You KNOW That’s a Shitty Ad Campaign

Look, I’m not insulting the American Atheists. These aren’t insults, they’re truths.

Allow me to describe the ad in question, for our visually impaired readers: the headline is “You KNOW they’re all SCAMS”. The image is a bunch of silhouetted carnival tents with religious symbols balanced precariously and impossibly on top of them. The slogan is “American Atheists • Telling the Truth since 1963″.

Let me say one thing before I go on: this ad can most likely be branded a success because it accomplished what I can only assume was the ultimate goal — it caused enough commotion to get this guy on Bill O’Reilly:

I know I know I know, Bill O’Reilly says he doesn’t know how the tides work and he thinks that’s proof of a god. LOL. FYI: Bill O’Reilly knows how the tides work and he knows that pretending his homespun simpleton brain is awed by this mystical experience will appeal to his fan base. So yeah let’s forget about that and focus on this:

SILVERMAN: We’re luring the atheists out of the pews.

O’REILLY: You’re luring them out . . . ?

S: We are . . . we’re telling them that this is not a 1% . . .

O: So they’re going to see a sign and say, “You know what, that’s right . . . ”

S: If that’s not the case then I’m not here on the O’Reilly Factor now am I?

I guess he’s saying the goal is to reach out to closeted atheists, and getting shouted down on the O’Reilly Factor means mission accomplished? Okay David Silverman! Good job dressing up like Satan on Fox News. Big success, bro! High five! (I assume all people with facial hair like that use the word “bro” liberally while high-fiving. Beelzebub loves a good high five.)

But the thing is, all religious people are closet atheists, apparently:

S: Everybody knows religion is a scam!

O: Everybody knows? I don’t know . . .

S: Yes, you do.

OH okay thanks David Silverman. So then this billboard is meant to be directed to everyone. Everyone who KNOWS religions are SCAMS. Which he says is everyone. Okay, got it. Thanks for telling me that truth, Truthy McTrutherson.

Maybe this billboard really will help lure some of the atheists out of the pews. Maybe there are a lot of atheists going to church in that area who see this sign or watch that O’Reilly Factor and think, “Hey, I’m a giant douchesuck and I enjoy spending time with other douchesucks. I will attend this meeting.” Because really, even douchesuck atheists need their own space to gather and talk about how much smarter they are than everybody else.

But I know there are some organizations out there who want to reach out to other kinds of closeted atheists, like the closeted atheists who don’t necessarily think the religious people around them are all secretly atheists who are too spineless to say anything. Maybe your organization, like apparently AA, doesn’t have a seasoned copywriter or designer on staff. Maybe you only have a guy who has a pirated version of Photoshop 7 and knows how to use the gradient tool. That’s okay! You can still make a better ad than AA’s. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t CAPITALIZE the WORDS you think are IMPORTANT. People will think that you are SHOUTING AT THEM or using INTERNET IRONY (see image at right). If you must indicate emphasis, try italics.
  • Don’t claim to have the Truth. Many atheists consider themselves freethinkers who test their beliefs using logic and reason. They generally don’t enjoy being told what the Truth is by some third party. That is what religions tend to do and it is fucking annoying.
  • Is that thing seriously a billboard? (Really: I do not know.) Don’t make your billboard look like a banner ad you pulled off your Geocities site in 1995. When in doubt, go for simplicity. If you can’t draw a mosque silhouette, don’t bother trying.
  • Double check the spelling, punctuation, and grammar on your explanatory web page. Try to avoid possibly derogatory words like “gypped.”

I hope that helps! If anyone from AA is reading, I sincerely hope you are not insulted by my truths. I look forward to receiving an invitation to your next conference, where I will give my helpful talk Consecutive Hyphens, All-Cap Words, Double Spaces After Periods, and Other Things You Don’t Need to Do Now that Typewriters are Gone.

Avatar of Rebecca Watson
Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

80 Comments

  1. Avatar of kylev

    But at least it gave Steven Colbert the opportunity to show that Neil deGrasse Tyson is GOD!

  2. Avatar of scribe999

    Yeah, this is disappointing. The Christmas billboard at the Lincoln Tunnel was amusing and somewhat useful. Now this is becoming pretty condescending and, as you pointed out, an example of poor craftmanship in terms of ad creation.

