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Atheist Billboard Quoting Bible Verse Vandalized in Pennsylvania

Posted on  by Hemant Mehta

That didn’t take very long…

Just one day after being put up, the PA Nonbelievers’ billboard has been vandalized:

The billboard was a response to the “Year of the Bible” Resolution passed by the state’s House in January. The atheists quoted a particularly controversial Bible verse in the hopes that they would encourage viewers to take another look at the Holy Book.

Brian Fields, the president of the PA Nonbelievers, has issued an apology (I don’t think it’s necessary) to anyone who may have misinterpreted their intentions:

I want to say that I’m truly sorry that many people have misunderstood this billboard. It was never our intention to use “race” as our message itself — The point of our billboard was:

  1. The bible is NOT holy or moral as promoted by the PA House of Representatives in the “Year of the Bible”.
  2. The bible was used as an excuse for many very bad things — Including American slavery.

We would have hoped this message was clearer to observers.

***Edit***: Brian tells me the reason he issued the apology was because much of the local media coverage is centering around the claim that this billboard is somehow racist. “It’s hard to come back from when the race card gets thrown — Even in this case where it’s clearly wrong,” he said.

Ironically, the part that was vandalized was not the Bible verse with the word “Slaves.” It was the part that named the atheist groups that paid for the billboard and the rationale for putting it up in the first place, as you can see from yesterday’s photo:

Brian reiterates: “They removed the entire point of the billboard, the criticism, and left the actual ignorant and savage part.”

Questions I want answers to:

  • Will anyone take credit for the vandalism? Will the culprit be caught?
  • How soon will a replacement billboard be put up?
  • If there are any costs associated with it, who will be paying for it?

If you’re talking or writing about this, be careful not to jump to conclusions. It’s tempting to accuse Christians of committing the crime, but there’s no evidence of that just yet.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/03/07/atheist-bil...

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It's not by chance that the immoral bit was left intact...

PZ Myers has a good blog post on this. He is right, the billboard is in poor taste, awfully designed and it failed to convey the sarcasm.

Kylie doesn’t get it

American Atheists has sponsored another billboard, and this one is both ugly and controversial (Surprise!). Kylie doesn’t get it at all.

And with all that (because of that?), perhaps there’s something I’m missing. Because I honestly don’t freaking get this:

 

I don’t get how the hell this was every approved as a billboard by an atheist group. I just don’t. I personally find it rather shockingly confronting, distracting me from seeing it as being about atheism (was that its intent? This lesson?) and… maybe it’s meant to compliment (somehow?) the recent African Americans for Humanism campaign?

I get it. I even approve of the sentiment, but not the implementation.

The Pennsylvania legislature recently passed a meaningless declaration that this was the year of the bible. This is a confrontational, provocative billboard aimed in opposition to the bible: I consider it reasonable and appropriate for an atheist group to mock such a stupid law, and to point out that the bible is not a consistent or useful source of morality. I am all for confrontation.

However, there is good, informative confrontation and there is pointless lashing out. This billboard doesn’t do the job.

Once again, the lack of serious, qualified design experts really hurts. Graphic design is a discipline with skills and conventions and widely accepted principles: it actually takes a lot of training and talent to do it well. This ad…doesn’t. Not only is it ugly, but sarcasm is really, really hard to communicate well on a billboard. You’re best off avoiding it. Especially when it’s on a sign that is as esthetically unprofessional as that — that’s inPennsylvaniaa place rich in racism. There are rural farmers who’d post that signapprovingly.

And it’s not just Pennsylvania, this is America, where racism is endemic. If you’re going to put up something that addresses the racism of the bible and Christianity, especially when many of the targets of our institutional racism approve of the church, you’d damn well better tread carefully, and demand some taste and clarity. That sign has neither. I also have to wonder how many black American atheists were consulted in its design.

I’m going to disagree in part with Kylie: I think shockingly confrontational is a good thing, and I want more of it, and that’s the wrong thing to be upset over. But jeez, it has to be done well, and I don’t understand why American Atheists continues to use cheap-ass design work in what is clearly a major promotional effort for them.

I’m going to disagree in part with Kylie: I think shockingly confrontational is a good thing, and I want more of it, and that’s the wrong thing to be upset over. But jeez, it has to be done well, and I don’t understand why American Atheists continues to use cheap-ass design work in what is clearly a major promotional effort for them.

I'm going to agree with PZ.

Not only is it in bad taste, one wonders how such a bad idea got through the usual checks that ideas like these (billboard ads) should go through before good money be spent on them. It's a failure on so many levels.

I do too.

Well, this is what happens when the design is so poor, it gets totally misinterpreted.

Billboard posted by American Atheists and the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers was quickly vandalized, and eventually removed after being accused of being racist.

AMERICAN ATHEISTS

Billboard posted by American Atheists and the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers was quickly vandalized, and eventually removed after being accused of being racist.

The billboard was vandalized a day after it was first put in place.

AMERICAN ATHEISTS

The billboard was vandalized a day after it was first put in place.

Two atheist groups now believe they made a mistake with a controversial billboard attacking the Bible.

The Pennsylvania sign, which was first vandalized and then taken down, bore a verse from Colossians 3:22: “Slaves, obey your masters.”

While intended as a message against Keystone State legislators who designated 2012 as the “Year of the Bible,” many felt the sign — which also featured a shackled black man — were racist.

