One More Atheist Billboard Goes Up in Orange County

The Backyard Skeptics group in Orange County, California has just put up this billboard “off the 55 freeway and Edinger Ave in Santa Ana”:

The ad costs $6,000 and it’ll be up for one month. It’s paid for by an anonymous donor. Two more billboards will follow:

“We’ve been getting a lot of comments from people saying we should have spent that money on charity,” [Backyard Skeptics founder Bruce] Gleason said. “But look at all the Christian billboards. Shouldn’t they also be spending that money on charity?”

Two more atheist billboards will appear next month, he said. One, along the 22 Freeway at Valley View, will say: “Faith has no answers. It only impedes questions.”

The other, along a street in Orange, will quote Thomas Jefferson.

Gleason also explained why he put up the ad in an opinion piece for the Daily Pilot:

So why an atheist billboard? I believe it will make people examine their faith. Maybe it takes a controversial idea to whack someone’s mind-numbing ignorant bliss to make them at least peek at the other side and ask some questions.

And just maybe, they’ll do less praying and more doing to make this world a better place.

This is the third billboard campaign for the Backyard Skeptics.

Their first was in conjunction with the Orange County Coalition of Reason:

Their second campaign was run entirely by them and featured two ads spread out over 30 different bus shelters:

With all the attention the ads are getting, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up paying for themselves by way of members and donations.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/MegaZeusThor Mega Zeus Thor

    Good stuff. I really like the top billboard.

    “should have spent that money on charity” – this argument can be applied to any advertising or yacht purchase. I’m glad that those who don’t accept the god concept are getting a voice.

    • Mabbittt

      Interesting your aetheistic view, yet choose your online name from other gods.

      • Jesse

        There’s nothing odd or hypocritical for an atheist to use the names of fictional characters (such as Zeus, Allah, Ganesh, Thor or Frigga)  for their online alias.  What was “interesting” about such a choice?

  • Annie

    I wonder who is saying the money should be going to charity instead of billboards… other atheists or religious people?  If it is religious people, regardless of whether or not they have billboards up, they need to remember that churches, mosques and synagogues are not cheap to maintain… so couldn’t that money go to charity too?

    • Rich Wilson

      I’m guessing it’s the same people who are telling Hemant that he should spend less time talking about the Bad Christians and more time talking about the Good Christians.

      Or that “A Little Respect!” cartoon http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_o3dzXxpgffk/TDsl0QZ004I/AAAAAAAAAe0/lSkkWxS50g8/s1600/atheist-cartoon.png

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OL2FUKBJZG4YA2XX3QUDPNF6KE Weiqiu

      Glass houses?  According to sourced statements on wikipedia, “Religious belief appears to be the strongest predictor of charitable giving.[178][179][180][181][182]
      One study found that average charitable giving in 2000 by religious
      individuals ($2,210) was over three times that of secular individuals
      ($642). Giving to non-religious charities by religious individuals was
      $88 higher. Religious individuals are also more likely to volunteer
      time, donate blood, and give back money when accidentally given too much
      change.[180]“

  • Barbara

    I love the billboards and happen to support the ventures, but seriously I would like to see charities grow within the atheist community.  It is unfortunate that some of the charities that do the the largest outreach are run by religious organizations.  I know there are many secular charities that have out reach on an international level, but as atheists I think we would make a much larger impact sharing our messages if we had charities in communities that directly impact lives.  And they could grow as a national message if atheist groups across the U.S. reach out to each other to tie them together.
    I often volunteer as I know many other atheists that do, but we are often volunteering for religious organizations.  I have no issue with that when it can help impact lives, but it would certainly be a good thing if we could organize ourselves with backing from large atheist groups to reach out in ways that would recognize us as a secular organization and as atheists.  Then those billboards might really have an even larger impact on the communities they are placed in.

    • Jesse

      There are such organizations!  Hemant is the chair of one, as you can read in his bio right on this page. ;-)  Is it important to expand them, and have more, and have them more connected? Sure, and Hemant, and many others, are doing exactly that.

    • MichaelLust

      This sounds like eagerness to prove the virtue of atheists to the religious… maybe it isn’t, but that is how it seems to me. It also seems to me that if anyone has to prove their virtue to anyone else, it is the religious who have made the relevant affirmative assertions (that their gods are real, that worship of these gods encourages and facilitates a virtuous life, etc). Their assertion, their burden of proof. And, so far, it appears that the evidence of experience has generally failed to support their theses.

  • Gaian

    I like the billboards a lot but also feel that charity is needed.  Billboards don’t cost that much in reality and are very effective ways to let people know about your organization.  I know a lot of atheists contribute time and money to charities but somehow we don’t get credit as a group.  Barbara has good ideas if we could create a closer knit communities of charities that are atheist based.  So many international aid organizations are religious based it seems high time we have a secular one. 

