The Atheist Billboard That May Come To Iowa… February 27, 2011

The Atheist Billboard That May Come To Iowa…

American Atheists is having their annual convention in Des Moines, Iowa April 21-24, and they’d like to get a billboard up there in the hopes that it’ll enjoy the same level of publicity of their previous ones.

Here’s the mockup of the new one:

Much like the others, this one calls out specifically to other atheists, but the message will likely be seen by theists as an attack on their faith.

In other words, it’ll get its fair share of publicity as soon as it goes up.

If you want to help make that happen, you can make a contribution here.

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  • JulietEcho

    Okay, I really dislike this one. It dead-on confirms what so many people think about atheists – that they hold a positive belief in the non-existence of God, which is something that can’t be disproven. Specific gods can be disproved depending on the claims made about them, but not just “God,” and it’s ridiculous to claim to “know” that no God exists. This billboard slogan represents a 7 on the Dawkins scale, and it’s just going to confirm what a lot of people (mistakenly) think that atheists believe.

  • I’m pretty much right there with you, Juliet.

  • flatlander100

    Don’t like it. Didn’t like the first iteration either. I’m heartily tired of hearing people who share nearly none of my beliefs tell me what it is I think. The Rush Limpaw, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck troika endlessly tell us things like “Liberals would have you believe….” and what follows is something this card-carrying liberal doesn’t believe, and never has and that no liberal I know believes [and I know a lot of them]. I get similarly annoyed when theists tell me “you hate god” and demand to know why. Or when creationists tell me “Darwinists like you think as Hitler did,” and so on.

    It’s bad business for anyone to tell someone else what the someone else thinks. It annoys me no end when the loons on the right and the bible thumpers do it to me. Atheists shouldn’t be doing it either. To anyone.

  • Vanessa

    No one can *know* that there is no god. Kinda getting more and more annoyed with these billboards.

  • Claudia

    Seems like the more aggressive signs have won and we’re getting more of the ones like the above rather than the “good without god” sort. Pity.

  • Michelle

    Not to be part of the concurrence round-table here, but starting it with “you KNOW” tends to make me stop reading no matter what the rest of the sign says. Especially when it is shouting it at me.

  • Spriggig

    Oh, good gods! WTF are they thinking? A declaration that there are no gods is no more intellectually supportable than that there are gods.

  • lurker111

    Ditto all.

  • I like the inclusion of Judaism and Islam, though.

  • I think Claudia nailed it: Based on the publicity and reactions over the past year, there’s been more press about the more aggressive billboards. So if it takes a more hyperbolic statement to make a point — even if it may not be perfectly accurate — I can see why groups are pushing for it. You get more bang for your buck.

    You can dislike the ad, but there’s no denying that the AA billboards (design, wording, and all) have gotten more publicity than most of the other atheist billboards. And more publicity means getting the word out to more people. Along the way, the message may get to some people who actually need to hear it.

  • Jackie

    Hate it. Just hate it 🙁 The self righteous, know it all tone makes us all look like idiots!

  • Raymond

    I agree with some previous comments: The “know” assertion overstates the case and is an easy position to attack.

    They should try again, perhaps with “You think there is no god? We think you’re right!”

  • Face in the Crowd

    How about: “Don’t believe in gods? Join the club!”

    I find their tactics unappealing–especially the billboard portraying religions as scams. Why not include facts about how much more money would go to charity if donations weren’t filtered through religious institutions?

  • martha

    I join those of you who don’t like the sign. It misuses the word “know” and comes off like a faith claim. What happened to Good without God? There are so many better choices.

  • tegan

    I do appreciate the color change to Hawkeye colors (we are the hawkeye state!), but I agree with the others about disliking the billboard

  • Richard P.

    No one can *know* that there is no god.

    What a completely spineless backout.

    Look around you. The complete lack of evidence of there being a god, is evidence of no god. After this long there would have to be more than just pretty stories. If you can’t admit that to yourself, then maybe you should take a look at your ability to make other rational judgments as well.

    Maybe it’s just time to grow a spine and accept life for what it really is.

  • ScarletA

    I agree wholeheartedly. I way prefer the “good without god” soft-sell approach. The know-it-all stuff just rubs me the wrong way…and I’m an atheist!

  • Danny F.

    Yeah, I’m not digging this one.

    Publicity is great, but it really is that “know” assertion that is makes me dislike it.

    It seems like we should be asking the American Atheists to be more accurate or careful about their wording for their signs, before supporting their efforts. Like everyone is saying, this one seems like it’ll give the wrong idea.

  • Steven

    @Richard P

    Let’s not mistake humility for spinelessness. The claim made here is quite simply unknowable. If atheists claim to know what is unknowable, we have crossed over to calling the pot black. Inflammatory rhetoric is fine, but it better be verifiable. This is not so it does a lot of damage. There are no completely rational zeros on the “no god to god(s)” continuum. If this billboard says we’re all zeros, I’m goingbto have to withdraw my support because that is a religious claim.

    I’ll submit the likelihood of there being a god approaches zero and for al practicall intents and purposes, that’s exactly what makes sense, but there’s a very important limit and that’s a simple truth.

  • Richard Wade

    You can dislike the ad, but there’s no denying that the AA billboards (design, wording, and all) have gotten more publicity than most of the other atheist billboards. And more publicity means getting the word out to more people. Along the way, the message may get to some people who actually need to hear it.

    Let’s challenge the underlying myth that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That’s horse shit. Following that idea will support atheists doing really asinine, ugly and even cruel things, just to “get the “message out.”

    There are always two “messages” in any communication, the simple content and the connotation of the method. The whispered message, “psst. hey other atheists. we’re over here.” will be completely drowned out by the other message screamed, “HEY EVERYBODY! ATHEISTS ARE FLAMING ASSHOLES!!”

    I’m glad I don’t belong to American Atheists, and if I did, I’d quit and ask for a prorated portion of my membership fee back. If I were an isolated, in-the-closet atheist, seeing this billboard would certainly not make me want to join that bunch. I’d hunch down and hide more.

