Recently a church in South Africa was ordered to take down a billboard. It was erected last year in a prominent position on the property of the Rivers Church in the Sandton suburb of Johannesburg. The billboard states, “An Atheist is a man who believes himself to be an accident” which is a famous quote from English poet Francis Thompson. For those unfamiliar with Thompson, he was a poet in the late 1800′s. He was addicted to opium and lived as an “unbalanced invalid” in Wales and at Storrington. He died of tuberculosis is 1907. You can read more here. Now back to the story!
A non-Christian (probably an Atheist unfortunately) seeing the billboard contacted South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority and voiced a complaint. The ASA forced the church to remove the offending billboard stating:
“The visuals of a man holding the sides of his empty head suggest that atheists are “empty-headed” or lack intelligence, presumably as a result of the above “belief” communicated”
The church submitted that the advertisement is based on Psalm 14v and Psalm 53v1, which say “only foolish say in their hearts there is no God”.
Now my first impression of the matter is that it’s a pretty damn funny advertisement. I’m not too pleased that a non-Christian, probably an Atheist, was offended and actually complained. But honestly, do Atheists actually think they’re ignorant? Not a chance. Christians, Muslims, and other believers may think we Atheists/Agnostics are stupid, but there are studies that show quite the opposite especially when dealing with matters of religion. One well-known study, The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, was conducted in 2010 by The Pew Forum. The results speak for themselves: