Greta is wrong about something!

This is actually about a post that I mostly agree with (as I do with most of what Greta writes–seriously, she’s amazing). The post is titled, “We’re Telling Them They’re Wrong: Why Coming Out Atheist Is Inherently Oppositional,” about the point that “Coming out as an atheist means telling believers we think they’re wrong.” Greta is absolutely correct about that, and it’s an important point.

But I think she’s mistaken when she says:

[Coming out as an atheist] is also an oppositional act. Even in its mildest forms. Even when all we do is put up billboards saying something as innocuous as, “You can be good without God,” or, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone”… we are saying, implicitly, “If you believe in God, you’re mistaken.”

Those signs, however, could have been put up by a believer Or by believers and non-believers pooling their money. Just like how you can be straight and support the message, “It’s OK to be gay” or “If you’re gay, you’re not alone.”

Yes there’s a difference between being gay and being an atheist. Greta correctly points out that being gay doesn’t mean thinking straight people are wrong, while being an atheist means disagreeing with theists. But those signs don’t even say “I’m an atheist.” They just say “some people are atheists.” They’re equivalent not to “I disagree,” but “some people disagree.” And “some people disagree” is something anyone can think is worth pointing out, even people who aren’t part of “some people.”

The reason this is important is that some people deem that message “too controversial,” and that position is not even halfway defensible. If people get upset over being told “there is no God,” that’s kind of understandable. Even though there’s nothing inherently wrong with telling someone you disagree with them, most people still don’t like being told they’re wrong.

But “some people don’t think there’s a God”? The only people being told they’re wrong by that sign are the nuts who think all atheists secretly believe in God, but deny it because they’re evil. If you think that sign is “too controversial,” you’re just showing your anti-atheist bigotry. You’re showing you don’t want certain topics discussed at all. There’s no excuse for it, and people need to be called out on it.

Leave a comment


  1. I had to read this three times. Then I got it.

  2. Chris Hallquist

    Glad you got it eventually – is there anything I could have done to make the most clearer?

  3. It seemed very clear to me, and you are exactly right.

  4. Chris,

    I think when you say “nuts”, those are the people that she’s also referring to.

  5. I also understand your distinction between “I” and “some”.

  6. I’m going to have to agree with Greta, at least as it pertains to the billboard you posted.

    Would it be oppositional to post a billboard that was uncontroversial, like “water is wet”? No, I don’t think it would be… just because it’s uncontroversial. That billboard “I can be good without god” is standing in opposition to those who think that you can’t be good without god. It’s just as confrontational as saying that one can be gay and still be a good person. Because there are people out there who hold the opposite position and thus these sorts of statements are trying to show that those viewpoints are wrong.

    If there was no one who thought that you couldn’t be good without god, then this billboard loses its purpose for advertizing, just like it would be pointless to display a billboard that said that water expands when it freezes.

    Now some other billboards (like “Don’t believe in god? You’re not alone”) are uncontroversial in that they are making a statement that is obviously true, and I would agree with you on those.

  7. Quinton: Doesn’t it make a difference that most intelligent Theists believe that atheists can be good? I mean, they usually think of moral laws as being relevant to everyone, whether they are Theists or not.

    Perhaps a billboard like this can educate the public on not only what atheists are saying, but what Christians are saying too.