  • Allecher

    I would prefer a billboard that says some version of

    There are thousands of gods that you don’t believe in. We just go one further!

  • CanadianNihilist

    wow, there’s a lot of agnostics here calling themselves atheist.

    I KNOW that there is no god. In the same way I KNOW there are no unicorns, elves, Santa and Easter bunny.

    And it looks like the point of the sign is to once again reach out to people that feel or “Know” that there is no god but are afraid to come out and say it.

    I admit I don’t know everything, in fact I know very little. However I strongly believe what I know to be true. I am not to proud to admit I’m wrong, if someone was to show me overwhelming widely supported and tested through decades or centuries of evidence that still holds to be true today. I’ll admit I’m wrong about it. Until then, I Know that there is no god/alla/budda/eight thousand other Shinto gods.

  • Agreeing with the overwhelming sentiment, here: I’m not a fan, not of the wording, and, to be honest, not of the way the thing looks overall.

    Then again, I’m also not a fan of the time they chose for their conference; the end of April? I’ve got finals to study for D:

  • People – it’s a billboard. It’s not meant to be a philosophy textbook. You should never try to make 100% sense out of a message that is clearly there just to get your attention – and nothing more.

    Hemant gets it…

  • I’m mostly offended by how ugly it is…

  • Plus when you say you can’t KNOW there is no god, you’re really saying that there might be at least one god out there that was made up by humans. We KNOW that’s what humans do. They make up gods.

    Just making up an idea doesn’t turn it into a tangible thing. We KNOW that. Or at least some of us do.

  • Richard Wade wrote:

    Let’s challenge the underlying myth that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That’s horse shit. Following that idea will support atheists doing really asinine, ugly and even cruel things, just to “get the “message out.”

    Exactly.

    Allecher wrote:

    I would prefer a billboard that says some version of

    There are thousands of gods that you don’t believe in. We just go one further!

    Ditto.

    CanadianNihilist wrote:

    wow, there’s a lot of agnostics here calling themselves atheist.

    Nah, atheism doesn’t necessitate claiming to ‘know’ gods don’t exist. The minimum requirement is lack of belief.

  • Kudzuma

    Thank you, CanadianNihilist. I was beginning to wonder where all of the atheists were.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    I’m going to take the unpopular stance on this… I *know* there are no gods. I’m an Atheist… Not an Agnostic who plays badminton with the religiously devout.

    Some of you may claim that there’s no way to *know* that god doesn’t exist and that somehow if we make that claim we’re just as bad as the religiously devout. Nonsense. Atheist take the evidence we have and we make a judgment call. We’re guilty of black and white thinking but we make the call one way or the other. We accept our decision for better or worse. Is there a chance we’re wrong? Doubtfully, but I don’t know any Atheists who lose sleep over it. Agnostic and Atheist doesn’t mean the same thing. Keep that in mind when you’re reading the billboards…

    ” You KNOW there is NO GOD. We *Know* You’re Right! ”

    The billboard is speaking out to Atheists and letting them know that there are others out there who think the same as they do… The billboard is aggressive and it doesn’t mince words or play the back and forth game for a reason — a reason I believe most of you are capable of understanding. For those of you who aren’t, consider the message:

    ” You THINK there is NO GOD! We Think You’re Right. ”

    Is that more acceptable? Is it aggressive enough? Does it let others know that it’s okay not to believe in fairy tales? Maybe, but it won’t kick up the publicity that the original does… which is fine if that’s not your goal. After all, thousand of dollars on a watered down message is just as effective, right?

  • Gail

    I’m a little surprised by some of these comments saying that of course we know and are 100% sure that there is no god. Not even Richard Dawkins believes that. I agree that there is currently no evidence for god’s existence and that is why I am an atheist, but like any good rational thinker, if empirical, indisputable evidence came to light proving that there was, I would consider it rationally. Since you can’t prove a negative, you can’t be 100% sure. 99% yes, but not 100%.

    I think these billboards do a lot more to persist the bad image atheists have than they do to speak out to closeted atheists. Bad publicity really is bad publicity. I was a much bigger fan of the Good without God campaign. I have pretty much lost all respect for the American Atheists organization since they continue to run these billboards.

  • Kudzuma wrote:

    I was beginning to wonder where all of the atheists were.

    Did you miss the 27 posts preceeding yours? we’re right here 🙂

  • Lauren

    @canadiannihilist agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive categories. agnosticism claims that existence/nonexistence of god is unknowable. one can believe that it cannot be know and still believe in god, or have an active belief that god does not exist, or not have belief either way.

    saying we cannot know is agnostic, however it is possible to be an agnostic and an atheist at the same time. It is not merely a “masquerade.”

    personally I think this is way better than the “scams” one. they have said they have a “you know” campaign. they are trying hard to fit their billboards into that messaging. If they only want to target strong atheists, I don’t really care. it isn’t targeting those who are questioning. I think what they are trying to say is important.

    They are reaching out to say “you are not alone”. If that is the only goal, then who cares if you piss off other people?

    I think it could be done better, but I find this one to be an improvement.

  • American Atheists,

    I KNOW that this is a LOUSY AD.

    Stop making it your goal to spend more time on-air mugging with Bill Donohue. The association doesn’t add to your credibility.

    Create something that makes people think, question and investigate.

    You Know I’m Right!

    Eh

  • Melanie Dawn

    Juliet, I agree with you! In general, I love the atheist billboards, but I agree that this one will be used to support all of the tired claims theists use about atheists making as much of a “faith” claim as they do. Yes, I understand the nuance of the billboard’s statement. The average theist reading it will not. I don’t agree with controversy for controversy’s sake.

  • CanadianNihilist

    @ AxeGrrl not from what I’ve seen. I see a whole lot of people that are 99.9% sure that if they have a great party it’s not because of divine intervention from Bacchus, but can’t *Know* for sure.

    I mentioned Santa earlier, Do these atheists cling to “you can’t know 100%” that Santa is not real? While it is true that I didn’t get any new toys this christmas, I also didn’t get a lump of coal. So until I do I’m going to continue to know that mythologies and make believe are just that.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    ” Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. ” -Wikipedia

    I choose to ignore the inclusive definition. After all, it’s a definition that fits perfectly well, as you’ll see, in agnosticism.

    ” Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable. ” -Wikipedia

    Perhaps simply to please Atheists and Agnostics alike the billboard should simply read as follows:

    ” You KNOW gods are irrelevant. ”

    Short, catchy, and to the point. After all, if by the far off chance that Atheists are wrong, and Agnostics find the proof they need to believe — it really makes a statement. By his own chosen absence in this world, God has indeed made himself just that. Irrelevant.

  • mkb

    Actually, I think it’s kind of cute, but then I like the color yellow and I don’t expect profundity from a billboard.

  • Roxane

    I’m not hugely wild about it, but still. I am an atheist because I see no reason to believe in god. Which means that, as far as I know, there is no god. I am willing to live my life on that assumption, and I don’t feel the need to put a footnote to the effect that “There is still a .000001 chance that there might be god” on every billboard.

    But I still object to telling people what THEY know. I don’t like it when the xians tell me that I KNOW there is a god. It’s just bad manners.

  • CanadianNihilist wrote:

    @ AxeGrrl not from what I’ve seen. I see a whole lot of people that are 99.9% sure that if they have a great party it’s not because of divine intervention from Bacchus, but can’t *Know* for sure.

    Scroll back to Lauren’s post if you missed it…..atheism and agnosticism aren’t mutually exclusive terms. In fact, the overwhelming majority of atheists that i’ve encountered would classify themselves as ‘agnostic atheists’.

    Not claiming to ‘know’ doesn’t disqualify someone’s atheism club membership. Not sure why some people seem to think that it does.

  • Do people have an ultimate right to not ever be offended? I keep hearing rational people saying no, that free speech actually gives us all an ultimate right to offend people, if that’s how they’re going to take it.

    The message on this billboard is simple. It’s also thousands of years old. Seriously, if it’s really considered too offensive for us to say “There is no god,” then our movement is doomed. We have to say that.

    Here’s where intentions meet challenges, and bravery pushes on, while the armchairs of the masses among us become inevitably filled with quarterbacks. That’s okay. We need everybody.

    So let your favorite Freethought group know that a better billboard is needed. Show AA what you mean. Let fly with your feelings, your own way. Hell, go ahead and post a message that corrects AA’s message. Why not? I’m sure AA won’t complain about that.

    Boldness still gets more attention than timidity.

  • Chris

    I’m an agnostic atheist. When asked, I used to say I was an atheist. Thanks to billboards like these, I just say I’m agnostic now.

  • Steven

    I’m a mathematician and am comfortable with limits. Do this experiment: On a square piece of paper, color half, then color half of the half, then half of the remaining fourth, then half that, and so on.
    The lesson here is that 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 +……1/2n < 1

    The sum is absolutely, unequivocally less than 1.

    However, for all intents and purposes, it is 1 (for large values of n). So, you'd be ridiculous to not use the value of the limit of that sum as practical, however, you'd be one hard headed fool to insist that it is 1.

    It is the same for the existence of god – the LIMIT is zero and for all intents and purposes, it is zero, but the chance is undeniably not zero! Neither is it zero for a teapot to be orbiting Pluto, but the likelihood of alienating potential supporters by making this claim as a certainty is unwise. When even your own most staunch supporters are questioning the tactic, it should give the leaders of AAI pause.
    To insist there is no god, while that is almost certainly true, is ultimately (ULTIMATELY) not possible to prove.

    I understand the motivation of those supporting the billboard. There's a classic thought experiment of the arrow to the target – the arrow (like the sum example above) must go half way before reaching the target, and mathematically, it will never reach the target. However, that IS verifiable.
    No sir, this billboard is a bad idea. AAI is picking fights with it's own supporters.

  • Raymond

    @Richard P: I think we have to be specific about which “god” or sort of “god” we’re talking about to say we know it doesn’t exist.

    Some gods are logically impossible, so we know those don’t exist. Some are ruled out by evidence, and we know those don’t exist, also. However, there are some logically possible gods that might still exist, although there’s no evidence of them either.

  • Atheists don’t like it when Theists say, “Deep down you know there’s a God.”

    This billboard is hypocritical.

  • Lesilu

    I don’t disagree with the message, but dislike that this billboard (to me at least) clearly seems to be designed for controversy rather than reaching out to fellow atheists.
    This one targets religions of the god of Abraham…which I personally have no trouble claiming doesn’t exist any more than I have trouble claiming Thor or Isis don’t. Nothing in their mythology matches up to reality. Now, when you get to, say, the deists’ or pantheists’ gods, things get tricky.

  • Not that I don’t see the delicious irony of theists funding this site, but why is there a banner ad for a Christian prayer group at the top of the Friendly Atheist homepage?

  • Steven

    I’ve had my say, and was surprised to be the only one that spoke up on the AAI Facebook page.

    Anyway, my arguments did not sway and I felt a bit condescended to, but this is THE fundamental concept so I will now settle into the disappointment that AAI is AINO (atheist in name only) since they are insisting on making a religious claim.

    True skeptics simply never claim to “know” what they cannot.

    Ah Bartleby…..

  • Secular Stu

    I was similarly annoyed the American Secular Historical Society put up this asinine billboard:

    You KNOW Paul Bunyan’s blue ox doesn’t exist. We KNOW you know that.

    It is an arrogant and cruel thing to do. And totally incorrect, you can’t disprove a negative – the Azure Bovine Associaton will make mincemeat of that assertion.

    I will be asking for my membership dues back unless they make a more acceptable ad, something like:

    There ARE people out there that consider the idea of a giant blue ox rather unlikely. We are THOSE people. Please DON’T hit us.

  • I’m amused over the fact that we have some atheists telling other atheists that they aren’t “atheist enough”.

    I mean, weren’t we just rolling our eyes over the “more Christian than thou” responses of Christians to Rob Bell’s declaration that he didn’t believe that non-Christians roast in hell?

    So, can we save the posturing for another time? Or shall we turn this into a church meeting?

