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Hebrew atheist billboard gets bumped in New York
The American Atheists' president acknowledged that the pair of new billboards will likely cause a stir, and the did.
March 7th, 2012
02:51 PM ET

Hebrew atheist billboard gets bumped in New York

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)–A controversial billboard from a national atheist group was scheduled to go up in a heavily populated Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn on Tuesday but was bumped when the owner of the building objected to the advertisement.

CNN first reported the billboards were targeting Muslim and Jewish enclaves with, “You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice,” written on billboards in Arabic and Hebrew.

The Brooklyn billboard was in English and Hebrew. To the right of the text on the Hebrew sign is the word for God, Yahweh.

American Atheists president David Silverman said he went to the Brooklyn location when the billboard was scheduled to be put up with reporters and was surprised to see it was not being erected. “We sat there and watched and the billboard didn't go up,” he said. "The Jewish landlord of the building saw the billboard and refused to let it go up," he said.

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Silverman said it was a clear case of religious bigotry. "It was very disappointing to me because I was raised Jewish," he said by phone from New York. "They've been the victims of religious bigotry and now they're the purveyors."

When reached by phone, Kenneth Stier the owner of the building that rejected the billboard in the heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, offered a polite “no comment” on the matter.

Silverman said the billboard has been moved out of the residential area and put up in a pricier spot off a major highway at no additional cost. He added that while it was nice to have more visibility, his group was specifically targeting that Brooklyn neighborhood.

Jim Cullinan, vice president for marketing & communications for Clear Channel told CNN in an e-mail, “We found space for both ads and this contract is being fulfilled,” but would not comment on moving the billboard out of the residential area in Brooklyn.

“It is against our policy to comment on any of our advertisers' campaigns,” he wrote.

Silverman said he was disappointed by the development. “We wanted to get into the residential neighborhood because so many Hasidic are closeted atheists,” he said.

He said they received over a dozen e-mails from closeted atheist Hasidim who thought they were alone until news of the ad campaign broke.

"This is why atheists need to come out of the closet," Silverman said.

Silverman again reiterated the signs advertise the American Atheists’ upcoming convention and an atheist rally, called the Reason Rally, in Washington scheduled for April.

Atheists have long pointed to surveys that suggest atheists and agnostics make up between 3% and 4% of the U.S. population. That number increases when Americans unaffiliated with any religion are included. The Pew Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found that 16% are unaffiliated, though only a fraction of those are avowed atheists and agnostics.

Silverman told CNN last week he knew that the pair of new billboards will cause a stir.

“People are going to be upset,” he said. “That is not our concern.”

“We are not trying to inflame anything,” he continued. “We are trying to advertise our existence to atheist in those communities. The objective is not to inflame but rather to advertise the atheist movement in the Muslim and Jewish community.”

CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Atheism • Islam • Judaism

soundoff (1,757 Responses)
  1. Carlito

    Brilliant money-making scheme. I wonder how much the landlord and atheist walked away with in the payoff to "take it down"...wink.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  2. Sifleut

    "You'll all burn in hell!' Love, God

    March 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • aaron

      classy.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Dave

      Which god?

      March 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Dave

      You know the one. The desert one. Promotes infanticide, genocide, mass r ape and, oh what else did he promote? Oh yeah, peace and love.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  3. J.W

    You know who I have come to like? Erin Burnett.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • fred

      me too I have all ready heard all the blond jokes

      March 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  4. dethkat666

    So believers get to push their god on the rest of us, it's good, but when non-believers simply say there is a choice, you believers are all "Help, help, I'm being repressed!"

    March 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Dave

      The landlord of private property rejected it, as is his right. Fine by me, and I'm atheist.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  5. Eric

    Religion: building a Russian nesting doll of derp since before you were born, wise apple!

    March 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  6. Jack

    "The Brooklyn billboard was in English and Hebrew. To the right of the text on the Hebrew sign is the word for God, Yahweh."

    Correction. The Hebrew word for God is Elohim. Yahweh is the name of God revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Elohim is the term for Multiple Gods,

      March 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • HarvardLaw92

      And it's properly spelled YHWH, not Yahweh. Don't transliterate Hebrew.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • HarvardLaw92

      Johnquest – Elohim can be singular or plural. It depends on the verbs and adjectives used with it.

      The best explanation of Elohim is "god" with a little G, not "G-D" with a big G. It's not a proper name.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Alvin Simon

      You transliterated Hebrew. Transliteration is taking a word in one alphabet and rendering it in another untranslated.

      They didn't teach you much at Harvard Law, did they?

      March 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  7. Thomas

    Once again ignorance and fanaticism rear their ugly heads to stop an effort for enlightenment and liberation.

    Sad. Pathetic. Disgusting.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  8. Phil

    Pathetic. I hope any sign that now gets put there is damaged, spraypainted, etc. Just so no one will use it and cost the owner money.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  9. Canadian

    Atheism!

    March 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • captain america

      he said the evil word – canadian! my head explodes like a pimple! i must quickly thunk some brain-stuff to insult him or something. okay, here goes . . .

      Mooses suck!

      That showdd him. theres your sign

      March 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  10. LouAz

    Well, I posted a quote from Roger Bacon, but guess the CNN Censor didn't like it. So much for the "free press".

