You Glance Out Your Window and See a Shackled Black Slave and a Slavery-Justifying Bible Verse. What Do You Think?

I am surprised that even having read Sikivu Hutchinson’s detailed and eloquent denunciation of the American Atheists’ billboard featuring a vividly depicted bound African American slave beneath a Bible verse endorsing slavery, a fair amount of people still don’t seem to understand quite what was so wrong with it. So, below the offending picture, I’m going to do my best to explain what I see as so problematic about it.

I do not closely watch television. I usually have the TV yammering on in the background while I read or blog but my eyes are not fixed there. And even when I am looking at it, during commercials my mind wanders and does not pay close attention to ads. So, quite frequently I have heard a commercial dozens, even hundreds, of times without registering exactly what it’s about or what its plotline is or (even) what it’s supposed to be advertising. Sometimes I have the song from the commercial stuck in my head for days without figuring out what the commercial is about.

Like right now this lyric “somebody left the gate open” has been on an endless loop in my head since, like, December. And I even saw a CNN news segment on the real life renowned rock climber who acted in the commercial. I actually read a bit about her on the internet. And even after all that I c0ntinued half-watching the commercial another several dozen times, heard bits of narration that I know by heart, saw clips and heard music I had heard at least a hundred times, and then finally a few weeks ago, after all of that, I got the joke. She’s supposed to be into stereotypically feminine things like pretty shoes and an engagement ring but the “new shoes any girl would want” in her case are climbing shoes and the “rock” she wants is not a fancy diamond but a giant rock to climb and conquer. The commercial is challenging dainty conceptions of femininity ironically. Three months to get the gag. And I have a PhD.

But I didn’t get it. Partly because I didn’t think in terms of the assumed stereotypes they were inverting, so it didn’t register that there was something winking in her saying “what girl wouldn’t want new shoes?” referring to climbing shoes. But mostly the point was I didn’t care enough to pay the least bit of attention or think about what I was watching or hearing and so never processed it.

And I’m not unusual in this, advertisers know very well that it takes multiple viewings for even the point of their ads to get across, let alone to actually persuade anyone to buy anything. This has got to be especially the case when you are dealing with a billboard on the side of the highway. Drivers really cannot often give long lingering looks at billboards. They see them peripherally, they glance at them quickly. They process simply. They get back to the road. Half the time they don’t even start to see them until they’ve almost passed them. Many a billboard I have craned my neck to puzzle out as a passenger. A driver cannot even take that try most of the time.

And political ads are a primary vehicle for message transmission like the kind the AA was attempting. They are not quickly passed billboards but 30 seconds to say whatever they want. But they are remarkably short on substance and detail. They send basically one message per ad, in my experience.

ROMNEY IS A FLIP FLOPPER.

KERRY IS NOT REALLY A WAR HERO.

OBAMA WANTS TO EAT YOUR GRANDMOTHER IN A KENYAN FEAST.

They’re not subtle, they’re not fair, they’re not nuanced. They trade in fear mongering or sell hope. They know what they are doing in making this choice. They know that ads are not places to successfully challenge people’s assumptions. They are places to appeal to people’s assumptions.

Ads of all kinds—message or otherwise—trade in familiar associations. The hot blonde woman is assumed to be an object of desire. The schlubby looking husband is assumed to be hapless but well meaning and in need of his smart and put together wife’s help in picking the product that will meet their household needs. (He also probably needs her help tying his shoes.)

Religious iconography is meant to signify wholesomeness, tradition, holiness, and virtue. References to Bible verses are assumed to be appeals to moral authority.

So, now there you are, an average person, not already an atheist or particularly thoughtful about religion. You are driving down the road and you casually glance out—not looking for a billboard, not expecting any sort of sophisticated challenge to your hermeneutics for reading the Bible, not really paying close attention to anything but the road to which you will very shortly have to return your focus—and what do you see? An enslaved African American, shackled like an animal with a Bible verse in all caps. “SLAVES OBEY YOUR MASTERS.”—COLOSSIANS 3:22.

Now, if you’re not part of the teeny tiny fraction of Americans who is not only an atheist but who is also saturated in atheist memes and argument strategies, your first assumption is going to be Holy Shit! Some racist fringe group has bought a billboard to justify slavery by twisting a Bible verse!!

You’re not going to think, hmmm, let me pull over to the side of the road so I can puzzle out the fine print on the billboard and consider its ironic message and how it might show me that my epistemology is inconsistent and that my religion is wicked.

