A powerful weapon for atheism

April 20, 2012 • 9:45 am

On The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta has unveiled a new, completely inoffensive atheist billboard that will be used to advertise Skepticon, the freethought convention in Springfield, Missouri in November.  This is not a joke, folks:

 Now I like teh kittehs as much as the next person, but is there a point here?  Or is this just a nefarious use of felids to make people think kindly about atheism? Or could it be that we’ve gotten so much flak for relatively innocuous billboards that are still seen as militant that we’ve retreated to the ultimate refuge of cuteness and lovability?  Regardless, for some reason I can’t get behind it.

58 thoughts on “A powerful weapon for atheism

  1. once again, atheists are trying o so hard to be seen as inoffensive. What’s the matter “CATS are cute” would have been too “in your face?”

  2. I read, in more than one place, that organizing atheists is like herding kittens. And atheist websites like whyevolutionistrue often feature cats and kittens.

    Maybe cats have become associated with atheists — within the atheist community and perhaps even without.

  3. Yes, there is a point. The point is to discover whether the Christian objections to and vandalism of such posters is because they carry “offensive” messages such as “There probably is no God” or “You can be good without God”, or whether they are really objecting solely to atheists making their existence known.

    The cute kittens, in place of the “offensive” messages are the control part of the experiment!

    1. Yes. This. I wouldn’t make the kittens a permanent mascot, but for a trial run, it will be interesting to see how the yokels react.

      1. My favorite:
        Buses carry many people.

        Also the one in the comments about
        Drive carefully, some of use don’t have an afterlife to fall back on, or something like that.

    2. I got it, because I vaguely recall reading exasperated discussions along the lines of “Could we possibly put up something *less* offensive than ‘Good without God’ or ‘Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone’?”, specifically suggesting including kittens. It looks like Skepticon ran with the idea. Personally, I like it, but if even people on our side are missing the point, then maybe it’s not such a great idea.

      1. I think it’s a fine idea, and a fine experiment. I can’t understand how anybody with some familiarity with the reaction to atheist billboards/bus adverts can be missing the point.

    3. Yes. Brilliant! First: kittens are cute and people will look at the sign. Second: anyone who says that this is offensive, can only be offended by our existence, and audacity to be recognized, so they can be called out as bigots.

  4. Yes, seems like a non sequitur.

    On the other hand, if a young man walks around with a cute kitten or puppy, it’s suppose to attract females. So maybe they’re trying to bring more women to the convention…which would be insulting if true.

    A better billboard would be: “Babies are cute…and tasty if spiced correctly”.

    1. No, the billboard’s purpose is explained at comment 4, above, and expanded upon in the responses that follow.

  5. It is a response to hostility generated by the most innocuous of atheist signage. I get the joke, but I’m not sure it makes much sense as an advertisement for a convention.

    1. Given that the convention is still a good 8 months away, I think the billboard is more of an experiment along the lines you’ve suggested (Let’s make the most inoffensive atheist billboard ever, then see how believers respond, which is, in fact, the stated intent of the Skepticon organizers) and less of an advertisement for the actual convention. One tell is that the billboard doesn’t even give the dates for the convention.

  6. The use of kittehs is obviously a strident attempt by evil people to take away the god-given freedoms of dog lovers.

    Any attempt to ram kittehs down the throats of dog-lovers will lead to a global takeover by guinea pigs… the Tea Party says so.

  7. I love the “Please Drive Safely” sign. If anybody has a problem with that message because it’s brought by atheists, perhaps it would wake more people up to the sheer bigotry towards atheists.

    1. I’d like that on a bumper sticker. “Please drive carefully” and then an atheist organization sponsor name. Would love to see that meme spreading so that we would come to own the phrase eventually – a mere “Please drive carefully” sign on your car identifies you as an atheist. I really think this could be more successful than the Brights movement.

    2. It would be a public service. You know they will have to find someway to oppose it. But they will have to work harder. It will be good for them.

  8. I think it was meant to make fun of the fact that people found even the most innocuous billboards offensive. If that’s true it should (but won’t) be more offensive than other billboards because, unlike the others, it’s making fun of Christians.

  9. I like the billboard very much—a simple announcement of a gathering of atheists and skeptics to which like-minded or curious folks are welcome. It also hints that playfulness, friendliness, and an inclination toward independence are appreciated traits. It’s not attacking and it’s not proselytizing—at least not blatantly so. Of course, I am a female, so perhaps my response should be expected, although I don’t own any kittehs. It’s an interesting experiment, and there’s no harm in suggesting that joy can be found in atheistville.

