“Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone”
This is the billboard that started it all…
Our first billboard, “Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone” launched in January, 2008 on the New Jersey Turnpike outside NYC. It was the only one that ever displayed our domain name. It drew local television news coverage and made the front page of the Sunday edition of the local newspaper the Bergen Record (as well as the home page of their website), and generated lots of web and blog attention.
We worked with nontheist groups in the Philadelphia area to form a coalition called PhillyCoR (the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason) where our second billboard went up in May, 2008. This received even more attention. The Philadelphia Inquirer featured the story in their local section and on the home page of their website, and Fox News picked up the story nationally.
Over the next year, we continued to try and work with local and national groups to put up more billboards across the country. Billboards went up on the Santa Ana Freeway in CA; in Overland Park, KS; in Charleston, SC; in Moscow, Idaho; and 9 billboards went up in the Denver/Boulder area and one went up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, all at the same time.
Over all, the campaign received tons of national and local press including in the New York Times (cover story), the Wall Street Journal, the National Journal magazine (cover story), the Associated Press, and Playboy Magazine.
A little over a year later, FreethoughtAction helped found the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR) and worked with them to spread the campaign farther and wider. There are now over 80 UnitedCoR coalitions which have launched across the country with one of our ads. Some of the media coverage we received during the first part of our first campaign can be found below. Given the passage of time, not all links to media may still be active.
NJ Turnpike Billboard Speaks To Nonreligious
Monday, January 14, 2008
For Immediate Release
A bold message towers high above the New Jersey Turnpike on a new billboard outside of New York City. “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
The ad was placed by FreethoughtAction, a new organization using traditional advertising and the internet to market secularism in a positive and provocative way. FreethoughtAction is planting a few billboards and other ads around the country to “seed” a grassroots movement raising the profile of “freethinkers,” a broad term that includes atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, skeptics and others who do not have a belief in the existence of a God or gods.
The billboards promote the website FreethoughtAction.org where internet visitors can find out about the initiative and contribute to the campaign. The site provides a range of resources including links to dozens of freethought groups, research material on religion and freethought, a news and views blog, plus materials nonbelievers can purchase to help spread the word. FTA will also work with groups and individuals to place local ads in their market.
Jan Meshon, the group’s founder, is optimistic the action plan will garner support. “So far, response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are thrilled to see their view expressed in such a visible way. Just the other day someone saw the ad for the first time and whipped out their checkbook on the spot.” One of the strengths of the program, according to Mr. Meshon, is how easy it is for supporters to join the action. “There are no meetings to attend. Everyone doesn’t have to agree on every point of philosophy or what to label themselves. You can contribute and know that your voice will be heard.”
The billboard has only been up a couple of days and already dozens of people have contributed and/or signed up for the email list. FreethoughtAction has received hundreds of thank you emails from around the country – and even a few from as far away as Britain and Israel – expressing their appreciation of the effort. To quote one: “The billboard is absolutely fantastic and so desperately needed in every community across America. Thank you so much for this.” Freethought blogs were abuzz with word of the billboard with very positive reaction like the following: “Bravo… billboards like these help non-theists feel less alone and less alienated.”
FreethoughtAction sees itself as a small counterpoint to aggressive, well-funded efforts by religious groups to increase the role of religion in American society and government. Mr. Meshon believes that a little marketing push for a strong “product” will help move America to a tipping point where secular Americans are as readily accepted as the religious. “For all the attention given to religion lately, the number of secular Americans is booming. The tide is definitely turning.” The American Religious Identification Survey (City University of New York) supports this view. Nonreligious Americans doubled from 1990 to 2001 while the number of religious Americans actually decreased.
Our first billboard on the NJ Turnpike outside NYC received front page coverage in the Bergen Record Sunday edition (the large suburban paper where the ad was placed), local cable tv coverage from News 12 New Jersey, as well as lots of web and blog attention.
Selections from some earlier coverage:
God’s skeptics get comfort from above [Since the original link to the story is now broken, this link is to the archived version cached by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. A link to an earlier screenshot of the story as featured on the Bergen Record website is HERE.]
We also made the cover of Secular Nation…
Godless Billboard Greets Philly Area Motorists
Thursday, May 1, 2008
For Immediate Release – Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088
(Washington, D.C.) “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
These words are being seen on Interstate 95 north of Philadelphia. Greeting outbound drivers near the Westmorland turnoff, they are part of a highway billboard that features an image of blue sky and clouds with the words superimposed over. The striking message raises a question . . . and maybe some eyebrows.
