June 28th, 2010
03:37 PM ET

Secularist billboard defaced

It was meant to be controversial: a billboard campaign with the message "One Nation Indivisible," purposely leaving out the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegience. Over the weekend, vandals replaced those words on one of the signs with spray paint. Full story

- CNN.com Senior Producer

Filed under: Belief • Culture wars

soundoff (435 Responses)
  1. dajackg

    I have no problem with this at all. If the billboard had originally included the words "under God" and somebody had used spray paint to block them out, those who object to organize religion would cheer (just as they're doing now) and those in favor of it would lament the downfall of our culture (just as they're doing now). What would the difference be?

    Live the way you want to live and don't get your undies bunched over something you see on a billboard.

    July 1, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  2. Bubba

    I guess God told them He hates free speech but loves a vandal.

    July 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Eric G

    I love this. I think we should put up more secular billboards to see what the faithful will do. Better yet, lets build some buildings dedicated to non religious, secular study. Let's put them in every community. How long before a "believer" burns one down? What can we atheists do to finally push these pious nut-jobs right over the falls? Let's push the secular message with the same zeal of the religious flock and see where the hate comes from. Atheists unite!!!!! We're comming out!!!

    July 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Bubba

      Atheist? It's a religion. You going to insist that you can see inside every rock and to the farthest reaches of the endless universe and that there's no god there? I don't believe in God OR that His existence can be proven or disproven, so I'm just agnostic.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
    • Kate

      Atheist means no belief in god/s. You ~are~ an atheist. A- without Theist – belief in god/s.
      Agnostic is without knowledge of god/s. A – without Gnostic – knowledge of god/s.

      You can be an agnostic atheist or and agnostic theist.

      Almost all the people who say they are atheist just don't believe, they don't believe there is not a god.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • Bubba

      Kate, it's worse than that; I absolutely cannot prove that there is no God in this infinite universe. The only position I can defend is agnosticism. But I know in my heart that religion isn't real, which makes me an atheist, but my atheism is BASED ON FAITH. Now, does this help explain why it's nearly impossible to talk rationally about religion?

      July 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • Howie Cole

      I love it too! We can go door to door wearing white shirts and black ties and knock on Christians doors and really annoy the "holy" crap outta them trying to "convert" them! LOVE IT!!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Bubba, you can't prove a negative. That is why the burden of proof is on the prosecution, so to speak.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • David Johnson


      Yes, you are right. In reality, there are no atheists. No one knows for sure. I am agnostic. I do not think there is any proof that a god exists or ever existed. But, I do not know for sure.

      I just read a really bad book. Its only redeeming quality, was to have a 3 page list of gods that have been worshiped in the past. All these gods were prayed to, sacrificed to and loved. For the most part, most of the list are not even remembered.

      July 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  4. rdw

    The person should get a medal satan, it is not hate speech nor is it vandalism, its nothing more then someone doing a good deed and putting the phrase back into perspective for the followers of satan. And whats the matter with putting all those people to sleep when Moses came down from the mountain after having been told by God those "Thou Shalt Nots". Just think satan if were where not so tolerant of you and your kind, well we when not have this billboard problem now would we?

    July 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  5. Shrike

    all in all its just a ... another brick in the wall ...

    July 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  6. Gary

    Kate ..Obama is proof Satan exists....also if God dose exist he hates U.S.A.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
    • Kate

      And you are proof that trolls exists. How enchanting.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  7. jfonty1

    To those that want God removed from the pledge are you as adamant against Pres. Obama for mentioning God in his address on the Guld oil spill? Just asking..

    "As a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, " 'The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,' a blessing that's granted ... 'even in the midst of the storm.' What sees us through – what has always seen us through - is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits if we summon the courage to reach for it. Tonight we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm toward a brighter day,"

    July 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Kate

      I have certainly heard a lot of annoyance of Obama's constant pushing of God. But there certainly is a lot of difference in a man mentioning god and it being put into our government process using my tax money and being pushed at my child every morning at school.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
    • She

      No, President Obama believes in God so him mentioning God in a speech doesn't offend me in the least.

      What did offend me, however, is when I got into trouble in 7th grade for continually refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

      Why did I refuse? Because I was not going to be forced to pledge anything under a God I didn't believe in. THAT is offensive.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • Jack

      That line of thinking is exactly what bothers me. I don't care what you or Obama believe, just leave me alone. That you think I would be offended because anyone stated their belief in God is exactly why you don't understand our side of things. What motivates us is you minding your own business...it would be hypocritical of us to say "leave us alone" and then turn around and start meddling in your life or complaining about your beliefs.