  • timberwraith wrote:

    I’m amused over the fact that we have some atheists telling other atheists that they aren’t “atheist enough”.

    I mean, weren’t we just rolling our eyes over the “more Christian than thou” responses of Christians to Rob Bell’s declaration that he didn’t believe that non-Christians roast in hell?

    So, can we save the posturing for another time? Or shall we turn this into a church social?

    amen 😉

  • Dakota Bob

    Personally I quite like the ad. probably because I am quite smug in my atheism.

  • KarolS

    I sent a following message to AA.

    Hi, I saw your billboard design on Hemant Mehta’s blog, and as a fellow atheist, I think this kind of message makes us look as pricks.
    I mean, the whole “You KNOW” is kind of gnostic. No-one can know the exact number of supernatural entities (just like with unicorns), and people have already complained to your previous campaign, so I see no reason for such a message.
    Maybe something along “Nobody has ever seen a god”, “One god further blah blah blah”, “I ain’t seen no gods”, “It looks like there’s zero gods today”, “Haven’t seen god? Neither we”, “We too don’t have imaginary friends”, “Didn’t find god? We bet there’s none”, or at least as suggested by one of Mehta’s readers: “You think there’s no god. We think you’re right”.
    The current design? Well, I doubt many people will like it.

    BTW, I’ve been lurking here for few months and this is my first comment. Hello there.

  • Godlesspanther

    The earlier atheist billboards were very mild. “One Nation, indivisible,” “you are not alone,” “probably no god,” etc. The reaction to these from the fundies was quite hostile. It was clear that no matter how mild the message there would be some who reacted with extreme hostility toward any atheist billboard. Perhaps the folks at AA figured that they may as well get more aggressive because the reaction would be the same anyway.

    Silverman explained it as, something like, the message is for closet atheists who are going through the motions but they do know otherwise. Not that everyone KNOWS that all religions are a scam or that there is no god. I don’t find Silverman to be particularly impressive but when paired with Bill O he looks like a genius.

    I’m not particularly impressed with AAs signs, I prefer FFRFs work. But I don’t have to answer to every atheist bilboard. Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean that every message propagated by atheists represents my views.

    As for the ‘knowledge’ that there is no god — I parsed this out a long time ago. On a philosophical level I have to resign to — god is extremely unlikely because the absolute can’t be proven. Philosophically I have to resign to unicorns being very unlikely.

    On a practical level there are no unicorns, there is no god. Depends on the context.

  • I think it is a bit awkward to have a billboard campaign on recruiting like-minded people (“strong atheists” or “Gnostic atheists”) when probably the majority of people who call themselves “atheist” are “weak atheists” or “agnostic atheists”. I think a better campaign would be something along the lines of a billboard reaching out to the the larger population saying things like “Millions are good without God” or “Imagine, there’s no hell”.

  • Flail

    I’m not a big fan of the ad, mostly because of the terrible design. The wording of the message is obviously supposed to be inflammatory. I think they have succeeded with that. What it does not do is provide any kind of draw to their event. I see the billboard and think “Great, you are telling me what I know. Why should I show up again?”

    As far as the qualms about using “know”… get over it. If you want to split hairs, sure – we don’t know that things don’t exist. That includes gods, invisible pink unicorns, or any other number of things. For all practical purposes we know that gods don’t exist. The message becomes tedious if the agnosticism police are going to require everyone to say “I am 99.99999% certain that there is no God”.

  • CanadianNihilist

    I’m not saying anyone is “more” atheist than anyone else. However I will argue about agnostic and atheist not being mutually exclusive categories.
    if we check a credible source i.e. not Wikipedia. so something like dictionary.com we find:

    agnostic
    –noun
    1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as god, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
    2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

    and lets have a look at…

    atheist
    –noun
    a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    Those are pretty night and day. You can’t not believe in something while still holding to the belief that you actually might actually because you’re not sure.

    If people are agnostic, good for them, if they’re religious that’s their decision as well, atheist, swell. It’s not my place to tell people what to believe or not to believe in. But know that their is a difference, and from what I’m observing there are still a lot of Friendly Agnostics here.
    Not that theirs anything wrong with that.

  • Wicked Twin

    I also don’t care for the “unholier than thou” contest going on here.

    I don’t mind a strong message. It’s just a little too “in your face” for me. I agree with the other posters that the motivation for this seems to be more for publicity than helping out closeted atheists.

    I think it’s ugly anyway. Who picked that font?

  • Danielle

    Yea, I’m getting sick of these billboards too.

    I definitely like the Millions Are Good Without God campaign.
    This one just seems like a dick move.

  • Alex

    Is anyone paying attention? Do you happen to see whats going on in our country? Your passive non-belief positions won’t be tolerated for much longer. Read a little history! Those mild mannered fundamentalists wind up doing most of the killing! We better speak out stronger now while we still have a chance to control our destiny. Send your donations to AA now!

  • Don Rose

    I’m not sure if I like the tone of the billboard, but I’ll make a donation anyway. If I need motivation, all I have to do is look at the back of a dollar bill, and I’m ready to do battle. Religion doesn’t care if I’m offended, so they can bite me.

  • Daniel

    CanadianNihilist,

    I’m afraid you are extremely philosophically naive if you think atheism and agnosticism are incompatible. As your dictionary definition of atheism showed, disbelieving in God’s existence, even without saying dogmatically that he doesn’t, is still atheism.

    As was mentioned earlier, agnosticism refers to epistemological limits of our knowledge of God or gods, while theism or atheism refer to a belief or non-belief in God’s existence. There are agnostic theists (like Martin Gardner, who was a founder of the skeptic movement). There are also many agnostic atheists out there.

    Even Richard Dawkins doesn’t say God doesn’t exist, but only that there is ALMOST certainly no God. How about Christopher Hitchens, who has admitted that he can’t say with certainty that a deist-type God doesn’t exist? Do you consider Dawkins and Hitchens to be “agnostics now calling themselves atheists”?

    You really should read some philosophy books that define the terms before you embarrass yourself by claiming that agnosticism and atheism are mutually exclusive. George Smith’s “Atheism: The Case Against God” and Michael Martin’s “Atheism: A Philosophical Justification” are good places to start. Enjoy!

