A Streetcar Named Disbelief! February 4, 2009

A Streetcar Named Disbelief!

The New Orleans Secular Humanist Association recently got approval for their own contribution to the unofficial atheism marketing campaign: An atheist sign on a streetcar!


It’s one ad. It costs $550. And it’ll be up through Mardi Gras.

Association President Harry Greenberger said his 100-member group, like others across the nation, is looking for like-minded individuals who support their statement of principles: “To reject efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms and to look outside nature for salvation.”

“We don’t proselytize,” Greenberger said. “Our problem from the beginning has been: How do we let people know we are here?”

The phone number listed on the ad will put callers in touch with Greenberger, who said prospective secular humanists will be invited to attend their monthly gatherings.

I know what you’re thinking: How will this ad reach any atheists during Mardi Gras?!

I don’t know. We’ll just have to pray that they do…

Congratulations to NOSHA for making an unoffensive ad that speaks to the atheists in the area. I hope their membership rises and makes other non-religious people aware that they’re not alone in their thinking.

(Thanks to Doug for the link!)

***Update***: New headline is courtesy of Siamang 🙂

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  • You just know the next hurricane will be blamed on this.

  • Trevor

    ah, but using their very same ‘logic’:
    as long as there isn’t a hurricane between now and when this ad is taken off the bus (after Mardi Gras), we can just as easily say that this advertisement is responsible for protecting all of New Orleans!
    We’ve obviously pleased the god(s) with our message.

    (ps: it feels funny using such backwards, circular logic. I think I need to go lay down now.)

  • “We don’t proselytize” Oh really? There’s a fine line bewteen proselytizing and advertising.

  • Jeff Satterley


    The definition of proselytize is to induce someone to change one’s faith. This sign does not do that. It asks if you already hold a certain belief, and if you do, there is a group of people who agree with you.

    If this were proselytizing, then any advertisements for social groups would be as well:

    Like Chess?
    You are not alone.
    Join the New Orleans Chess Club
    …or you’ll go to Hell 🙂

  • Shane

    “There’s a fine line bewteen proselytizing and advertising.”

    And this group is not anywhere close to that line. There is also a fine line between making irrelevant observations and being intentionally belligerent. I don’t know why it is one of the deadly sins of atheism to try to “proselytize” anyway. Religionists do it without relent or shame.
    I have a stack of “Kissing Hank’s Ass” pamphlets printed off to give to proselytizing theists, but it is really not so much an attempt to “counter-proselytize” on my part as it is a not-so-subtle PFO.

  • Congratulations for the opportunity, indeed, but: Sorry, but in my opinion, that ad is awful.

    1. The colours are horrible. Purple, green and yellow? What the hell are they thinking? Here’s one atheist/humanist that’d stay away based on the colours alone.
    2. How are you supposed to remember a sequence of 10 digits you’ve seen maybe once, on a moving object? Just spell out “Association” and let people google.


  • Luther Weeks

    If God had intended us to produce adds that would satisfy everyone, it would have made us all perfect and the all the same.

    I take the criticism of and possible imperfections in various bus adds as proof that God does not exist.

    Come to think of it God would also have produced more buses and less humvees.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Not sure if I like the colors a lot either, but I figure it must be a Mardi Gras thing.

    The line between advertising and proselytizing really isn’t that fine. Putting an ad on a streetcar with a slogan, name, and contact number is no where even close to proselytizing. Humanists knocking on your door and giving you a pamphlet — now that would be proselytizing. I don’t think that humanists do that.

    I do love that ads like this are showing up all over the United States!

  • Mitch

    Purple, Green, and Gold are the official colors of Mardi Gras. The masks of comedy and tragedy are also old Mardi Gras icons.

    New Orleans, LA

  • theShaggy

    This is my favourite atheist ad ever, it is beautiful and encompassing. I wish the Toronto bus ads said this over the “There’s probably no god…” one. We’d still get the flack but there would be far less argument to be made.

  • J Michael Malec

    Purple, green and gold are the traditional Mardi Gras colors. Yellow is the usual substitute for gold in printing Mardi Gras items where metallic inks are not available.

    The streetcars sit at car stops, traffic lights, and at the end of line, so they spend a lot of time motionless.

  • Tina

    Purple, green and gold are “the colors of Mardi Gras” — since the ad is appearing throughout carnival season, it’s appropriate to use those colors.

  • Connie

    Indeed, purple, green, and gold are the traditional colors of Mardi Gras — and this is Mardi Gras season. Oh, and those streetcars don’t move so fast you can’t read the phone number. Believe me, Harry will get plenty of phone calls. I’m a member of the group, and we’re thrilled!

  • Ok, thanks for the info everyone – but … the ad is still ugly. 😛

  • Funkshun

    Felicia Gilljam: then I would say you never need to go to New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras. That color combo is like the unofficially city color combo (other than black and gold combo with a fluer de lis)
    If you do deign to visit the city, be prepared for an experience unlike anything you’ve seen. It is great to see this ad in the catholic bastion of the south.

