Sharp readers may, just conceivably, have detected a subtle anti-religion slant in one or two of my past posts. Well, Butler pleads guilty.
But the newest religion-related ridiculousness actually comes courtesy of American Atheists, which is putting up a billboard in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn (with its heavy population of religious Jews) displaying in English and Hebrew the slogan, “You know it’s a myth…and you have a choice.”
Sure, I can imagine some Chasidic Jew walking down the street, seeing the sign, smacking his forehead, and crying, “You know, I really don’t believe in God!”
The group has previously put up similar billboards aimed at Christians, and intends to erect a sign in Arabic targeting Muslims in Paterson, NJ too. All of this could fairly easily be laughed off as foolishness, but it’s compounded by disingenuousness: When challenged, the group’s president, Dave Silverman, claimed on television this morning that the signs are merely advertisements for a “Reason Rally” scheduled for March 24 in Washington DC, even though nowhere on the billboards is any such event mentioned.
A religious leader responding to the ad sounded, in turn, just as ridiculous, getting all offended. Shouldn’t a man of faith be able to just shake off something like this?
To be fair, Silverman was also quoted by CNN offering a more reasonable-sounding rationale: “If there are atheists in those [religious] communities, we are reaching out to them. We are letting them know that we see them, we acknowledge them and they don’t have to live that way if they don’t want to.”
I’m not buying it. To this observer, the whole thing looks like nothing more than pure mischief.
And in any case, a billboard is no place for a “friendly reminder” of this sort. Billboard ads are like static interrupting your music – at best, something to ignore; at worst, something to hate. If they work to advertise products, it’s on the time-tested marketing principle that any ramming of a brand into your consciousness is better than none. Atheism isn’t a product or a brand. It’s a worldview, and people who come to it do so through thinking (or, now and then, indoctrination) – not reading slogans in the sky.
I’ve known a lot of folks – often those who think of themselves as “spiritual” – who have a beef with “organized religion.” But organized atheists can be just as dumb.