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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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- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Islam • Judaism

soundoff (1,757 Responses)
  1. Kentuckyscience.com

    Therefore the principles of human evolution from an insane species require a virgin birth of Adam and Eve for the establishment of a moral and just human government (Isaiah 9:6).

    Evolution states that it is normal for the young animals to steal from the older animals, since it happens all the time in the wild. I am sure that the old atheist with money to put up this billboard would not be happy if some young lad stole his money.

    March 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • momoya

      A question: How do you fit that much crazy in one post?

      March 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Derek

      Yes... there is some funk in your statement. Crazy, obtuse, and what-in-tarnation are you talking about?

      March 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  2. PM

    Again, the Hasids seem to think they are too important to have their neighborhoods finally sporting "signs of truth." Your fourteen year old kids look just pleased as punch to be stuck wearing those black outfits, not to mention having to walk ahead of their mothers and sisters when on the street. "All religions make me wanna puke!" (Jello Biafra)

    March 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  3. Derek

    God(s) was/were invented to make the Universe more comprehensible in a time of mysticism. Unfortunately we became so fond of this that it's still here today... This is the same reason why say the "Sun Rise's and Set's" ... when it doesn't, the Earth is just rotating. We call it SCIENCE and it is the latest and greatest answer, but it's better than believing in the Easter Bunny...

    March 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Don't Care

      We also say that because it's more poetic and less obnoxious than "the Earth spun on it's axis until the sun was no longer directly visible to the people in that particular geographical area."

      March 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Nick

    The definition of 'religion' is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe..."

    Using this definition, atheism, too, is a religion. To put people down or insult them because of their belief system is hypocritical for one and all as everybody is in a way, religious. Christians, above all, should not be insulting of others as it is a religion that teaches peace and tolerance. I am a Christian and my girlfriend of three years is atheist- we get along just fine. I don't preach at her, she doesn't preach at me. It can happen: people can peacefully coexist regardless of beliefs. The insults do not help things, they only drive people apart. That being said, I am all for free speech and free expression so long as it does not infringe on another's well-being.

    March 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • momoya

      Atheism is not a religion for several reasons, one of which is that atheism is not a belief but a lack of belief in a being commonly believed by most in the culture.. Not believing in Islam isn't a "belief.". Not believing in Zeus isn't a "belief.". Not believing in any of the prescribed gods is not a "belief.". Bald is not a hair color; not-stamp-collecting is not a hobby.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      momoya .. excellent, but no matter how many common sense things you point to or how obvious they all are you can't teach someone anything if they choose not to learn .. ignorance is bliss and so many are deliriously happy!

      March 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  5. Kentuckyscience.com

    If God created something from nothing, then both something and nothing would be apart of him. The problem is that something and nothing are total opposites. Like good and evil. Nothing is associated with no movement, something is associated with movement and to be both would be like saying that truth and lies are the same. If God created something from nothing, he would not be a jealous God because he could easily turn something back into nothing. The point here is that no scripture in the Bible specifically states that God created something from nothing. Science is promoting it and the church is beginning to accept it.
    Finite Universe – zero and one are equal (matter can be infinitely divided into nothing – God is Nothing that created everything out of emptiness) "At the Planck distance and the Planck time all physics, as we know it today collapses. This is the reason we call the beginning of the big bang a singularity. You cannot apply ordinary reasoning there. Zero and one have no sense there.OK?" J-P Burri There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Big Bang views one and zero as being equal, since it states that zero appeared out of the absence of zero; then zero created something. Many scientists believe or have faith that light does not have mass, thus they believe the Universe is Finite. Religion promotes the most commonly accepted idea of the group. If light does not have mass, then it would be impossible to move an electron. Light described as a particle means nothing, if it has no mass since it would be impossible to distinguish from nothing because no mass means void of substance. If it has no substance, then nothing is present to distinguish the particle from other particles.
    The Big Bang theory prevents any condition where something has always been. Infinity is defined as the difference between one and zero. Once one and zero are the same according to the big bang, the definition of infinity as stated above is no longer valid. If the big bang occurred, all math's must deal with the proof of 0=1.
    Infinite Universe – zero is not equal to one (there is a point where matter can't be divided – God is Something that can neither be created nor destroyed that is dependent on nothing.) An infinite universe lacks a beginning, so there is no one set past or a given future. The infinite Universe supports the view that all particles considered to be energy have mass or substance; that there is one fundamental particle which accounts for all the diverse forms of matter in the Universe. It is the ultimate example of team work, since it fundamentally has no reason to destroy itself. So, why does evil exist? Free will and without freewill, God would lack choice. Balance is the nature of perfection in the Infinite Universe. In an infinite Universe the total amount of something remains constant. When an atom is divided it no longer has the characteristics of the original element. There is a point where matter can't be divided and at this point something and nothing are distinctly defined. In the infinite Universe, the term infinite is used to describe the difference between something (1) and nothing (0). There is an infinite difference between zero and one.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  6. Manto

