The question of whether to bedeck our bumpers or not to bedeck our bumpers with atheistic messages is one with no easy response. On the one hand, we feel entitled to express our religious views as openly and as frankly as many Christians do with their schools of proclamatory fish and their “No Christian Left Behind” attitude. On the other hand, we don’t necessarily want to scandalize the neighbors. In a sea of “One Nation under God” stickers, atheists often feel they have to choose between censure and silence.
For those who decide to make their rejection of faith public, deciding on the right bumper sticker can be a tricky matter. Is saying you’re “Proud to be an Atheist” enough? Is asking “In case of Rapture, can I have your car?” too much? Will a sticker that’s playfully irreverent be perceived as arrogant and antagonistic? Will a sticker that gives no quarter result in a keyed car door or a punctured tire? In the end, it might be better to endure the rapture stickers of theistic drivers in silence rather than to slap something equally offensive onto our own bare bumpers.
Unfortunately, when we drive in public, we have very little control over who sees our bumper sticker or what they think of its message. You never know if the next person to read it will be the pompous hypocrite you were hoping to provoke into rethinking his own vehicular verbalizations or the quiet Jewish kid from down the street. And given that most of us can ill afford to offend the people who live and work near us, discretion is usually advisable. After all, what will your boss think when he sees what your evolved Darwin fish is doing to his Christian ichthys?
An atheist friend of mine recently learned this lesson the hard way when a Christian coworker spotted his “Don’t pray in my school, and I won’t think in your church” sticker. When his attempts to evade the coworker’s car failed, he found himself apologizing afterwards for what surely must have been perceived as an insult. The fact that some Christians select stickers that effectively threaten non-believers with an afterlife spent in an eternal lake of fire in no way made him feel any better about matching their offensiveness with his own.
So while it may be tempting to counter indignity with contempt, a more rational and humanistic message, such as “Coexist,” might serve you better. After all, the negative reputation you earn from that single inflammatory message can stick around long after your bumper sticker has disappeared from the other driver’s field of vision or has been removed from your car.
If, in spite of what any sense of decorum might tell you, you decide to bedeck your bumper with the most controversial statement you can find, be prepared for disapproving gestures and accusations to come your way. You may be ready to argue it out with an equally opinionated theist driver, but it takes a certain brand of jerk to keep from flinching when the blue-haired granny in your rear view mirror shakes her head in dismay.