Let’s talk for a minute about God. Or maybe I should say: Let’s talk for a minute about those who don’t believe God, a god, any gods exist. Now, I’m not going to get all religious on you, but a recent advertisement in the subways has raised the ire of, well, anyone religious who does not respond well to people with beliefs that may differ from their own.
The brouhaha over the ad at right started last week when Jennifer 8. Lee of The Times first reported on the impending atheist ads. An anonymous donor paid the $25,000 in order for the Big Apple Coalition of Reason to place this pro-atheism ad in 12 subway stations systemwide for one month. Deemed the cheapest advertising solution — a subway car costs $70,000 for a month and Times Square billboards go for $45-$50,000 — the ad will appear at the three 14th St. stations on the West Side; 23rd St. on the 8th Ave. line; Penn Station in three locations; 86th and 96th Sts. on Lexington; 42nd St. at Bryant Park; Lincoln Center, 72nd and 86th Sts. along Central Park West; and W. 4th St.
Of course, whenever religion is involved, people tend to grow a little hot under the collar. Jason Fink of amNew York tracked down some disgruntled straphangers. “I teach my children to believe in God and lead a life faithful to Him,” Aime Roberts of the Bronx said of the ads. “If my children see these ads that say there is no God, they’ll think their mother is lying.”
Another woman — obviously ill-informed of the Constitution — used the ad to bash the MTA. “The MTA can just do whatever it wants and get away with it,” Charlene McNair-Lawery of Brooklyn said to Fink. Of course, since the MTA is a government entity, freedom of religions and various sundry First Amendment concerns practically guarantee that this ad will appear, and an agency spokesman said that only nudity and vulgar language are prohibited in advertisements shown on MTA property.
The real fun began when Sean Hannity jumped into the fray. In one clip, the Fox News commentator posed a question, “Can you imagine the outrage if a Christian group put pro-God ads in the New York City subways? What outrage.” But as Subway Sights noted, Christians have been plastering the 41st St. walkway at Times Square with pro-Christianity placards for years, and other religious-themed materials abound underground.
So 400 words into this post, where does that leave us? With a big to do about nothing. The MTA has to place the ad, and for $25,000, they certainly will. Meanwhile, I have to wonder if subway advertising is really this insidious. Do we look at the ads we see every day? Clyde Haberman accused the Train of Thought program of being too gloomy last week, but outside of MTA PSAs and Doctor Zizmor, can anyone name something hawked in the subway?
For most of us, the subway is a chance to escape. We read our books; we do our crossword puzzles; we zone out to music on our iPods. If someone wants to preach, go for it. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, and most of us won’t even notice it’s there anyway.