Even if you are not one of that vast majority of Pennsylvanians who consider the Bible a moral authority, if not the moral authority, you’re likely not to know what “Bronze Age ethics” is supposed to refer to or what point there is in putting a clearly outdated Bible verse up on a billboard with a degrading picture of a black man. It will strike you as sick and disrespectful to blacks and to the Bible. You are (presumably) the target audience, you are not already a passionate, movement atheist. This is how you are going to process the message. It’s a totally botched message that makes atheists look sick, shallow, and cheap.

And now, non-African American readers, let’s engage in just a bit of empathy. Imagine you are a black American. Zooming down the highway barely processing what you are seeing, you briefly glimpse a Bible verse justifying slavery paired with a symbol of your ancestors’ systematic brutalization, dehumanization, and oppression. Your panicked thought as you are jolted and suddenly think some racist fringe group is putting up billboards promoting slavery is that you are being threatened and targeted, and that the racism you endure personally and see growing on the national stage is escalating. Your thought is probably something like, Holy Shit! The racist backlash to Obama’s presidency and to illegal immigration and the racism I encounter on a regular basis in my town and the local racism all over the local news is now culminating in billboards advocating a return to slavery!

And then it turns out that it was just that the American Atheists—those predominantly white, know-it-all obnoxious people bashing the religion which probably forms a significant part of your identity—were just taking Bible verses “out of context” to try to change your whole worldview. That terrorizing scare they carelessly gave you by “ironically” threatening you with an appeal to the Bible and a depiction of your enslavement was just an attempt to get you to change your hermeneutics! Because, you know, that’s so important to you and that’s such an easily emotionally processed message, Average-Black-Person-Who-Was-Innocently-Driving-Down-The-Highway-In-Your-Racist-Country.

I’m sure that to you it’s going to be perfectly fine that white people who disrespect and trash your religion are trying to exploit the bondage of your ancestors, using vivid iconography of their debasement, for their ideological messaging which you reflexively disagree with.

And even if you’re not laughing about how they got you good with their clever irony that put a chill in you for a second there, and even if you’re not taking some time alone to reexamine your epistemology and hermeneutics of the Bible (you know, like normal people do after reading a billboard), at least you should not be so obtuse or hyper-sensitive as to assume the worst of what must be well-meaning white people who think nothing of prominently displaying a symbol of your humiliation for leverage in an argument. I mean, why assume they’re racists? They probably don’t have fangs or purple fur or belong to the Ku Klux Klan like “real racists”. They probably are goodhearted folks who love black people but just have a bad messaging department.

I’m sure that’s what you’ll think. Or should think. Unless you’re being all unfair to white people. Oh you black people, so super-sensitive. Can’t you take a joke?

Your Thoughts?

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.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    Why are we supposed to pan on atheists, anyway?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I don’t understand your question. Pan on atheists?

    • Nepenthe

      Daniel, look closely at the urls at the bottom.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I see.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      It would have made more sense if hadn’t typed the wrong thing. Their URL formatting makes no sense. They wanted paNONtheists, not PANontheists.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      I munged it again. Believers, not theists.

  • http://ms-daisy-cutter.dreamwidth.org/ Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform

    …a fair amount of people still don’t seem to understand quite what was so wrong with it.

    They choose not to.

    • John Morales

      You Glance Out Your Window and See a Shackled Black Slave and a Slavery-Justifying Bible Verse. What Do You Think?

      I’d think someone is making a linkage between Slavery-Justifying Bible Verses and Shackled Black Slaves.

      If I were curious about this, I’d examine it further, because I’d likely note that there’s writing there, too.

  • barbrykost

    When I first saw the billboard, I was enthusiastic about it, because the Bible’s endorsement of slavery was an important part of my rejection of that tome as a moral guide. When I read Sikivu Hutchinson’s blog, though, I looked at it again and recalled the disgusting KKK tracts that high schoolboys used to pass around in the ’60s. The graphic could even have come from one of them. Then I felt sickened by what I was seeing. I am so sorry that it happened, and I am glad that the billboard came down.
    As an aside, wouldn’t it have been better if those boys had been passing around pictures of adults having consensual sex? I’ll bet that was illegal, though

  • Ramel

    On the up side the background isn’t a nausea inducing colour, and the terrible picture appears to be in focus…

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Progress for the American Atheists billboard campaign, indeed.

  • michaeld

    Yeah… while I think the argument itself is valid I don’t know that it works well in the billboard medium. Especially in its current form where it takes a moments thought after you’ve read the whole billboard to get the argument. Just too complex and subtle an argument for billboards. You need to be clear and concise.