    However, the ‘Tides’ stuff from O’Reilly did lead to Neil deGrasse Tyson being named a deity, so there is that.

  3. Avatar of mrthumbtack

    Absolutely true Rebecca.
    As an actual member of American Atheists, I get the magazine and, let me tell you, the graphic design is just as bad. When I read it (which I seldom do) I definitely get the impression that their target audience is an older demographic.

  4. Avatar of John

    Capslock is Internet for AWESOME.

  5. Avatar of wrd

    The graphic design on both billboards truly is a crime against us all.

  6. Avatar of statueofmike

    If it was a banner ad, or an email, then a lot of those internet faux pas would be easily criticized. The ad actually is a billboard, though, and not necessarily aimed at people who spend all day online. Don’t many billboards use all caps and other terrible message board habits? Yeah, because they’re billboards.

  7. Avatar of Sam Ogden

    @kylev:

    Classic.

  8. Avatar of Rebecca Watson

    @statueofmike: “Don’t many billboards use all caps . . . ”

    Shitty ones, yes.

    (Note: this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do well, and of course if it’s an all-cap font then that’s different from using caps to stress individual words.)

  9. Avatar of vargonian

    I’ve never been a fan of American Atheists and will not support them, not because they’re “meany heads” or anything like that, but because they insert all sorts of unnecessary plurality when describing atheism and atheists.

    They even have blatant fallacies on their “about atheism” page which I’ve had to waste time distancing myself from countless times.

    Unlike that page implies, atheism in no way implies rationality, or skepticism, or materialism, or love of mankind, etc. It’s a lack of belief in a deity; that’s it.

  10. Avatar of DataJack

    Uh oh, I am an ardent fan of the double spaces after periods.

    I agree it’s an eye sore of an ad, though. I really hate to say this, but I agree with O’ Reilly (blech!) – it is an insult to tell someone their beliefs are a scam. That doesn’t make it less true though.

    Perhaps they should have said “you know every tent but yours is a scam”. :)

  11. Avatar of Brian G

    Nice job Rebecca. I watched cringed through that video when you linked it on Twitter yesterday. In addition to your design notes I would add that black, white and red is just about the most aggressive color scheme you can use. (Also, black, white and red is the color scheme of the friggin’ Empire in Star Wars. I mean…)

  12. Avatar of Saganist

    But the REALLY important word uses both caps AND italics. That’s how you KNOW it’s REALLY IMPORTANT and TRUE.

  13. Avatar of MarianLibrarian

    Oh god, I’ve been saying that typing SEEMINGLY random WORDS in all caps in ORDER to emphasize words that don’t NECESSARILY need to be EMPHASIZED is the sure sign of CRAZY for a long TIME.

  14. Avatar of Zapski

    Ugh, and that seems like me to be the worst way to phrase that sentiment. I don’t think I’d be convinced by the word “Scam” in any event. That comes across as too simplistic, too pithy, and too worn out an argument to make.

    You know how we all roll our eyes automatically at the tired canards of creationists? Well I’m pretty sure they automatically roll their eyes at the word “scam.”

    It’s a lame approach.

  15. Avatar of statueofmike

    @RebeccaWatson
    “@statueofmike: “Don’t many billboards use all caps . . . ”

    Shitty ones, yes. ”

    Now you’re just begging the question.

  16. Avatar of Karla McLaren

    Well, wait, what were American atheists doing before 1963? We’re they lying?

  17. Avatar of Expatria

    Rebecca knocked this one out of the park, though I guess it doesn’t help that Silverman and AA tossed her a lazy, floating meatball of a pitch.

    We can spend days discussing and debating the best way to do outreach for a group that, by its very nature, should be diametrically opposed to proselytizing. There are legitimate arguments all around, and there’s room for more than one view — the whole “don’t be a dick” vs. “be a total dick” thing is a false dichotomy, after all. There’s something to be said for always using the right tool for each facet of a job rather than always using a hammer.