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Hemant Mehta:

    Based on the publicity and reactions over the past year, there’s been more press about the more aggressive billboards.

    I don’t see any evidence for this claim. I suspect that there’s a recency effect here. The more recently publicized billboards have been the more hyperbolic ones from AA, and it’s easier to recall the press flak from them because that flak isn’t as old as the that from the earlier billboards. That can foster an illusion that there’s been more press about the newer billboards.

  • Sheridan

    I remember when Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris got reamed by theists and atheists alike when they came out with their strongly worded anti-religion books. How dare they express their beliefs and upset so many people???

    In my opinion, sometimes you have to hit people over the head with the proverbial hammer to grab their attention. This is what Dawkins and Harris did with their books and it worked. Look at all the publicity they got! They started a national conversation which continues to this day.

    So I like and approve of this new ad. Let the chips fall where they may. Without risk, nothing is achieved.

  • Eh, I’m not impressed. I don’t like the wording, and I think the billboard is ugly to boot.

    I mostly get annoyed that all these atheist billboards speak of one particular deity. “God,” as we all know, is code for Yahweh. I have no problem saying that Yahweh doesn’t exist, but I think we need to drive the point home that atheists don’t just lack belief in Yahweh. We lack belief in all gods and goddesses. IMO, focusing all our attention on a single god kind of misses the point.

    I wish the billboards said something along these lines:

    Think Gods Are Imaginary? So Do We.
    Don’t Believe in Gods? Neither Do We.

    They could even go with a more “militant” statement:

    Gods Are Just Pretend.

    And even that would avoid the whole problem of claiming that we know deities don’t exist.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    The Wikipedia on Atheism and Agnosticism are just as credible as a dictionary — especially when they say the same thing; Source preference aside. Moreover, they provide information that a number of people in this commentary seem to lack.

    ” I’m afraid you are extremely philosophically naive if you think atheism and agnosticism are incompatible. “

    They’re not incompatible… They’re just not the same thing. Simply because Atheists and Agnostics attend the same family reunion doesn’t mean that they’re brothers — they’re cousins.

    As far as Dawkins and Hitchens go — refer to their own words and the definitions of the labels.

  • Cortex

    Such a missed opportunity. They could’ve come back with something more clever, but I guess they’re doubling down instead.

    I’m as anti-theistic as anyone, so my problem isn’t that it’s disrespectful or coarse or any of that. My issue is that it places the emphasis on conviction in one’s atheism. The great thing about atheism is that it doesn’t need intense emotion to promote – taking a close, honest look at religion is all it takes to know it’s off-the-wall laughable.

    We can’t win a battle of passion and conviction against religion. Religion is nothing but passion and conviction. We should be attacking them on the intellectual front, where they can’t defend themselves.

  • CanadianNihilist

    Daniel,
    If I based my beliefs on what other people say I would be no better than the christians, muslims, mormons et cetera.
    I like Richard Dawkins but it’s not like he’s the jesus of atheism and I must act and think in accordance of what he and others say. That’s the wonderful thing about thinking for yourself. You’re free to come to your own conclusions.
    And I don’t need to read philosophy books to understand 3 very simple bullet points in a dictionary.
    I know there is no god of any sort. Not now, not six thousand years ago, not ever. I do not need a philosophical Justification for my beliefs, as they are mine and mine alone to form, modify, keep or discard.
    As far as I’m concerned, anyone, regardless of how famous, that admits their might be the slightest possibility that there is a god is not an atheist.
    Does that matter? not really. It’s your choice.
    If I’m one day proven wrong it’s not a big deal. Unlike so much religious dogma I can be proven wrong and still go about my life without worrying about it. I am fallible, like every other sentient creature that exist, ever has existed and ever will in this universe and any others that may exist.
    I love science. And I love it even more when used to disprove religion. But I feel embarrassed for the “atheist” that it becomes a religion onto itself for. If you mindlessly follow what someone famous tells you is right or wrong then you might as well join a church and at least wear the cool robes.

  • sagansong

    I’m in the CanadianNihilist camp.

    I know there is no god. If I had any doubts whatsoever, I would no longer call myself an atheist: I’d call myself an agnostic. That’s the simple version of how I understand those two terms. I could care less if some philosopher doesn’t agree.

    Since I know there is no god and since I live in a world gone mad with theists, I’m happy to see a sign proclaiming truth for once.

  • Daniel

    CanadianNihilist,

    I’m a fellow atheist, but I found your last paragraph incredibly ironic, because atheism seems to have become a religion for you. It’s usually only religious people say that they are absolutely 100% sure that they are right, that they don’t care about what logic, rationality, and careful thinking (that’s all philosophy is) have to bear on what they say, redefine words to confuse debates (and then say they don’t care what the words really mean), or who say that anyone who doesn’t think like them can’t be a real group member.

    By the way, I never said that Dawkins was the Jesus of Atheism so you should follow him. I just said that by your definition even he was not an atheist. I’ll go even farther and say that according to your definition neither Hitchens, Dennett, Vic Stenger, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, or Dawkins are atheists. All have admitted that we cannot say with 100% certainty that at least pantheistic or deist versions of god do not exist. Are you seriously arguing that NONE of the New Atheists are even atheists?

    Please don’t be the Bill Mahr type irrational atheist. Embracing rationality, skepticism, philosophy, and a scientific worldview can greatly increase the joy of being an atheist. Please don’t close yourself off to rational discourse just because you already “know”. Stay curious!

  • Chris

    I know there’s no such thing as a god. Claiming there is a god is absolutely absurd and there’s no evidence to support any sort of supernatural being. The natural world works just fine without such silly human fantasy stories.

    I sincerely hope that those claiming we can’t prove God doesn’t exist don’t ever go to law school.

    “You say he’s not guilty? Then show me the evidence that proves he didn’t do it!”

    That’s not how we operate the legal system and for damn good reason.

    Because it follows flawed logic.

    The theists have no evidence supporting their claims. Why should we believe an ounce of what they spout?

