Atheist Group Counters Times Square Creationist Ad with One of Its Own

Earlier this week, Answers in Genesis and its Creationist leader Ken Ham began a $200,000 ad campaign that included a sign in New York’s Times Square reading “Thank God You’re Wrong,” a message to their “atheist friends”:

Today, the Freedom From Religion Foundation responded with a digital ad in the exact same space:

FFRF, a state/church watchdog and the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), has enlisted “Saturday Night Live” alum Julia Sweeney for its rejoinder. One cube of the billboard features Sweeney’s smiling face, the other her quote: “OMG, there is no god!”

FFRF’s message will be displayed on the same digital billboard at the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue as the Answers in Genesis Christian message saying. “To all our atheist friends: Thank God you’re wrong.”

“A fifth of the U.S. population identifies as nonbelievers. We don’t thank a nonexistent god, we put faith in each other and human ingenuity,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Madison, Wis.-based association. “We believe in deeds, not creeds. We believe the only afterlife that ought to concern us is leaving our descendants a secure and pleasant future.”

This marks the third ad in Times Square placed by FFRF.

Last year, in June, FFRF put up an ad reading “Put Women’s Rights Over Bishops’ Wrongs”:

Also, in December of 2011, they also put up a “Reason’s Greetings” billboard in the “heart of the Theater District“:

Of course, the most publicized atheist ad ever in Times Square was probably American Atheists’ “Keep the merry! Dump the myth!” campaign from a year ago:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Jasper

    Are we reading the same billboards?

  • Paula M Smolik

    No, you! No, you! No, you! Some of them might change their minds eventually. I did.

  • momtarkle

    THIS IS WAR! Let us kneel and pray.

  • EdmondWherever

    I’m curious… is the photo of the Ken Ham billboard an actual picture, or a photoshop of what it WILL look like, eventually? I’ve never been to NY, and I don’t know how those digital boards actually look, but the blue billboard part looks brighter than anything else, and it’s not showing any shadow as it bends around the corner. The other ads in the other photos all show signs of glare and shading. Also the bottom edge of the left section looks more pixelated than anything else in the image, even other slanted lines. Not a criticism, I’m not calling fakery, I’m well aware that sometimes a mock-up has to be produced to show the target end-product. I’m just checking if that’s the case here. Is this ad not actually up yet? Is it possible that Ham cannot put together the funding (a bit like his Ark)?

    • JohnnieCanuck

      It’s an electronic display, like a giant computer screen. It appears brighter because it is. Probably the pixelation you detect is just that, rows of pixels, partially obscured by the base of the sign.

      Their ad is actually animated, with the design elements and text moving about. Also they are time sharing with several other ads that appear on the display.

      This is what it looks like:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYC7vZLQPWU

      • Gus

        Is the FFRF ad timesharing in the same period? Because that would make it interesting, if it switched from one ad to the other throughout the day. Then we could get really creative with the rejoinders…

        • JohnnieCanuck

          It’s in the exact same place, according to the FFRF page in one of the links above.

          Depending on when you first look at it, one of them follows and appears to reply to the other.

      • EdmondWherever

        Ok, interesting, thanks for the info.
        Although, I remain (ahem) skeptical that the pixelation is due to pixels from the ad. That billboard has to be about 30 feet high, and the pixels must be tiny in comparison, especially in that photo. the staggered little marks I see look as if they were each about a foot long. Pixels seen from the camera which took the shot shouldn’t be visible. It really looks more like an artifact of photoshopping, as if someone wanted to say, “This is how our ad will appear”.
        Also, this is not Times Square. It is the corner of 8th Ave & W 42nd St, 5 blocks from Times Square. But that’s a minor quibble. Like I say, I don’t know NY, maybe they call that whole area Times Square.

  • EdmondWherever

    Billboards of Adam Sandler movies denounce Adam Sandler.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    Who can piss farther? Place your bets!

    • Michael

      Probably Joe Klein.

      • aaa

        Thank god you never see Joe Klein pissing.

        • JohnnieCanuck

          Don’t look Ethel, I said. But it was too late. She’d already been…

          • Donaving

            The Streeeeeeaker….!

  • Heidi McClure

    I really love what the FFRF people do, but I don’t get the point of this. I’m sure they have better things to do with their money.

    • Beth

      Part of it is fund-raising and advertising. Part of it is a middle finger to someone who is telling atheists to go to hell.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the awareness raised by AiG. Alone the FFRF ad wouldn’t get much attention. Along AiG’s, it’ll create all kinds of news stories about the “billboard war”. Maybe we can get Annie or Dan on Fox ;-)

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    Don’t these sorts of duels usually involve a couple of banjos? Or maybe a golden fiddle?

  • Randy Meyer

    I am loving this billboard ‘war.’

    • Itarion

      It’s more of a duel than anything. There are rules, see. The rules outlined by the owners of the advertisement spots, at least.

      [ominous]War has no rules.[/ominous]

  • TopHatProfessor1014

    Eh, I don’t really care about Christians putting up ads just as long as all other religious and secular groups get their fair share as well.

  • averydashwood

    I don’t know how anyone could look at that billboard and still believe in a loving, merciful God. I mean seriously, Adam Sandler?

  • HollowGolem

    My response would have been much simpler than FFRF’s.

    “Prove it.”

    • Tiernoc

      Yeah, I would have purchased some billboard space right below or next to it saying that :D

    • CultOfReason

      My response would have been Ken’s favorite:

      “Were you there?”

      • Sanguinocrat

        When a theist asks, the reply should always be “yes” and “prove I wasn’t.”