    But all of that said, this AA campaign sucks, hard, on every level (especially, as noted, its graphic design). People say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and maybe sometimes that’s right. But for this guy to go on O’Reilly — a show where, let’s face it, you’re not likely to find many sympathetic viewers to begin with — and push such a needlessly antagonistic version of what atheists are about… well, that’s doing more harm than good. How many people watched that show and thought “Yep, atheists are god-hating, mean-spirited douchenozzles, just like I always thought?”

    A better approach, and a less pompously garish campaign, could have left a few people saying, “Huh, well some of these atheists ain’t all that bad, and it’s a shame they’re all going to hell” instead.

    Is that small of a difference of opinion worth fighting for? I don’t know, but I tend to think every bit helps. I’m not saying one should be a conciliatory care bear. Just that, you know, sometimes making good points in a reasonable way works better than saying “This is the truth, and you all know it, so neener neener neener!”

  18. Avatar of quarksparrow

    Pfft. Atheism? You can’t eat that.

    It’s sort of the complement to, “All atheists are just believers who hate God.” Like an asshat Necker cube.

  19. Avatar of DangerousTalk

    Yeah, I have to agree with you on this one Rebecca. I like the UnitedCoR billboards much better. I also talked about this on my blog recently. Here is the link is anyone is interested:
    Atheists vs. Pundits
    -Staks

  20. Avatar of scribe999

    I pray to the all-powerful Atheismo that they come up with a better ad next time

  21. Avatar of Scopes Monkey Matt

    I’m worried Silverman’s getting so much Foxey love because he’s not very good — or perhaps I should say, he’s good at making atheists look bad.

  22. Avatar of B Hitt

    I was thoroughly unimpressed with David Silverman in the debate (w/ Chris Mooney and Hemant Mehta) that they played on Point of Inquiry. Mooney intellectually dominated him and made him look kind of foolish.

    @kylev: “Kneel before Neil!” Now that’s a deity worthy of praise.

  23. Avatar of Expatria

    @B Hitt:

    Uh oh… this guy is out there representing atheists, and Chris Mooney “intellectually dominated” him? CHRIS MOONEY?!

    Cue Phil Plait’s cat vs. mouse “DOOMED” picture… :-P

  24. Avatar of Corey Feldman

    @RebeccaWatson very nicely written.

  25. Avatar of Garbledina

    I concur. On every point. Last night I posted on facebook some comments from a Salon article about Jenny MaCarthy, to illustrate the typical insane, tinfoil-hat-wearing nutjob that typically crawls out of the woodwork to defend poor innocent Jenny whenever some Big Pharma Shill journalist writes something critical of her. They all look pretty much like this:

    Let’s not get into how, overwhelmingly, the scientists and academics behind all of these CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY are LIBERALS liberal liberals. Egghead perverts who believe that everyone BUT THEY ought to DIE.

    I don’t know why I expect atheists to be more grammar and design savvy. There is no rational basis for it. I just do. And then I am brought back down to earth…

    And this campaign is irksome. There is a big difference between a myth and a scam, and certainly the AA has no monopoly on Truth (or truthiness). I think it’s a very shitty campaign indeed.

    But I do like sexy astrophysicists being given opportunities to appear on popular tv shows! That is made of win.

  26. Avatar of Cleon

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Message to AA: Imitating the arrogance of fundamentalists is not going to win you any friends or convince anyone to rethink their beliefs.

  27. Avatar of ninjaplatypus

    Yeah. As much as it was amusing to make fun of the whole “tides” thing, I really thought that this guy was cringe-worthy. I think that the billboard is more insulting and far less witty than other atheist billboards have been, and I thought his arguments were poorly thought out.

    I’d prefer to be represented by someone more polite, and also someone who makes better arguments. And I really think if the goal is to reach out to more people who may be considering atheism that being insulting is perhaps not the best way.

  28. Avatar of mrmisconception

    So, are we feeling superior to the people who think they are superior because we know we aren’t superior and don’t like others who share one of our labels to pretend to be superior which shows that they are not superior which makes us feel superior to them therefore proving us right and wrong at the same time? I am in an Abbott and Costello sketch.