    My biggest complaint about their ads (every single one of them) is that they choose hideous fonts.

  • CanadianNihilist

    1: I’m not an atheist. I’m a Nihilist. There are dozens of definitions of the word and philosophy from which it stems based on what reference book you chose. I don’t care which one. They are all equally wrong/right depending how you look at it.
    2: that doesn’t really matter, just as non of this does.
    3: I have never claimed to not be a hypocrite
    4: The font does indeed suck.
    5: has this thread hit an all time high yet?

  • Daniel

    CanadianNihilist,

    So you are a nihilist, but you don’t care how that is defined? Since you believe all definitions of nihilism are equally wrong or right than I will now define nihilism as Christianity, and hereby say that you are a Christian. If you disagree with that than you are refuting your own claim that all definitions of the word are equally right or wrong.

    Do you see how illogical that would be? You can’t argue with people over terminology (like you are about whether someone is an atheist or agnostic) and simultaneously say that words mean anything that anyone wants them too. That is absolutely a self-refuting statement. It’s like postmodernist who claim that there is no objective truth, to which the obvious question “is that claim objectively true?” Therefore that postmodern argument is refuted by its own definition. Similarly, your own claims are self-refuting

    You cannot be a rational person and try to convince people with words that all definitions of words are equally right and wrong. What would be the point of debate? Communication would be impossible.

    Also, Nihilism is deeply relativistic, so it is completely illogical to say you know anything with 100% certainty when you claim to be a nihilist.

  • pascalsaumon

    Why do we always have the same problems of definitions over and over when talking about atheism/agnosticism, belief/knowledge…

    The difficulties people have to understand the subtle but key difference between these concepts slows down the debates too often, even here as it seems.

    I dislike the billboard too by the way.

  • CanadianNihilist

    I think you’re missing the point and or humor of it.
    And no, I don’t care how you define it. You can insist that I’m a Roman catholic, pagan, Pastafarian or hasidic jew for all I care.
    I love your postmodernist example. although instead of “refuted by its own definition” I would say it’s one of the paradox’s of postmodernism.

  • Kaylya

    Each of the “You Know” ads seems to get more pompous than the last, and the graphic design isn’t getting any better.

    There’s been lots of great Atheist adds out there, but this whole series is not one of them. Given that even the nicest possible, questioning, atheist message seems to generate lots of a reaction among the religious and then the media, there is absolutely no need to come off this way.

    It certainly doesn’t make me want to join American Atheists, nor would it do anything to nudge someone with doubts over to our side (except for the acknowledgment that others don’t believe in God).

  • Lauren

    as a lover of words and a mathematician, this is all making me sad. 🙁

    you cannot prove something does not exist. only that we have seen no evidence yet. justice and philosophy do not have the same criteria. Proving innocence and guilt is not proving something doesn’t exist, so this debate is NOT like our justice system. And given how flawed results in our justice system are, it is not something I would hold up as a shining example. (DNA evidence has exonerated many that have been executed after the fact)

    semantics are important, since how we interpret words changes what we say. and it may seem overly pedantic to say we can not prove the nonexistence of god. But it is accurate.

    I love math because pretty much nothing else can be proven, only justified with evidence. Science corroborates and gives evidence, it doesn’t prove in an absolute logical way. There is no way to prove (in the mathematical sense of the word) anything of consequence, including the scientific facts we take for granted. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in these facts, and that we can’t make predictive models based on them. It is a philisophical issue that is largely irrelevant since things tend to work out.

    in reading Descartes’s meditations it is clear we cannot prove our world even exists in a mathematical way (he uses extraordinarily circular logic about god in his “proof.” I was sad for weeks that the inventor of the Cartesian plane could use such horrible logic.)

    I don’t believe in god. Some days I lean toward strong atheism and say that I believe in the nonexistence of god. but you can’t prove it. so I am agnostic. not believing doesn’t mean I have to turn my back on mathematical logic and acknowledging the shortcomings of it.

    and I do believe in unicorns. just not horse shaped ones. I believe in whale shaped ones. and yes I know it is really a modified tooth, but it’s close enough for me!

  • Ashlyn

    I don’t really have an issue with the message. I do have an issue with how ugly all of these billboards are, damn.

  • ethanol

    Ugh, nihlists… I mean, say what you want about the tenets of national socialism, but at least it’s an ethos.

  • ThilinaB

    Why does it say “Right since 1963” on the bottom right hand corner? Does that mean god did exist before 1963?

    I dislike the “KNOW” in there because its too obvious that their going for the shock value and ‘any publicity is good publicity’ approach. Reading just the comments here, a lot of atheist (including my self) don’t like the billboard. So its hard to make the claim that its “for other atheists”. The only thing you can say about it is that almost every news station will do segment on it with the usual ‘ask the community’ clips.

    If this was anything to do with reaching out to the ‘closeted’ atheist, there are far better ways to do it.

  • Dan W

    Okay, I don’t like this one either. It’s the use of the word “know”. No, I don’t “know” whether a god exists- that’s agnosticism. It’s that I don’t believe in gods that makes me an atheist. This may seem like quibbling over semantics, but there are plenty of theists who confuse agnosticism with atheism, and this billboard isn’t helping clear that up at all.

    It’s also an ugly billboard. American Atheists needs to find a better graphic designer or something.

  • CanadianNihilist

    wooo! we’re past 80 post of infighting and arguing about semantics. I think that means we win over the christians.

    Here’s my thoughts on the Billboard, because I haven’t actually said anything about it other than the font sucks.

    I’m all for it.
    If the religious reich get to go around proclaiming god exists, they know this 110% and all other religions that are not theirs are wrong and brainwashing children to believe the same then I say who cares how upset these people get. I hope they get ulcers worrying about pointless billboards.
    I want them to fear a ridiculous few sentences so much that they raise a fuss so big that even other people of their religion see them as completely insane and distance themselves from it.

  • Anna wrote:

    I wish the billboards said something along these lines:

    Think Gods Are Imaginary? So Do We.
    Don’t Believe in Gods? Neither Do We
    .

