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Atheist billboard rises in Greenpoint amid controversy

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Atheists can have faith again.

A billboard calling Judaism a myth went up in Greenpoint on Wednesday, after a Williamsburg landlord thwarted attempts to install the ad near the neighborhood’s Hasidic community.

The advertising company Clear Channel and the national non-believing group American Atheists picked a new spot for the billboard facing Brooklyn-bound drivers crossing the Kosciuszko Bridge at the corner of Stewart Avenue and Thomas Street — about two miles north of the S. Fifth Street roof where building owner Kenny Stier prevented them from installing the bilingual sign on Tuesday morning.

The new location wasn’t the one that American Atheists director David Silverman really wanted, but he described the new location as “great.”

“I still feel bad because of the Jews,” said Silverman, who wanted the billboard near Williamsburg’s Orthodox quarter in hopes of reaching atheists “trapped” within the strict religious community.

Silverman blames the neighborhood’s spiritual leaders for blocking the ad.

“It was drilled into me as a child that the Jewish people were persecuted and here we are facing religious bigotry from a Jew,” he said.

Influential Williamsburg Rabbi David Niederman blasted the sign’s proposed placement in the Southside as “inappropriate” earlier this week, but denied any direct involvement in efforts to keep the billboard out of the neighborhood.

Niederman, who runs the social services group United Jewish Organizations, could not be reached for comment on Thursday because of Purim.

At its new location, the ad could win converts among the nearly 160,000 drivers who take the bridge between Brooklyn and Queens daily.

A Clear Channel spokesman said the client is happy and the billboard has been inspected for safety in the wake of a freak, act of god accident that toppled another sign in January on the Brooklyn–Queens expressway at Meeker Avenue.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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Reader Feedback

k says:
let the arguing begin
March 9, 2012, 8:01 am
SRB says:
I am not Jewish, but that is also my God's name on the billboard and I am offended.
March 9, 2012, 8:31 am
mike from GP says:
I am an atheist, and support these advertisements in general (though we could do without billboards altogether), but this Silverman guy sounds a little grumpy, no?
March 9, 2012, 8:39 am
Tony from Park Slope says:
I'm not an atheist, but I love these billboards. These are an "in your face" slap down for all the times I've been captive I a subway car listening to someone's religious ramp, had to walk past a line a Jehovah's witnesses in a subway station, got stopped by the Lubavitchers at holiday time to ask if I'm Jewish. Some religions quietly permeate the overall tapestry of the city - and that is fine. These billboards strike back at those who proselytize on TV, in political campaigns, and in public places. The people that complain that these are offensive or have no place in the community might want to take that issue up with the political leaders that foist it upon us and with those people and denominations who invade our peace and privacy on a daily basis.
March 9, 2012, 8:48 am
Rufus Leaking from The Heights says:
You know there's a myth?

Prove it.
March 9, 2012, 8:53 am
steve from downtown says:
It's one thing to promote your beliefs or in this case disbeliefs; it's another to be offensive to others. This billboard is offensive. The organization and it's directors that arranged this are reprehensible. Find another way to promote, as is your right, without insult.
March 9, 2012, 9:08 am
JP from BK says:
the author forgot to mention that there are no gods, that is a fact.
March 9, 2012, 9:09 am
steve from downtown says:
Incidentally, Mr Short, the ad refers to god in general, not Judaism specifically, although it is aimed to be read in that religious community.
March 9, 2012, 9:11 am
UmadBro? from Wat says:
Your god is just as real as all the other gods you don't believe in. I mean really why would you pick a christian god or a jewish god, when you could pick Thor as your deity of choice.

But really in all likeliness when you die you just stop existing. Deal with it.
March 9, 2012, 9:20 am
Elgato from Brooklyn says:
For those of you that complain. Freedom or religion, or lack there of, is a right!
March 9, 2012, 9:21 am
Sara A.K. from Park Slope says:
ITT: People who believe in invisible magic sky friend get angry over atheists disrespecting their belief in an invisible magical sky friend.
March 9, 2012, 9:23 am
jj from brooklyn says:
I like Rufus Leaking's comment the best.

