Cranford, NJ—American Atheists launched six billboards on Monday in central New Jersey attacking the non-helpful responses by some religions to recent natural disasters. These responses have included praying for the victims and sending bibles and rosaries instead of requested relief supplies that can save lives.
While at least $300 million has been pledged by nations around the world to help survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, a billion-dollar non-government organization, has responded to the disaster by sending 1,000 bibles and 12,000 rosaries to survivors, according to CBS News. Additionally, the Pope tweeted for Catholics to pray for the typhoon victims. His message was retweeted 30,000 times.
“Imagine if the Pope had asked for people to send money to victims or to send needed supplies. How much more useful would that have been to the people of the Philippines? This is insulting,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Over 5,500 people have died, so Pope Francis leads people in prayer, and they send bibles and rosaries. This is repugnant; natural disasters should not be viewed as opportunities for proselytization.” Silverman continued, “Religion is not charity. It’s business masquerading as charity, and it needs to be recognized as such.”
The billboards encourage people to visit atheists.org/relief where they are directed to three secular organizations that have campaigns to assist victims of the typhoon and the recent Midwest tornados. “These organizations provide actual services to people who need them,” said Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director, “and they are our best way to help those affected. Prayer is cheap, quick, and easy, but it accomplishes nothing. Real people are really suffering; they need real help.”
The billboards are located in New Jersey along I-80, I-95, and I-78, and are expected to reach half a million commuters daily. For exact locations of the designs, see http://atheists.org/file/nj-relief-billboards.pdf.
Images of the billboards are below. American Atheists grants permission to all press to reprint & distribute these images provided they are not cropped or modified in any way. Contact Public Relations Director Dave Muscato at (908) 276-7300 x7 with questions.
Edited 3:47 PM on Monday, November 25 to add:
American Atheists had an opportunity to advertise a message the week of Thanksgiving on six billboards in New Jersey at no cost to the organization or its donors. We chose to focus these billboards on the issue of disaster relief and some religious groups exploiting tragedy instead of helping victims.
We are not an aid organization and, unlike some churches, we don’t pretend to be one. However, we can use our megaphone to raise awareness about the uselessness of prayer and other religious items for “disaster relief.” Instead, we direct our web site visitors to other secular organizations that offer real support to the real victims of tragedy.
Edited 4:47 PM on Monday, November 25 to add:
The press release as written originally indicated that the billboards directed people to atheists.org/relief, while the billboard images shown read, “Learn more at atheists.org”. We apologize for the mismatch. Being that character and word count on billboards is extremely limited and brevity is a top priority, the billboards do in fact direct people to atheists.org, and thereafter encourage visitors to go to American Atheists’s Relief page at atheists.org/relief: There is a large banner on the front page of that site, replacing the usual rotating banners about our lawsuits, upcoming convention, and other activities.