    It also doesn’t help that AA seems to prefer controversial messages to get media attention and then trying to be clear about what they mean at that point. AA really needs to hire/recruit someone with more experience in billboards or maybe just rethink their current strategy.

  • Physicalist

    You should get paid for explaining to the clueless.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      I believe he teaches 100-level philosophy courses, so he sort of does.

    • John Morales

      Aspiring philosophers are clueless?

      (Interesting claim)

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      100-level means getting a bunch students fulfilling a gen-ed requirement.

    • John Morales

      So, were you or I to take a 100-level course, we’d instantly become clueless?

  • Lyra

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a prime example of why it is so important that we include minorities when dealing with minority issues. When I (a white woman atheist) first read the billboard, I thought, “Yeah, that’s right! Yet another example on the evil ‘morals’ of the Bible. Boo on the Bible!” Then I read Sikivu Hutchinson’s post, and I was all, “Oh . . . oops.”

    What really makes me unhappy, though, is that so many people are refusing to listen to minorities who are discussing this issue. It is not okay to run around and say we are speaking up on behalf of minorities while simultaneously refusing to listen to the words of minorities. If we are even slightly interested in the well being of minorities (and not just interested in using them as weapons in our war), we need to LISTEN to them. And if we aren’t interested in their well being, we need to stop pretending that we are.

    • gregfromcos

      this is a prime example of why it is so important that we include minorities when dealing with minority issues.

      I’m pretty sure that is not true in this case. http://www.facebook.com/AmericanAtheists/posts/10150642111442418

      What really makes me unhappy, though, is that so many people are refusing to listen to minorities who are discussing this issue

      Refusing to listen to which minorities? Look through the threads at Friendly Atheist and AA FB page and you’ll find disagreement. If all African Americans agreed on this, I don’t think there would be any disagreement among the FreeThought community. But it’s just not the case.

      But I certainly wish they would have designed it better.

    • gregfromcos

      Sorry for the lack of quotes in the first and 3rd paragraph. :(

    • life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ

      gregfromcos, some of those are reasonable questions, though the “refusing to listen to which minorities?” one has an obvious answer: refusing to listen to those who don’t already agree with their preconception. To that, the obvious response will be “aren’t both sides doing that?” But there’s evidence that the answer is no.

      I’ve seen no one claim that AJ Johnson should feel hurt by this billboard, that she should be angry or disappointed, or that she should consider it racist. It’s not unreasonable for her to come to her conclusions about it; it’s an ambiguous situation about which reasonable people can disagree.

      But from the other side — look at some commenters in the recent Pharyngula thread for example — I have seen people claiming that it is unjustified and inappropriate for any black people to disagree about whether it’s racist, or to feel triggered by the imagery or feel used via the appropriation of their history to score cheap points; and asserting that white atheists should not even have to regard their opinions as worthy of serious consideration until these black folks file an appropriate grievance which appeals to the white atheist’s already crystallized weltanschauung.

      I assume the black atheists on either side are conversant enough with these issues that mutual consideration is being given — although AJ’s statement that she’s “disturbed to find dissent” gives me pause — but among white atheists, any evidence of actually making an effort to understand black folks on the other side only appears among those who dispute the billboard.

      So, that’s after the fact. Who should American Atheists have listened to before putting up the billboard? There’s two big problems with their pool of black consultants: small sample size, and at least one obvious selection bias. The problem with their sample size is obvious so I won’t belabor that point.

      The selection bias arises for two reasons: first, these are black atheists, not the target audience for deconversion (and they’re mostly longtime atheist activists, who may tend even further away from the target audience than, say, a black atheist who just realized his lack of belief a couple weeks ago);

      second, they’re not just atheists, and not just longtime atheist activists, they’re activist members of American Atheists who are thus familiar with the internal tendencies of that organization, and won’t even view the billboard like a black atheist activist who’s not involved with AA could. In short, their consultants are about as far from the target audience as they possibly could be.

      The right way to do this is harder, but the easy way they chose wasn’t worth doing. They should have hired an independent firm to design and perform statistically representative polls in neighborhoods demographically similar to the target neighborhood. This way the sample size of black folks consulted could be large enough to be predictive, and the selection bias inherent in asking atheists could have been largely avoided.

