The Omaha Coalition for Reason recently put up a billboard here in Omaha. The billboard simply says, “Don’t Believe in God? Join the Club.” It doesn’t say, or even imply, a dislike or disdain for religion in general or Christianity in particular. It just says that it is ok to not believe in God. The message isn’t aimed at the faithful, but at non-theists who might feel alone because everyone around them are believers.
Still, some Christians take offense at the billboard. KMTV News quoted Emlyn Forsuh as saying, “I was raised to believe in god and now someone says they don’t believe in god so I don’t like it.” As the writer of this article say in response to Emlyn, “Too Damn Bad!”
I’ve written about all the billboards around Omaha with quotes from God that I am exposed to. If you read what I wrote there you’ll see that I am offended at these billboards. But I also say that we shouldn’t try to have these billboards removed (as some Christians have tried, and succeeded at getting atheist billboards removed or not put up at all).
Everyone has the right to free speech and if they are willing to pay to have a billboard put up to express their views, more power to them. What none of us have is the right to not be offended. Everyone is offended by something at some point. So what? There are people who are offended that Jews or blacks exist or have the same rights as they do. That doesn’t mean we have to put jews back in concentration camps or enslave blacks again just because someone is offended.
If you are offended about something, go ahead and say so, but don’t expect others not to be offended that you are offended. And definitely don’t expect everyone to give a crap that you are offended. In fact, rather than saying “too damn bad”, I just say, “so what?”.
I’m offended at those Christian billboards. I’m also offended by the junk mail and spam I get trying to sell me stuff. So what? My offense isn’t your problem, unless, of course, you try to impose your beliefs or will upon me. Then it becomes an equal rights issue because you are trying to force something upon me which I don’t want, while insisting that your beliefs be free from reproach.
So, put up your billboards, write your letters to the editor, blog about whatever you like. Just don’t expect others not be offended. Your rights to believe to what you believe does not extend to having those beliefs respected. I will (and do) gladly respect your right to your beliefs, but I do not have to respect your beliefs. All beliefs and ideas are open to criticism and ridicule, including my own.
If you don’t respect my beliefs, fine. Want to talk about it? Great. Discussing and debating ideas are how we learn about each other. But don’t expect me not be offended by what you say, because I sure expect you to be offended by what I have to say.