While I admire American Atheists’ chutzpah for operating deep in hostile territory, I think their strategy is misguided. This Christmas season they are showing billboards in the Bible Belt with little children saying things like “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.” I don’t think this is the best use of their resources, for several reasons.
(Image via The Telegraph)
First, I don’t think billboards are the proper venue for selling ideas. Pickup trucks? Sure. Gym memberships? Yep. But not philosophy, especially when that philosophy is already divisive, nationally and locally. I think it will only preach to the (very small) choir while encouraging True Believers™ to double down on their beliefs. I feel a twinge of nausea every time I see a billboard with some scripture telling me how much of a sinner I am.
Second, portraying little kids as not wanting to go to church only feeds into the anxiety of the True Believer™. They already think society is going to hell in an immoral hand basket, so showing images of impish children will only motivate them to shield their little one’s eyes from the abomination. They already believe that kids don’t need encouragement to indulge their sin-nature.
And finally, if you absolutely must utilize billboards, use them to highlight the social and political consequences of fundamentalist Christianity. Polls have consistently found that younger generations are rejecting it because they view it as “too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
I don’t think that the people American Atheists are targeting are that concerned with the metaphysical issue of Christianity—they’re more concerned with the moral or social issue. By all means target that. Put up an image of just about any politician and his (yes, it’s always a “he”) quotes about women, gays, or any other minority—including nonbelievers.
Selling an ideology on billboards just doesn’t deliver much bang for the buck.