I think the problem with this billboard is that it comes across as having a motive other than what has been typical of the AA in most cases. In most cases the billboards are meant to grab the attention of non-believers who might be "in the closet". David Silverman uses this analogy all the time. Atheists are afraid to "come out" to their family and friends because of the backlash often received by such a declaration. I was listening to a news segment on NPR about the Reason Rally this morning.http://www.npr.org/2012/03/23/149021993/woodstock-for-atheists-a-moment-for-nonbelievers
The AA is meant to support atheists living in America and to promote healthy and tolerant interactions among believers and non-believers. We are tired of being seen as lesser Americans or human beings because of our lack of belief in God. The problem is, that when you make a statement of non-belief, and back it up with reasons why, people treat this as an attack on their OWN beliefs. This is why we have so many believers with persecution complexes. There is no evidence that they are really being persecuted or treated unfairly by our government based on their beliefs, yet they perceive that it is when it tells them they cannot make laws to force their beliefs on others.
If atheists want "God forbid" SCIENCE taught in Science class, we are mean, intolerant atheists. If we don't want our government to put a cross up or the Ten Commandments up in front of a government building, implying that our government favors the Christian religion and it's morals over those that we voted on and agreed on in a secular society, then we are then we are just doing it to make a nuissance. How many times do we hear people complain that we're "taking God out of our schools" etc, as if that is something bad? And because we don't stand by and allow people to bully us, smear our names, marginalize us, and tell us we have to let our children be taught theology in science class, that makes us the bad ones.
As it said in the article, there is an atheist movement arising. Atheists don't like living as marginalized members of society because they can't believe in un-supported claims. In every movement, you have very outspoken, crass leaders, and pacifist, diplomatic leaders, and supporters who identify with one kind or the other. They are all needed in every movement for it to be successful. If the blacks didn't have a Martin Luther King, Jr. to juxtapose Malcom X, the movement might not have been supported by white people as much. If there wasn't a Malcom X, there might not have been the raw, passionate anger component that actually forces progress to be made. Its about balance.
Atheists are tired of being pushed around by the majority and this billboard, to me, shows them pushing back. You want to declare this "The Year of the Bible", well we'll show you that there are actually people living in America who don't hold the Bible in esteem, and here is just one example of why. So I don't see it as an affront to Christians personally, just a rejection of a declaration made that marginalizes good Amercians who don't believe in the Bible. I feel that it is aimed at the people who decided this and is saying in a sarcastic way, "Hey! You can't do that! SOME of us are aware of the not-so-nice parts of the Bible!"
And I still agree that the image didn't help. However, I doubt that if it were words alone, there would be any less of a backlash. Like I said, anything an atheists says about Christians beliefs or their Bible (even if it's only expressing an opinion publically) is considered "offensive" or a direct attack. How many "Jesus is the reason for the season" billboards do I see every winter? Do atheists demand these billboards get torn down? Yet the AA puts up a billboard that says "You know its a myth, this season, celebrate REASON!" and O'Reilly barades David Silverman and with ad-hom attacks on national television over it. (However I'm sure David loved the publicity) However, this billboard is directed to other atheists, not Christians. The confusion might occur because of the play on the Christian version that is probably directed to Christians AND non-christians as a conversion tactic. Christians project their goals onto atheists. It is the Christians who have to convert everyone. Atheists, and the AA, have said over and over, that we don't wish to CONVERT anyone, we just want to be understood and tolerated. So when we argue with Christians we want them to admit they have no evidence, admit that their religion is based on pure faith, and try to convince them that they can't force FAITH on people who value empirical truth. We are basically asking to live and let live and to make religion ride in the backseat of politics. I don't want to speak for everyone, but in my experience, this is true. The outspoken atheists just want the many atheists we know are out there to stand up with us and show people of faith that we aren't what bad things they've been told we are. We're their brothers and sisters, friends and relatives - people they love and trust.
David Silverman explaining the Reason Rally purpose:
But the main point of the rally, Silverman says, is not to tweak the faithful. It's to encourage closeted atheists to take heart.