American Atheists has sponsored another billboard, and this one is both ugly and controversial (Surprise!). Kylie doesn’t get it at all.
And with all that (because of that?), perhaps there’s something I’m missing. Because I honestly don’t freaking get this:
I don’t get how the hell this was every approved as a billboard by an atheist group. I just don’t. I personally find it rather shockingly confronting, distracting me from seeing it as being about atheism (was that its intent? This lesson?) and… maybe it’s meant to compliment (somehow?) the recent African Americans for Humanism campaign?
I get it. I even approve of the sentiment, but not the implementation.
The Pennsylvania legislature recently passed a meaningless declaration that this was the year of the bible. This is a confrontational, provocative billboard aimed in opposition to the bible: I consider it reasonable and appropriate for an atheist group to mock such a stupid law, and to point out that the bible is not a consistent or useful source of morality. I am all for confrontation.
However, there is good, informative confrontation and there is pointless lashing out. This billboard doesn’t do the job.
Once again, the lack of serious, qualified design experts really hurts. Graphic design is a discipline with skills and conventions and widely accepted principles: it actually takes a lot of training and talent to do it well. This ad…doesn’t. Not only is it ugly, but sarcasm is really, really hard to communicate well on a billboard. You’re best off avoiding it. Especially when it’s on a sign that is as esthetically unprofessional as that — that’s in Pennsylvania, a place rich in racism. There are rural farmers who’d post that sign approvingly.
And it’s not just Pennsylvania, this is America, where racism is endemic. If you’re going to put up something that addresses the racism of the bible and Christianity, especially when many of the targets of our institutional racism approve of the church, you’d damn well better tread carefully, and demand some taste and clarity. That sign has neither. I also have to wonder how many black American atheists were consulted in its design.
I’m going to disagree in part with Kylie: I think shockingly confrontational is a good thing, and I want more of it, and that’s the wrong thing to be upset over. But jeez, it has to be done well, and I don’t understand why American Atheists continues to use cheap-ass design work in what is clearly a major promotional effort for them.