  10. Dr. C.: I think it’s sacastic humor: You dweebs are so tender, the only thing we are allowed to say is “kittens are cute.” (I.e.: Get a life you people.)

  11. As others have already said, it’s a response to how some of the most innocuous messages on atheist billboards get slammed.

    It’s an experiment to see if what the fanatics who react to these billboards really hate is the fact that atheists exist at all.

    In other words, it’s an attempt to garner yet another piece of evidence for what we already know to be true.

    Soon, we can submit the new theory:
    Theists are offended by the mere existence of the concept of atheism.

    1. For the record, as much as I like the kittens, I’d like to see all the billboards featured here at one time or another.

      Including one mentioned in the comments:

      “Atheists exist” on a white background with sponsoring groups at the bottom.

      1. Absolutely. Google image “Ceiling Cat” or Ceiling Kittens” or “Ceiling Kitteh”. The meme? is out there already. I like it. (p.s. no relation to Karen Hartman)

  12. I know Katie Hartman, who was the main person behind the billboard. Their goal was to make something so innocuous as possible that it would be ludicrous if it caused controversy. It’s meant to be a tad bit silly.

    Unrelated, but I saw a talk by EO Wilson last night, and I thought you’d like to know that he’s very assertively trumpeting the group selection thing. He said his 2010 Nature paper definitively overturned kin selection and that “no one” responded to it, amongst other falsehoods: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/04/dear-e-o-wilson-please-retire-or-stick-to-ants/

  13. Oh, I think this is wonderfully droll and ironic. Offended by the very word Atheism? Here, have a bunch of kittens. Hilarious! The feline persuasion does a great job of delivering sarcasm as well.

  14. This billboard is fantastic! It associates cute kittens with atheists, how could it be any better?

    Please stop putting up billboards with condescending messages like “You know it’s a myth!”. They only feed peoples confirmation biases about all atheists being arrogant assholes, and make them hate us even more.

    1. “You know it’s concern trolling!”

      This is an attempt to get the factual messages out there. How could it be condescending to point out religions are known myth?

    2. What is condescending however is to treat them as not myths when they are known to be. This is how accommodationists want us (all) to behave.

      It probably takes all kinds, but accomms strategies seems particularly ineffective; no known results.

  15. And in breaking news today, wicked atheists attempt to attract more of their evil kind to an upcoming conference with a billboard offering them their favourite food…

  16. I’m just curious about the reasoning behind using the cats to promote the event. Is it “getting us together is like herding cats,” or an attempt to see what wouldn’t piss off the religious right. I hate to break it to the people who came up with the poster, but the people we tend to criticize are dog people. They will not have their guard lowered by kittens.

  17. It just looks like a total non sequitir to me. Admittedly on this notablog the presence of the Ceiling Trinity makes all sorts of sense, but the outside world would be justified in wondering what possible connection there is. I would have liked to see some sort of connection on the billboard, even if it was just some sort of rhetorical device or a pun.

    1. Of course, it’s a non sequitur, but that’s the entire point. As a comparison, google “Youtube I’m a Mormon” and watch any clip you want. You’ll get an entire video telling you about someone exceedingly wonderful who then tells you, “…and I’m a Mormon”. I just watched a video of a black, female, opthamologist who lives in Connecticut, spends lots of time with her family, and …she’s a Mormon. (This one is especially nauseating since it wasn’t until 1978 that men of color could be admitted to the LDS preisthood. Of course, as a woman she still is excluded.)

    1. I was just thinking that.

      Also, it could use some different colored kittens. As it is, it shows an undue bias towards tabbies.

  18. I’m curious about strategy behind the design. The message is not at all cogent. But should it be? You only have a few seconds of your intended audiences’ attention. The goal is to increase awareness of skepticon. Once tuned into skepticon you can unload abstruse philosophy to your heart’s content. You just have to ping those antennae first. “Stockings are sexy” with a shot of long shapely legs would yield a good return for the advertising dollar too. But it’s just too risque. Better stick to kitties.

    That said, a shock white cat from Dr. No atop the knees of a victoria’s secret clad pair with the caption “pussy is glorious” would be unbeatable, IMHO. Plus you get to annoy religious prudes.

  19. I know I am late to this, being behind in my email means a lot of catching up.

    The thing that struck me, and especially after reading the idea behind this, is that it is a statement of facts, as all the proposed signs were and atheists deal with fact.

    We don’t “wish” that kitten are cute, it’s a FACT that they are cute, and as such it speaks to the core of atheism which is facts/truths.

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