    This is some awful design, all of it, from the text to the graphic design to the website a complete mess. And it’s from an organization that I wish did a better job at these sorts of things. And I know that theist look for anything that they can point at to call atheists intolerant or ignorant or arrogant. I get all that. We are not all perfect, wish we were, but we’re not. The bottom line is, this is one atheist organization and, while I realize I may have to bat down some of the softballs they have given to the theists, I don’t have a problem with walking away from them and letting them act like intolerant fucktards if that’s what they wish to do. No skin of my nose.

    It all comes down to the question of how we deal with organizations that should be allies when the do something we disagree with. Do you completely distance yourself from a group if it joins “the wrong side” of a debate (like CFI America did recently on the “ground zero mosque”)? Do you refuse to support in any way a skeptical organization if its leader says something seemingly unskeptical (like when Randi had the questionable climate change post)? Can you still laugh at, like, or watch celebrities that have shown themselves to be uncritical or intolerant (if so Hollywood would be ghost town, as would Washington)? We all have our bouts with foot-in-mouth disease; just ask Brian Dunning, or Richard Dawkins, or Penn & Teller, or… well, you get the picture.

    I have answers to these question that apply to me only, and I can give opinions on those answers, but each of you have your own lines that dare not be crossed. I no longer find Bill Maher as funny as I once did. He hasn’t really changed, my view of him has changed and will likely remain changed. I used to think Jenny McCarthy was funny, I can’t watch her do anything anymore without wanting to vomit, but I will still watch Jim Carrey movies; but not interviews. Why? Who knows, personal tastes I suppose. That and Mr. Carrey is far funnier than Ms. McCarthy.

    I know things like this make the skeptic’s “job” harder but I don’t see Christians fretting about Fred Phelps and his crew. Perhaps we should take that as a lesson. $.02

    well, maybe $.04

  29. Avatar of ScottK

    @MarianLibrarian:

    @MarianLibrarian:

    The champion of random capitalization is Robert E. McElwaine. Look him up if you’re ever a quart low on broad-spectrum internet crankery.

    “UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT information is ENCOURAGED”.

  30. Avatar of Luciano

    I too agree with Rebecca’s criticims of this THINGY.
    Furthermore, while a lot of the religion-bashing that goes on online and in real life has some value, some of the time, I’m convinced that there is a strong, felt need to do something different.
    It seems to me that it would be important to address and defeat at the level of the “battle of ideas” some of stronger arguments in favour of a liberal religious outlook.
    For anybody interested, I’ve written an entry in my blog: http://skept-atheist.blogspot.com/2011/01/project-for-new-year.html

  31. Avatar of mrmisconception

    Aww, html tag failure. bummer. :(

  32. Avatar of jes3ica

    @mrmisconception: “So, are we feeling superior to the people who think they are superior because we know we aren’t superior and don’t like others who share one of our labels to pretend to be superior which shows that they are not superior which makes us feel superior to them therefore proving us right and wrong at the same time? I am in an Abbott and Costello sketch.”

    COTW!

  33. Avatar of Danarra

    Completely unrelated rant – feel free to ignore.
    We need a different name.
    I cannot be the only one running into this situation over and over again. I was working with a co-worker today who proudly declared himself a Skeptic. It was a verbal conversation but he absolutely used it as a title and a group affiliation. Having run into misunderstandings before I cautiously brought up evolution (which he was enthusiastic about) and Carl Sagan.
    That’s when he launched into the explanation of all the alien contact we’ve had on Earth and how aliens have been genetically engineering our development. Oh! And according to this co-worker there’s lots of proof. Trying to obey Wheaton’s Law, I gently mentioned that he might want to look at the context surrounding his arguments. That’s when he said the Bible had it all written down and it was actually given to us from the Sumerians. I was just grateful it wasn’t Xenu.
    I love the Skeptical community. Y’all are great fun. But I am begging somebody to come up with another word we can use to identify ourselves, cause this one ain’t exactly screening out the crazies.
    I don’t care if we call ourselves Brights, Humanists, Saganites, or Dandelion Fudgecicles. Just something that is not in common use among people with the exact opposite understanding of the world.
    Having said that, I completely realize that whatever name comes to symbolize critical thinking will be appropriated by groups that have no intention of thinking critically. And Skepchick is a fun play on words. And the whole movement is already under way so complaining about the chosen identifier is so much wasted energy.
    But damnit! Doesn’t anybody else get tired of seeing some Ghost hunting fool calling themselves a Skeptic? Doesn’t it bother anybody else that your friends and family think you share a worldview with someone on the Discovery Channel actively promotoing 2012 nonsense? Am I the only one who sometimes gets confused by the difference between Global Warming Skeptics (for example) and Skeptics in general?
    Isn’t the great thing about Science how it self-corrects? Can’t we admit we chose a confusing word for group id and choose a new one now?
    Pretty Please?