        • elbonneb

          It’s possible to prove an individual isn’t 2000+ years old…

          • Hive

            But is it possible to prove that I was not reborn into this body after being there? If theists are going to use ridiculous reason then why not throw it back at them.

            When they are shouting “your reasoning is stupid” maybe they will have an eye opening moment.

          • Timmah

            Maybe I have access to a TARDIS. Prove that I don’t.

          • korinthian

            How would you do that?

    • Ed Adams

      to them the bible is proof.

  • Skepacabra

    [facepalm]

    Ken Ham handed us a giant PR victory! All we had to do to win this one was literally nothing! How the atheist movement managed to still fuck it up is astounding. How fucking hard is it to hire a competent PR person who will tell you when you’re being a moron?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I wish FFRF had come up with something more clever than a tit-for-tat “There is no God.” Ken Ham made his statement first. That gave the FFRF the opportunity to reply with something creative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking instead of this inane and boring “Is too!”/”Is not!” sandbox debate.

    I know this objection suggests that I should be the one to propose that creative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking reply, but I can’t think of anything yet, and by the time I or someone far cleverer than me does, it will be too late.

    • badgerchild

      The mere presence of the atheist billboard is a statement. That statement could, perhaps, be inferred to be, “Yeah, if your God is what you say he is, why do you have to snipe at us, and how could it be possible for us to snipe back?”

    • JET

      How about just quoting one of their most absurd statements. “Jesus rode a dinosaur.” – Ken Ham, AIG.

  • UWIR

    This is directed to Ken Ham’s atheist friends? Rather odd to pay for an ad directed at a nonexistent audience.

  • DougI

    Fundies will whine about persecution if Atheists keep on showing that they have rights too.

  • JustinL

    I’m actually a little confused by this billboard. Is this ordering US to thank God we’re wrong, or is it an expression of relief on THEIR part? And WHICH God? Atheists aren’t the only ones who don’t believe in your deity. Doesn’t this technically apply to all non-Christians?

  • anniewhoo

    I think Ken Ham came up with the best atheist billboard yet. “To all (that implies there are many) our atheist (they actually do exist!) friends (and they can be nice enough people that we call them friends!). His billboard has managed to express rather nice things about atheists, as unintentional as the message may have been. The other side? I’m just ignoring that.

  • davin cleary

    Oh yeah this makes me so happy! Much happier than religion ever made me

  • Mando44646

    I wish they had tailored a message to that specific billboard. I think it would have been much more effective

  • Lauryn

    Thanks for covering this Hemant! We at FFRF are excited about our new Sweeney billboard. She’s a wonder to work with.

  • batman dad

    Really? That’s the best we could come up with?

  • The Truth

    There is no proof to either side… there is no proof he exists and there is no proof he doesn’t. Making a freakin add campaign to convince people he doesnt exist is as bad as them putting that sign saying he does. It’s taking it too far, let people believe if they want to or live they way they want to, that add campaign money (from both sides) couldve been used to feed the hungry, fund some medical research, maybe some environmental cause, or make some sick kids happy, etc etc… I am a non-believer, but i think none of the sides here should be proud of this.

    • iamgog

      I think “missing the point” accurately describes your fence-sitting finger-wagging. I sincerely doubt that the intent of the FFRF’s message is to convince people that gods don’t exist, but an in-kind retort to the snide message that AiG sends with their billboard.

      Maybe that does make it a matter of pride, but why should an organization whose sole purpose is to assert the rights of the non-religious to be free of the influence of religious authorities do anything else? This can be done in tandem with socially conscious efforts to reduce human suffering, which is often less about money and more about the desire to do good and individuals donating their time more than their money. After all, it’s easy enough to throw money at a cause and feel like you’ve done your part.

    • Thom Yorke Siegel

      “Proof he doesn’t”

      I don’t think you’ve thought this through…

      More importantly, even though I actually agree with you that a billboard saying “There’s no god!” is rather juvenile, it’s certainly better than if non-theists don’t start vocalizing. The effects of mythology on our political process are far-reaching and horrendous. It’s time to change that. We are running out time very quickly, in fact.

    • KelpieLass

      There is no proof of unicorns
      There is no proof of leprechauns
      There is no proof of martians landing on earth
      There is no proof of flying teapots orbiting the earth
      There is no proof of the god apollo pulling the sun across the sky with a chariot

      Not believing in something that has no proof is not the same as believing in something that has no proof.

  • _7654_

    Remember, Xmas … is coming ;-)

  • Francophag

    I read this post as I was on my way to the a meeting right near the billboard, so I had to check it out. The only thing that would make it better would be if the FFRF ad immediately followed the AIG one, but there are a few others in between.

  • momtarkle

    The story is cooling down, but you might like this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cynthia-jeub/why-the-atheists-youre-wr_b_4066411.html

    Don’t miss the comments!

  • tesmith47

    cool

  • Brian Baldwin

    If the running of this world is an example of God’s best
    work then God isn’t doing very well. If we follow God’s example we would
    live every man for himself, where the strong feed on the weak, where inequities
    and injustice flourish through overbearing pursuit of self interest, where
    survival is based upon irrational chance as much as any action or preparation,
    and where there is no time for love or for good well because overcoming the
    threatening, toxic world that ends all in death and oblivion would consume all
    our energies. Thankfully, the things we value most, hope, charity and trust,
    come from with in us and exist in us in spite of God’s world. These are clearly
    not things of God’s world, they don’t exist on earth or in the elements or the
    forces in the universe. They only exist in our minds and hearts and in
    our lives. We make them, not God, and we alone seek to secure and
    preserve them.


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