The billboard was placed by a coalition of local and national humanist and freethought organizations, including the American Humanist Association and its independent marketing adjunct FreethoughtAction, Atheist Alliance International, the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia, and Temple University Secular Students.
This billboard was timed to coincide with the National Day of Reason, celebrated by humanists each year on the same date as the National Day of Prayer–which this year falls on May 1, the 75th anniversary of the first Humanist Manifesto.
Speaking at a press conference held this morning at the Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Philadelphia, Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said: “Traditional religious billboards have abounded in the past. Something nontraditional like this is therefore needed to stimulate thinking.”
Joe Fox, president of the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia, added: “The point of the billboard is to make nontheistic people, such as atheists and agnostics, aware that they aren’t alone.”
At the same press conference, Margaret Downey of Pocopson, president of Atheist Alliance International, highlighted the positive results that occur when nontheists find each other and become involved with other like-minded individuals.
Sally J. Cramer, president of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, declared: “Atheist and agnostic Americans have been made to feel marginalized. It’s time to change that. We’re here and we have a place at the table.”
“We want people to know there’s a serious and meaningful alternative to the religious right that has been dominating American religious discussion,” Fox added. “After all, a lot of people are frustrated with the power that traditional faiths have wielded, and they don’t know where to turn to find others who share that frustration. Now they will.”
The billboard will be up for three months and is one of a series that will appear around the country, raising the public profile of humanists and freethinkers. The billboard is backed by an active Web site at http://www.phillycor.org/ that sets forth the larger mission of the effort and offers ways that individuals can get involved. An image of the billboard appears on the site, but people can also phone 1-800-NEW-REASON. Either way they will be able to learn more about the national and Philadelphia organizations behind the effort.
“Once people have phoned or logged on, they can go further to learn more or just stop right there,” Cramer said. “No door-to-door evangelist will ever visit, and there are no pop-ups on the Web page. Our only aim is to reach those who really want to learn more.”
The billboard is large and clear–20 feet tall by 60 feet wide–and strikingly easy to see on the right side of the roadway.
“You can’t miss it,” Cramer concluded.
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PhillyCoR, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition of Reason, is a joint effort to help connect local freethinkers and provide them with a sense of community and a way to combine their voices with others who are ready to move society forward.
On Thursday, June 5, 2008, an article on the billboard appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in the local section (B2) and on the home page of their website.
A scan of the article is below….
On Friday, June 6, 2008, FOX News picked up the story nationally….
Rise of the Godless
Rise Of The Godless (Our billboard mentioned in the cover story of the National Journal)
The Last Minority Comes Out of the Closet
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
“I can’t get no respect.” Rodney Dangerfield’s famous complaint is one shared by the fastest growing minority in the United States: the non-religious. Despite the growth in the numbers of secular Americans, and the recent #1 bestselling books arguing for atheism, surveys show that atheists are more despised than any other group in the US.
Margaret Downey, president of Atheist Alliance International, is fighting back with a billboard that’s bringing on a lot of controversy. It recently debuted on the Santa Ana Freeway saying “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
The billboard, located near the Citadel Outlets and the Commerce Casino, is causing questions from both the religious and non relgious populations.
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) has commissioned the controversial billboard to create awareness and discussion about atheists in society.
“Atheists and agnostics are the fastest growing belief group in the nation,” said Ms. Downey. “But most non-theistic Americans still feel isolated. This billboard lets them know they are not alone.”
Godless Billboard Greets Kansas City Motorists on I-35
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
A bold message is being seen at I-35 southbound between Lamar & Antioch Road in Overland Park, KS. The striking words raise a question . . . and maybe some eyebrows – “Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone.” A billboard with billowy white clouds set against a blue sky backdrop promotes a new Kansas City group: KCFreeThinkers. whose goal is to attract like minded non religious people.
According to most recent surveys, the number of non believing Americans is high and growing, different numbers are cited between 8-16% which would make non believers in America one of the largest groups – 25-50 million people. Among younger people 19-40 years old the number of non believers are cited between 25-40%. The number of non religious Americans has doubled over past decades and is steadily growing. The billboard is aimed at perhaps hundred thousand of non believers in Kansas City Metro and hopes to be a connecting point for them.
Cole Morgan, one of the group’s activists said, “The point of the billboard is to help non-theistic people, such as atheists and agnostics, to become aware that they aren’t alone. We want people to know there’s a serious and meaningful alternative to the religious right that has been dominating American religious discussion. After all, a lot of people are frustrated with the power that traditional faiths have wielded, and they don’t know where to turn to find others who share that frustration. Now they will.”
