In seeing interesting responses to the criticism in “The Yuletide Honking of Privileged, Out-of-Touch Atheist Organizations,” it has sparked me to reply to what I believe is some grossly over critical and emotional opinions regarding the work of the American Atheists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
“…rather than invest in activism or supporting civil rights for atheists as is their mantra, they have spent what must certainly be an absurd amount of money to put up a poorly designed, terribly written billboard in Times Square.”
How is erecting a billboard not activism? Unless you define activism as literal feet on the ground (which it is not), I think billboard campaigns are great tools for activism! I mean, just think of all the billboard campaigns by the Coalition of Reason around the country. I know from personal experience that when Michigan’s Center for Inquiry put up a billboard, we had hundreds of people coming out of the woodwork saying they had never heard of us and that they were so glad we exist. The billboard made it on to the news before it was even officially revealed because it was so controversial to the area. If that’s not effective activism, then I don’t know what is.
As a side note on the design: Yeah, it sucks. As an artist and designer, it sort of pains me. But it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, and having an ugly billboard with a clear message on celebrating the holidays and not an antiquated fairytale is better than no billboard.
As far as this remark, it’s rather ignorant of the Constitution, since public property cannot establish favoritism towards any particular religion, plaintiffs of the FFRF have every right to have their own symbols or signs displayed alongside Christian nativity scenes. And wouldn’t you raise a stink if your property was vandalized? Banners, signs, billboards of several secular organizations have been vandalized. There is no “supposedly” about it. People don’t like atheists, and our rights are being infringed upon. If that’s not some degree of oppression, then I’m wondering if I’m reading the right dictionary.
Further on, a comparison is made between the work that American Atheists does versus the Harvard Humanists who take a more hands-on approach of charity and activism. But the thing is, American Atheists and the Harvard Humanists have two separate goals and ideas on how they want to effect social change. If all atheist organizations did it by the Harvard Humanists way, there’d be a lot of holes in the plan.
“Claiming that spending an outrageous sum of money for a billboard, which Silverman justifies by the number of members that AA gets from each one that goes up, is more effective at making the world a better place than direct action initiatives is not just absurd, but offensive. The tens of thousands of dollars that AA spent on their ego trip could have actually helped people without a place to go or food to eat this holiday season, but instead, they chose membership fees.”
Unless you have access to the American Atheist’s finances, how can you say that this was a poor investment? (Update: Apparently the funds were anonymously donated and earmarked for a billboard in Times Square. So it’s not even taking away from normal funds.) And even though the media in this country is, as a whole, a bunch of biased corporations with their own agendas to spin not worth listening to, most of the country does listen to the media. And we would be fools not to use that. Sure, American Atheists could have sent the money to charitable organizations, but news media doesn’t keep a tally or pay attention to how charitable you are. They do pay attention to a giant billboard about Atheists in Times Square. And Times Square is huge! Hundreds of thousands of people will see that billboard. If that results in new people previously unaware of the greater secular movement joining American Atheists, I think that’s fantastic, because they’ll then also hear about organizations like the Foundation Beyond Belief and the Clergy Project, Recovering from Religion, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and more. How is growing our movement a bad thing?
Increasing our numbers whether through American Atheists memberships, or simple awareness of the greater movement will give us greater clout in effecting change through social justice which, “understands and values human rights, and recognizes the dignity of every human being.” American Atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Harvard Humanists, and many others are fighting for different areas of atheists rights in the same way that Pride Fests and various LGBT organizations fight for LGBT equality, and things like minorities in business organizations help fight for racial and gender equalities. These are all parts of a greater whole of the social justice movement and they all work together in building a better society. I cannot call any of those a bad thing.