Don’t believe in God? You are not alone. It’s a simple message aimed at non-believers who live in the buckle of the bible belt.
"There’s more heathens than you would be lead to believe," laughed Steven Olsen, president of the Springfield Free Thinkers.
Two billboards with the slogan "Don’t believe in God? You are not alone," are up on I-44. Atheists hope it’s a way to gather a minority group together and explain beliefs or lack of beliefs.
"It’s giving them a way to come out of the closet and say, ‘hey it’s okay to be an atheist. I’m good without God,’" explained Adam Brown, creator of atheismresource.com. "And really help people feel more comfortable in what they already believe and they are just afraid to say."
For some atheists and skeptics, admitting to non-belief can lead to persecution and tension.
"My family doesn’t actually know that I am an atheist or a non-believer because I am afraid to be excommunicated from my own family," said Bryan Norkus, part of the Skeptics and Atheists Network. "People don’t realize that we are being persecuted based on our central beliefs."
Over 1,100 people gathered at the Gillioz Theater over the weekend at the fourth annual Skepticon to talk science, politics, and religion. During a break on Saturday, attendees saw a sign in the window of Gelato Mio stating, "Skepticon is not welcomed to my christian business."
"We had no problem shopping there even though they are owned by a Christian, but they didn’t want to take our money simply because we don’t believe the same thing they do and that’s really a disappointment," said Brown.
Owners later took the sign down and apologized on their facebook page.
To many, atheists and even godless billboards help to lead people toward faith, not away from it.
"Those billboards that ask you to question your faith are going to lead you to thinking and hopefully help you to arrive at some sort of truth," elaborated Joey Terick, a Catholic missionary who works with college students.
"We advertise the same way by putting a cross out in the front of our facility. By all means, I think it is their right," continued David Pyck, a lifelong Catholic.
"Sure there are some who choose to say that He does not exist," said Pastor Joe Decker, of South Campbell Avenue Baptist Church. "But just because there are others who say He doesn’t exist, doesn’t negate the truth that He in fact does."