Anyhow, whatever our view, this is something we can deal with. We will survive. Until we don't. And then … who knows?
March 9, 2012, 9:34 am
KimH from Bushwick says:
SRB: If you really believed in your "god", why on earth would you be offended by someone else's belief? What does it have to do with you? Nothing, that's what. You being offended says everything about how insecure you are in your beliefs and nothing about what the sign says.
March 9, 2012, 9:35 am
KimH from Bushwick says:
Yo: Rufus Leaking from The Heights says:

If you think there is a god...PROVE IT.
March 9, 2012, 9:36 am
Kim H from Bushwick says:
steve from downtown says: Would you feel that offended if it was an Christian based Anti-Abortion sign? Because Greenpoint used to feature a HUGE billboard that was Christian based and anti a woman's right to choose. That should offend you a lot more.

I think this billboard is great!!! Absolutely fantastic. As I am not Christian or Jewish, and yet Religion keeps trying to control my body, my life, my laws, my country, and my mind, I am so happy to finally see people fighting back!!

Religion is PURE EVIL. I have never seen any religion do anything other than destroy people and make everyone feel like trash, make people hate one another, and even lead to massive amounts of child rape that religious authority people strive to cover up.

Does "that" offend you too? Or do you only get riled up over mild signage that applies to tons of people?
March 9, 2012, 9:43 am
Kim H from Bushwick says:
steve from downtown: I just re read your post. In what way exactly is this offensive? Religion is not based in fact. It is absolutely a myth across the board as there has never been anything to prove any of the "mystical" assertions of religion-never. Feel free to show me any proof whatsoever. In fact all religion is based, by defintion not on "proof" but on "faith"-that's directly from Christianity and Judaism. THAT'S MYTH.

So why do you think the people that organized this are "reprehensible"? What is it you think they are doing here other than making a huge sign saying their beliefs, LIKE ALL OTHER CHURCH/RELIGIOUS SIGNAGE IN THE WORLD.

Why aren't Christians reprehensible when they make anti-woman's rights signage?
March 9, 2012, 9:47 am
hey, HEY from HEY HEY HEY says:
You can't talk about the jews that way!
March 9, 2012, 9:53 am
Jeff says:
It's funny, nobody gets mad when Zeus is called a myth.
March 9, 2012, 10:19 am
BM from Greenpoint says:
I love it, nice job...religion is a myth...
March 9, 2012, 10:26 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
when are the Agnostics gonna have a Billboard?
March 9, 2012, 10:42 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
when are the Agnostics gonna have a Billboard?
March 9, 2012, 10:42 am
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
well said Tony from Park Slope

This is no more offensive then all of those religious channels on my basic cable network. Sure I can and do block them, but these should be opt-in, not opt-out. Get religion off my TV, off my radio, and out of advertising. As for the ad itself? Even if you don't like the message you must agree it is presented in a fair and thoughtful way.
March 9, 2012, 10:42 am
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
BTW, if folks have faith, real faith, if they truly believe.....why does every church, mosque and synagogue have a lightning rod on it? just asking. Bet this sign does not make it through the weekend without some zealot trying to vandalize it.
March 9, 2012, 10:44 am
Talmudist from Wiiliamsburg says:
As a Williamsburg Chasidic resident I can tell you that this sign actually hurts those people that it purports to help. Putting up a sign like this to help "trapped Chasidim" is the same as putting up a large sign in front of Rikers Island extolling the virtues of freedom.
March 9, 2012, 10:47 am
Moshe from BP says:
Fail!
March 9, 2012, 10:48 am
A O from BKLN says:
God is not a myth... but global wraming is???

One is full faith the other is supported by facts...

You be the judge...
March 9, 2012, 10:54 am
Felix from Kensington says:
Glad to hear there are people out there who disagree with religion as much as i do.
March 9, 2012, 11:32 am
adamben from bedstuy says:
it is in poor taste, but you do have your right to free speech, as another poster gave as an example: anti-women groups can put up signs too. in both cases it would be in poor taste but supported by the constitution.
March 9, 2012, 11:51 am
JAX D from DTB says:
@Felix

You are far from alone, and thats the entire point of the sign, so people who don't believe know they aren't alone.
March 9, 2012, 11:56 am
JAX D from DTB says:
@Felix

You are far from alone, and thats the entire point of the sign, so people who don't believe know they aren't alone.
March 9, 2012, 11:56 am
Maria from Williamsburg says:
I'm an atheist, but find this billboard just as offensive as a billboard promoting religious doctrine.

Atheism is quickly becoming just another "belief" system or cause.

I have no problem with peoples' beliefs, as long as their beliefs do not affect the quality of life of others.(If only we lived in a perfect world....)

Unfortunately it IS the cult-like sects of different religions that gain attention and disdain. (Chasidism is an offshoot of traditional Judaism.) Thus the location of this particular billboard.

