The Super-Blah Billboard From American Atheists

What I would give to be the fly on the wall at an American Atheists budget meeting. I imagine it went something like this,“Okay folks, we’re making some tough cuts today. Do we let go of our reputable public relations staff that might make us look like champions of civil liberties or do we drop this billboard campaign we made with Microsoft Word? Show of hands for dropping PR…1,2,3…Alright, it was close but I’ll let Dave and Sydney know that they should pack up their desks. SUPERBOWL 2014, BABY, YEAH!” 

And that, my friends, must surely have been how this hideous and unfunny atheist billboard across from the stadium shall mock believers. I’m not a graphic designer of any kind but could they not afford to get a decent typeface for this thing? Or even a moderately clever copywriter? Or a stock image that looks like it was produced after 1998? 

American Atheists have been very open about the fact that their intention, for lack of a better phrase, is to preach to the choir. Their ads are not intended to convert believers but to inspire the exchange of high-fives with fellow atheists over their shared contempt for the practice of prayer. Yes, prayer. It was high time that someone stood up to practitioners of that nefarious devotional act that has reaped so much destruction in our world. Oh wait. 

First of all, I spent a considerable portion of my adult life as a devout Christian and never once thought prayer worked as a mechanism to goad God into interceding directly on my behalf. There are literal hordes of believers whose prayer practices do not have intercession as their purpose so they’re not even mocking an especially large target. 

Secondly, of all the bones they could pick with the Super Bowl, American Atheists chose praying fans as their target and presumably spent a considerable amount of their members’ money doing it? I know that their professed purpose is to protect the civil rights of atheists but couldn’t they have some harmless mission drift for the occasion and join forces with an anti-trafficking group or an activist network that calls out the rampant homophobia in professional sports. Just this once? 

A justice-oriented message and a discreet “Sponsored by American Atheists” has much more potential to bring in new members than this sad attempt at humor and relevance. My advice is that they scrap the badvertising until they have the budget do it properly. And just so they know, I’m job-searching if Dave and Sydney won’t be lured back.

alanakmassey@gmail.com'

Alana Massey is a graduate of New York University and Yale Divinity School, where she studied the increasing political legitimacy of religious political parties and the potential implications for trade, energy, and economic policy. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. 

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