(Las Vegas, Nevada, December 16, 2014) How do the godless celebrate the holidays? One way is with a "Tree of Knowledge," metaphorically plucked from the fabled Garden of Eden and decorated with ornaments made out of the covers of books.
Such a tree has now been placed in the second section of the Magical Forest area of Opportunity Village, along a trail of sponsor trees. Opportunity Village, located at 6300 W. Oakey Blvd. in Las Vegas, is a nonprofit organization serving the intellectually disabled of Southern Nevada.
The group sponsoring the Tree of Knowledge is the Las Vegas Coalition of Reason (Las Vegas CoR), an alliance of five non-theistic (atheist, humanist, agnostic and freethinker) groups in the greater Las Vegas area. With this tree, Las Vegas CoR makes its public launch today.
Moreover, this Tree of Knowledge has received the endorsement of famed Rio Las Vegas magician Teller, half of the Penn & Teller team. Teller writes: "This boffo tree has the balls to have books."
The Tree of Knowledge is also part of a larger campaign that includes a prominent billboard bearing the words: "Godless? So are we!" superimposed over an image of the earth from space. This billboard, promoting Las Vegas CoR, is slated to appear Monday, December 22, on I-15, just south of Flamingo Road, facing north. It will be viewable by traffic heading to the McCarran International Airport.
"We want to make our presence in the community known," said Ray Johnson, coordinator of Las Vegas CoR. "Non-theistic people are your family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We may not believe in a deity or the supernatural, but we are compassionate, ethical members of this community."
The billboard and Tree of Knowledge have been made possible through $6,500 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR), a national organization headquartered in Washington DC. The 14 by 48 foot tall billboard will be up for four weeks, a period to include Festivus, Human Light, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day and the first half of January. It is illuminated at night.
For hi-res images of both the Tree of Knowledge and the billboard, free for media use, see the right sidebar.
This Las Vegas campaign is part a coordinated nationwide program that began in 2009. From then to now, 61 similar campaigns have been launched in 38 states and the District of Columbia by UnitedCoR.
"The point of our national awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States," explained UnitedCoR’s Executive Director, UnitedCoR national coordinator. "Non-theists sometimes don't realize there's a community for them, especially during the winter holiday season when they are overwhelmed with traditional theistic messages. So we hope our effort will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren't alone."
Johnson added, "We would like to encourage local atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, skeptics, secularists and humanists to stand up and be counted. If you are a Las Vegas nonbeliever, know that you are not alone."
"Being visible is important to us," Heap concluded, "because, in our society, non-theistic people often don't know many like themselves. The winter holiday season belongs to everyone, not just a few."
This campaign is the latest in a nationwide effort to reach out to non-theists. There have been similar billboards, bus ads, conferences or Internet campaigns in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
The Tree of Knowledge concept was developed by Margaret Downey, president of the Freethought Society in Pennsylvania, who provided the ornaments. World-famous Las Vegas artist Celestia Ward decorated the tree ( www.2headsstudios.com ). Since its origination in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 2007, the Tree of Knowledge has been used across the United States and abroad, in private homes and in public displays, as a secular symbol of the season.
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The Las Vegas Coalition of Reason (www.LasVegasCoR.org) serves as a resource for the public and is made up of the Humanist Association of Las Vegas, Las Vegas Atheists, Secular Student Alliance of UNLV, Secular Legal Society of UNLV and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas – Humanists. Friends of Las Vegas CoR include the United Church of Bacon, the Coming Out Godless Project, the Proud Atheist and Sunday Assembly—Las Vegas.
The United Coalition of Reason (www.UnitedCoR.org) exists to raise the visibility and sense of unity among local groups in the community of reason by providing funding and expertise to help them cooperate toward the goal of raising their public visibility.
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For more information contact:
Director of Corporate Sponsorships
6300 W. Oakey Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89146
702-839-4757 (office) 702-238-9489 (cell)