    Atheists are FOOLS. A fool says in his heart, there is no God.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Twisty Turny

      Hearts don't talk. Only a fool thinks they do.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • JoJo

      Thanks, I always find parroted indoctrination based on the writings of Neanderthals very compelling.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Sam West

      A fool is one who thinks there is god just because one wants there to be one.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Temple6

      No Religion people are fools they are brainwashed from child to adult. With the greatest con ever invented by man Religion, that if you don't do what I say you will parish for all eternity. Religion people are the biggest hypocrites on this planet. You preach all this crap but follow NONE of it! You people believe in something you can't prove then push it on others as if it was a fact. Religion is a CURSE on this planet and I praise the day that all religion kills itself since thats their main goal. Damn Religion, Damn your made up God and Damn you to Hell! Since of course thats what you believe in.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  7. southernsugar

    Aren't Hebrew and atheist oxymoronic?

    March 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Adam

      People are oxymoronic. And many, if not most, don't ACTUALLY believe what they SAY they believe. This billboard is merely an urging for people to be honest with themselves, and with others.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  8. Moros

    Classy. Put up a deliberately insulting billboard, then play the victim card when people get angry.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  9. Aheadofu

    God bless America and all non atheists within !!!

    March 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Twisty Turny

      And thank God that the percentage of non-atheists is shrinking!

      March 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • bananaspy

      Actually it's growing. Given the number of resources online now, many people are beginning to discover just how false religion really is. You can keep lying to yourself, but you can't keep lying to everyone else.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • kurtinco

      Not ture, Twisty. Atheism is growing, and fast. Check some census stats. Those are just the ones that are willing to tell the government they don't believe in some men's dictations about who and what God is.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Twisty Turny

      Uh, bananaspy and kurtinco, perhaps you might read the phrase "the percentage of non-atheists is shrinking" again and again until you recognize that it says the opposite of what you thought when you responded. Then you might understand that I was mocking the original poster in his own choice of words.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  10. Tim

    I can't possibly pass up on the irony of claiming "religious bigotry". Does this now mean that atheism is a religion???

    March 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Alvin Simon

      No stupid, it means that someone based an act of discrimination on their religious beliefs. Try to develop some reading comprehension skills.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Don't Care

      Actually, yes, atheism is a religion and it has various sects. And, ironically, it comes complete with all that atheists condemn in the religious (minus a belief in gods).

      March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • A clue for the clueless

      Here is the relevant dictionary definition of "religion": "the service and worship of God or the supernatural."

      Can atheism in any way, shape or form fit that definition? No, of course not. Non-religion cannot be a religion any more than non-living can be a form of life.

      But religious people will continue to try to say it is, just as they will continue to say impossible things like "atheists hate God."

      March 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  11. Ieat

    surely Atheist, Agnostic and the Faithful can coexist, as long as we don't try to preach it to each other. I'm a believer, not very religiously active, but I have my own reasons to believe. I'm sure others have their own personal reasons to believe or not to believe. My father is an atheist, and when I was younger, I would "preach" to him all the time but he clearly had no interest. We would instead end up fighting over who is "right". It was totally pointless as neither of us will change our view, so why fight over it?

    March 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • want2believe

      So we should embrace our 1st amendment right to religious freedom?

      March 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      That is something I hope could happen soon. Atheists and theists both stopping the attacks and just agreeing to disagree. Would make things so much better in this country.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      The problem is that followers try to invade public things with their religious beliefs, prayers, commandments & the like. If the religous would keep their faith personal and private there would be no problem. I like a good religious display, artwork, poetry etc.. just don't try to tell me, or worse my children, it's fact or the truth.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  12. Guitar

    Another hypocritical bigot, (the landlord) showing his intolerance for any other's opinion but his own. Typical religious zealot!

