An atheists' organization's plans to advertise on billboards in heavily religious neighborhoods in Brooklyn and New Jersey are stirring controversy.
The billboard from the American Atheists Center states: "You know it's a myth ... and you have a choice."
The group plans to post one billboard poster, its message in both English and Hebrew, in the predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Another billboard poster, in English and Arabic, is planned for Paterson, N.J., where a large Muslim population resides.
"These communities are very insular, and atheism is very looked down upon in these communities," said David Silverman of the American Atheists Center. "Almost all of these atheists in these communities are completely closeted. And we want them to know they're not alone."
Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations, called the plan offensive.
"They don't even have five people they're trying to reach out to," said Niederman. "I think it's totally inappropriate, and it's terrible that a billboard company knows and participates and benefits from something that is so outrageous, that is going to enrage a whole community."
Silverman acknowledged: "There are some believers who would be offended at anything."
"In fact, there are some believers who would be offended that we even exist," he said. "We're not worried about that. We have the right and the responsibility to advertise our events as we see fit."
Part of the reason for putting up the billboards now is to bring attention to the American Atheists National Convention in Washington, D.C. later this month, Silverman said.