  • Karen

    I was recently told that the multimillion dollar home nearby was purchased by a minister.
    On a billboard, a pic of a house of that nature with the words:  I prefer my money to go to those in need.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QWQPKEAP3GDQ5TUFTRTRPHSC2U Paul Rinzler

    I hope everyone can appreciate the following heresy as a heresy:

    I don’t see that there is any connection between atheists or atheist groups and doing charity.  It’s only because religious groups do charity that atheist groups feel the need to do charity in order to compete.  But atheism is not a dogma that requires charity like religions are.

    I think we get sucked into their (religions’) game by thinking that we need to keep up with them, especially in the eyes of the public.  We should just be who we are, as atheist organizations, and have a mission that comes right from who we are, not what others think we should be.

    It’s much easier to make the case that atheists should be involved, for instance, in politics (separation of church and state).  That flows directly from our essential identity.  But charity? Where does that come from?  Not from atheism qua atheism.

    • JimG

       There’s certainly no “atheist dogma” requiring us to give some arbitrary percentage of our wealth, but to the extent that atheism implies humanism, and thus valuation of others’ lives and  happiness for their own sake, charity is – so to speak – a given.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QWQPKEAP3GDQ5TUFTRTRPHSC2U Paul Rinzler

        I agree, but also think that 

        (1) there is no necessary connection between atheism and humanism.

        (2) there is no requirement, for lack of a better word, that atheist organizations be charitable or contribute to charities.  It may be tactically wise, it may connect with humanist goals, but it isn’t essential.

        So, if there is an atheist organization that does no charitable work, it should not raise an eyebrow.

        This is more my working hypothesis than a firm conclusion, feel free to poke holes in it.

        • http://purl.org/NET/JesseW/SundryStuff/ Jesse Weinstein

          I don’t think anyone is or has claimed that **all** atheists (or atheist organizations) should do charity, so that’s a straw argument.

          Could you cite where you got that impression from?

          The claim that I’ve seen Hemant (and others) make is that it is useful to make visible the amount of charitable work/donations **already** done by atheists, as a means of showing that doing charitable work does not require religious belief.  This is the point of the Foundation Beyond Belief, as I understand it. 

          Do you disagree with this point?

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QWQPKEAP3GDQ5TUFTRTRPHSC2U Paul Rinzler

            I don’t claim that that impression would be an accurate one, given what people have previously written here.  I just was trying to clarify.

            I have no problem with atheist organizations doing charitable work, just as long as it doesn’t become some sort of requirement in an informal sense, or a moral sense, etc.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t feel compelled to compete with religious charities when I volunteered to work for MSF, I wanted to be there and make a personal contribution.

    • dauntless

      I agree with Paul and would like to add a few points.

      There are already hundreds or thousands of charities with secular mission statements. We don’t need hundreds of more charities, which will waste a large portion of donations on operational overhead, when we already have secular charities which do good work.

      Also, any charity organization with an atheist mission statement would have the potential to divide the community. Look at how the Foundation Beyond Belief has divided the community by earmarking money for religious charities. Similarly, such charities would not draw money from religious people. Don’t fool yourself; the majority of people in the U.S. are religious. The inclusion of any kind of profession of atheism in a mission statement would turn them off as much as professions of the divinity of christ turns you off of donating the religious charities.

  • Drakk

    “Maybe it takes a controversial idea to whack someone’s
    mind-numbing ignorant bliss to make them at least peek at the other side
    and ask some questions.”The directness is amazingly refreshing.

  • Anonymous

    This all began with the atheist bus campaign started by Ariane Sherine, she responded to a website reference on a religious bus advertisement that suggested that we heathens are all going to hell, we’re just setting the record straight

  • Tim

    One of the atheist billboards, reworded: “Faith does not answer questions. It damns them.”

  • Anonymous

    How is atheism about philanthropy or peace? That doesn’t make sense.

  • http://twitter.com/eccles64 Robert Tobin

    I hope it is next to the Crystal Cathedral,  another home for “Liars for Jesus” and spreaders of the God Virus.

    • Calvinist

      He only infects who wishes to, sir

      • Jesse

        Like the Spanish missionaries who came along with the Conquistadors?  Really voluntary there, uh huh.