      I'd like to be able to pledge my allegiance to the country. It's just unfortunate that I have to use a different pledge because of two words that don't mean anything to me. If you would rather me not pledge my allegiance because I don't believe in God then that's your (and the majoritys) choice.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • steve88

      Most of our Founding Fathers, if not all of them believed in and mentioned god during this presidency. So whether a president states their beliefs in god or not, that does really matter nor does it really bother me. ( Okay maybe a little bit when George Bush was president... but... serious, he scares me with it... lol)

      July 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • steve88

      during their presidency.**

      July 1, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • jfonty1

      Jack you're right I don't understand your side of things. That's why I asked the question.
      I was trying to get a feel to the extent you want "God" removed, the pledge of allegiance, public officials, money, courtrooms swearing on the Bible etc. Wasn't trying to be antagonistic

      July 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • Jack

      Jfonty – I wasn't trying to be antagonistic either, but I think when the religious see that billboard they take it as us trying to "convert" them to our side. It isn't. It is us stating our opinion of how we are marginalized, ignored, insulted, etc. The response we get is usually to get further insulted and marginalized. It is my money and my courtroom too...why do I have to swear on a bible or look at 10 commandments or read In God we Trust? Why does a muslim have to see the 10 commandments? What does a Christian gain by me seeing the 10 commandments...I don't believe in them, they mean nothing to me, and swearing on the bible is not going to make me tell the truth. Honestly it's just very pointless when you look at the purpose of it, and it is in fact simply insulting.

      I think the most telling thing is when you pose a hypothetical such as "what if in 100 years and America is a predominantly muslim country and they pass a law to change it to 'In Allah we Trust' how are you going to feel?" and the response is "oh that will never happen". Simply put, you know full well you would be livid so you just don't answer the question. Well, I don't have that luxury because I'm currently not the majority. You should be able to empathize however.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  8. JustThinking

    There are religious persons who are tolerant and law-abiding, and those who are not. There are rationalists who are tolerant and law-abiding, and those who are not. We can choose to live peaceably with each other (and the others' views) or not. There is, however, a small difference in respect of the question of ethics. Religious people are "told" what is right. They read it in a sacred book, have it handed down in stories, or told to them by "officials" of their religion. It is fed to them. Rationalists, however, realize that THEY THEMSELVES are responsible for being good: for figuring out what ethical behavior means in a communal, interdependent society, determining what conduct is "good" or "bad" in any particular real-life situation. This is a duty and a burden on rational people; one that good rational people accept willingly. This is what makes rational people more ethical than religious people . . . this sense of personal responsibility.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  9. JustThinking

    There are religious persons who are tolerant and law-abiding, and those who are not. There are rationalists who are tolerant and law-abiding, and those who are not. We can choose to leave peaceably with each other (and the others' views) or not. There is, however, a small difference in respect of the question of ethics. Religious people are "told" what is right. They read it in a sacred book, have it handed down in stories, or told to them by "officials" of their religion. It is fed to them. Rationalists, however, realize that THEY THEMSELVES are responsible for being good: for figuring out what ethical behavior means in a communal, interdependent society, determining what conduct is "good" or "bad" in any particular real-life situation. This is a duty and a burden on rational people; one that good rational people accept willingly. This is what makes rational people more ethical than religious people . . . this sense of personal responsibility.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • She

      Best post today.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
    • jfonty1

      Instead of looking inward as you describe I look upward.
      If I rely on myself to determine "goodness or badness" I will stumble and fail.
      After all you are getting it fed to you from somewhere anyway- TV, movies, culture, friends, parents, internet message boards etc. even if you think you are not you will be shaped by worldy thinking.
      The "book" you mention says the heart is deceiving. That is why I like to find out what God wants first before relying on my own understanding.
      Imagine a kite flying and being held in the air by the person holding the string.
      The string which allows the kite to be held down is also what allows it the freedom to fly without going off in different directions and eventually crashing to the ground.
      If you are relying on your own understanding you are like the kite flying off in different directions determing what is right and what is wrong based on your own understanding. You will never really know if you are on course.
      If you are being held by the string you can fly safely yet at the same time have freedom.
      That doesn't mean the kite being held by the string is perfect or flys perfectly every time. Sometimes a big gust of wind comes up and can steer it offcourse.
      But as long as it remains held down by the string it eventually returns.
      I guess I'm thinking that's the biggest difference. Inward vs. upward / self-righteousness vs. his-righteousness

      July 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • Kate

      Really? If you didn't have religion you honestly think you would start murdering or stomping on kittens?

      Morality is genetic. It's the thing that makes us social beings – that we care about the group, the others. You don't need a god to care about other people. If you don't, there's a word for it – sociopath, or in other words, mentally ill.

