My Take on the Alabama Atheist Billboard

Here is the latest billboard from American Atheists, to advertise their first regional convention in the south, the Southeast Regional Atheist Meet. In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a member of American Atheists for several years and they are an organization I am proud to support.

I have somewhat mixed feeling about this particular billboard. On the one hand, I think it is a good thing for atheists to be able to stand up and proudly state that we do not believe in any of the religions. Especially in the largely religious south, where atheists are particularly nervous about “coming out” for fear of being judged as a bad person or worse.

On the other hand, I can see why religious people may be legitimately offended by it. Not that there is any right in this country not to be offended. Given the reaction of some religious people in Louisville to the LouisvilleCOR billboard, which stated “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone,” there are clearly those who are offended by any statement that atheists exist and that atheism as a good thing. As far as this billboard goes, I fear that it paints with a too broad of a brush. I think the claims of religions are all false on their face, but there a lot of people who reinterpret and reinvent their religions with a more humanistic and humane interpretation.  It would be a shame for us to isolate those who identify with some sort of religious tradition but still might be our allies on issues such as the separation of church and state. Maybe I would prefer if the wording on the billboard were different, and that the use of all-caps were nixed. But I also have to be honest in saying I have not yet come up with a good slogan that would fit in one line on a billboard.

On the whole though, I like the billboard and I think it has done well in its purpose of drawing new members into American Atheists and in creating a media buzz that reaches far beyond Huntsville, Alabama.

You can read more about the billboard here (I actually just found this page, and they do address the concerns I brought up about more liberal religions. It is worth a read.): http://www.atheists.org/atheism/Religion_is_a_scam

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3 thoughts on “My Take on the Alabama Atheist Billboard

  1. It seems that peeps in the South get angry (just) when they hear the word atheist. This is the first billboard that I have seen that is a little bit negative. All the other ones were neutral (and ‘they’ still got mad.). So were are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t. I’m not sure on this one. Howz about the more the merrier, the more billboards the better…they’re gonna get mad anyways…

    Kriss

  2. My biggest problem with the billboard is that is misuses the word “scam.” One of the group projects at the last Skeptics Toolbox was to try and come up with a solid universal definition of the word, and while we didn’t settle on a single one they all incorporated knowing intent and benefit on the part of the operator.

    It’s patently false to say that those two factors apply to all religions, and it’s also a very serious accusation. I’m usually proud of the rigour that our movement exercises, and the attention that we pay to grounding our claims in reality. Those qualities are lacking in the new AA campaign.

    The example of the “You are not alone” billboard undercuts the publicity defence in my opinion. If we can get publicity by saying something that benign, I don’t think we have any excuse for using inaccurate and inflammatory language to get the word out.

  3. I am offended by this particular billboard and the word “all” in particular. I agree that there are many scams out there using religion to get money and votes.

    If I believe there is a God and you don’t, then one of us is obviously wrong. If being wrong constitutes a scam, then we both have a 50% chance of being scammers. My belief is that neither of us are scammers unless we try to derive benefit from something we know to be false.

    I have seen religious billboards that were equally as offensive to Atheists as this one was to me. So I say tit for tat, free speech, get over it. Our Constitution makes no guarantee that we will not be offended by free speech.

    I saw the Bill O’Reilley show where he debated with Silverman. We all know O’Reilly is an idiot, now we know the same about Silverman. Do neither of these two men know that what causes the tides? really? I mean I can understand O’Reilly, after all he works for Fox News. We should not be surprised. But does it seem like the American Atheists might need a new leader?

    Harvey

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