Fast 2014-11-29: Atheist billboard misunderstood

“Added Fast” purpose: Allow Mike Caro to post spontaneous thoughts, tips, and information.

  • Includes Mike’s notes to himself.
  • Titles begin with “Fast,” plus date.
  • If expanded later, link is at bottom.

Also see:  → Why a Poker1 “Fast” category?  |  → All Poker1 “Fast” entries

Few things make me sadder than to see intellectual tolerance disappear from the American pond of wisdom.

Sometimes this evaporation of intellect happens because some left-wing — liberals/“progressives” — are enraged and blinded by dissenters who attempt to apply logic against core beliefs. Sometimes it happens because some right-wing — “conservatives” — are enraged and blinded by their excessive social morality and religious zeal.

These are my thoughts after watching Fox News (which I often tune into, among other news broadcasts with different perspectives) devote too much air time expressing emotional anger against a billboard by American Atheists.


Here’s the billboard…

Looking at it from the perspective of a person who’s still searching for spiritual truth — not currently Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, Scientologist, Buddhist, or anything — I find this billboard absolutely brilliant intellectually. I’m not saying that I like the message — only that it’s brilliant.

And, yet, not one broadcast discussion seemed to grasp its meaning. Commentators seemed to see only that it was about the depicted young girl saying she wanted to skip church because she was too old for fairy tales. They attacked that. They likely would have also attacked it had they understood it fully, of course. And then their objections would have been more meaningful.

That’s what I mean by being intellectually blinded. You could argue that the billboard is inappropriate or that it’s too in-your-face to be good public relations. Fine. But it’s still brilliant, because it’s much deeper than any of the analysts could see. Blinded is the right word for their thought process, because they were emotionally prevented them from seeing the obvious message.


The message isn’t merely that the girl wants to skip church on Christmas, because Christian teaching constitutes a “fairy tale” in the opinion of these atheists. It’s that she’s writing to Santa Claus, for God’s sake! We adults know Santa is a myth, but the girl doesn’t. She sees one “myth” and not the other. That’s why the message is so powerful on an intellectual level, although it might not be effective as advertising.

The fact that educated people discussing the billboard didn’t grasp the meaning of this clear message disturbs me. Too often, I think, reasoning is circumvented by emotion. Contemporary logic and intellectual tolerance suffer. Case in point.

— MC | Follow-up link: → None

NOTE: If you want to learn about my personal quest for spiritual understanding, try this Poker1 entry: → Sitting out Easter in the Bible Belt

Also see:  → Why a Poker1 “Fast” category?  |  → All Poker1 “Fast” entries

Published by

Mike Caro

Visit Mike on   → Twitter   ♠ OR ♠    → FaceBook

Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


6 thoughts on “Fast 2014-11-29: Atheist billboard misunderstood”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's make sure it's really you and not a bot. Please type digits (without spaces) that best match what you see. (Example: 71353)

  1. I’m an aspiring poker pro grinding my way through the education phase of my journey (after almost two years I’d say I’m getting closer to my goal, but still learning all the time). You were one of the first authors I picked up to study as I realized I couldn’t see myself making a living anywhere but at the poker table. As an atheist/buddhist (just as a side note, almost all buddhists are atheists), I’m so happy to read this post. I worked with David Silverman (the president of American Atheists responsible for these brilliant billboards around the world) and, like you, he is a pure genius in his ability to think outside the box and is passionate about his message….characteristics I admire and strive for in my own life.

    I’ve discovered that intellectual tolerance is just as scarce sitting at a poker table as it is in America at large. I can’t tell you how many times a winning night has ended with me tilting so hard I almost fell out of my chair…and all because some person’s ignorant and overly zealous religious, misogynistic or political commentary knocked me out of my A-game mind frame. I’m working on utilizing table change as a coping strategy for dealing with this situation when it arises, but I admittedly struggle with it still (I get hell-bent on “teaching them a lesson” for being ignorant by taking their money, but paradoxically end up losing all mine because my focus has completely strayed).

    As an up-and-coming female player in a male-dominated pursuit, I feel a lot of pressure to represent my gender as capable and skillful at the table. My frustration with the overwhelming intellectual intolerance in society is something I deal with through various outlets in the “real world”, but nothing infuriates me more than when people carry it with them into MY personal sanctuary…at the poker table.

    I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this commentary. Especially coming from someone so highly respected in the poker community, it’s a breath of fresh air. Hopefully others will take note.

