Here are the billboards:
Way to be super fucking alienating of cultures whose identities have been attacked throughout history, guys.
If you’d read the original article, you’d know it’s not trying to take away religion from anyone. They’re directed at atheists living in those communities who are too afraid to speak up. Within a religious community, even within just a religious family, being an atheist is a frightening thing. These signs aren’t trying to deprive people of their religion, but telling those without a religion that they it’s okay. They don’t have to have a religion.
This is the best comment I’ve read in the notes of this post and thank you for saying it.
I am a person of color and I grew up in an insular Muslim community and I would have appreciated seeing a billboard like the top one when I was growing up. Religion not only contributed to my abuse but religious teachings and principles made me feel like I was responsible for it, for many years. It also caused anxiety, doubt, alienation, and thoughts of suicide when I moved to the United States.
I am really grateful to atheist professors I had in college and atheist authors and thinkers that changed the way I thought about the world and myself. And if these billboards can help someone who is in the position that I was and guides them towards atheist resources, then it is a really, really good thing.
While there are objections that can be made to these billboards, what I don’t appreciate is white people jumping at the chance to toss around phrases like cultural imperialism and white saviorism to distance themselves from those other white people and award themselves white ally points.
I feel like this is partially directed at me though I am not linked here. I can be completely honest and say that I did not throw out vague references to Muslims and POC to score ally points, it was just something that made sense to me and what I had observed other Muslims saying. However, since white people totally engage in using the experiences of POC to out-SJ ourselves all the time, I don’t know how much my honesty means here.
However, I can speak about the Jewish billboard. The reason that I do not for a second believe that this is anything but a “checkmate, religious jerks” attempt to troll Jewish communities is the obvious lack of research and consideration. As I’ve said before, the sign is in Hebrew; Jews in insular enclaves in NYC are raised speaking Yiddish. If a Hebrew sign from an organization that generally dismisses all religious people as ignorant idiots somehow helps one or two atheists living in the community, I will eat my hat. And even if I’m eating my hat, I still don’t have to acknowledge that the original gesture was anything but mockery and intrusion. Like, you know what would have been a real gesture? If someone had researched what Chabadniks were doing to FOB Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, the way they were exploiting vulnerability to swell their ranks. The way they did to a few of my aunts and cousins. But if someone tried to address that with a sign that none of us could fucking read, I would have to wonder about their intentions as well.
Furthermore, these communities are isolationist for a reason. The reason not being “so we can oppress atheists away from the prying eyes of the goyim.” While I certainly have my own thoughts about the self-policing that goes on in these enclaves, and the us vs. them mentality that makes it hard for people to leave should they want to, this was a direct result of centuries of oppression and a desire to have a functional community that relied on itself because you have been taught by experience that you could not rely on the goyim. And oddly enough, not everyone in these communities is a horrible oppressive monster. So putting up a billboard like that, one that displays the Tetragrammaton so that it is exposed to the elements and possible vandalism, is just confirming these people’s fears by saying “Your Jewish religion is dumb, here’s what we think of the holy Name of your G-d, we won’t even bother to speak your language because all Jewish shit sounds the same.” All I can see happening here is the community getting more paranoid and isolated. And yeah, it makes me fucking mad because it shows a) a profound lack of respect to religious minorities, because anyone who would argue that Jews have some kind of oppressive monopoly on atheists is dumb and b) lazy, uneducated attempts to “help” Jewish atheists
I second this, my first thought was, for an Orthodox Jew to see the Tetragrammaton on a bus like that, graffiti’d and so on, that’s just going to be offensive. It’s not at all respectful.