Oklahoma City Atheist Billboard Gets Publicity

Yesterday, I mentioned that Oklahoma City got a brand new atheist billboard thanks to their local Coalition of Reason:

Why put it up?

Reaching out to the like-minded isn’t the only goal of the effort. “We also want Oklahomans to know that there are many humanists, agnostics and atheists living here, contributing to the community,” added Nick Singer, coordinator of the Oklahoma City Coalition of Reason. “We’re your coworkers, neighbors, friends and family members. And like many people, we are leading good, happy and functional lives -– giving back to the community and staying true to our values.”

Well said!

Who is this Singer fellow? Abbie explains:

Nick Singer is the current president of OKC Atheists. Hes ushered us through an absolutely massive growth spurt. Like, a so large it is actually kind of obnoxious growth spurt. We do at least a dozen activities a month, from parents and kids hanging out at the zoo or a museum to the grown ups partying at a bar to movie nights to volunteer days to podcasts… and like, the activities are packed. The last pizza party I went to, we basically took over the entire resturant (there used to be a Church group that came the same night. we ran them off with our massiveness). Men, women, kids, homosexuals, young, old, even some non-white peoples! Insanity!

That. Is. Awesome.

Singer has already been interviewed by a couple different news programs. He comes across well-dressed and well-spoken.

The random people on the streets? Not so much…

Check out this clip from NewsChannel 4 (at the 2:40 mark) and wait until you get the soundbytes from the randoms…

Do you hear what they’re saying?

“I think it’s terrible.”

“They need to take it down… accidentally burn it or something.”

“I’m not surprised because of the way America is now… that people are able to say what they think and what they want… but god is good… If you don’t believe, you will one day.”

What?! Say what we think?! NEVER!

And check out the local FOX affiliate’s report.

One guy stands out in that piece:

“I can’t believe the world is coming to that.”

“If you have your own beliefs, keep ’em to yourself.”

“It’s a bad sign of what the world’s coming to.”

The billboard isn’t offensive and it speaks to people who are already atheists… but it’s enough to get religious people freaking out.

Which means it’s working. It’s showing how paranoid some theists can get when they simply hear about our existence!

The vandals will come shortly, I’m sure…

(via ERV)

  • Heidi

    “If you have your own beliefs, keep ‘em to yourself.”

    The irony of saying that on FOX is apparently lost on him.

  • Brianna

    I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma (born and raised) and several months ago there was a similar billboard along I-44 on my way home. To people like me who don’t share the same beliefs as most Oklahomans, the billboard was comforting.

    I don’t think it was for the COR because I remember going to the website. At that time, I was still trying to decide what my beliefs actually are, so it was mainly for research purposes that I visited the site.

    Last week I found Friendly Atheist and a few other like-minded writers and I couldn’t be happier. Deciding I’m an atheist felt like coming home.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Indeed, if the religious kept their beliefs to themselves, there’d be much less need for signs like this in the first place. What it comes down to though, is the knowledge that there are those who do not believe is just too much for some believers to comprehend and goes direct to their own fears. Funny that religious signs don’t seem to upset atheists as amuse them though!

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    I do like the join the club bit…

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    Unfortunately, this story has been pushed off the top by a new story about a local Pastor in a different kind of club.

    I can’t believe the world is coming to that.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    Indeed, if the religious kept their beliefs to themselves, there’d be much less need for signs like this in the first place.

    Indeed. My religion slowly slipped away over time, like a childish hobby one outgrows. Until one day, I chucked it all, like that old box stored in the back of the closet that you realized you will never open again. I would have never become an active atheist if I didn’t have concerns with religions trying to push themselves into the public sphere, especially debasing science and science education.
    Try to visualize a news program doing a segment like this when a Church puts up a billboard…..

  • Karen

    Dude, loved the suit! He just needs a bike and a helmet. That would really be disconcerting for them.

  • http://vancouvermoose.livejournal.com/ VancouverMoose

    Well that’s “journalism” for ya. Every news segment has to include disapproval from random yokels.