Condemning a belief system (yes, even the cult-like), is playing the same game you're condemning.
March 9, 2012, 12:02 pm
Maria from Williamsburg says:
Sorry, I meant to post this in the other thread. Didn't realize the billboard went up somewhere else.
March 9, 2012, 12:05 pm
God from Eternity says:
Hi Athiests! It's Me. I know, you're surprised I bet! Here's a message, read carefully. Organized religion is a sham. I know, you already know that, but you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There's a whole branch of religion entirely ignored in this age, that of direct experience. Talk to your local shaman. Ignore anyone who will not show you the mysteries directly. And do keep an open mind; use your science to investigate Me. Faith is for frauds. You had Shasha Shulgin for a long time. That should be plenty to get you going.
March 9, 2012, 12:59 pm
J from Williamsburg says:
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a practicing Catholic...

That being said I'm disappointed by the moving of the billboard. The hasid community in Williamsburg has a long standing track record of throwing its weight and bullying others around regarding various social and political issues in the community and it needs to end.

Whether its the bike lanes, taking issue with the way normal people (mostly women) dress, making women sit on the back of public busing, making women walk on the opposite side of the street as men, removing images of "women in power" from newspapers or placement of billboards it seems they raise issue and cause a great deal of conflict within our community and its about time they got called out on it.

I have a great number of friends and family members who are Jewish and I am not anti-semetic in any way shape or form. I do have a big problem with the pattern of behavior that I have seen from this specific community of people in Brooklyn. It has nothing to do with religion, its a social problem that needs to be rectified.
March 9, 2012, 1:10 pm
BB from GP says:
Answer to Joey's question re. the agnostics - they haven't decided yet!

ba-da-boom
March 9, 2012, 1:52 pm
Rufus Leaking from The Heights says:
KimH from Bushwick says. .

Sorry Kim, don't have to prove it, it's called Faith.

Sorry you were not paying attention in philosophy class.
March 9, 2012, 6:34 pm
Rufus Leaking from The Heights says:
"KimH from Bushwick says:
Yo: Rufus Leaking from The Heights says:

If you think there is a god...PROVE IT."

Don't have to. That's why it's called FAITH.

Sorry you were not paying attention in philosophy class.
March 9, 2012, 6:35 pm
Lisa Vetrone from Other says:
That happens to be the Tetragrammaton. GOD'S name. Four Hebrew consonants which now translates to JEHOVAH, When vowels are added. That's completely offensive if not outright foolish. Good job.....
March 9, 2012, 7:42 pm
nancy from coney says:
what would the athesis do if we all put up signs knowing their beliefs why cant everyone lay off everyone elses religons
March 9, 2012, 8:12 pm
nancy from coney says:
what would the athesis do if we all put up signs knowing their beliefs why cant everyone lay off everyone elses religons
March 9, 2012, 8:12 pm
nancy from coney says:
i meant to say knocking their beliefs
March 9, 2012, 8:13 pm
nancy from coney says:
i meant to say knocking their beliefs typo
March 9, 2012, 8:15 pm
Jim from Ditmas says:
Nancy -- Have you been living in a cave??!! There is NO SHORTAGE of religious advertising.

http://dogfightatbankstown.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/05/18/monkey.jpg
March 9, 2012, 10:36 pm
Jim from Ditmas says:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_j9oDqG2zBGE/SSBmDUWcsEI/AAAAAAAACYA/RGi2-q0RZRo/s1600/christian%2Bbillboard%2Bone.jpg
March 9, 2012, 10:39 pm
Jim from Ditmas says:
Actually... Just try this...

https://www.google.com/search?q=jesus billboard&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&authuser=0&biw=1099&bih=590&sei=cddaT_uuOqiU0QGFmJTWDw
March 9, 2012, 11:25 pm
lucy from fort greene says:
Religion permeates politics and our social lives. It should be outlawed from politics. Anyone notice the Republican debate? It is nauseating. Keep religion off our bodies and out of politics. Religion is all over the streets, so no reason why a billboard from the Athesists shouldn't be public. If someone has faith, why would it bother them to see another viewpoint expressed?
March 10, 2012, 10:33 am
Kieran from Elsewhere says:
Rufus, could you please explain how "faith" is different to "gullibility" and "ignorance" and why your magical airy-fairy assertions about a supreme being are immune to the laws of logic and evidence?