  • Barbara

    So by not applying ourselves to charitable works as a group over individualism, we are once again seen as an uncaring loosely knit organization of non believers?  We already have organizations that work for the separation of church and state.  We could invest in assisting them in their goals.  And the organizations in existence have believers as well.  It would be much more productive/affective because it would contain a larger community.  What would be the point of atheists groups at all? 
    The point is, if we become a ‘group’ of any sort, we should be inclusive a a greater good of outreach.  Maybe that is too humanist of atheists?  Because I know many people who have that impression.  As a group we are seen to disparage christians but do little for the well being of those in need.  I find that extremely sad and also bordering on irrational thought.  We need charitable organizations, unless the opinion is that of which we really are detached and don’t care.  If that is the case, I would as an individual have to continue my support of religious charities in order to make sure those in need in my community have the support and outreach they need in these difficult times.  I would not let my non theism mean more to me than my desire to make an impact of making sure others have a means to feed their families and having access to shelter.

  • Achess

    I don’t like the first add: the message is simply false.

  • Cz

    Atheism is a religion too. 

    • Rich Wilson

      Yep.  Sure is.  Next?

      • Mg16300

        No, my atheism is the lack of any religion or blind belief in anything that cannot be proved to me. Organized religion may have its place for some, but has been the most negative force on our planet since its inception. 

    • DaBudaMasta

      Would you consider unemployment as a job?

  • brandon hardy

    When i see about the atheist on the orange county billboards i decided to think if i am going to turn out like you. Very interesting post.
     

  • brandon hardy

    I can’t believe about the outdoor advertising in
    orange county
    about the atheist but i think there’s nothing wrong for being an atheist as long you cannot disturbed others belief.

    • Evan Labbe

      by your words, it’s ok to be an Athiest, so long as you do not push that belief onto others?
      pushing beliefs onto others… where have I seen that before?

  • brandon hardy

    orange county outdoor advertising was a great place to display your thoughts about being an atheist.
     

    i

  • brandon hardy

    orange county outdoor advertising was a great place to display your thoughts about being an atheist.
     

    i

  • Olbat413

    It must be reassuring to some people in Orange county, who may have had doubts or second thoughts about the rampant religiosity there, that there are alternatives to beliefs that others espouse…everyone is not disposed to be religious and needs to know there are others like them out there,too.

  • Bgpendry

    Only One Comment  Religions Will Take One To Hell And Not Believe  In JESUS Will  Do Like Wise . My  One And Only Prayer .  
     May God Have Mercy On Our Soles 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QLABHWR2ILABFTZIQYZEFHLMOA Russell

    Read all the comments and received what I expected, nothing. It seems that this “Atheist” religion is another do good-er that simply has charities that are basically against a God that would hold them accountable. For the sake of religion, what makes this belief any different? Be a good human and show them hypocrites up! A world depopulation is an ideal situation ahead under the atheist mindset. It is for the better, and after all if their is no god, then no harm is done, it is for the better of others.   

  • Edwinthomas01

    Remarkably civilized discussion for Christians and Atheists.  Not much screaming of epithets.  Its almost as if everybody involved realizes the truth of the situation, i.e. that we’re all just guessing about all of it.  After all, there is no way for natural beings (anyone here NOT a natural being?) to ever know anything about anything supernatural.  Not even whether it exists or not.  So, kudos.

  • Andrew

    I see these billboards as hypocritical, actually just the third; because it blatantly demeans religion. Although it is a quote from an individual, using the quote detracts from the obvious goal of establishing an atheist community, to saying that belief in religion is wrong because you read the book it is established in and came to a “personal” conclusion that it is stupid and that is why you are an atheist now. I am not objecting the billboards, but promote yourself without belittling other ideology; just take out “I read the bible” and your problem is solved. I know many atheists who actually impose their “beliefs” on me. I am christian and I personally don’t go around saying you are going to hell to atheists, the idea doesn’t even cross my mind, but as soon as the situation arises where belief becomes the topic, I am looked upon as an ignorant and stupid being for believing in a god. The third billboard represents that aspect of atheism to me (i.e. the atheist who says I am right because your belief in god is illogical and then tries to prove to you why you shouldn’t believe in a god) . I am definitely against the judgement of people for their beliefs. I am only human, I dont punish the sinners and reward the righteous eternally, however I try my best to respect people and their beliefs, even if they differ from mine. If you are atheist, good for you, if that is your choice in life, like I said before, who am I to judge. I am only human. As for me, I believe when I die, I will be looked at for what I did during my life and be judged… not for what you or they did but for what I did in my life. What I wish for humanity is that they have a confident outlook at life, and always learn and grow, while being able to have a chance to be happy. If you have to judge, judge whether your milk has gone bad, or how crispy your panini is, but stop it when it comes to belief, be and show that you are a good person by humbly performing tasks (if you are able to) that increase the happiness in the people around you and in your communities. I dont mean to preach or anything so take this for what it is, whether you are an atheist or a religious person. I hope you have a pleasant life.  


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