      As Pharyngula commenter Jadehawk put it: “Advertising (and that’s what you’re doing when you put up a billboard; you’re advertising yourself) is not about you. Why do you think companies shell out ridiculous amounts of money on customer-data? It’s because advertising is about your target audience, not about you. You want an effective message? You have to put in the bloody effort of researching what issues are perceived as relevant by that target audience; you have to make the effort to understand the cultural, historic, and socioeconomic context in which your message will appear, so that you can understand how to create one that will be read the way you want people to read it. [...] a failure to do the relevant research yet assuming that you can get your message across anyway is a manifestation of privilege (in this case, racial privilege); and the public recognition of and involvement with African Americans only when it’s rhetorically useful to score points against religion is just plain racist, because it erases them and reduces them to rhetorical devices”.

      If all African Americans agreed on this, I don’t think there would be any disagreement among the FreeThought community.

      Finally, this is just wishful thinking on your part. Issues which the overwhelming majority of African Americans agree on such as affirmative action, and even issues on which African Americans are almost unanimous like Title II of the CRA 1964, or the fact that black people are as intelligent as white people, are frequently disputed by large factions of white atheists.

    • gregfromcos

      Finally, this is just wishful thinking on your part. Issues which the overwhelming majority of African Americans agree on such as affirmative action… are frequently disputed by large factions of white atheists.”

      Is 58% of Black Americans really overwhelming support among African Americans for affirmative action? http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1240/sotomayor-supreme-court-affirmative-action-minority-preferences

      So I reiterate my point, that I don’t think there would be as much disagreement (albeit likely some outliers) if this were more agreed upon in the African American Atheist community. But there is disagreement.

  • consciousness razor

    Excellent post, but if you want to change any of the AA leader’s minds, you’ll need to put it on a billboard then shove it up their asses, because that’s apparently the only place they’re looking.

  • StevoR

    “You Glance Out Your Window and See a Shackled Black Slave and a Slavery-Justifying Bible Verse. What Do You Think?”

    What do I think?

    I think I’m in the wrong house on the wrong side of the planet and have travelled back in time!

    That’s what I’d think!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Here’s hoping your flux capacitor is not broken!

  • StevoR

    That or that I’m at a really, *really* bad taste fancy dress party.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

    And for your sake, here’s hoping you’re also white:

  • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

    Here’s your argument, in a nutshell: black people can’t handle intelligent discourse, and we must tiptoe around them so we can’t possibly offend any of them (though many of us make a hobby of annoying religious people of indeterminate race). The argument may have shifted (it was in the poor execution, not the message…), but it’s the same empty rhetoric.

    How paternalistic of you, thank goodness you’re all there to protect the poor, delicate sensibilities of the black simpleton…

    I’m curious what someone here would say to black atheists who supported the billboard. Do you just know better than them?

    [It was so easy to flip this nonsense argument around, because that's the nature of nonsense; it has no loyalty to truth or fiction.]

    Bottom line: another atheist billboard was vandalized because people can’t stand the basic freedom of speech.

    • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

      so what you’re saying is that 1)you’ve no idea how advertising works, and 2)you didn’t actually read this post, which started with Daniel explaining his own experience of ads

    • consciousness razor

      How paternalistic of you, thank goodness you’re all there to protect the poor, delicate sensibilities of the black simpleton…

      Is that what you call these people, or do you assume they don’t exist?

      Assuming they do exist (you know, just for the sake of argument) how do you respond to them?

    • julian

      How paternalistic of you, thank goodness you’re all there to protect the poor, delicate sensibilities of the black simpleton

      He’s the one being paternalistic?!

      Bottom line: another atheist billboard was vandalized because people can’t stand the basic freedom of speech.

      Ha! What a joke.

  • StevoR

    Uh, not that I’m likely to go to one of those bad taste fancy dress parties anyhow. Well not unless I know & like the people involved extremely well indeed.

    And now, non-African American readers, let’s engage in just a bit of empathy. Imagine you are a black American. Zooming down the highway barely processing what you are seeing, you briefly glimpse a Bible verse justifying slavery paired with a symbol of your ancestors’ systematic brutalization, dehumanization, and oppression. Your panicked thought as you are jolted and suddenly think some racist fringe group is putting up billboards promoting slavery is that you are being threatened and targeted, and that the racism you endure personally and see growing on the national stage is escalating. Your thought is probably something like, Holy Shit! The racist backlash to Obama’s presidency and to illegal immigration and the racism I encounter on a regular basis in my town and the local racism all over the local news is now culminating in billboards advocating a return to slavery!

