By Ben Adducchio – West Virginia Public Broadcasting
October 22, 2009: A West Virginia group of non-believers is encouraging atheists to speak their mind in Morgantown.
Electronic billboards are distracting no matter what they say, but one in particular is catching the eyes of drivers in Morgantown.
The words “Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone” are superimposed over an image of blue sky and clouds.
This billboard and others like it in several communities around the country are produced by the national group, United Coalition of Reason.
Neece Campione is coordinator of the Morgantown chapter.
“We are all non-believers, and we feel we need to come out of the closet, so to speak, and join forces and show that we are productive, healthy, normal people who are good members of society,” she said.
The local Coalition of Reason chapter consists of four organizations: the Morgantown Atheists, Morgantown Thomas Paine Society, the Freethinkers of Morgantown and the Morgantown Brights, an organization of atheists dedicated to being morally responsible.
Will Booth is Vice President of the Morgantown Brights.
“I’ve seen studies in peer-reviewed journals showing that atheists are the least trusted minority in the country, which is very surprising to me,” he said.
Campione and Booth say they are wary of openly discussing their atheism with others in West Virginia.
Campione thinks atheists are infringed upon in society.
“In my personal life, I’ve felt in different family situations, that I would never tell most of the people that I’m an atheist,” she said.
The coalition received both positive and negative feedback from the Morgantown billboard.
Campione says the group is not trying to criticize or insult religious people.
“It’s about saying what we’re all about,” she said, “we value reason more than anything, logic, scientific empirical evidence, as opposed to faith.”
The coalition hopes to bring both religious and non-religious speakers to their meetings to discuss religion, logic and philosophy.
Members think the billboard is a success. They’ve received feedback from other atheists who say they are speaking more openly about their beliefs.