“KCFreeThinkers” group was formed a few months ago by members of different Kansas City Skeptics, Humanist, Atheist, and Agnostic groups. They have contacted www.FreeThoughtAction.org and have been in touch with them about their goals. “FreethoughtAction” provided the billboard artwork and gave a generous donation for vinyl production.
The billboard on I-35 will stay up for at least two months. By logging onto the web site www.KCFreeThinkers.org those interested will be able to link up with different freethinking groups throughout KC (Community of Reason, Heartland Humanists, Skeptical Religious Studies Group, Kansas FreeThinkers, Jackson and Cass County as well as Wyandotte and Leavenworth County Freethinking groups, Science Book Club, etc.), browse links relating to history of religion, science, critical and logical thinking, politics and even listen and watch several video clips with freethinking songs. People calling in the group’s phone number 913-660-9529 or logging on to the site can learn more about group’s activities and offer their time and help. They can join the group’s humanitarian goals, from helping out your neighbors, to reaching across the world.
One of the group’s future goals is to have billboards in different KC locations on both the Missouri and Kansas sides. This city wide effort will begin in November/December of 2008.
Another group’s activist Hawkeye said, “We live in a day of critical thinking and growing skepticism in all facets of life. Religion is not excluded. We simply want to have a spot for others who think like us. KCFreeThinkers believe in people. If you will, we have faith in people because they make their own choices in a natural world. Not a supernatural world.”
Morgan added that once you call in or visit the site to find out more information “No door-to-door freethinking evangelist will ever visit, and there are no pop-ups on the Web page. Our only aim is to reach those who really want to learn more.”
The billboard is large and clear -14 feet tall by 48 feet wide – and is strikingly easy to see on I-35 Southbound past Lamar and before Antioch in Overland Park, KS off the roadway.
“You can’t miss it,” Morgan concluded. “We expect many people will see it daily for several months and contact us to move our society forward.”
Billboards Rock The Rockies
Monday, November 10, 2008
The famous/infamous “Don’t believe in God?” billboard just joined the “Mile High Club.” COCORE, the Colorado Coalition of Reason, has several signs up with more on the way. They plan to install 10 in all. While these billboards are a little smaller than the large highway structures we’ve been associated with to date, the smaller ones add the advantage of good regional coverage. Most will be in the Denver/Boulder area, but one will be down in Colorado Springs. Colorado marks the fifth market for our billboard.
Marvin Straus, a longtime local freethought leader, deserves major kudos for pulling together the CO effort. The press has taken notice with this report from the local ABC affiliate. Marvin reports that the billboards have already brought him 17 interviews as opposed to prior outreach projects that did not garner this kind of attention. COCORE — thanks for the Rocky Mountain high!
‘Why Believe in a God?’ Ad Campaign Launches on D.C. Buses
FreethoughtAction is also participating in the American Humanist Association‘s new ad campaign on Washington D.C. buses. “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake” will be on dozens of buses throughout the holidays. A special website, whybelieveinagod.org has been created to provide context for the ad and connect with those interested in humanism.
The theme — that one does not need a god to be good — is particularly apt considering AHA’s focus on “Values For Today.” The campaign has gotten massive media attention including in the Washington Post, CNN, and FOX. AHA’s president, Roy Speckhardt, and their communications director, Fred Edwords, deserve a lot of credit for boldly and skillfully leading the charge in this high-profile campaign.
Godless Billboard Going Up On Charleston’s I-26
Wednesday, January 22, 2009
For Immediate Release – Contact Herb Silverman at 843-670-0290 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A controversial new billboard is slated to appear January 26 on westbound I-26 just south of the Spruill Avenue exit in Charleston. It will carry a brief message emblazoned on a background of a blue cloud-filled sky: “Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone.” Below that will be the website address lowcountryhumanists.org.
“This billboard is unlike any that has ever appeared in South Carolina,” declared Herb Silverman, vice president of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. “We expect it to generate a mix of reactions from surprise, curiosity, and even uplift.”
The billboard is jointly sponsored by the local Secular Humanists of the Lowcounty as well as FreethoughtAction, a division of the American Humanist Association. Similar billboards appeared previously in the New York City area, Philadelphia, and in both Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado. (A high-resolution image of this billboard is available online at http://lowcountryhumanists.org/billboard.jpg.)
