Last Saturday, this advertisement appeared on buses in Des Moines, Iowa. It didn't stay there for long:
Authorities say an atheist group's advertising signs have been removed from Des Moines Area Regional Transit buses.
The ads sponsored by the Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers group read, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." They created a storm of controversy when they first went up on Saturday.
Atheist Group's Signs Removed From Buses
The article goes on to mention that the local transit agency received several complaints about the signs. The governor of Iowa, Chet Culver, went on record as being "disturbed" by this ad:
“I was disturbed, personally, by the advertisement and I can understand why other Iowans were also disturbed by the message that it sent,” Culver said.
The question will likely become a legal battle, Culver said. He deferred questions of whether the group deserves the same free speech rights as Christian organizations to advertise on the buses to the Iowa Attorney General.
Gov. Culver: Atheist Bus Ad Is Offensive
Clearly, he wasn't disturbed about seeing advertising with a religious message on a public bus, which to my way of thinking is the only thing about this sign that should make an American public official uneasy.
I ask you, what's offensive about this sign? All it does is tell atheists and agnostics, who make up maybe five percent of the population, that there are other people out there just like them. There's no insult, no slander, no invective of any sort in this sign. There is only a statement of someone's beliefs, and that others feel the same way.
Along the way, I found a couple of opinions about this by folks who clearly weren't too pleased. The first is from the Iowa Independent:
A 2006 survey by sociologists at the University of Minnesota found that atheists are “America’s most distrusted minority.” According to the survey, they are tolerated more on the east and west coasts than they are in the Midwest[.]
Acknowledging Existence Of Atheists Is Too Offensive For Des Moines
That appears to be true. Here's a report from a local TV station:
DART said it immediately started to receive complaints.
"Drivers said people weren't getting on buses or getting off the buses because of it," said advertising director Kirstin Baer-Harding. "So with all the calls, it wasn't something we wanted."
DART: Controversial Bus Ads Pulled
Here's what Prof. P.Z. Myers, a rather well-known atheist, had to say:
Look, it's a clear case. There was absolutely nothing offensive about those ads, nothing that would make the horses skittish or frighten the children. Somewhere down the line, a few intolerant ignoramuses freaked out and started phoning the bus company, and a coward or a zealot somewhere in the chain of command saw an excuse to shut down a harmless advertisement. It's bigotry, plain and simple.
While it's possible there are Des Moines residents who are actually offended by these signs, I find it hard to believe that a governor, who is presumably a graduate of the college he claims to have attended, is offended by such a simple declaration of someone's beliefs. If he is, he certainly doesn't deserve to call himself "a proud progressive Democrat". Progressives believe in the rights of people who believe differently than they do to express themselves. In fact, they take joy in the fact that we aren't all the same.
How pathetic is the belief of someone who is offended by something like this? These are people who, supposedly, believe that someone died a slow, agonizing death for them 2000 years ago. Yet they can't even forbear someone else openly declaring that they believe differently. Anyone who is offended by this due to his religious beliefs is a sad excuse for a human being.
This is why I'm so amused by people talking about militant atheists. To most of these clowns, just declaring that we don't believe what they do is enough to be offensive. How can you take anyone that intolerant seriously?
And if Governor Culver wants to obsess about what's plastered on the sides of Des Moines buses, maybe he can start by getting them to stop hitting pedestrians. That's the sort of thing a real progressive would be concerned about.
UPDATE: Corrected the quote from Gov. Culver. Originally, I'd quoted him as saying he was "offended".