    I wish that producers of segments such as these were required to use the opinions of the first people they speak to, rather than the ones that will sell the most ad time.

    If that were to happen, you’d see five or six people saying “whatever, I don’t really care”.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i guess they couldn’t find too many young folks who wanted to comment in that first segment, except the dood who thinks atheists will return to belief someday, and he wasn’t exactly a teen.

    very, very glad to hear how well this club is doing. i have never been to OK, but it sounds like a scary place to be an atheist. bravo, reasonable OK folks!

    cowardice: it’s part and parcel with belief. that’s my reaction to all the people who are so askeer’t of a fucking sign.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    For people who can’t tell the difference: This is a bad sign. That is a good sign.

    I love how it is only the outrage of a few people that gives these posters the press that they get. A poster costs, what, a few thousand dollars max but the publicity is largely because some Christians can’t accept that not everyone believes as they do. This publicity in turn generates donations for further posters in other places. It is wonderful. If they really wanted to suppress it then they could start by ignoring the posters entirely until the funds ran out. I reckon someone from fox is a closet atheist with a sense of humour and a mission.

  • D

    It’s interesting to see people get all bent out of shape about these really mild atheist billboards. I saw a huge billboard near Woodbury, MN the other day that said ominously “When you die, you will meet God.” In the background it had that wavy line for a heartbeat monitor. My first thought was “that’s cheerful…and threatening.” My second thought was it would be funny to put up an adjacent billboard of the same design but change the message to “When you die, can I have your stuff?”

  • http://scienceblogs.com/erv ERV

    Yet another black guy who is so OFFENDED at the billboard, and cant BELIEVE it was allowed up.

    I do not *get* Christianity in the African/African American community.

  • http://toughquestionsblog.com AZSuperman01

    The sign doesn’t bash anyone’s beliefs, it simply calls out to other non-believers. Apparently simply the existence of non-believers is insulting.

    For people who can’t tell the difference: This is a bad sign. That is a good sign.

    I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, thanks for sharing!

  • Mark C.

    There’s an end-times billboard near Junction City, KS. The background is of our solar system’s planets in space (really close together so they’re all visible, of course) and the sign reads something like “Something amazing is coming soon….” It’s been there for at least since I was in elementary school, and I’m a sixth-year college undergrad (yeah, yeah, I know) right now, which is funny enough. But what’s even better is that the reverse side of the billboard has an ad for The Lion’s Den, a sex shop in Abilene, a nearby town! 😀

  • Claudia

    I’m always somewhat darkly amused by the freak-out of some religious people to these situations. How insulated have they been, how carefully protected from the slightest hint of dissent so that they find even the suggestion that other people don’t believe like them to be terrifying?

    In a way, I see the reaction of outrage and fear that one sometimes sees in very young children when they are spanked; utter shock and outrage in the discovery that the world is not centered around there every whim.

  • http://garretevans.com Garret

    As someone who lives in OKC, this doesn’t surprise me in the least. I was hoping to check out the sign yesterday, but I didn’t get a chance.

    Most people around here are pretty close-minded, but, obviously, there are some that break that mold and that’s pretty refreshing.

    I shared the original story with some friends yesterday, and one asked me what the point of the group was. I replied simply that they wanted to have a sense of community just like anyone else would want. Turns out the next couple of events that they are doing are volunteer work and an AIDS walk. I hope the next time they are on the news they can go into a little more detail on these types of things. People around here, who worship invisible men, have to see to believe, ironically enough.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    D:

    It’s interesting to see people get all bent out of shape about these really mild atheist billboards.

    Indeed. There’s a certain elegance in these billboard campaigns, in that pretty much any negative reaction is bound to be an overreaction. Theists don’t have an “out” by saying that the billboards are insulting or rude … well, they may pretend to have that “out,” but it’s such a transparently poor out that it’s bound to cause dissonance. In a way, that’s what we want to have happen.

