How Not To Run a Public Relations Campaign

The Internet Infidels News Wire linked to a story today about a Pennsylvania town which refuses to include an atheist banner as part of a holiday display. I understand the church-state issues involved, but I scratch my head when I try to make sense of the public relations strategy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) here. I understand why they want to have a holiday display to represent atheism alongside religious displays, but I don’t understand what they hope to accomplish with the banner they selected. The rejected banner, supplied by the FFRF and identical to other signs they have used for years, says:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

It seems to me such a banner does nothing to improve the public image of atheists while there is a significant chance it will reinforce negative stereotypes of atheists. Unlike like a Nativity scene and symbols pertaining to Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, that message celebrates nothing; instead, it is confrontational. As the mayor of the Pennsylvania town said, “Nothing in our [Nativity] display challenges or puts down what others believe. I don’t think you can say that about the banner the group is supposed to be sending.” I agree.

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