  • Ray

    I agree with theShaggy. This is a much better campaign than the Toronto one.

  • Siamang

    Purple, green and yellow? What the hell are they thinking?


    RED WHITE AND BLUE? What the hell were they thinking??!?!

  • Siamang

    I think the ad is beautiful, and with it on the streetcar, it’s really magnificent.

    I bet you could get a lot of press from a photograph of that sign on that streetcar.

    Anyone with the group want to discuss what other signs they considered?

    What about

    Atheism: All of the Mardi Gras, None of the Lent.

  • Siamang

    A Streetcar Named Disbelief!

  • We considered about twenty different statements for the ad. Our board members individually ranked all the statements and the one chosen was in everyone’s top three. We often hear people say they’re glad we exist because they now feel that “they are not alone.”

  • SarahH

    Those are AWESOME, Siamang! Perfect headlines for stories about the sign, actually. *cough*Hemant! Change the title of this post to make it more awesome!*cough*

  • I’ve been to Mardi Gras, and I feel like, at least for the partiers, this would be a welcome message. On Bourbon Street, there are religious protesters with signs and megaphones at every street corner, and invariably there are people (in various states of intoxication) arguing with them. Those who don’t argue with them simply pass them by, generally. Revelers, by and large, aren’t really godly people to begin with.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    [grammar “mode = Nazi”]
    [wax “start = sarcastic” “end = serious” “speed = 0.95”]
    Dammit, those misquoting bastards! NOSHA’s statement of principles starts as “We …”, not “To …” (The paper also forgot a comma. Arrrrrg!)

    This new beginning makes it slightly more confusing than it already is; although, either way it’s phrased, it appears (somewhat) as if NOSHA seeks “to explain the world in supernatural terms” and “to look outside nature for salvation.” I doubt that is their mission, but that is how it appears upon a casual reading of it.

    I recommend altering it to separate their mission from that which they reject. For example,
    “We reject the following: efforts that denigrate human intelligence, that seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and that look outside nature for salvation.”

    “We reject the following efforts: those that denigrate human intelligence, those that seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and those that look outside nature for salvation.”


    Am I alone in this (hopefully taken as constructive) criticism?

    However, I really do like the ad. As famous number two reporter once said, it’s “very nice!”

  • Catkrauss

    Awesome!!! Love that it is nonthreatening and inviting. But….I think they should have put the website instead of the phone number

  • CatBallou

    I have serious misgivings about the text because it can be easily misinterpreted for an effect opposite to the one intended.
    “You are not alone” is commonly used to comfort people by telling them that Jesus/God is always with them. I first read this to mean “You don’t believe in God, but he is still with you.”
    Or maybe this is a sneaky way of avoiding controversy? We can all interpret the message as we please!

  • Lynette

    LOVE the advertisement NOSHA… Way to go!!! and who gives a crap what the colors are.. If you don’t like it… Don’t look at it!

    I am not a member of the club, but I Don’t beleive in “GOD” either. What a joke churches are along with the money grubbing priests and pastors… WE had a pastor that owned his own private jet.. Now where the hell do you think he got that money from?? GOD???

    Kudos go out to whoever decided to run this advertisement on the trolley car.

  • Siamang:

    RED WHITE AND BLUE? What the hell were they thinking??!?!

    You know, I’ve often wondered just that! 😀

  • Chas

    It’s a good ad; the message ties directly with the intent (reach out to like-minded people who may want to join the group). The tone shows empathy as well.

    Believers can still be cheesed off about it, but this time their only rationale is their own narrow view of the world, not the language of the ad.

    The most effective atheist ad out there.

  • Being on the Northshore (you NOLA peeps will know what I’m talking about) I’ve been hesitating joining NOSHA because of the drive. I may need to reconsider.

    If only we could find someway to negate those “preachers” that go up and down Bourbon with those HUGE signs proclaiming we are all going to hell…

    About the colors…the most beautiful colors of all…especially on a King Cake! ;P

  • MrsRefney, I’m on the NOSHA board and I live on the North Shore too! We could car pool if you like? Call our president, Harry Greenberger, (504) 592-0836, and he’ll put you in contact with me.

    Hey, you may be our first recruit due to the sign. We only need another $550/$15 is 36 new members and we’ve got our money back. Wh-hoooo!

  • Siamang

    YAY! Thread title changed!

    It really is a beautiful ad on a beautiful streetcar in a beautiful city.

    C’est bon!

  • Wendy

    I encourage everybody to write to New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s marketing department to let them know what a great decision it was to run this ad!!


    We all know how many complaints these companies get regarding these ads…. Some positive feedback could work wonders!

  • This is a great ad. Clever and to the point: a simple statement someone of like mind can follow up on, or not. I don’t see why any believer would object to this, except perhaps out of fear that someone, somewhere, has a different opinion.

  • You know you’re from New Orleans:
    Not only do you believe that purple, green and gold belong together, you will even eat things with those colors.

    Go us. Need to find it and get my picture taken.

    Oh, and how many people know that Mardi Gras is technically a Catholic holiday? It was ripped off the pagans, but still.

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