  34. Avatar of DangerousTalk

    If you think this campaign is bad, wait until you hear about the one AA is planning next. I heard some inside info and it isn’t good.

  35. Avatar of BeardofPants

    @John: COTW!

  36. Avatar of Evelyn

    Bravo, Rebecca! Thank you for this post.

  37. Avatar of jrpowell

    @Cleon:
    Message to AA: Imitating the arrogance of fundamentalists is not going to win you any friends or convince anyone to rethink their beliefs.

    We’re not the target audience for the billboards or the O’Reilly show appearance.

    Isn’t it possible that many of the folks he is trying to reach were lured in by loudmouth fundamentalists, and that maybe those same folks can be reached by a loudmouth atheist?

  38. Avatar of Saganist

    @Danarra: As Michael Bolton once said, “Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks.” I don’t think there’s a bulletproof label, and I think the word skeptic is as pithy and close to accurate as possible, despite its unfortunate and increasingly frequent misuse.

  39. Avatar of BayAreaGuy

    Wow, I’ve never read such a clear case of jealousy in my life. What’s so “sucky” about this ad campaign? Does it not live up to your echo of Phil Plait’s admonition (aka, the latest ass-kissing-motto in the Atheist movement)? And your constant use of the term douche is not only sophomoric, but also betrays another type of bandwagon effect (not unlike the current idiotic zombie craze every geek under 40 seems to be obsessed with).

    Do you actually have anything factual to present to criticize this billboard? Is there any evidence that it’s anymore or less effective than, say, the “There’s Probably No God” campaign that you all couldn’t stop raving and Facebooking about? Is your best argument really summed up by complaining about the typeset or your assessment of his mosque silhouette?

    Perhaps this isn’t about the ad at all. Maybe you’re simply jealous that this guy (with or without good taste in facial hair patterning) got himself on tv, while the only attention you garner is once a year at TAM (where your flight, entry fee, and extravagant room are all paid for by our $500 ticket price)? I mean, I haven’t exactly witnessed you showing the kind of respect and humbleness that you demand of this guy; in fact, you’re one of the most arrogant and full-of-herself people I’ve seen at TAM, and the way you talk to the audience, you’d think you were the only one in the room with any education or experience in the sciences (if you had as much as you act like you have, you’d be presenting at a REAL science conference, not at TAM, btw).

  40. Avatar of Rebecca Watson

    @BayAreaGuy: Rowr! You’re right, I think this is a clear cut case of jealousy!

    EDIT: and should I have been getting a free extravagant room for all these TAMs??? Randi, DJ et al have a lot to answer for, I’ll say.

  41. Avatar of mrthumbtack

    @jrpowell: You make an interesting point. I was on board mostly with Rebecca’s criticism of the design, frankly, the text is pretty ugly, and the graphics are rather sub-par. The message doesn’t particularly bother me one way or another. I just think AA could do better.

  42. Avatar of mrmisconception

    It could have been worse; they could have used comic sans. :)

  43. Avatar of Brian G

    @BayAreaGuy:

    Oh great! A gibberish contest! Let me try.

    The main theme of the works of Gibson is the role of the writer as reader. Therefore, Bataille uses the term ‘capitalist discourse’ to denote the stasis, and thus the failure, of neostructuralist sexual identity.

    “Society is elitist,” says Foucault; however, according to Dietrich[1] , it is not so much society that is elitist, but rather the defining characteristic, and subsequent dialectic, of society. The characteristic theme of Geoffrey’s[2] essay on semantic pretextual theory is a submaterialist whole. It could be said that the collapse of the capitalist paradigm of reality prevalent in Eco’s The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas emerges again in Foucault’s Pendulum, although in a more mythopoetical sense.

