These are my thoughts on "atheist billboards". I know that this is an issue that a lot of the atheist community are divided on. So please share me your thoughts.
Most importantly, it depends on the billboard. I think it's cool to encourage people (at least at a subliminal level) to think for themselves, and to reconsider what their culture has nudged or pressured them into. I don't like it (as you point out) when it's obviously in your face just because yours is in my face.
We'll hopefully be learning more about how to deal with different kinds of in yer face shit, over the next four years.
I used to defensive when other atheist told me how we should or shouldn't define or purpose atheism. These days I'm more in favor of encouraging a variety of ways to pitch into atheism, as long as they feel it's constructive.
Historically at least...the "There is no god so enjoy yourself and have fun!" sort of message is not perceived in the manner it was intended.
IE: All they hear is "Atheists don't believe in God, so they can do all the bad things they want to"
We cannot know if they work unless we do our homework. If the billboard is trying to reach out to closet atheists and alienated atheists to let them know they aren't alone...one can ask atheist/humanist organizations in the area if there was a notable jump in new messages/contact/members in their association after the billboard is put up. As for trying to inform religious people that you can be atheists and be a good person...surveys is the way. Ask them their opinions before...and a new set of people after the billboards go up. Can't find any of the surveys and any guess as to its efficacy would be total speculation. As for planting seeds of doubt into the minds of the religious...I cannot fathom how we could do a double blind test on the strength of one's world views, then see if their world view has been cracked after the billboard has gone up and then follow up years later to see if anything has changed. I cannot even imagine how one could ever propose a reasonable methodology. I doubt we can know if they are or not effective until some sort of study can be done and as I said...there probably isn't any way to do it.
If billboards were the only media I were allowed to use...
One, I'd avoid Xmas season, as advertising is more expensive typically, and, xian s are especially defensive against "attacks on xmas", which can consist of no more than saying happy holidays...so its the least receptive time for them.
I'd go with themes that are most likely to appeal to closeted atheists/plant seeds of reason...to simply say they are not alone, and, importantly, I think a message with OUT a call to action is far less effective.
IE: Skip church is an action, but, its not an action with a clear path to continue down.
If there are local atheist groups, or an atheist channel or station, etc...something that might bring someone into the WORLD of reason, that's a potential pathway to continue down.
So, if the billboard was essentially an ad for a way to contact like-thinkers...I think it would have a more measurable impact.
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