News

May 01, 2008

Godless Billboard Greets Philly Area Motorists

For Immediate Release - Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088 fedwords@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

(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 it's 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 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.

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Questions and Answers about the PhillyCoR Billboard
What is the purpose of your sign?
To reach people who have questions about God and religion and want reason based answers.

Don’t you think a sign like that on I-95 will offend people?
No, we know there are tens of thousands of people who question a belief in God. We want them to know they are not alone and can contact us.

What will your organization be telling the people who inquire?
Our goal is to educate people, and remove superstition. It’s actually to liberate them.

Do you think people are ready to hear your message?
Definitely “Yes.” The recent PEW Foundation research polls show that people who question faith are the fastest growing segment of our population.

What are some of the things you believe in?
The Bible is a work of fiction and even though it is the best selling book, year in and year out, it should not be taken literally. Example: We don’t believe there was a talking snake in the Garden of Eden.

What do you say to people who believe in God?
Our mission is to educate, not convert. The more facts people have, the better able they will be to reach their own conclusion.

Are you atheists?
Some of us define ourselves that way. Others are humanists or freethinkers. You don’t have to call yourself and atheist to join our group.

What does your organization believe in?
Separation between church and state, democracy, etc. Humanity can solve the problems that humanity created (and cannot depend on a supernatural being to come down and solve our problems for us)

What do I do if I want to join one of your groups?
Each member of PhillyCOR has a link to their own website, and each group has its own mission statement and meeting events.