    The primary theme of the works of Eco is not discourse, as Lyotard would have it, but neodiscourse. Scuglia[3] implies that we have to choose between capitalist discourse and Lyotardist narrative. In a sense, Foucault’s model of semantic pretextual theory suggests that the task of the observer is significant form.

  44. Avatar of Danarra

    @Saganist- Yep. You’re right. And I know you’re right. Saganist isn’t such a bad substitute though. Mind if I start using that instead?

  45. Avatar of Luthien

    Thanks Rebecca! What I was thinking the whole debate long :)

    Although, I was relieved to see Stephen Colbert make fun of “tide goes in, tide goes out” because I’ve been making fun of O’Reilly saying that for years (actually, more the “sun goes up, sun goes down” thing because it’s not only not an explanation, but wildly inaccurate), but still, doesn’t make Dave Silverman correct.

    My church-going friends and family certainly DON’T realize it’s a scam, even if I think it is to some degree. And there are many not-church-going people who fall for a whole host of other scams, as us all-around skeptics know.

    Debates like that one are the reason I changed my label from “atheist” to “skeptic” (although of course I’m still a proud atheist, but I mention both now).

    ps that was some good bs Skeptartist :P

  46. Avatar of Garbledina

    @Skept-artist: Long-winded, but COTW nonetheless!

  47. Avatar of Brian G

    @Luthien: @Garbledina: Ahh-thank you both. Just a used Post Modern generator. It’s almost as incomprehensible as @BayAreaGuy‘s comment.

  48. Avatar of andiis

    Thanks Rebecca,
    we got that O’Reilly interview on Fox in Oz and I was totally underwhelmed.

    The ad looks like the cover of some true-believers hand book and I cant stand that ‘ hook ‘…” telling the truth since ..blah blah ” , I much prefer ” your escape to reality “.

    Lucky it was not posted as
    Southeast Chapter Atheist Meeting…..just another SCAM !!!
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  49. Avatar of njheathen

    It’s interesting (I could use a different word, but since it’s my first comment here… ) to me that every time an atheist poster or billboard or some other kind of public statement makes the news, that so many atheists in the media rush to join the religious nutjobs to condemn it — because whatever it is doesn’t dovetail perfectly with their particular idiosyncratic view of how atheism should be presented.

    What happens?

    1) The xtians in the peanut gallery have their kneejerk reaction (atheists are arrogant, amoral jerks) conveniently confirmed for them.

    2) Xtian extremists in the media selectively quote the criticism in their own anti-atheist propaganda.

    Meanwhile, those of us who actually put our time into trying to organize atheists find ourselves having to waste time addressing the “controversy.”

    I am so damn tired of being on the side that instinctively forms circular firing squads about every little piddling issue instead of focusing on the big picture.

  50. Avatar of James Fox

    @Skept-artist: Fucking semantic pretextualist really chap my ass, not to mention that arrogant douche bastard Noam Chomsky and his word issues.
    luv ya man!

  51. Avatar of jaznet77

    I agree that it is a bad billboard, but I hate the clip even more than the billboard. In my opinion he is a horrible spokesperson and makes atheists look stupid. And…it doesn’t matter if I can explain the tides? I’m pretty sure we know how the tides work. Geez.

  52. Avatar of Amy

    Wait, is some random guy from the Bay Area correct? Rebecca, you get a free extravagant room at TAM? Then why are you always crashing in OUR room and why did we rent a Skepchick villa? I CALL SHENANIGANS!

    I DEMAND ANSWERS AND I DEMAND THEM IN SUPER CAPS LOCK!

  53. Avatar of jaznet77

    @BayAreaGuy:
    I give that comment a big fat boo!

  54. Avatar of Rebecca Watson

    @njheathen: Yeeeah, you’re right. I should really never criticize any atheist because that would be bad for the movement. I’m not helping! Waaaaah. ETc.

    @Amy: OK OK OK I ADMIT IT some random guy from the Bay Area is totally right I get a room full of diamonds and shit at every conference I attend!!! I crash with you guys because I don’t want anyone to find out that I’m in the pocket of Big Skepticism.

    THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

  55. Avatar of Amy

    I KNEW IT!!!! We have been missing out on the diamonds AND the shit! THE SHIT! (cue theme music from X Files)

  56. Avatar of Brian G

    @James Fox: That means a lot to me coming from a anti-post-neo-philalist :D

    @Rebecca Watson: We demand diamonds. Also, stop ruining Skepticism, again.

  57. Avatar of mrmisconception

    @njheathen:
    Yeah, we’re not followers; get used to it.

  58. Avatar of Evelyn

    @Amy: Personally, I’d demand peridots and gold. Diamonds are overrated.

  59. Avatar of Reverend Kel

    @Rebecca Watson: “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE”

    I just looked out there. I didn’t see ANY truth.

  60. Avatar of James Fox

    @Rebecca Watson: Hold-it, you were shitting diamonds in your free villa at TAM?! I thought I was there so how the hell did I miss that!!

  61. Avatar of Cygore

    @Rebecca Watson: That villa was free? You could have spent some JREF money and upgraded to a bigger villa.

    Seriously, AA has a long history of getting on people’s nerves. If there a person who was the definition of a fundamentalist atheist, it was Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She may have started the modern atheist movement, but ticked off both believers and non-believers in the process.

  62. Avatar of FredTrellis

    I am offended by the divisive tone of your comments.

    You arrogant skeptiks – I bet you are a closet atheist too, aren’t you? – are the reason this country is no longer as great as it was.

    For your information, the double-space after a full-stop is not required – and never was – but is stylistically superior to any of the unproven alternatives.

  63. Avatar of Buzz Parsec

    @Skept-artist: Huh? They’re STAMP COLLECTORS, too? (Cue Mudhead.)

  64. Avatar of moralnihilist

    What bugs me the most about American Atheists is that they’re one of those groups that want to define atheism as something more than a simple position on the existence of gods. Atheism doesn’t imply morality any more than Theism does. Our individual philosophies do that.

    If they had just said “It’s a myth” about the nativity scene, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it at all. It would have been a factual claim supported by evidence. If they had simply said “they’re all scams” I would still have had a problem with it, but not nearly as much as I do with the “you KNOW” statements. Adding that puts it out of the realm of reasonable discussion, because they are making a claim they cannot support with evidence, as Rebecca pointed out (how can you prove what someone knows and doesn’t know?). They are doing precisely what annoys me about religious nutjobs: making unfalsifiable, unsubstantiated statements

    There is a time and place for assholery and dickishness. There are appropriate levels of both depending on the situation. We have to be assholes at least a little bit because the alternative is doing what we used to do: sit back quietly while religious leaders lie about us.

    But what AA did with these billboards transcends our typical justified dickishness. It put them well into “smug asshole” territory.

  65. Avatar of moralnihilist

    @BayAreaGuy
    “Is there any evidence that it’s anymore or less effective than, say, the “There’s Probably No God” campaign that you all couldn’t stop raving and Facebooking about?

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but if the bus campaign was “YOU KNOW There’s Probably No God,” then I would definitely have a problem with it. The nativity scene billboard made a factual claim supported by evidence. The story of Jesus birth is indeed mythical (note that ‘mythical’ does not necessarily imply ‘false’). Its derivative nature and complete lack of evidence for it outside the single collection of books that were written to push an agenda is evidence that the story as presented is most likely untrue. In fact, many elements of the traditional nativity story are inconsistent with the gospels. Shepherds in Palestine don’t sleep outdoors in the middle of winter (no, Judea does not have a tropical climate, they have cold winters and snow just like in the U.S.); it took years for the magi to reach Jesus, who was by then living in a house and was a toddler, not an infant in a manger; and the gospels do not give the number of magi, either, only that there were three gifts.

    Even “They’re All Scams” wouldn’t have been as bad as “YOU KNOW They’re All Scams.” Because the former is a testable claim. The latter is not. You cannot prove conclusively what someone knows and what s/he is ignorant of.

  66. Avatar of Brian G

    @Buzz Parsec: I’m glad you knew what I meant even though I misspelled ‘philatelist’. What’s Mudhead?

  67. Avatar of Mythology

    I’m not particulary a fan of David Silverman, but he has done better interviews (of presenting a more rationale case for atheist billboards on other shows) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5NQF5Ha5tM).

