Saturday, July 2, 2011

4th of July atheist advert

American Atheists seems to be remarkably clueless when it comes to advertising. The organization's billboards (example 1, example 2) already are legendary for poor design, both in appearance and message. Now, AA has hired planes to carry banners nationwide before the fireworks this 4th of July. According to the AA press release, the banners will read:
God-LESS America -- and
Atheism is Patriotic -
I think these are terrible slogans.

The first slogan is so enamored with its own cleverness, which AA seems to think will sail over the heads of normal people unless they have their hands held—the caps are like repeated elbow jabs to one's ribs, accompanied by "Get it? Get it?" On a plain reading, the first slogan also seems to suggest that America is godless, which is just as absurd and insulting as the frequent claim that America is Christian. The only word that can be used to describe America's religious character is "diverse." Anything else is a slap in the face, especially on the 4th of July, which is supposed to be about all of America.

The second slogan is weird. I am an atheist and a patriot, but I haven't the slightest idea what to make of the claim that atheism is patriotic. Maybe AA is just trying to reply to the (equally bizarre) slur that atheism is somehow unpatriotic. If so, though, they need to be saying that atheism is compatible with patriotism, not that atheism itself is inherently patriotic. If such subtleties are not easily expressed through the medium of airplane banners, then perhaps airplane banners are the wrong medium through which to try to address the whole issue in the first place.

I have nothing in particular against the idea of advertising atheism on the 4th of July. But if you are going to do something, do it right. The AA airplane banners are just PLANE embarrassing. Get it? Get it?

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