      I'm not sure why you have such a problem with dealing with others in a caring way without having a list of rules that in a lot of ways will hurt others. I don't and I'm not going to respect you more for relying on that list.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • jfonty1

      Kate, Well if I did not believe in god I do not think I would start murdering or stomping kittens no 🙂
      I would probably still care for others and be a "good" person in the eyes of society.
      In a worldly view or temporal sense in principle I'd be quite a "nice" person by my next door neighbors.
      But in a godly view all my attempts at this self-righteousness, in denying God's existence, and going it on my own
      would be like filthy rags to god. It's really not about having a religion or a list of rules, but it is knowing in that God gave me life, has a purpose and a plan for it, and in having that knowledge, wanting to live for him. Again focused on him rather than myself. And it is being created in gods image that makes us social beings.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Kate

      None of which unfortunately makes you any nicer of a person, better for society or of any help to the rest of us. So I'm confused why you think it is of any value? Granted, it gives you a purpose, but then so does collecting pen knives.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • jfonty1

      because if you are going it alone and living without him you will never get to experience the life that he modeled for you.
      everyday of your life was ordained before one of them came to be. ignoring that is selling yourself short

      July 1, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • Kate

      Ignoring what – some people's wild stories? How many unproven stories do I have to pretend to believe? Fairies? Turtles under the world? Aliens with probes? You have no evidence, so all you are doing is talking. That means nothing.

      July 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      they just cannot accept responsibility for their actions. Let go Let God they chant. Jesus take the wheel. Allah, guide my sword, meanwhile I have to actively choose to not stomp kittens. I also choose to not blow up a market, fly a plane into a building or behead infidels.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
    • NF

      For me, the issue of atheism vs. agnosticism is like an insurance company calculating risks. Sure, there could be an actual God out there. There could also be an actual Thor too, but do I calculate that possibility to be strong enough to start worshipping him least I not end up in Valhalla when I die? Any of the other gods and goddesses that we've had could also be real, but by that logic, most of the world is atheistic with regards to the vast majority of gods we humans have ever worshipped. Some people just go one step further and conclude that if 99.99% of all gods were myth then it's more than likely that all gods are myth.

      Sure, there's still a slim chance of God possibly being real, in general, but the God of the Bible who orders and also personally kills huge numbers of people, who somehow enjoys the burnt sacrifice of animals, but is still actually a "loving father" is harder to believe in. Harder to believe still is the God who sent Jesus, yet is claimed to have so much room for hate, and who seems to actually favour rich people somehow. I'm sorry, but for many people who actually think about this stuff it just doesn't seem likely to actually be true.

      July 6, 2010 at 12:42 am |
  10. jfonty1

    Maybe the vandals thought it was just a typo or misprint and since they knew the pledge real well and that it contains 'Under God" and in earnestness (and maybe stupidity) they decided "I'm going to fix this misprint". If that is the case all this arguing here is for naught 🙂

    July 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  11. dejah_thoris

    For a bunch of people devoted to spreading the "God is love" meme that Christianity supposedly represents, Christians just don't get it. They absolutely DO NOT respect others' rights to believe as they wish, and when it comes down to it, are not at all tolerant of atheists. At all. Christians are gonna reap what they sow in their seedbeds of hate.

    And then they wonder why Christianity is coming under attack... with representatives like those who deface billboards, spew hate for all, and try to turn this country into a theocracy, it's no wonder they aren't doing well.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Mohandas Gandhi
      I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

      July 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Larry

    For a "peaceful loving" group of people some of them are anything but. How would they feel if someone crossed out the word "God" on their billboard? Why do they try to force everyone to believe exactly as they do? It is a cult like Amway to some people. We should all fear it they get a foothold in our government. If you want to see what a government run by religion is like look at Iran.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  13. Saturn830

    Ha! This comment section is perfect proof of the arrogance that spews from religious and non-religious people alike (and sometimes agnostics, too). I know Christians, Jews and Atheists and the vast majority of them are cool people with absolutely no interest in interfering with the lives of others. It's a shame that entire groups of people can be brought down and stereotyped due to a handful of idiots who feel the need to win an argument on the Internet.

    As for the sign, if someone paid for it then it's entirely their rights to put it up there without anyone trying to deface it. Still, there are people out there who consider vandalism an art form. I can't help but wonder what positions might be reversed if this was a Bansky 'comment' on a religious organizations poster.

    July 1, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  14. missadr

    I'm amazed that so many people here think a christian vandalized the sign. Why not a Jew, a Muslim, a Druid, a Wiccan, a Seikh, a Hindu, or just a good old fashioned American who believes in preserving tradition? Also, they threw a punch at people who believe in God and American tradition. Did they not expect someone to punch back? If you pick a fight, you will almost certainly get one. And I think it's kinda stupid for atheists to pick a fight when they are vastly outnumbered.

