Here's a column at examiner.com about "America's shameful Christian crime spree":
There's a rampant crime spree going on in America. You won't hear about it through most media sources, and you aren't likely to hear anyone calling it what it really is: a Christian crime spree. But that's a very accurate description.
Over the last few years, various atheist and skeptic groups have started posting billboards, banners, and other advertisements all over the country. In response, many Christians are taking it upon themselves to steal or deface them. The most recent incident was in Virginia, where a Freedom from Religion Foundation banner was stolen. The press release title is telling: "Another FFRF solstice banner disappears." All told, FFRF placed 12 banners in December 2012. Five of them were stolen or vandalized. (That's 42%.)
Another atheist group in Roanoke, Va, placed four signs. Two of them were vandalized. In May of last year, an American Atheists billboard made it one day before it was vandalized. A Fresno, CA atheist billboard lasted all of three days. This kind of thing has happened in North Carolina, New Jersey and Portland, to name a few.
Of course, the public is outraged, right? Freedom of speech is sacred, right? Well, maybe not so much. In fact, if the media and blogosphere are to be believed, it's the atheists' fault for speaking something so unspeakable. The idea that there are atheists out there who would dare to mention their beliefs? Intolerable.
Before I get to that, let's be clear about a couple of things. First, churches are vandalized, too. Vandalism is a common problem. But can you imagine the uproar if half of all churches were vandalized?
And we see Christian billboards all the time, right? I certainly do. When was the last time you saw even one of them vandalized? I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's rare.
Furthermore, there's little or no indication that atheists are the people vandalizing churches. Generally, that kind of hatred seems to come from other Christians, those with somewhat different religious, political, and/or social beliefs who consider themselves to be the real Christians.
And as far as I can tell, some of it seems to be the actions of people, usually young, who were raised in that particular church. In those cases, it's simply an act of rebellion. (Still not right, obviously.)
Of course, there are a lot more Christians than atheists in America, and you can't be condemned for something someone else does, even if they agree with you about religion (or about anything else). That's not the issue. The issue is more the general lack of outrage when atheist billboards are vandalized.
That essay points out this incident, where two churches in Oregon were vandalized with "Praise the FSM" graffiti. The FSM is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, so it might be reasonable to suspect that the vandals were atheists. (Apparently, the churches had been vandalized six months before with "Harry Potter-type slogans," and I'm not sure how to interpret that.)
But following that incident, atheists raised enough money to have the vandalism repaired. Whether the vandals were atheists or not, the atheist community condemned the attacks and donated enough money to repair the damage. Obviously, we can't be held responsible for what someone else did - even if they were atheists - but our response is definitely up to us, don't you think?
In contrast, here's one response to the vandalism of atheist billboards, from a post at WingNutDaily titled "My kind of vandals":
Just when I start believing there is no hope for our country I get a little reminder from my God that all is not lost. It was reported June 29 that a billboard sign sponsored by a North Carolina atheist organization had been vandalized. The ad reads, “One Nation Indivisible.” It seems someone didn’t think the sign was an accurate depiction of our Pledge of Allegiance, so the vandals inserted “Under God” with spray paint – and I couldn’t be more relieved. It’s nice to know that I am not alone in my beliefs and that some people are still willing to stand on the right side of truth.
Never would I encourage vandalism, but in this case I think I’ll let it slide. Atheists have been vandalizing my beliefs for years, so it’s about time the shoe was on the other foot. ...
At last a silver lining. Someone actually made a difference without broadcasting his name to the world. The vandal stood up for what he believed in and said, “To heck with what anyone thinks.” I find it quite refreshing considering all of the negativity our country has accumulated lately. It’s nice to reflect on something positive, especially during the Fourth of July weekend and the days that follow. ...
I also need to extend a thank-you to some people in Sacramento and Detroit. In February, 10 atheist billboards were defaced in the Golden State and a slew of atheist bus ads were vandalized in Detroit. My dose of honesty this week: I am not happy that vandalism seems to be the only way to get an atheist’s attention. I’m happy that I can count on other Christians to stand up for themselves and for Christians everywhere. It gives me hope.
Just think of how relieved, how refreshed, how hopeful she would have been if they'd killed those atheists, as the Good Book demands! After all, atheists have been vandalizing her beliefs for years, "so it's about time the shoe was on the other foot."
How have atheists been "vandalizing" her beliefs? By daring to disagree with her, of course! Can you believe that some atheists have the gall to say what they think? And now they want to put it on billboards? Off with their head!
That response reminds me of this quote from yesterday's post: "...but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance."
Christians are used to being the overwhelming majority in America, and many of them just expect to get their own way in everything, right down to having a monopoly on free speech. It's only right that they criticize atheists, but when an atheist disagrees with them, it's an outrage.
Vandalized Christian billboards would be horrible, but vandalized atheist billboards are simply what atheists should expect for being so disagreeable. After all, they've been "vandalizing" your beliefs for years, right?
This is the privilege of the majority. Sure, the First Amendment exists in order to protect unpopular speech, unpopular beliefs, because popular ones don't need protection. But that's not how a lot of people see it. If those beliefs aren't their own, they don't deserve protection, right?
I struggle with this, because I don't care if you disagree with me. Sure, I think I'm right,... because if I didn't, I'd think something else. And I will argue vociferously for my side, for my own opinions. I do so here every day.
But I don't get upset if you disagree with me. I might get bored with your argument, I might find it dishonest, I might have any number of different reactions, but you always have the right to your own opinions. (You don't, necessarily, have the right to post them here, since this is my blog. But I've never removed a non-spam comment, not even the eloquent three-word "Your an idiot" comment from Anonymous, which I'll treasure forever.)
But if I disagree with you, that's a problem, huh?
Now, this isn't all Christians, certainly not. If it were all Christians, we'd no longer live in a free country. But if you want to anger a Christian, tell them about the persecution of a Christian minority in another country. The treatment of religious minorities in this country? Well, if they'd just accept Jesus, they wouldn't have any trouble, right?
Forget minority rights. Forget the U.S. Constitution. In America, we need to put God on our money. We need to put God in the Pledge of Allegiance. We need to put God in our public schools. And we need to have plenty of billboards praising Jesus. But if you dare to put up a billboard in opposition, well, that's just "vandalism."
Again, that's not all Christians, not even close. But if you don't speak up about this stuff, you're part of the problem. Atheists donate money to repair church vandalism. (I did, myself.) Will we see churches repairing atheist billboards, or are those "your kind of vandals"?