“In the past, some individuals have taken offense at this message,” Silverman added. “But that isn’t our purpose. Rather, it is to introduce likeminded people to the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry as well as let others know that it’s OK to be openly nonreligious.”
The billboard will be up until February 25 and is one of a series planned to appear this year around the country, raising the public profile of atheists, agnostics, and humanists. The billboard is backed by an active Web site at http://www.freethoughtaction.org that sets forth the larger mission of the effort and offers ways that individuals can get involved.
# # #
Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry (http://lowcountryhumanists.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1994 by a group of local nontheists in Charleston, South Carolina, the organization is committed to the application of reason, science, and experience to better understand the universe and solve human problems. Humanist ethics are derived from compassion and critical reasoning, tested by their consequences.
There was also national coverage from ABC News…
Billboard Beckons Atheists On Highway 95
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
“Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
Starting this week, these words will be read by motorists traveling on Highway 95 near Moscow, Idaho. They are part of a highway billboard that features an image of blue sky and clouds with the words superimposed over. The billboard is placed by the American Humanist Association, a national advocacy organization, and is part of an ongoing campaign to raise the public profile of nontheism.
The striking message raises a question . . . and maybe some eyebrows.
“The point of the billboard is to let nontheistic people–such as atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers–know they’re not alone,” explained Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The message is particularly important in smaller towns like Moscow and Pullman, which tend to have a larger percentage of religious people than the big cities. Nontheists might not realize there’s a community out there for them because they’re inundated with religious messages on every corner. But now they’ll have a message catered specifically to them.”
The announcement of the billboard coincided with a press conference held by the American Humanist Association today at the 1912 Center in Moscow. Speckhardt said he was excited to talk to the local community about the billboard campaign and the American Humanist Association’s mission.
Reaching out to nontheists isn’t the only goal of the billboard campaign: “We want people to know you can be good without God,” said Maggie Ardiente, director of development of the American Humanist Association. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about nontheists, so we want to educate people about our community and change those false perceptions. Humanists are patriots, we are dedicated to our families and friends and we want to live fulfilling, virtuous lives.”
The billboard will run on Highway 95 between March 24 and June 14 of this year. It can be found just south of Moscow near the Sweet Avenue cross street, facing southbound traffic.
The billboard is one of many that have gone up around the country, including billboards outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Charleston, South Carolina. In addition, during the past holiday season the American Humanist Association ran an ad campaign on metro buses in Washington, DC, which garnered both applause and controversy.
Godless Billboard Greets New Orleans Motorists
Friday, May 29, 2009
For Immediate Release – Contact Harry Greenberger, president
New Orleans Secular Humanist Association
Fred Edwords, communications director
United Coalition of Reason
“Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
These words are part of a national billboard campaign designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god, and the campaign is now in full swing in the Big Easy. The latest billboard can be read by motorists driving from downtown New Orleans on I-10 W. It can be seen on the left-hand side just prior to the Carrollton exits. It was placed by the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association and funded by the United Coalition of Reason. It features an image of blue sky and clouds with the words superimposed over.
“The point of the billboard campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States,” explained Fred Edwords, head of the United Coalition of Reason. “Nontheists sometimes don’t realize there’s a community out there for them because they’re inundated with religious messages at every corner. But we hope this message will serve as a beacon and will let them know they’re not alone.”
Reaching out to non-theists isn’t the only goal of the billboard campaign: “We want people to know you can be good without God,” said Harry Greenberger, leader of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about us, but we want people to know that we’re as normal as anyone else. We’re your friends, neighbors and family, and we pay taxes, are involved in our communities and are true to our values. And we want to feel comfortable sharing our ideas.”
The billboard is one of many that have gone up around the country this year, including those in places as far flung as Charleston, South Carolina; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; and Moscow, Idaho. The United Coalition of Reason plans to fund billboards in as many as 17 additional states before year’s end. And during the past Mardi Gras season, the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association had placed the same words, in a different design, on the Canal streetcar.
The New Orleans Secular Humanist Association ( www.nosha.info ) is dedicated to raising the awareness of people of the Gulf Coast region to the ideals and values of secular humanism.
The United Coalition of Reason ( www.unitedcor.org ) exists to raise the visibility and sense of unity among nontheists (atheists and agnostics) by providing funding and expertise to help them raise their public profiles.
A Streetcar Named Disbelief!
The New Orleans Secular Humanist Association got approval for their own contribution to the unofficial atheism marketing campaign: An atheist sign on a streetcar!
For information about our second billboard campaign, see HERE.