anti-atheist billboard

ASA makes church remove billboard. Do you agree with the ruling?

Before I even clicked on your link (thanks for supplying) my knee-jerk reaction was “hell yeah!” and after reading it through, my comment still stands. If an atheist or A.N. Other or plain Joe Soap posted a billboard declaring all Xtians were stupid, can you imagine the outcry?

Given the law the ruling is probably in line with it. I disagree with the law and with Mr Gerber for filing it.

If I start a religion where if you look upon or listen to any advertising, intentional or not, you will be stricken down to a demonic hell, do you think the ASASA would respond to my request for all public advertising to be banned, on the grounds that it deeply upsets and offends my religious beliefs.

No I don’t agree. Any church should be allowed to sling mud and throw stones as they please, and place their religious propaganda on billboards. Unless the billboard, through irresponsible positioning, partly obscures a second one depicting lingerie models.


It may look silly and petty on the surface, but it has real value in raising public awareness of atheism — specifically, (1) that not everyone buys into long-established dogma, and (2) that such dogma can be offensive to some by its implied untruths whose sole purpose is divisive. This kind of action is necessary to weaken religions’ grip on society because reason simply doesn’t work. As an atheist of long standing, I feel affronted by religions’ continual and repeated demands for special considerations. I’m not comfortable with the thought that there’s an unchallenged widespread perception among the religious that atheists are deluded and/or daft and/or immoral and/or innately evil people, and on all of these grounds, I for one applaud Mr Gerber’s opposition and initiative.

Besides the difficulty of getting a religion that disdains all advertising formally recognised, the ASA has no mandate to impose a blanket ban on all advertising. The ASA can only consider particular instances of advertising that are alleged to contravene its Advertising Code. In any case, many religions and sects clamour for all sorts of ridiculous things that they won’t get.


This person saw a contravention of the law/guidelines, and reported it. I cannot fault him for it.

IMHO this should have been done on the basis of the ad making untrue claims:

  • atheists have no intelligence/empty heads
  • they believe they are here by accident. (Some may but it’s not all inclusive)

I couldn’t care about him being offended, to be honest. People get offended by lots of things, I value my right to free speech much higher than my “right” not to be offended.

This also sets a precedent that would prevent all kinds of atheist advertising in the vein of Dawkin’s posters. But it could still be done as long as they are very PC and not directed at a certain faith.

Note how restrictive this clause is once the ands and ors are highlighted.

Clause 1 of Section II states, inter alia, “No advertising may offend against good taste [b]or[/b] decency [b]or[/b] be offensive to public [b]or[/b] sectoral values and sensitivities, unless the advertising is reasonable [b]and[/b] justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality [b]and[/b] freedom”.
I agree with BoogieMonster that I would have preferred the billboard to be banned based on being untrue rather than offensive. Considering the way in which the ASA adjudicates, I support Mr. Gerber's initiative.

Funnily enough, I saw this billboard too, and I was irked, of not offended. I sent them a mail in that regard actually (I fibbed, as to not give away my true evil intentions of trolling:

Good Day

My husband and I are debating the meaning of the new billboard outside your premises on South Road.
I think, the words and the image of the depressed man, means that being an atheist comes from being depressed, and that comes from having a mental health problem.
My husband thinks it means that being an atheist, can only lead to unhappiness.

Can you please help us with the meaning of how the words and the image. Also, could you possibly send me a copy of that image, I forgot to take a picture when we there last.


I got a response from Kogi Nareen, Personal Assistant to Senior Pastors, Rivers Church

Good day Adele, Thank you for so much your enquiry about our billboard, we are glad that it has stimulated interest. We are a creative church, that enjoy thinking out the box and as such the image and quote was intended to stir interest and provoke people to think about their relationship with God. The idea behind the advert is loosely based on Psalm 14:1 . The fool[a] says in his heart, “There is no God. There is no implication that an atheist is depressed or has mental health issues, but is rather someone who is not really thinking about the purpose of life and the reality of creation.

I disagree with the ruling. As long as the money to pay for the billboard was private they can put up whatever they like, even if there are no true statements on it.

Is it, though? The spending of donations by any registered charity is subject to stringent audits, which makes it difficult to argue that those donations are strictly private funds. Also, as a private recipient of any donations, one is obliged to make appropriate disclosures and pay commensurate dues. The same rules don’t apply in the case of religion merely because it is religion, so the argument could be made that the monies, or at least an appreciable fraction thereof, are public by virtue of being both unaudited and tax exempt.


I tend to agree. The ASA has a long history of spoiling everyone’s fun anyway, and must have banned half of Nando’s ads.

Personally, I very much WANT the fundies to shout their hatred and ignorance from the rooftops. It does them more harm than anyone else.

I think this point is perhaps too idealistic. It implicitly assumes that people are smarter and/or more courageous than they actually are. If a sizeable fraction of religious people were able to see the lunacy and have the brass tacks to object to it, we’d never have gotten into the situation where fundamentalism enjoys the prevalence it does. Sam Harris’ argument re concentric circles of diminishing reasonableness springs to mind here. In short, if enough people could see fundies’ absurdity, religion wouldn’t enjoy the foothold it does.


Yes. Which is why I want them to shout it from the rooftops. :slight_smile:

One is in favour of freedom of expression or not. I am in favour of it. That includes the freedom of people whom I don’t like to express their views.

Re: Mefiante

The complaint makes atheists look petty and litigious, and I don’t want the public to become aware of atheists if this is their perception. If someone makes a stupid argument, and Plasm 14.1 is a stupid argument, then lets argue back, it is normally the religious who when they run out of arguments (fairly quickly) start suing and complaining about offensive and respect. No. You have the right to offend me and you don’t have to respect me.

Maybe so, but the religious anyway already have a much distorted view of atheists. People will make of things what they will, as instanced in this thread. Following Mr Gerber’s complaint, one would hope that the religious will be a little more circumspect about demonising atheism, which is where I see the complaint’s consciousness-raising value, as described in an earlier post.

And I’m all for freedom of expression. Nonetheless, there are good reasons why we have injunctions against hate-speech, of which this billboard was a mild case in its disparagement of the atheist demographic.



How can you be all for freedom of expression and want some expression to be censored? Firstly this is a very mild form of hate speech if at all, if calling someone a fool is hate speech, Christopher Hitchens was guilty, I would think most atheist are. Secondly atheists are not a poor persecuted minority that need protection from stupid arguments.

This complaint legitimises shutting down speech without making an argument, and that benefits the religious not the atheists. If instead you put up a bill board saying something like “only a fool accepts a belief based on no evidence and no reasons” that would be a much better response, but now the religious can force you to take that down because it upsets them, well done.

but now the religious can force you to take that down because it upsets them, well done.


If I had to pick a world to live in, it would be one where people were free to say what they want, whether I like it or not.

The only real problematic thing for me is “inciting violence”, but then, at the end of the day it’s equivalent to conspiring to commit a crime, and may not need additional provisions in the first place.

It seems you didn’t read what I wrote with due care.


If instead you put up a bill board saying something like "only a fool accepts a belief based on no evidence and no reasons" that would be a much better response
That would be a very nice bill board to put up, problem is, we can't. Lack of funds - we don't have a lot of people buying eternity. I must agree with the no vote here. Better to have free speech even if you don't agree with it.

why should ‘we’ give a shit about billboards, or spreading any form of ‘message’. is this not what a religion does? isnt the viewpoint of the atheist mind, that we dont give a shit? when you want to put up billboards, you are recruiting… when you refer to ‘we’, does this imply that there is a structured orginization… like a church?