  • Sheila

    I was born & raised in OKC; which, unfortunately, means I was raised in a fundy christian denomination, like most of the people here. It took me until age 40, but over time I abandoned the whole idea of a g0d and became an atheist. I am so HAPPY to see this billboard as I often am very lonely in my beliefs. My whole family thinks I am an evil apostate headed straight for hay-ull. Off to join the club, ASAP!

  • Alex

    I think the best part is the title of the video right above this story in the list:

    “Pastor Strip Club Investigation”

  • Parse

    I’d be a lot more concerned about this if this weren’t edited down to the inflammatory comments. How many people, when questioned, simply shrugged it off – and didn’t make it into the brief news clip?

    If you search long enough, you can always find those fifth dentists who don’t recommend such-and-such toothpaste.

  • Ron in Houston

    People getting “freaked” over benign things?

    Tell me it never happens!

  • swedishskinjer

    “I’m not surprised because of the way America is now… that people are able to say what they think and what they want…”

    This comment confuses me, because it seems roughly edited and yet the remainder of what the man says is so astoundingly stupid that I wouldn’t be surprised if he made such a verbal slip-up. Is he implying that freedom of speech is some new, nefarious concept in America and that encountering Americans of different beliefs is some unacceptable offense?

    I agree that a good amount of the people most likely shrugged it off. These reactions were selected out of the lot because they will generate the most heat.

    “If you have your own beliefs, keep ‘em to yourself.”

    Will he abide by the same standards? I can’t imagine living in a world in which everyone is encouraged to shut up and keep their beliefs to themselves. Would he have said the same thing to our Founding Fathers?

    “They need to take it down… accidentally burn it or something.”

    Bastard.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Kudos for the club!

  • Bill

    As an atheist Brit translocated to the US I was always a bit taken aback by the negative responses to these mild billboards. The other day, in traffic I suddenly saw on the three cars visible in front of me two Darwin fish and a big scarlet atheist ‘A’. After all the fire and brimstone church signs that I had been driving past (rural Florida) these three modest little symbols made me feel very happy and relaxed and calm – little signs of intelligence and rationalism. Imagine what those big billboards must do for closet-atheists – I hope more and more go up across the country.

  • http://www.atheistatom.com Atheist Atom

    These signs really need to say “Don’t believe in A god?”

    I like to remind them that there are hundreds of gods, and theirs is just one. It makes yahwe much less significant.

  • Rabid

    I notice in the reports little corner picture… thing, they’ve helpfully cropped the image so it reads “believe in God? Join the club.”

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    There’s absolutely nothing offensive about this sign. I don’t get the outrage.

  • Mark C.

    @Atheist Atom,

    Definitely. Whenever possible, I try to emphasize that I don’t believe in gods. I won’t narrow the focus to one of them unless I’m specifically talking about it. But I think it’s important 1) to be completely accurate, so as not to mislead people into thinking that atheists are only non-Christians, and 2) to remind theists that their gods aren’t the only ones we don’t believe in. This latter reminder, as you implicitly stated, is important.

  • http://blog.OklahomaAtheists.com D4M10N

    Rabid,

    I noticed that bizarre crop-job too and wondered if it could possibly have been accidental. I’ve cropped enough images to say that it probably could not have been an accident.

    For more fairly unbalanced reportage from the same news outlet, check this out.

  • Danny wuvs kittens

    Tropical storm Harmene? Coincidence? I think not.

  • Iggy

    Cropped pic in their teaser box really lets you know what kind of leadership the station has.

  • MH

    The ad campaign is really well done. I hope they get members because of it.

    You know the old saying about all publicity being good publicity. I wonder if the conservative media will figure out that they are taking a mild outreach billboard and amplifying its reach by turning it into a TV commercial.

  • Heidi

    @MH: Doubtful. They’ve been at this moral outrage thing for how long without figuring that out?

  • Elisabeth Leja

    It’s nice to know there are like-minded people here in Oklahoma. People I know can hardly believe I don’t think like they do.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    I think billboards like this are great, a beacon of hope for nonbelievers surrounded by nuttiness.