    They could even go with a more “militant” statement:

    Gods Are Just Pretend.

    And even that would avoid the whole problem of claiming that we know deities don’t exist.

    This.

    Plus, yes, we then could have avoided falling into the tiresome/fruitless debate about atheism vs agnosticism.

  • CanadianNihilist wrote:

    I want them to fear a ridiculous few sentences so much that they raise a fuss so big that even other people of their religion see them as completely insane and distance themselves from it.

    Except that other people of their religion won’t think they’re insane, they’re just going to walk away thinking that every stupid stereotype about atheists (ie being presumptuous, arrogant and dismissive) is true.

    Sooooooo productive.

    Also, you just described the billboard’s message as “ridiculous”…..if it’s ridiculous, then why are you standing by it?

  • It’s ugly.
    It’s stupid.
    It’s arrogant.
    ‘Nuff said.

  • Follow-up thought: if this is supposed to encourage atheists to make a public stand of their atheism, why do it with a billboard that paints a negative image of atheists for the public, and causes upset; making the task of publicly embracing atheism even more difficult than it would have been before the billboard?

  • Jane Smith

    I’m getting rather fed up with very staunch atheists telling us agnostics that we’re feeble and “playing badminton with the devout”, as one poster puts it.

    I’m tempted to say that we agnostics are proud to be humble!

    As far as the billboard is concerned, if I was an atheist it would make me cringe. “You know you’re right.” No, you don’t. You just think you’re right. Just like religious people.

  • I love it! American Atheists will continue to get my donation! We will not make any progress unless we shake things up.

    Us rude, belligerent, bold, annoying, ass-hats will provide cover for the rest of you polite sensitive pandering wimps.

    You are welcome! You can now apologizes to the rest of the world and leave lots of room for their stupid philosophy that encourages violence and bigotry. Hugs and kisses to all!

  • Tristan Lawksley

    I’m getting rather fed up with very staunch atheists telling us agnostics that we’re feeble and “playing badminton with the devout”, as one poster puts it.

    Compared to staunch Atheists that’s exactly what Agnostics do — at least in my opinion. Of course when I used that phrase it was as an implication that Agnostics tend to get caught up in the debate with the religious regarding the existence of god(s). They also tend to debate it within themselves, or at the very least remain open to the idea. An Atheist has no reason to debate it internally or externally… God(s) simply do not in any shape, fashion, nor form exist. That’s the luxury of being an Atheist — we reject the notion flat out.

    I’m tempted to say that we agnostics are proud to be humble!

    That’s one word, the other would be ” doubtful “.

    As far as the billboard is concerned, if I was an atheist it would make me cringe. “You know you’re right.” No, you don’t. You just think you’re right. Just like religious people.

    I don’t know how many times this has to be said but just for s&g I’ll repeat it. An Atheist does know there are no gods. We know where it matters — within ourselves. We don’t think about it, we don’t pander to it, we don’t entertain it, and we certainly don’t question it. That’s what Agnostics do — not Atheist.

    As far as the tiresome/fruitless debate regarding Agnosticism vs. Atheism — there’s no debate. Both are well defined, clearly explained, and simply put. I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that people seem to be confused about the differences between the two when they glaringly exist.

    I think I’m finished though. For anyone who doesn’t like how the American Atheists Inc. goes about spreading its message — contact them, explain your stance, and donate in order to get up a billboard of your choice. Personally, the only thing I dislike about this one is the text layout. The colors make sense when you remember they’re hosting it in Iowa.

  • My only complaint is that the ads in these campaigns are so UGLY!

  • SecularLez

    I hope they have good security at this event.
    You never know what the religious crazies will do because of this “attack.”

  • ethanol

    Us rude, belligerent, bold, annoying, ass-hats will provide cover for the rest of you polite sensitive pandering wimps.

    Thank Athe that someone out there is up to the task of proving to the world that atheists, too, can be self-righteous assholes. I don’t know what I would do without you.

  • Woah… that billboard portrays every atheist as being so far stuck up their own ass they can’t see the sunlight. If this thing is used what sort of image will you give to a group who are already discriminated against quite often in society.

    Indeed to atheists who may be tolerant of other religions (although not believing in it) or have respect for others beliefs this sends out an AWFUL vibe.

    Come on people, atheists and myself included often complain about how arrogant christians are and this bilboard would be so hypocritical.

    -Ryan

  • Lesilu

    I think the variety of responses just from atheists alone show the lack of thought put in this billboard and the goal of it. We don’t all come from the same backgrounds, we don’t have view towards religions and gods (other than that we don’t believe in them), and so forth. This billboard seems to appeal to a very small demographic of atheists (which is already a small demographic). With a little more effort they could have made a broader appeal and garnered the attention this billboard will grant them.

    To those saying that you can’t prove a negative…can you prove that, please 🙂

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with saying that any particular supernatural entity doesn’t exist–especially when reality contradicts the “evidence” provided. The god described in the Torah/Bible/Koran is at odds with reality and with the description of it that many today believe in. I feel I can say that that god–the one that constantly sent angels, that smote civilizations, turned people into salt, flooded the world, and made a man out of clay–doesn’t exist just like I can say Zeus doesn’t exist and not be a hypocrite/arrogant/militant/etc.

  • Douglas Kirk

    I actually don’t mind the billboard.

    Every coherent definition of a god that acts upon the universe apart from physical laws is quite literally impossible, and has been shown to be with Science!

    It of course acknowledges the possible existence of a god indistinguishible from the atheistic view of the universe, or a trickster god who wants people not to believe in him, or a weird programming matrix in which we’re all just numbers and we’re in reality being harvested for our body heat (I hate going here but it shows how ludicrous the “anything is possible” line of thought is); but that’s not the god anybody ever talks about outside of Massimo Puglicci’s blog.

    Solipsism is important in acknowledging our limitations. But solipsism has nothing to do with objective reality.

    So yes, to the extent that I can KNOW anything, I KNOW there are no gods.

