Atheist Billboards Go Up in Reno, Nevada

Anyone else surprised it took this long to get atheist billboards up in Nevada?

In any case, the Reno Coalition of Reason now has its own signs:

… and this marks the least offensive thing seen in Nevada today.

The largest of the two, 12 by 44 feet in size, is on U.S. Hwy 395 South, one mile south of Mt. Rose Junction (Towne Drive), and the other, 12 by 25 feet, is on I-80 West (west of Robb Drive). Both boards are illuminated at night and on the left side of the road. The ads will remain up for four weeks. The billboards have been placed by the Reno Coalition of Reason (Reno CoR) with $6,436.00 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (United CoR).

Reaching out to the like-minded isn’t the only goal of the coalition: “We hope that folks will realize that we are a regular part of the community,” said Edwin Lyngar, coordinator of the Reno Coalition of Reason. “People like us live throughout Nevada. We’re your friends and family, coworkers and neighbors. We might even be someone sitting in the pew with you at church.”

Reno CoR will also be marching in the Nevada Day Parade in Carson City on Saturday,

Will there be any controversy about the billboards? It’s easy to say no, but just about any suggestion that atheists exist and can be good is enough to rattle Christian sensibilities these days…

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/deedyi deedyi

    The trouble with this wording is that it suggests that ‘God’ is something real, something definable. It would have been much better to use “Invisible Magic Friends” or a similar device.

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    I’m sure this will go down the way these campaigns always do, which is why it’s still worth running them.

    The day everyone just goes ‘Meh’ will be a good day.

  • Johannsone

    Maybe it should say “without a god”. Itemize it, no capitalization. Capital G personalizes it, rather than making it a ‘thing’.  But I guess we still capitalize the s in santa, so there ya go. What do I know, I always got into trouble for not capitalizes the M in mom when I was a kid, which seemed silly to me since that wasn’t her name. