories of a popular DJ who was fired after he announced the call letters as "KCUF, where we do everything backwards." I'd like to know if there is/was such a station.

    • pozorvlak says:

      What's with the WXXX/KXXX nomenclature, anyway? What purpose does it serve?

      • lemonkey says:

        W represents stations west of the Mississippi and K represents those east of it. How they picked W and K I don't recall.

      • kineticfactory says:

        I believe that, originally, all radio transmitters east of the Mississippi (or of some dividing line across the middle of the US) had to have WXXX IDs, while those to the west had to have KXXX IDs. I'm not sure if the geographic distinction is interpreted strictly anymore.

        • solarbird says:

          It is. But there are a few K-prefixed stations in the... Philadelphia area, iirc, from before that rule was established. As well as a few other exceptions.

          That said, the geographical division of K and W is an FCC reg, and they could change it. The initial prefix-to-country assignments, however, is handled by international agreement via the... International Telecommunications Union, I think?

        • pozorvlak says:

          That's interesting, thanks! But I was really asking "why do US radio stations have four-letter identifiers?". And while I'm at it, how are they chosen?

            • pozorvlak says:

              Aha! So all radio stations in the world have similar identifiers, but in North America they're used for branding. I wonder how that began?

              • strspn says:

                In '83 they went from being assigned by to requested from the FCC.

                • pozorvlak says:

                  Yes, I got that bit from the article, but they wouldn't have bothered if there wasn't already a tradition of radio stations identifying themselves to their listeners using their callsigns.

                  There's a cultural difference here, and perhaps I'm not making myself clear. Radio stations in the UK (or any other non-American country I've visited, for that matter) don't announce "this is BNFQ Capital FM broadcasting on 95.8 FM, and now it's time for the Top 40..." The callsign only appears (I assume) on technical/legal documents seen only by the radio station operators and the spectrum-licensing body. I have no idea what the callsigns are for any of the radio stations I've ever listened to. But in the US (and, according to the article you linked, in Canada and Mexico) they're used for promoting brand identity. I find this somewhat bizarre, and I'm wondering how it started.

          • christtrekker says:

            WHO in Des Moines is one that doesn't use a 4-letter ID. Also, it was established before the "W = east of Mississippi" rule.

  5. xenogram says:

    Heh, brilliant. There will be imitators I'm sure.

  6. mrfantasy says:

    I was just thinking today that you frequently see business who advertise their Christianity, usually with a fish in their ads or on their truck, but rarely do you see an agnostic or atheist-friendly business. I'd patronize that.

    • kyhwana says:

      I think you mean reality friendly-business. :P
      Afterall, you don't see places that are "non-racist" friendly, do you?

  7. jodamiller says:

    Would everyone thinks it's as cool for someone to put up a billboard saying "Atheists are soulless and will burn in hell?". Gee-whiz, can't we all just play nice?

    • xenogram says:

      Poor theists. So oppressed. You never see any religious billboards.

      • jodamiller says:

        Are the religious billboard saying stuff like what I said or non-negative stuff like "Come to our church" or "Yay God!"? I'd not have a problem with something like "Give Atheism a Thought"

        • xenogram says:

          Those damn dirty atheists. They're not tasteful and restrained in expressing their sentiments like religious people.

          [4. Definitely at risk]

          • jodamiller says:

            I don't wish for any group to berate another group with which they disagree.

            • xenogram says:

              Truly, mean people suck.

              Especially in advertising.

            • wfaulk says:

              So you would not berate people for believing that 2+2=763?

              • jodamiller says:

                Atheism: the theory or belief that God does not exist.
                Religion: the belief and worship of God or the supernatural.

                Neither are facts, both are beliefs.

                • jwz says:

                  That sounds like something HITLER would say.

                • gfish says:

                  Are you offended by calling fairy tales fairy tales, then? I can't prove Cinderalla isn't a true story, but no one gets all morally relativistic when I don't believe in it.

                  • jodamiller says:

                    No one is trying to say Cinderella's a true story.

                  • xenogram says:

                    It's dead man, let it go.

                  • jodamiller says:

                    If people keep commenting to me, I'll reply in turn.

                  • jwz says:

                    Point of order: if you think you always need to have the last word, I can ensure that you have your last word here.

                  • jodamiller says:

                    No, as shown in a thread in which final comment was not my own. They were no longer asking me questions so I had nothing to which to reply or comment further. I don't think I've gone on too far, but it's possible that others disagree (as one already has).