    And then it turns out that it was just that the American Atheists—those predominantly white, know-it-all obnoxious people bashing the religion which probably forms a significant part of your identity—were just taking Bible verses “out of context” to try to change your whole worldview. That terrorizing scare they carelessly gave you by “ironically” threatening you with an appeal to the Bible and a depiction of your enslavement was just an attempt to get you to change your hermeneutics! Because, you know, that’s so important to you and that’s such an easily emotionally processed message, Average-Black-Person-Who-Was-Innocently-Driving-Down-The-Highway-In-Your-Racist-Country.

    ^ Quoted for truth. Well said & noted. I see your point very clearly here.

  • http://aratina.blogspot.com Aratina Cage

    You win for the funniest explanation so far that I’ve read of why that billboard was a bad–no, horrible–idea.

  • life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ

    please excuse this test for first-comment moderation

  • Gordon

    What you described, almost the entire way through, was the billboard being incredibly effective.

    People see it, they think “what the…”, they feel uncomfortable because slavery is immoral, but the bible verse is right there….

    I’m still seeing all this as a successful attempt to divert the public conversation away from how the bible is immoral.

  • csrster

    Apparently AA’s next billboard is going to be in Crown Heights and will show a picture of a heap of holocaust victims at Bergen-Belsen and the caption “And you still believe in God?”

    • julian

      Heh.

      There’s a demotivational poster like that out there. I’m sure we can spruce it up and make it billboard sized. There wouldn’t be anything inappropriate in hanging something like that up. After all, we’re just making a valid and fair observation of one of the many weaknesses in an all loving all powerful God.

  • http://becomingjulie.blogspot.com/ BecomingJulie

    It didn’t work, because it’s a complicated chain of logic. One that if you pick it up in the wrong place, will swing round and knock you over.

    We are living in an era where substance is less important than style. How we got into that state in the first place is a separate argument altogether, as is how we get out of it. Just for now: What you actually have to say doesn’t count for as much as how you say it.

    The sad fact is, facts are meaningless without the right spin. And AA desperately need a spin doctor to put the right spin on their message.

    • life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ

      No, this argument is still premised wrongly, that AA did not do anything substantively racist, and they were only misunderstood. That’s wrong. What they did was racist, even when fully understood.

      «“As apologies go, this one was horrible. [Brian Fields] apologized for the fact that others supposedly misunderstood what the billboard said, and in the process completely ignored the fact that many African-Americans found the billboard itself offensive. Obviously, the concerns of African-Americans are absolutely secondary to this groups desire to fight the year of the bible. The fact that driving by the billboard may have been triggering, or that the billboard amounted to gross appropriation — pales in comparison to the seriousness of the atheist agenda. No matter how worthy you believe your cause is, invoking an experience outside of your own personal background amounts to appropriation. It cheapens events like slavery and turns it into a cheap talking point.”»

  • revjimbob

    This article is thoughtful, weel-written, and absolutely spot-on.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    FFRF did a series a bit ago with verses from the Bible alongside of a humanist quote. It was good, it was worth the money.

    This… while the intent I understand being “the Bible is really a horrible book” is not pulled off well at all.

  • HumanisticJones

    This was one of those good “pointing out your privilege” moments for me. At first when I saw the billboard, I thought nothing wrong of it. Then I started seeing the complaints, hearing the arguments against it, etc. and I had to actually take a step back and think about it. I could just assume that there wasn’t a problem and that several people of different backgrounds all “mistakenly took offense” in the exact same way, or (and with less assumptions) decide that maybe there was a problem and that I missed it because of my own biases.

    This post pretty well sums up the reason I initially missed the issue. Because I’m already an atheist and think bible verses are pretty crap sources of morality, I’m not steeped in the “religion = endorsement of good” meme, and I’m sunburn on a full moon white so slavery images aren’t as personal to me. Bad mistake on the billboard, good teachable moment about stepping outside your own box before you try and fail at being controversial.

  • http://jfinite.blogspot.com Justin Bonaparte

    I am a black atheist. I love this billboard. Maybe that’s my black atheist bias showing through. :)

  • http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com/ peicurmudgeon

    These discussions are why I read Freethoughtblogs. When I first saw the billboard, I just thought of the superficial message and how it pointed out the negative lessons of the Bible. Although, I did think that certain people would read the large print and agree with it.

    Thanks to Daniel, the other writers and commenters here, I continue to learn.

  • phil zombi

    I initially saw this as a challenge to believers who had not read the bible all the way through. It seemed to me to be a way of saying “your holy book encourages slavery, how immoral is that?”

    I like that message but maybe there is just too much racial baggage that comes with it metaphorically speaking. I suppose there are plenty of other examples of god demanding abhorrent behavior from his people in the bible.