    But the comment from Claudia doesn’t sit well with me, and I feel compelled to register my objections. Please excuse the digression.

    “I’m always somewhat darkly amused by the freak-out of some religious people to these situations. How insulated have they been, how carefully protected from the slightest hint of dissent so that they find even the suggestion that other people don’t believe like them to be terrifying?”

    The first part is fine.

    “In a way, I see the reaction of outrage and fear that one sometimes sees in very young children when they are spanked; utter shock and outrage in the discovery that the world is not centered around there every whim.”

    The second part isn’t. As a victim of the abusive parenting condoned and encouraged by religion (“spare the rod…”, and all the examples of God acting abusive), this callous justification of hitting children (“spanking isn’t that bad”, some will say; it still sends multiple bad messages regardless of the degree used by any particular parent, and many other parents are ‘less restrained’) to show them that “the world isn’t centered around their every whim” is saddening to see, particularly on Friendly Atheist of all places.

    – Might makes right.

    – The end justifies the means.

    – It’s okay to use force/violence to get what you want.

    – When you have power over someone, you don’t need to consider how your actions make them feel.

    – The two (or one) people in the world who should most care about you, and this is how they treat you? This must mean that either nobody really cares about you (so why should you really care about yourself and/or anyone else), or that this is how you show someone you care (boys, be sure to remember this when you’re dating/married, and of course for your own kids): hit them until they fall in line with what you ‘know’ is ‘best’.

    – and so on

    I’ve heard all the justifications. (“Kids are so dense, how will they learn x if you don’t beat it into them?”; incompetent parent gets desperate and it was the easiest thing to do; and so on.) It’s still a terrible practice that should not be considered okay.

  • Demonhype

    @Anonymous Atheist:

    I can’t really add much to that except “AMEN”! Except for something I read about the potential to confuse abuse and sexuality at an early age, since you’re essentially beating them on an erogenous zone. So you have the two (or one) people who supposedly love you more than anyone else ever will who are hurting you, but also stimulating some very inappropriate responses in some cases that could create an intrinsic link between love, sex, and violence. I know I’m in that camp. When I finally sat back to figure out where I got this BDSM kink I’ve had since I was about four or five, since before I even knew about BDSM (since I’m so emphatically non-violent in other areas of my life and opposed to even spanking or hitting kids in any way), and that’s exactly where it led. I had violence and sex tied in my head at a very early age because of my parents well-meaning but poorly informed assumption that this was how to deal with kids.

    And because of that, I’m a little afraid to get in a relationship for obvious reasons. My sister was in a relationship with some jerk who put a gun to her head–TWICE!!! And my brother’s fiance, while not being physically abusive, has an abusive nature in her own right and has put my brother through all manner of hell that he just writes off as if it doesn’t matter and doesn’t negate her love. And they didn’t get whacked nearly as much as I did. I was on medication that had a side-effect of hyperactivity, so I didn’t even understand why I could never seem to control myself, so I was constantly getting whaled on for acting on completely incomprehensible impulses, impulses that melted away like magic within a couple weeks of my outgrowing the need for my medication. I didn’t even know about side-effects, much less what my medication’s side effects were, but my mom sure did! Didn’t stop her from exacting her petty revenge though. Plus, my mom had and continues to have a contempt for intelligent, academically successful people, which translated into more beatings for me and more leniency for my slower sister. Hooray!

    Anyway, if that’s how my brother and sister turned out with less hitting, I am terrified that I’ll end up dead or paralyzed.

    Also, I’ve heard the argument that for kids, it’s essentially torture. Pain is much more acute for kids than it is for adults, and what you feel as an adult is not exactly how a child will perceive it. Remember how terrible it was to skin your knee and then have to put iodine or something on it–pure agony! But when you grow up, you can shrug off that same injury.

