Against American Atheists' Slavery Billboard

In a superb new post, Sikivu Hutchinson, at Black Skeptics (on Freethought Blogs), explains in illuminating detail so much of what is wrong with the incredibly irresponsible and offensive ad the American Atheists put up in Pennsylvania using the picture of a bound slave and a Bible verse supporting slavery (Colossians 3:22), which was aimed to challenge passersby’s conception of what is contained in the Bible and protest Pennsylvania’s official “Year of the Bible” through so sardonically participating in it:

Much to the “astonishment” of AA reps, the billboard was reviled, defaced, and labeled a hate crime by some in the African American community.  Apparently offended black folk just weren’t intelligent enough to grasp the sage lesson that American Atheists, prominent champion of anti-racist social justice, was trying to teach them. Instead, some “misconstrued” the message as racist, concluding that, in a country where white nationalists have issued a clarion call to take back the nation from the Negro savage/illegal alien in the White House, “slaves obey your masters” probably still means them.

Sikivu goes on:

Vandals tore part of the billboard down and it was removed shortly after it was mounted.  But AA’s ahistorical paternalistic approach to “secular” public service messaging is one of the main reasons why New Atheism is still racially segregated and lily white.  Clearly AA doesn’t give a damn about the reality of urban communities of color in the U.S. vis-à-vis the institutional role of organized religion in a white supremacist capitalist context.

Read the whole piece for a wealth of social and historical context and causes for moral indignation with which to fully understand the billboard’s significance. Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars

Here is my own attempt to address bewildered commenters who still don’t see what is wrong with the billboard even after reading Sikivu.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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