    March 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • You got it wrong

      Actually, the billboard is tantamount to hate speech. The landlord was within his rights, both legally and morally.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Billboards implying I'm going to burn for eternity unless I believe as "they" do IS hate speech .. this billboard threatened no one. Choice is as American as the consttution & this billboard simply stated you have a choice.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  13. Arthur

    What a complete load of bull s h*t! Yeah, right the ads are for closet atheists! They are put there specifically to "target" (as he phrased it) people of faith and insult them. Every idiot knows that. Atheists have formed their own religion, and they are going about trying to shove it down people's throats. They are the ultimate hypocrites!!!

    March 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Hema

      Anmar Odendal – Sjoe dis mooi eks sommer trane EN heliderveons! Hopelik na ons e-session en trou fotos kan jy eendag ons 51ste huweliks herdenking ook afneem!

      April 2, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  14. Just me

    Crazy Athiest forcing their beliefs on people. it's another dumb religion!

    March 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  15. Goddog

    When you look at what the "supposed" Jesus taught and compare it to what Christains do it becomes quite obvious that one has nothing to do with the other. Jesus' basic purpose was spreading the good news that the end was near and the way to heaven was through him. Until then give up all of your possesions, follow him and spread the good news, continue to obey the laws and be good to eachother. I know the Christians are getting impatient. Don't worry, your end is near. Atheism is not a religion no matter how many times you say it is. Atheism is about not having the supernatural invade our Government, Education or Medicine.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  16. Matt

    I wonder why David Silverman is so convinced that many people within a religious community are closet athiests. Hasn't it dawned on him that they just might really have faith in God?

    March 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Not Confused at ALL

      I prayed to God to make me an atheist – and he granted my prayers.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  17. Another Tom

    I'm agnostic, but I've got to say that the building owner has every right to decide what goes on his building. To claim that not being able to put up your billboard on his building amounts to religious intolerance is silly. This sounds more like a sketch from Saturday Night Live.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • svscnn

      Yep. You couldn't make this stuff up. Would've been hilarious to see the look on Silverman's face on the scene.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Another Tom
      Reposting from an earlier post of mine.

      The thing is, the advertising company would have had to get permission from the building owner in advance. If the owner agreed then retracted due to pressure from the community, that's in breach of most standard contracts. If the owner didn't know the contents of the billboards originally, then I can understand that, but it would show a little negligence on his part. What building owner wouldn't want to know what a billboard on their building is going to say beforehand?
      This is something that has not been addressed by the news coverage.
      The jump from the refusal to put the billboard up to religious intolerance is a stretch based on the information given, but it is by no means a statement without the possibility of being true.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Not Confused at ALL

      I wonder if you'd say the same thing if some nutwhack Christians wanted to put up their billboard on an atheist's building. Then again, what am I saying? Christians REVEL in being hypocritical, and it wouldn't faze you a bit, I'm sure.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  18. svscnn

    Too funny.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  19. Willow

    This is what I, as an agnostic fear. Free speech works both ways. Yes, religious people have the right to speak, but so do non-religious people. Neither side should be silencing the other. Whatever happened to live and let live? Let people go their own way.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Speak out

      How does it feel to be a sheep?

      March 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  20. Jeff McCoy

    I would rather die believing in a God that "DOESN'T exist,
    then die not believing in a God that "DOES exist.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Patrick

      Well, there are thousands to choose from. Choose wisely.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Andrew

      this is a sentiment I really don't like. people afraid of god. weather you believe in god or a god or not, isn't there enough fear in our lives?

      March 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jeff McCoy

      I was afraid of life BEFORE I became a Christian. I've recieved more blessings in my life living for God then before.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Not Confused at ALL

      Sorry, Jeff... Stupidity isn't a "blessing".

      March 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Lillith

      Yup .. God loves people who treat their "belief" as a poker hand. Seriously insincere belief you've got there Jeff.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • John

      So when is this "god" of yours going to teach you the difference between "than" and "then"?

      March 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Jeff McCoy

      My prayer is that all of you come to realize one day the blessings I have lived with God in my life. I don't shove it down anyone's throat. But I am happy to tell everyone why I'm blessed and proud to do so.
      Since death is imminent and unaviodable for everyone, I am happy today knowing where I'll be for eternity.
      I can't imagine what non believers look forward to.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • bananaspy

      Funny how everyone who believes in a god, thinks the god they believe in is the correct one.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:04 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.