    I’ve been called “extreme” because I said that I would dump any man who believed in spanking kids, and I would divorce my husband if he ever raised a hand to our kids (supposing we even have any). Usually this is from people who either spanked their kids and/or people who say “I got spanked and I turned out fine, so shut up!” Guess what? My uncle thinks he’s “fine” too, and he’s a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks the Mafia has been stalking him for the last ten years. Thinking you’re just fine and perfect is not an indication that everything is actually fine and perfect. And it’s entirely possible to be a basically stable member of society and still have some unsavory subconscious assumptions drilled into you from your childhood training. No one is saying that people who were spanked as kids are in need of a rubber room. Relax.

    Bottom line: Spanking is the method that lazy parents use to enforce their will on their kids, when it’s not an outlet to vent personal parental frustration. My own parents don’t appreciate that sentiment since they don’t want to believe they were lazy or abusive, but screw them. I guess it’s frustrating when you can’t beat your views into your kids anymore, or work out your frustrations on their carcasses. You should have seen their faces when I got big enough to hit back–and did I ever go for blood!

    Some people are horrified that “You HIT your MOTHER?”, but guess what? That was when they stopped beating their values into me and started talking to me like a human being and making a real effort to make arguments to justify their views. And even though we infuriate each other plenty, our relationship is a lot better than it was when they got to write the bottom line and then beat it into me.

    They still don’t know about my BDSM kink though, or how influential it is in my perpetually single status. I’m sure they’d be in complete denial about their own role in its creation if I did tell them.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    Thank you for that comment, Demonhype. It’s great to hear from another Friendly Atheist reader who sees the huge amount of problems with ‘spanking’, in spite of the many people in the general population who are in denial about it.

    Willful ignorance, dismissal of harm, adherence to mindless primitive traditions, passed down through each generation forcing it on the next who come up with excuses to justify perpetuating it… I notice some distinct parallels to religion. 😉

  • Jason

    Nice billboard! I live in rural Ohio and atheism is not something you would want to wear on your shirtsleeve. Atheists are generally regarded with the same contempt that muslims, and minorities are.

    It is refreshing to read that you have a community of like minded people. Yesterday at public school my daughter had an hour long program to try to get her to want to join the girl scouts. She is in the second grade so she only understands the fun aspect of it and is now very eager for us to sign her up. Can you imagine a public school bringing in an agency to promote atheism to the children!!??!

    At school during lunch a child questioned all at the table “who here believes in god?”, my daughter said she didn’t so the children went to a teacher and told on her.
    For our own childrens’ safety we feel we must tip toe around the whole god issue. Unfortunately we have decided that the best thing for our family is to tell our children it is a very offensive thing to tell people that you don’t believe in god and it’s not a nice thing to do to other people because it hurts them.

    At this point in my life my main concern is the welfare of my family, so for now we’ll be staying in the closet.

  • Amanda

    We were traveling down Highway 51 in Tulsa, OK today and came across another sign. “Atheism is OK in Oklahoma” from the freedom from religion foundation. There are several groups and clubs in the area. All you have to do is a Google search. Here’s a link to the video.

    http://doctore0.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/atheism-is-ok-in-oklahoma-ffrf-billboard/

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Yesterday at public school my daughter had an hour long program to try to get her to want to join the girl scouts. She is in the second grade so she only understands the fun aspect of it and is now very eager for us to sign her up.

    Jason, what’s wrong with that? The Girl Scouts are a completely separate organization from the Boy Scouts and they do not discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. If your daughter wants to sign up, I’m sure she would have a great time. I absolutely loved the year I spent in Girl Scouts. While there’s “ceremonial deism” in some of the language, they let girls change the wording of the Promise to whatever reflects their own convictions.

    http://www.girlscouts.org/program/gs_central/promise_law

    I was an atheist kid, and I don’t remember being exposed to anything religious from leaders, at events or meetings, or at Girl Scout camp.

  • harzwell

    Buisness owner:

    happy

  • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    As always, for theists, freedom of speech only applies if you say what they want to hear. For anyone else, it is always “Shut up, you disrespectful heathen!”

    Is is any wonder theists are mostly held in derision and contempt by those capable of rational thought? Most are too polite to express this. It’s too bad that theists do not have the same code of conduct.