The billboard, created and financed by the American Atheists and the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, went up on Tuesday.

The vandals attacked the sign a day later, and it was gone from an intersection in Harrisburg, Pa., about 24 hours after first appearing.

“I want to say that I’m truly sorry that many people have misunderstood this billboard,” said Pennsylvania Nonbelievers president Brian Fields.

“It was never our intention to use “race” as our message itself,” he said in a statement on their web site. “The point of our billboard was the bible is NOT holy or moral as promoted by the PA House of Representatives in the “Year of the Bible.”

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland was among the critics who felt the billboard was racist and took the Bible out of context.



Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/atheist-groups-vandalized-...

Really!

Who's in charge of their communications?
Not the first time I find AA's billboard campaigns to be lame...

Whoever is in charge should be replaced with someone like Michel. I'm totally serious.

Well, at a minimum have a comity with at least one communications expert. This here smells like one important guy thinks he has good ideas and nobody tells him it ain't so.

Here is an EXCELLENT blog post by Sikivu Hutchinson. It should be read by everyone.

Slaves like Us: American Atheists on the Plantation

“Look, A Negro! My body was returned spread eagled, disjointed, re-done, in mourning on this white winter’s day.”  –Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

 

By Sikivu Hutchinson

The black body has always been an object of deep and abiding obsession in the American imagination.  Be it cavorting in “funky” abandon on a dance floor, vaulting off a basketball court in dunk mode, suckling apple-cheeked white babies, trotted out in a police line-up, or greased down, poked, prodded and staged on a slave auction block, the black body occupies that mystical place between corporeality and supernaturalism. Recently, American Atheists, a predominantly white group with a largely white leadership, slapped up a billboard in a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania neighborhood featuring a picture of a shackled naked black slave and a bible quote that said “slaves obey your masters.” The ad was intended to protest Pennsylvania’s boneheaded declaration of 2012 as the so-called “Year of the Bible.”  Much to the “astonishment” of AA reps, the billboard was reviled, defaced, and labeled a hate crime by some in the African American community.  Apparently offended black folk just weren’t intelligent enough to grasp the sage lesson that American Atheists, prominent champion of anti-racist social justice, was trying to teach them. Instead, some “misconstrued” the message as racist, concluding that, in a country where white nationalists have issued a clarion call to take back the nation from the Negro savage/illegal alien in the White House, “slaves obey your masters” probably still means them.

In the 2002 documentary Race—The Power of an Illusion,  Harvard science historianEvelynn Hammonds discusses how much of 19th century scientific inquiry on racial difference revolved around black bodies: “If we just take African Americans as an example, there’s not a single body part that hasn’t been subjected to this kind of analysis. You’ll find articles in the medical literature about the Negro ear, and the Negro nose, and the Negro leg, and the Negro heart, and the Negro eye, and the Negro foot – and it’s every single body part. And they’re constantly looking for some organ that might be so fundamentally different in size and character that you can say this is something specific to the Negro versus whites and other groups.  Scientists are part of their social context. Their ideas about what race is are not simply scientific ones, are not simply driven by the data that they are working with. That it’s also informed by the societies in which they live.”

Hammonds underscores the political “invention” of the black body through the lens of scientific objectivity.  The legacies of slavery and scientific research dovetailed with the popular display of black bodies as the ultimate site of racial otherness.  These legacies shape the experience of walking, driving and breathing while black.  They inform the terror of being a carefree teenager out for a casual stroll in the kind of private gated community where 14 year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed recently by a white neighborhood watch captain in Orlando, Florida.  The case made national headlines due to the “curious” fact that three weeks after the murder, the shooter (who claimed he was acting in self-defense) has not been charged and is still walking around free.  According to Martin’s family Trayvon was found with candy and ice tea on his body.

In the Harrisburg incident some black residents spewed anti-atheist slurs and labeled the AA group the Antichrist.  Vandals tore part of the billboard down and it was removed shortly after it was mounted.  But AA’s ahistorical paternalistic approach to “secular” public service messaging is one of the main reasons why New Atheism is still racially segregated and lily white.  Clearly AA doesn’t give a damn about the reality of urban communities of color in the U.S. vis-à-vis the institutional role of organized religion in a white supremacist capitalist context.  In my book Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars I ground my critique of American religiosity in the social history of residential segregation and the cultural context of actual black communities.  Northern cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee rank among the top ten most segregated cities in the U.S.  All those churches that white folk have the luxury of not seeing in the segregated black neighborhoods they bypass on the expressway aren’t there because blacks are ignorant, backward neo-slaves; they’re there in part because urban retail, commercial and green space development is moribund in the so-called ghetto.  Take a ten minute drive from “South Central” Los Angeles (a racist misnomer used to ghettoize any predominantly black neighborhood in L.A. regardless of geographic location) to predominantly white West L.A. and the storefront churches, liquor stores, check cashing places, and bail bonds offices vanish while parks, schools, grocery stores, businesses, office parks, and retail centers proliferate.

Read the rest here

OK. For one, why haven't people staked out these things to see who is doing this to the billboards? It should be common sense now to know that some douche bag(s) is/are going to come along and fuck up what someone has put up. COMMON SENSE PEOPLE! If you pay good money for something and want to protect it then you should take the initiative and guard it some how or at least catch the ass holes in the process and teach then a lesson.

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