    July 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • Kate

      Because most of those people don't refer to their god/s as God. God is a Christian term.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
    • She

      missadr - As part of the majority, you have the right to impose your beliefs on the minority? What kind of warped thinking is that? Certainly not very American.

      And how was putting up that billboard picking a fight?? By your logic, when Christians put up billboards, they're picking fights with atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. It just doesn't make sense.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • Jack

      So much wrong with your post. First, the graffiti didn't say "under Yaweh" or "under Allah" or "under the Tree of Life"...it said "under God" which is something a Christian would write. And you imply that Athiests threw the first punch, which any athiest will tell you is not the case...the religious ones have been coming after us our entire lives. The only difference is we aren't just sitting here and taking it any longer. And your final point about being outnumbered. Wow. Do you even realize that the implication of persecution by the religious is HUGE in that statement? And as pointed out before, the non-religious is the fastest growing sentiment in this country and has been for several decades. You may not outnumber us forever and clearly you are doing something wrong given the trend...you may want to reflect on that a bit.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      So it is fine by you if I burn your church down? Just punching back right?

      July 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  15. Gary

    Ituri , I understand your point

    July 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  16. jfonty1

    It was wrong to deface the "atheist evangelicals" billboard.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • Gary


      July 1, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
    • Kate

      Yeah, it's so evangelical to put up a few billboards when you could stick your religious views on all money, government buildings and have it chanted by children at school. Atheists are so overwhelming bringing up the possibility of secularism for all.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  17. She

    What I find interesting, is that many commenters here have mentioned how "under God" is not original to the Pledge and many have even given the full backstory.

    Yet, NO CHRISTIAN on this forum has responded to any of those statements. They'll respond to everything else you say and then some, but totally ignore the very relevant fact that "under God" was added to the Pledge during the Cold War.

    Funny, right?

    July 1, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • jfonty1

      Lincoln used the words "under God" in his Gettysburg address so the push was made for it to be added to the pledge in the early 50's and finally it was added in 1954. Congress passed the bill and Eisenhower signed the bill into law.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • missadr

      She, I don't think it really matters. 60 years is long enough for it to be an American tradition. And the reason we put those two words in there was because we wanted to differentiate ourselves from Godless communists. We wanted to make a very clear statement to the world that we are NOT a secular country. The vast majority of us still do not want to be a secular country. Separation of Church and State means that our legislative process doesn't submit to any church organization. It does NOT mean that we don't submit to God. God and Church are two entirely different things. Even Abraham Lincoln, who was likely an atheist, believed it was extremely important to show respect for and submission to a higher power. He did so many times in his speeches. To be "under God" is very American.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Kate

      Uh, we are a secular country. That was pointed out by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the supreme court. Sorry to burst your bubble.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • Anie

      missadr . . . if you want to justify this with you "60 years is long enough to be an American tradition" – why don't you go fight for women to lose the right to vote? or for the return of slavery? or the return of child labor? Those lasted a lot longer in American history and would definitely be a justified 'tradition' according to your blathering.

      July 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Lincoln was assassinated 27 years before the pledge was written, so how exactly did that push for change?

      July 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Micky

      "You Christians" "You Atheists" My goodness, so much generalization. The people responsible for the original sign do not speak for me and neither do the people responsible for defacing it. While I agree with the message the vandals so passionately needed to share, I certainly do not condone breaking the law or trying to silence others' free speech. Unlike "T," I HAVE met Christians who were hateful, and it breaks my heart. As a Christian, I do believe it would serve a lot of us well to remember that our job is to tell what we believe, not force it on others. That type of behavior is pointless and sinful.

      July 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
  18. heavymetalbusdriverdude

    As an agnostic, the thing that irritates me most about Christians, not all mind you, is their determination to try and convert me any way they can. This pledge change is just another one of those things, where they try and force you to accept that they are the sole faction of American religion. Let me tell you something, its not true! America is a country of many, many religions, some with multiple gods, or no gods, or even a goddess. Lets just leave it at one nation. That way the blanket covers everybody, regardless of what they do or don't believe in, that's supposed to be the American way.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Jordan

      Newsflash: Everyone is an agnostic.

      Agnosticism speaks to knowledge, and I think we can all agree that anyone who says they KNOW God exist, and therefore have proof is full of it.

      Everyone is agnostic as nobody has any actual knowledge of Gods existence. Some people believe, but they certainly don't know.

      July 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  19. J Zeus.

    Grow up Christians. I'd expect this behavior from a badly behaving child.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  20. sissy_sue

    Go on and argue over the wording in your socialist Pledge.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      *wink* you betcha!

      July 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
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