Seriously, your assertions that your god exists are no different to my assertions that there is a unicorn in my basement. Without evidence that either exists, the default assumption is that it doesn't. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and there isn't even any ordinary evidence for the existence of a god.
March 10, 2012, 4:21 pm
Steve from Downtown says:
OK, here's the deal for those of you who claim to be open-minded and understanding: the atheist organization has a right to express their view; that's NOT the issue. It's where and how they went about it that makes this so insensitive and hurtful. Here's why; religious Jews consider certain ways of expressing god's name as sacred and holy. The letters used on the billboard was just that. The director of this organization, as a Jew perhaps with some backround must have known this and specifically and maliciously used this form of referrence to god. These are family oriented, peace loving people that did nothing to have this insult inflicted upon them, and in their neighborhood no less. So, please give it some some thought perhaps next time your having a tatoo or your nipples pierced.
March 10, 2012, 7:40 pm
believer from outside says:
Ah...but Jews have witnesses. In every other religion s sole.figure claims god spoke to him or is god. The Jews claim G-D revealed Himself to the entire nation. A hoax cannot be claimed by an entire nation. Father to son transmission of such s traditions occurring throughout the world in independent communities is only possible if true. But of course those who want to deny will find a way to.
March 11, 2012, 1:37 am
believer from outside says:
Ah...but Jews have witnesses. In every other religion s sole.figure claims god spoke to him or is god. The Jews claim G-D revealed Himself to the entire nation. A hoax cannot be claimed by an entire nation. Father to son transmission of such s traditions occurring throughout the world in independent communities is only possible if true. But of course those who want to deny will find a way to.
March 11, 2012, 1:37 am
believer from outside says:
Ah...but Jews have witnesses. In every other religion s sole.figure claims god spoke to him or is god. The Jews claim G-D revealed Himself to the entire nation. A hoax cannot be claimed by an entire nation. Father to son transmission of such s traditions occurring throughout the world in independent communities is only possible if true. But of course those who want to deny will find a way to.
March 11, 2012, 1:37 am
believer from outside says:
Ah...but Jews have witnesses. In every other religion s sole.figure claims god spoke to him or is god. The Jews claim G-D revealed Himself to the entire nation. A hoax cannot be claimed by an entire nation. Father to son transmission of such s traditions occurring throughout the world in independent communities is only possible if true. But of course those who want to deny will find a way to.
March 11, 2012, 1:37 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Hey - Why not put up a picture if The Prophet as was done in Europe and say the same - why not - because they would have their heads cut off. Alwass easy to poke the Jews though.
March 11, 2012, 10:30 am
Jim from Ditmas says:
"Father to son transmission of such s traditions occurring throughout the world in independent communities is only possible if true."

Really?!

The stars and planets "revealed" that the Earth was at the center of the universe... pre-Copernican science transmitted this truth from generation to generation.

What is the status of this truth today? Is retrograde motion of planets still explained by a complicated series of looptyloos of the planets... or... simply placing the Earth in orbit of the sun.
March 11, 2012, 10:34 am
enlightened_one from Pennsylvania says:
http://anenlightenmentsymposium.blogspot.com/2012/03/in-case-you-have-been-locked-in-your.html

I wrote a blog regarding an atheist billboard controversy Pa that involves atheists and slaves.
March 11, 2012, 12:59 pm
believer from outside says:
It was a Jew who opened scientists eyes with proof from the Talmud that helper come up with the idea of a Sun centered universe. It was an argument among rabbis for a long time on how to explain certain verses in the old testament, yet science proved the rabbis were more accurate than anyone before.
Time and again science proves what Jews have known for millennia.
March 11, 2012, 2:01 pm
believer from outside says:
Quantum physics even point to a ,G-d but scientists keep proposing shsky theory to ignore the Truth.
March 11, 2012, 2:04 pm
Danelle from Wallabout says:
If "believers" are constantly allowed to put up religious billboards and other "god" advertising, which I find more annoying than offensive then what's the problem with Atheists posting their beliefs on a billboard as well? As an Atheist, this sign makes me very proud:)

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it." -Neil deGrasse Tyson.
March 11, 2012, 2:24 pm
Jim from Ditmas says:
Believer -- Yes. Jewish scholars included astronomers who were allowed to publish their work based on a different paradigm. So, they happened to get it right. The Talmud and Midrash are not, strictly speaking, a sacred texts, it's the work rabbinic scholars on sacred texts and various other topics that has been elevated by tradition.

When the only people who are properly literate are the clerics (Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc.) ... then their work takes the form of religious texts. It doesn't mean it's the "revealed word."