    Also, shock and awe is not necessarily the best way to start a conversation via billboard. Granted it has sparked debate within the atheist community. But I thought the point of these advertisement was to reach beyond the atheist blogosphere.

    • Kat in AZ

      I want their next billboard to cast light on one or two of the MANY quotes about murdering your child because god says so, or selling your daughters into slavery, etc.. with the current Repugnant War on Women, it might get even more attention than this one… But that’s just my thought.

      As for this message, I sent this blog post to my husband to read so we can discuss. As an intelligent, former-LDS, Black man, his opinion on this will matter to me greatly. I am a Nordic-descent woman raised atheist by a woman who valued the Quaker leanings of “all humans are equal”, so I know my objectivity may be skewed by lack of living with prejudice like my husband and his family.

  • julian

    In all seriousness, I would like to know who here would approve of the following pic being used as a tool for atheist propaganda or to spark some form of discussion (as a few here seem to believe the billboard was meant to.) Suppose instead of the snark it was something ‘earnest’ like “Gott mit uns.”

  • Eric Grivel

    Very well said!

  • benjdm

    I can’t follow this line of thinking at all. Those are my thoughts.

    So, now there you are, an average person, not already an atheist or particularly thoughtful about religion.

    In the U.S., too much time and energy gets devoted to religion for me to understand how anyone can be ‘not particularly thoughtful about religion.’

    But mostly the point was I didn’t care enough to pay the least bit of attention or think about what I was watching or hearing and so never processed it.

    See, I skip the middle step and turn off the things I’m not paying attention to. If it’s not worth consciously paying attention to, it’s certainly not worth letting my subconscious absorb it.

    That terrorizing scare they carelessly gave you by “ironically” threatening you with an appeal to the Bible and a depiction of your enslavement was just an attempt to get you to change your hermeneutics!

    So, simultaneously, I am supposed to imagine myself as someone who is ‘not particularly thoughtful about religion’ and someone who engages in hermeneutics (wiki says that is ‘the study of the theory and practice of interpretation.)

    I can’t do that.

    It may be a bad billboard, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to think like someone who is good at advertising. Or someone who isn’t at all thoughtful about religion and simultaneously believes their religion is true and good.

  • hypatiasdaughter

    My first reaction was shock at the “rawness” of the image; but I thought it made a strong point about the ugliness of slavery. However, as a mother, I try to imagine some Afro-American parent trying to explain the image to their child. A parent may expect that their child will learn the facts about black slavery in a text book, not on the street on the way to school or the swimming pool. So I can understand it would anger many people.

    OTOH, the average xtian is so ignorant about the Bible that I suspect many did not realize that Colossians is a book in the Bible. Maybe prefacing the quote with “THE BIBLE SAYS….” in big letters may have made the message clearer.

    Question: if the image had been of slaves working in the cotton fields, rather than a man in shackles, would it have been less offensive?

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    Another reminder that privileged people don’t “get” trigger warnings. I don’t myself, but I’m improving.

    TRiG.

    • John Morales

      What, you’re becoming less privileged?

      (It’s either that, or it’s not true that “privileged people don’t “get” trigger warnings”)

    • Timothy (TRiG)

      Privileged people (and that is, of course, a scale, not a binary) are far less likely to need trigger warnings. I can think of only one occasion where I’ve paid any attention to one. And I suspect I’ll never quite “get” them: they’ll never be instinctive to me, as they are to some people. But I’m starting to use them, some of the time, in my own blogging, where I suspect they’ll be useful.

      TRiG.

    • John Morales

      Well, you ‘got’ my point, so there’s that! :)

      Let me elaborate: one can get things intellectually, though not viscerally.

      (It may not be the same grokking, but it’s not of irrelevance)

  • John Morales

    [meta + OT]

    Have you considered increasing the nesting level (or even ditching nesting altogether), Prof. Fincke?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      multiple nesting levels were becoming impossible for people to keep track of. 1 level of nesting keeps major topics together without confusing branches. It’s been a good compromise. A few people get tripped up figuring out it’s a 1 nest level but that’s inevitable under any plan.

  • mbjstl

    The message they were trying to purvey is valid,but the method of delivery didn’t work.I have used the same biblical quotation,and other equally absurd ones,in discussions with believers.Most believers are very defensive when the validity of their religion is questioned on ANY level,and no amount of reason seems to have an effect,so I doubt if any presentation,regardless of content, would have not offended most of them.


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