                  • xenogram says:

                    Look, I know it's hard. None of us want to let go. At first, everything reminds us of it. But these things happen, and we have to learn to accept it. It's part of life.

                  • gfish says:

                    I'm sure there is some weirdo out there that believes it's true. Is one person believing something silly not enough to bend over backwards to respect? It raises the questions of just how many people do have to believe in something before we have to pretend it isn't silly. I'd rather draw the line at showing undue respect for unprovable beliefs in the first place.

                  • jodamiller says:

                    So you have respect for neither the religious nor atheists?

                  • gfish says:

                    1) I didn't say no respect, I said undue respect. Letting it effect laws or public education, for instance. Or excuse child abuse.

                    2) Atheism isn't a faith, it's not believing in something. We regularly believe that an uncountable number of things are false without anyone claiming it's a form of religion. The fact that someone else might happen to believe in a couple of them shouldn't change that.

                  • jodamiller says:

                    I'm not against religion, but I also don't think it should be used in places like you said (laws, school, etc). Religion can be good when you try to decide to help a homeless guy or steal, not if evolution should be taught or if a sex toy shop can open up in town.

                    As to part 2, is not the belief that (a) God/s do(es) not exist a faith since it cannot be proved or disproved to be true? It seems to be that since atheism is a counter to the faith of religion (you can't have atheism without theism), that itself it a faith of the opposing view. Agnosticism is a different thing and seems to be a better description of what you

                  • jonabbey says:

                    Where's the evidence? Oh, no evidence? Then no belief.

                    Welcome to atheism.

                  • jodamiller says:

                    To me that seems to be agnosticism, not atheism.

                  • jwz says:

                    JESUS CHRIST!

    • radparker says:

      Yes, that would make me laugh and I would find it funny. Please do it.

    • doctorfedora says:

      You say that like anyone would bat an eye. A church near me had "Atheist's funeral: all dressed up and nowhere to go" on their marquee for nearly a month at one point.

      There are two church billboards right near my house.

      I live north of Philadelphia, so it's not like I'm in some Bible Belt podunk here -- Merck is less than ten miles from my house.

    • boonedog says:

      Those billboards are all over the South.

  8. boonedog says:

    I'm completely baffled as to why people think it's ok to be up in arms about an anti-religion sign when there are so many fundamentalist Christian billboards all over the place. Hell, (no pun intended) if you go down to South Carolina you see billboards about Jesus everywhere and one that especially amused me was a black billboard with flames at the bottom and all it said was, "Ouch! It's hot down there!"

    I'd bet a lot of money that billboard did NOT go up illegally but that MediaNet is just too chicken to stand up for letting athiests put up billboards if they want.

    (btw ... I'm actually a Christian not an athiest ... but I've seen way more offensive Christian billboards than that one ... that one's kind of cute.)

    • dglenn says:

      "I've seen way more offensive Christian billboards than that one"

      I (another Christian) agree with that observation.

  9. omni_ferret says:

    This version of the billboard would never work in San Francisco.

    But I'm not sure which would be best: a drag queen, a bear in a tutu, a woman dressed as a drag queen, or, say, rivetpepsquad.

    • rivetpepsquad says:

      HA! HA! I'm not sure what you're actually saying there, but I'll take on both the bear, the tutu, and the drag queen...

      • omni_ferret says:

        I was trying to point out well-liked characters / archetypes, but I think what I actually did was just say "Floridans are like this, but San Franciscans are like this." It's like I was trying to be a dumbass.

  10. netsharc says:

    Business was down by two-thirds, was that because of the billboard, or because of the impending dooom of (rec|depre)ession? Or are the Bush-voting church-goers also in denial of that?

    Ah, if you can convince them atheism makes them rich, Americans would leave Churches in droves...

    • xinit says:

      I'm sure that there's a direct correlation between business dropping and that billboard. God spoke to anyone who was going to head out to Straub's that day and warned them that they would be supporting the Atheist Agenda, so the faithful stayed home and played blackjack online instead.

      There were also a lot more import cars in the parking lot that day, if you get my drift, and shoplifting was up 10%.

  11. editer says:

    "We should always respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his opinion that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." -- H.L. Mencken

  12. lovingboth says:

    Given the state of the dollar, it's almost tempting to pay $1,400 so it is up for a month.

    Say around Christmas...

  13. spendocrat says:

    All religions are fairly tales. Unless they aren't.

  14. vaevictus_net says:

    at first, I lol'd.

    Then i looked at the actual article.

    Then i realized it was literally less than a mile down the road.

    Small damned world.