    J. Mars

    1. Thanks, J., for your thoughtful comments and for sharing some of your mind. However, cut back on the irritation-with-others thingy. It’s okay to be infuriated (your word), as long as you intellectually decide when and how that will happen. Put simply, it needs to be fake — and “fake infuriation” is, perhaps, an oxymoron.

      Learn to just observe the creatures in the jungle without always giving them credit for knowing a different way of being. You can’t be a level above them intellectually and still expect them to see all of it your way. Think about it.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

      1. That’s an extremely valid, common sense point that I needed reminding of….both in poker and life.

        Thanks for the tip; it was definitely something I needed to hear!

        J. Mars

  2. Meant originally as an email and not public message. . . feel free to do with it as you please!

    And, I would like to add that I do consider you, Doyle, and Bobby in this group.

  3. In lieu of e-mail I’m posting it here, originally intended as an email.

    Hey Mike,

    For quite a few years I’ve thought of sending you a list of the other authors, writers, and teachers who have made a great impact on me, and the other day I decided to go ahead and do so.

    Black Elk, Alan Watts, Rumi, Swami Vivekananda, Tara Brach, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Bassui, Bankei, Milarepa, Tilopa, Shelley, Goethe, Blake, Ram Dass, Lao Tzu, Musashi – as well as studying all your writings, I studied these.

    Karl Jaspers, Descartes, Fichte, and some others, in terms of Western philosophy, were some that stood out to me, but it was the above list that made more of an impression on me.

    For instance, after reading Drinking the Mountain Stream, by Milarepa, I later decided he was the greatest psychologist who I ever learned from. . . Western philosophy seemed to be lacking something deep down. . .

    After studying many of these, I was also struck by the fact that from different corners of the globe, they all came to the same conclusion: Black Elk, Swami Vivekananda, Laoze, all said almost verbatim, only when one realizes he is one with the universe, will he know true peace. . .

    Alan Watts, Jetsun Milarepa and Rumi all understood so well the value of being alone. . . Milarepa said the greatest thing you can do for the world is to live in a mountain cave. . . the second best, a wandering mendicant, the next best, a hut outside of town. . . etc. . Henri Nouwen’s Way of the Heart is a wonderful book as well.

    In terms of psychology, A Primer on Group Psychotherapy, by Dr. Ray Naar, is a greatly interesting work. . . The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, by Abraham Maslow, I consider unparalleled.

    All of these people seem to get at the heart of the matter, better than the rest. . .

    A lot of people don’t understand, when you give your best, if you are truly good at it; they assume you haven’t done the work, because they aren’t likely to do the work themselves. .

    Over the years I’ve followed something like a “Principle of Selectivity,” which may be better termed a “Law.” It’s served me very well, and when I downloaded Goethe, Whitman, da Vinci, and all the others I considered in the top 1% percentile, it was much like turning on a lamp and basking in the glow of their genius. . .

    There is also a poem, called “Inscription on Trust in the Mind,” or Hsin Hsin Ming, by Seng Ts’an, which is very beautiful; the only translation I like best is in the book Entering the Stream, and I don’t know the translator’s name.

    Though I practiced Buddhism and Hinduism, mantra meditation, walking meditation, and all of the rest, quite a great deal; I don’t consider myself any label either. Like you and Rumi. ;)

    One thing I’ve noticed lately is the personality and morality of the people involved in producing art or writing is more important to me than it is to many others.

    In any case – here’s my email. Simply, these teachers have all made life so much more beautiful and. . . it’s been wonderful. In especial, Tara Brach and Thich Nhat Hanh had the greatest impact, in my understanding human nature, life, and emotions, and that sort of thing – I learned from them through their Dharma talks, largely, in mp3 format. . . while walking through the woods, or just through peaceful streets, it was one of the most wonderful periods of my life.

    I’ve always been indebted to you, for giving your wisdom and insight to us for free, and you helped lay the foundation of accurate information about everything poker, psychology and probability.

    This is sort of a return gift, if you will. The best I’ve found. :-)

    I’m still searching, but also writing and simply living, enjoying, and sharing. . . but I’m a total recluse, I love the quiet walks through the woods, I’m living on a larger property now, still on beautiful land in Oklahoma.

    All peace and strength and joy and success to you,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's make sure it's really you and not a bot. Please type digits (without spaces) that best match what you see. (Example: 71353)