Ad Wednesday: Controversy & Sensitivity

December 14, 2011

Seattle WA Atheist Commercial Ad Campaign Photography

A friend of mine brought it to my attention today that local news station King 5 had picked up the story on the ad campaign that I shot for the Seattle Atheists and that one of my photos was shown on the news. On the one hand I’m thrilled to see my photos being used on the news. That doesn’t happen very often and it’s pretty gratifying I must say. On the other hand, there’s the comments.

Now, I know any time there’s a discussion about religion, especially when that discussion is online, there’s going to be some strong emotions and, indeed, some attacks on both sides. I was prepared for that. But there was one type of comment that really stood out for me that I’d really like to have a discussion about. The comment goes something along these lines: “It’s disrespectful to run these sorts of ads at this time of year”. I’m paraphrasing because the comment came from several people who were very respectful in their comments and I don’t want to call anyone out in particular.

I don’t normally solicit comments on the blog in this way, but I’d really like to have a (and I cannot stress this enough) RESPECTFUL dialog about this particular topic with my readers.

Personally I’m baffled by the statement that this is disrespectful. The content of both the ads and the website is, to me, saying “Atheists are a sizable chunk of the population. They’re just like everyone else. And being an atheist does not make you a bad person. They’re just normal people”. They’re not making any sorts of attacks on believers of any stripe, and I feel like their message is one of positivity and not negativity. Now what about the timing of it? People say it’s disrespectful. In response to that I say; “this time of year there is always a lively discussion about what role religion plays in our society. How do we balance the religious and the secular? The cultural with the sacred? What better time for Atheists to stand up and say ‘Hey, we’re here and we’d like to be part of the conversation!'”

I’d really like to hear people’s opinions on this. Please please please be respectful. I don’t want to hear “religious people are idiots” or “atheists are destroying America”. But I’m very interested to know whether you think these ads are offensive and why. I’m interested to know whether you think it’s inappropriate to place ads like this at this time of year (or any time of year for that matter).

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