    The problem with this O’Reilly interview is that he probably went in knowing he had to match Bill O’Reilly who constantly interrupts and switches gears so fast, that he can make an interviewee trip up. So he probably got himself too hyped up or emotional, going in.

    The “tide goes in/goes out” comment, in my opinion, did just that to Silverman. He seemed to not recover from that, saying the same thing over and over again.

    Silverman would be wise to have other AA associates practice with him, ones that can throw out non sequiturs, ad hominems, etc. so that he knows how to stay calm and respond accordingly.

    P.S. Billboard Sucks… how about something that says a postive message about having a dogma-free worldview? “Women are ‘NOT’ subjects of Men” … Atheist Association of America
    ok, maybe ‘NOT’ doesn’t have to be in capitals :P

  68. Avatar of rlquinn1980

    Rebecca, thank you so much for this post. You’re absolutely right: we don’t “KNOW” the truth, and Silverman’s dogmatic approach only makes him sound like the apostle of yet another religion.

    @DataJack: Sorry to burst your bubble, but the double spacing after periods is a tenacious custom held over from the typewriter. The idea then was to make the monospaced font more legible. In the digital age, most variable-width fonts are designed with the necessary spacing built in. Manually typing extra spaces in such fonts only pepper a text block with white pot marks. (My reference here is Robert Birmingham’s Elements of Typographic Style—good stuff if you’re into type and design. He gives a lot of hows, whys, and whens.)

    I would totally pay Rebecca to come make that talk!

    . . . Well, if I ran a conference.

    . . . And, you know, if I could afford her.

    Rebecca, do you take chocolate?

  69. Avatar of

    @DataJack:

    and

    @FredTrellis:

    As a technical writer, who does a lot of proofing and editing, I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent correcting and removing the double spaces that former typewriter writers put into their work.

    Hours and hours and hours and….

  70. Avatar of romeo_echo

    I just had to pipe in here as someone who agrees with everything that Rebecca said, except the part about double-spaces after periods. Double-spaces after periods FTW!!!!

  71. Avatar of

    LOL.

  72. Avatar of killyosaur

    @scribe999: Please tell me that’s an X-Play reference :) If not, I heard a similar joke made by Adam Sessler, I think during the review of the Left Behind video game.

  73. Avatar of alrsv1

    Fuckin’ tides. How do they work?

  74. Avatar of MarianLibrarian

    @BayAreaGuy: Yep, jealousy, that MUST be it. People who disagree with things or criticize things are ALWAYS jealous of the things/people they are critical of. That’s what they taught me in self-esteem talks in elementary school, and I’m sticking with it.

    (See what I did there with the caps?)

    (I know. Sorry.)

  75. Avatar of delphi_ote

    @BayAreaGuy: “David Silverman?
    On my Skepchick?”

    It’s more likely than you think.

  76. Avatar of delphi_ote

    @John Greg: Sounds like someone needs to learn to use find and replace. :P

  77. Avatar of

    @delphi_ote:

    Well, yeah!

    But I wanted to be (melo)dramatic, you know?!

    Seriously though, with folks who use the double space trick there is also almost always a plethora of other, um, typewriter legacy and sundry riffraff stuff requiring editorial persimmons — so to speak. It kind of goes hand-in-glove, as it were.

  78. Avatar of Skulleigh

    @Danarra: Doooood I am so calling myself a Dandelion Fudgecicle from here on out.

    I hate billboards as a rule – they are usually horribly designed. And the words on this one suck – if someone “knows” something is a scam, they don’t participate.

    I tried to watch the whole clip twice but I can’t – Bill annoys the hell out of me as it is, add in a second annoying person and I just can’t handle it.

  79. Avatar of Shevek

    Yeah. It’s a lame billboard. Also I don’t think anybody should honour Bill O’Reilly with his or her presence.
    But – if someone’s looks remind you of the devil – or Amy Farrah Fowler – does it really matter for the argument?

  80. Avatar of Buzz Parsec

    tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication.

    - Bill O’Reilly

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I’ll rise.

    - Maya Angelou

    Maya gets it, Bill doesn’t.

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