  • I hate this ad campaign. Almost enough to not renew my American Atheist membership. Many people do not know there is no God. (Intentional double negative.) That doesn’t mean they know there is one but they are coming to conclusions based on emotions, not reason. We’re giving them even more emotional reasons to reject the idea that there is no God. (Because atheists are obviously assholes.)

  • Ugh. Would AA at least just pony up the money for a professional graphic designer already? These billboards are more of an eyesore than some religious tracts I’ve seen.

    Besides, it’s completely counter-productive to say that the value of atheism ends at simply being a non-believer. That describes what you don’t do. What about what you do do? We need campaigns that celebrate reason and rationality, that depict the positive impact of science and technology and stress the importance of humanist ideals and democratic free thinking. We need campaigns that assert the value of social equality, that strive to depict a better world without the weight of archaic beliefs.

    Call this utopian if you want. But if you’re a nihilistic, cloistered, anti-social asshat, it doesn’t really matter what you do or don’t believe. You’re useless to society.

  • Freemage

    This advertisement is full of fail, as an advertisement.

    And not because Book-believers who see it will get butthurt about it.

    But rather, because it will have very little success in actually attracting new members to AA–which is, presumably, the point of the campaign.

    Numerous alternate suggestions, even the minor change of “Do you KNOW there’s no God? So do we!” would’ve been better at swaying folks. This campaign, though, makes it very clear: AmAth is only for those individuals for whom the issue is completely settled. Unwelcome are doubters, agnostics, skeptics who hew to the strict “cannot prove a negative” rule, and oh, yeah, political atheists (those who believe, but also want religion to stay the fuck away from governance).

    In short, it’s advocating the sort of membership self-culling that is usually only a good idea when you’re big enough to get rid of some of the ideological moderates.

    And yes, crappy design is crappy.

  • Lauren

    you can prove a negative, but you can not prove that something doesn’t exist, only that there is no evidence for it yet. unless it has an internal contradiction and therefore cannot exist.

    however unlikely, it is possible that whatever is in question exists, but has not been discovered yet.

    ex. until it was discovered and verified I did not believe in arsenic based lifeforms. That would be ridiculous. However, now I do.

  • Casimir wrote:

    …being a non-believer. That describes what you don’t do. What about what you do do? We need campaigns that celebrate reason and rationality, that depict the positive impact of science and technology and stress the importance of humanist ideals and democratic free thinking. We need campaigns that assert the value of social equality, that strive to depict a better world without the weight of archaic beliefs.

    Beautifully said 🙂

  • Jane Smith

    “We need campaigns that celebrate reason and rationality, that depict the positive impact of science and technology and stress the importance of humanist ideals and democratic free thinking.”

    Yes, I totally agree – that’s why I find this billboard disappointing. It’s tone is strident and, well, somewhat unreasonable.

    But perhaps the problem isn’t with atheists, agnostics, or weak and strong atheists. Perhaps the problem is with billboards – atheism, agnosticism and at least some forms of religion are complex patterns of thought that cannot be expressed in “ad man language”.

  • just an opinion

    I will take the reactions that these kinds of billboards provoke even amongst unbelievers as an indication of how far the movement has gone and how far it still needs to go. When some day these kinds billboards only receive yawning than it will be mission accomplished! Congratulations!

    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=4944

  • Pete

    AxeGrrl said…” The minimum requirement is lack of belief.”

    How does one end up with a lack of belief ,without feeling you know something AxeGrrl?.

    Is folks here suggesting they only imagine there might be no God, or to be more honest do they actually feel like they think they know it.

    Whats so wrong with being blatantly honest.Many people do feel they know there is no God.Largely due to the lack of evidence suggesting one seems very likely to exist.

    I would agree this add doesnt look to pretty.But it cant be said it doesnt spark up some mighty intense discussion.This thread alone proves that.

    For folks who are worried about how it might make all atheists look,im asking myself since when did atheists become ruled and regulated and defined by some sort of special atheist code or creed they should all need to always been seen to strictly adhere to.And since when were athiest trying to have anyone believe that being atheist also included becoming some special perfectionist breed,that should need to become all religious about being so extra careful about the claims being made.No wonder so many people often try to suggest atheism is just like another form of religion.

    Personally i cant understand the type of outrage the wording in this poster seems to have caused people.

    People will also often suggest they feel they know the sun will always arise again tomorrow too,they make this claim because they feel they know it.What will we do about it.Should we quickly send out the elite atheist correction police to remind all these people that they cant be 100% sure that the sun will actually arise again tomorrow.What about that very slim chance that the sun might be about to explode or something.

    If being atheist means i must also need to agree to conform to some special strict code of conduct of how all atheists will always be expected to behave and act.

    Forget it folks.We might as well all agree right now to just remain religious.

  • Meh, I’m with the others when I say I just don’t like the ad. It’s controversy for controversy’s sake, I don’t think there’s much other reason for an ad that can be seen as inflammatory.

    And besides that, it’s kinda ugly.

  • Jane Smith said

    But perhaps the problem isn’t with atheists, agnostics, or weak and strong atheists. Perhaps the problem is with billboards – atheism, agnosticism and at least some forms of religion are complex patterns of thought that cannot be expressed in “ad man language”.

    I disagree. As a graphic designer, I have to believe in the power of my craft to change minds and influence people. The history of graphic design is rich with examples that went beyond simple product promotion and helped to disseminate ideas that became prevalent amongst entire cultures.

    This is why I cringe so much at horribly amateurish billboards like this. They have the subconscious effect of making the message itself seem amateur and untrustworthy. Humanism is a beautiful thing, and as such, can be reflected through beautiful design.

  • Pete wrote:

    How does one end up with a lack of belief ,without feeling you know something AxeGrrl?.

    By not being shown any compelling evidence. As such, there doesn’t have to be any ‘knowledge’ involved in lacking belief.

    Pretty simple.

  • Jane Smith

    I agree, Casimir – good design can be very powerful indeed – I was getting at the wording of this billboard, rather than its colour and layout. And I certainly agree with those who want to promote atheism – all versions of it – from agnostic nonbelief to strong atheism.

    But the wording here is not wise and, if it was my decision, I wouldn’t use it.