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Billboards Promoting Atheism Causing Stir In New York And New Jersey

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - "You know it's a myth... and you have a choice."

That's the message the American Atheists group is sending on two new billboards erected in the heart of two religious communities in our area.

One of the billboards unveiled today is in Brooklyn near the Williamsburg Bridge, with the message written in Hebrew. Another, written in Arabic, is erected in Paterson, N.J. Both billboards depict the term for God in their respective languages to the left of the message.

The billboard in Paterson is just two blocks from a mosque.

1010 WINS' John Montone reports


American Atheists President David Silverman said the group is not trying to convert anyone.

"We're not here to change anybody's mind about religion, except to raise the awareness of the atheists in their population and raise tolerance of atheists on a national level," Silverman told 1010 WINS.

Blair Scott from American Atheists says his group has been contacted by people who live within the Muslim or Jewish communities there who are struggling to "come out" as atheists.

"We're not targeting people who are Muslim or Jewish. We are targeting the atheists in those communities," Scott told WCBS 880."Because the Islamic and Judaic communities are very isolationist. If you break out of the mold, you are ostracized from your family and friends."

Mohamad El Filali, Executive Director of the Islamic Center in Passaic County, said he thinks it's good opportunity for a discussion.

"We welcome the dialogue if they are willing," El Filali told WCBS 880. "I'll extend an invitation to come to the Islamic Center, and we'll have another person from the center argue the point of 'No, there should be a God, it's not a myth, it's a reality.'"

"It's no different than saying 'Santa Claus, you know it's a myth.' Any criticism, anybody that dares to question those beliefs is immediately met with 'I'm offended' and 'I'm upset' and 'How horrible you are,'" Scott said. "Well, freedom of speech means freedom of speech, it doesn't mean freedom of speech except when you criticize religion."

American Atheists reportedly paid $15,000 to post the billboard at the busy Paterson intersection.

The billboards are meant to promote an upcoming atheists rally in Washington, D.C.

Last year during the holiday season, the group put up similar billboards around the area with the message, "You KNOW it's a myth. This season celebrate REASON!"

What do you think of the billboards? Sound off in our comments section below. 

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