    March 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Thomas

      CNN does that all the time. 🙁

      March 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • La la la

      Why do people like you think you got censored, and that freedom of the press got stifled? Catch a clue – there is no human censor here. What really happend was that you used a word that had a naughty word inside it, like "Consti.tution" has a ti-t in it, and "circu mstance" has cu_m in it.

      No conspiracy, but feel free to fucking invent one if that makes you happy.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • LouAz

      You're a real potty mouth La la la. You have no idea what I posted, yet you have made an "informed determination" that some prohibited word was used. You must be a god that can see things that no one else can see.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  11. Portland tony

    No low life atheists...just a smaller group to statistically stratify.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  12. ZCarter

    @TrueReality and the difference is? The Iliad mentions the Greek gods, the Bible mentions the Sky God, what makes one more true than the other?

    March 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  13. Dave

    Hmmm. Muslim, Jewish, but no Cross for the biggest fraud of them all ...Christianity.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • fred

      Is it the biggest fraud because more people have been saved by the cross of Christ than any other faith or have finally realized that the Cross is the most important event in all of human history. The Cross which gave us all access to God on equal footing is the symbol of freedom from sin and unity with God. Kudos Dave !

      March 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • manda

      Oh give it a rest, fred.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • fred

      Manda sails button down the hatches ruff seas ahead.
      Manda beer was real good last night.
      God smart manda

      March 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  14. nestor

    Is like that fellow that exclaimed: " Thank's God I'm an atheist"
    The fool said in his heart: there's no God. proverbs
    What a contradiction: They are against those who preach that there's a God. But they are preaching their Gospel and making a living, thanks to you know Who.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • tony

      He didn't.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • JoeT

      "you know Who" - you mean– Voldemort?!

      March 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  15. Woodrow

    What is so wrong with this billboard? Religous groups are allowed to spat their views, why can't athiests? I see signs telling me stuff about God or jesus all the time and this gets flak?

    March 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Stan Smith

      I'm personally against any billboard. They're all preaching something to me... whether it's religion, anti-religion, or a Big Mac.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Jared

      The owner of the property was Jewish... Can't blame a guy for not allowing something to go up that he disagrees with.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Morbus

      Can you imagine the hissy fit that would have resulted if a pro-choice group had wanted to put up a billboard on property owned by some Catholic group?

      March 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  16. mcjny

    I find all of this quite funny. More we realize the universe around us, the more "god" seems like a complete lie for the masses. We didn't even know that there were other galaxies besides our own until 1953, btw, thanks edwin hubble, you rock.. 150 years ago, we thought that lightning was magic. 300 years ago, we honestly believed that the world was flat and the "universe" orbitted around this floating flat thing. 🙂 We will grow out of this "god" thing. Our tech just evolves so much faster than we do that our expectations exceed our abilities. We are very much tankerous children. Give it time.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  17. Langor

    Ah, you've got to love the atheists, they just know they are right by virtue of the text they don't have. Now it's not enough for them to be satisfied in the smugness of their non-belief, they actually need converts.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • tony

      We're all born as Atheists you dummy. Otherwise there'd be only one religion word-wide.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      One of the reasons we know we're right is because we don't have a text.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Regis990

      Well said, Tony!

      March 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Langor

      Well you atheists certainly believe you have all the answers while believing in little else don't you Tony?

      March 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • MZ

      Yea, like there aren't any religious billboards ANYWHERE.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • ThisGuy

      Atheists do have their own text, any science text book

      March 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  18. COlady

    Atheism is not a religion, it's the absence of religion.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • nestor

      That's not exactly right. Because Jesus was anti-religion. That was the reason He was hanged.
      Religion is men trying to reach God. A Relation with us is His goal.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • ZCarter

      Saying atheism is a religion is like saying your favorite color is 'clear'.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  19. tony

    Thank God we finally got some decent Atheist propaganda headlined on this silly blog.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  20. ThermalJockey

    Folks think these signs are in poor taste, or bigotry? Yet every third corner in the U.S. has a church on it, many with religious messages on the front sign (often advertising the next sermon's subject.) Most of these messages implicitly (or explicitly) imply that god exists, will send non-believers to hell, or some such. Yet atheists aren't allowed to put up a couple of billboards?

    Give me a break!

    BTW, for those implying the low-life nature of atheists (on this page), you should know this: The group with the lowest rate of divorce in the U.S. is atheists. On average, they make more money. On average, they commit fewer crimes (by far.) On average, they are better educated. Yet, a President of the United States can get away with claiming that they can't be considered citizens.

    This whole thing reminds me of rich white man, living in Boise, Idaho, claiming that there is no longer any prejudice against blacks in the U.S. Totally disconnected from reality.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • tony

      Amen

      March 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • jimtanker

      Not to mention all of these crosses everywhere. What do these people not understand that these are TORTURE devices. They base their entire world view on worshiping someone who was tortured and kiIIed. This is a cult of human sacrifice.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Fools

      Its funny how people say that religion is misguiding people while totally ignoring all the bull$#it propaganda that the government and the media feed them everyday. And theres that whole new generation who treats everything the internet says as if it were sacred. Its not religion thats steering the opinions of the masses, its the internet, all the shows people watched laced with someone elses opinions for you to believe they are the general consensus, it is facebook, and every one of our media sources. People think that the internet is a free space where everyone can share there ideas and the real news can be spread. Every single thing you hear on the news or read on sites like this is carefully calculated to somehow swing your opinions and ideals.Its not religion thats the opiate of the masses, its social media, and you idiots are too fu$king blind to see what is going on.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.