Via City Room:
Call them equal-opportunity disbelievers: American Atheists, a national group that seeks wider acceptance for those who reject religion, has put up bilingual billboards aimed at Orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Paterson, N.J. The new billboards are the latest step in a campaign that has been going on for the past two years to ask Christians to question their beliefs near Christmas.
One billboard reads, “You know it’s a myth…and you have a choice.” The message is also rendered in Arabic on the Paterson billboard and in Hebrew in Williamsburg. Both billboards were put up on Wednesday, just in time for, among other things, the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins Wednesday evening.
David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, denied that the billboards were intended to be provocative. “It’s not provocation for Coke to advertise in a Pepsi area; it’s advertising,” he said. “Some people will say that that’s a provocation and offense, and some people say that we are a provocation and offense.”
At least one person, the landlord for a building at 109 South Fifth Street in Williamsburg where the Hebrew billboard was to be placed, seems to have been provoked. Mr. Silverman said the building’s landlord refused to allow the billboard to go up after pressure from the Jewish community.
Propertyshark says the building is owned by Stier 109 LLC. Calls to a Kenneth Stier at that building were not returned.
The atheists had to settle for placing the billboard above the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway near Meeker Avenue — about a mile and a half north of the Hasidic enclave in South Williamsburg. The billboards were meant as a call to nonbelievers who feign religious belief in order to avoid being cast out of their communities, Mr. Silverman said. “These communities are very insular, so the atheists in them often feel very isolated, so they feel that they are alone,” he said. “We want to let them know that they count and that they don’t have to live the life of a lie unless they want to.”