(Keep in mind, I'm not suggesting faith and religion are incompatible with science -- quite the opposite. But do you know what is *also* compatible with science? Atheism.
March 11, 2012, 2:48 pm
believer from outside says:
Scientists are constantly trying to prove there is a G-d as proof in the string theory and it's conculsions. They keep hitting a dead end of " well there.must be a G-d then" but being so terrified of a conclusion they find a more improbable theory instead. Today it's the multiuniverse tomorrow who knows what. All for the.pointless task of proving G-d doesn't exists...

As for Jim's assertation that the rabbinic texts hold no weight, Jews believe that words of a true scholar are the equivalent of what Moses received at mount Sinai. Hence.all texts of Jewish law and thought are kissed when finished learning or mire famously when dropped.
March 11, 2012, 3:17 pm
Jim from Ditmas says:
"Jim's assertation that the rabbinic texts hold no weight"

Believer -- How did you get that out of what I wrote?!
March 11, 2012, 3:42 pm
believer from outside says:
"The Talmud and Midrash are not...sacred texts."
March 11, 2012, 5:19 pm
Jim from Ditmas says:
Believer -- Go talk to your rabbi. Interesting you chose a convenient edit. I'll repeat (and correct a couple typos)

The Talmud and Midrash are not, strictly speaking, sacred texts, it's the work of rabbinic scholars on sacred texts and various other topics that has been elevated by tradition.
March 11, 2012, 6:19 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
so why not say this to Muslims (savages as they are ) - why not - becuase the will cut the heads off of the infidels who would dare to quuestion - it is always ok ok ok to go after the Jews - would not be the first or last time - Im not Jewish
March 11, 2012, 8:40 pm
Name Witheld from south brooklyn says:
It's about time somebody put a billboard like this right in the eyeline of these people. I only wish it could be bigger, more strongly worded, and situated smack in the middle of the neighborhood where they live. As previous commenters have noted, this is a community which uses religion to oppress its own members, and to isolate itself from the greater community of Brooklyn. It perverts the democratic process by affecting an outsize voice in local politics because it votes as a block, doing exactly as told. One Rabbi having a hundred thousand votes is not democracy, it's called gaming the system. It's why Bloomberg, on the eve of his much-maligned bid for a 3rd term, found himself amenable to redacting the bike lanes on Bedford Avenue, which he had shoved down everyone else's throats with no conversation allowed. It's why you can't find a way to drive through parts of the Wallabout section between Bed-stuy and South Williamsburg--all the one-way streets have been redirected so there is no thoroughfare to be had (city law manipulated to keep outsiders out). Park Slope would probably love to do the same thing, but luckily its residents aren't religious enough to vote like marionettes in a puppet show. Ironically, the Hassidic community has the highest per-capita dependence on taxpayer-provided social assistance of any group, yet it seems to want nothing more than to wall itself off from the rest of Brooklyn. Most of us blow right past this part of Brooklyn, never exiting the BQE, and never witnessing the mind-numbing prison-like architecture, the reprehensible racial homogeneity that extends for block after block, or the constant and ever-expanding tide of 9-children families, families who will walk right past you on the sidewalk 100 times a year and never make eye contact or utter a hello. I like the Greenpoint atheist billboard for what it symbolizes, but I must admit that in reality it has very little chance of making any sort of difference in the hearts and minds of such an entrenched community. Maybe at the very least it will stimulate non-hassidic people to have a discussion about the extent to which we are willing to continue extending our goodwill to a subset of brooklyn which snubs us with such impunity.
March 11, 2012, 9:07 pm
Publius from Bklyn USA says:
@Name Withheld: From your hateful borderline racist rant, you deserve to be snubbed with impunity. Tell it to your therapist.
March 11, 2012, 9:49 pm
Jim from Ditmas says:
Also -- the be clear. The billboard does say "Judaism" is a myth. That's silly. Judaism is real. You can't say an ancient tradition is a myth... What the billboard says is a myth is יהוה.
March 12, 2012, 9:21 pm
Laverna Patterson from Florida says:
I am a very conservative Christian and I am laughing my head off because of what I know. Let the atheists embarass themselves because Since 2008 I finally have proof that the Torah IS a book of modern science.
www.teachinghearts.org/dre17httscience.html
The Periodic Table of Chemistry - by the 4 blocks
A Unified model of quantum physics with mass and gravity
I can even PROVE where light came from before the sun was created on the 4th day.
Go ahead. Make God's day. Read about Haman and his gallows.
March 13, 2012, 1:02 pm

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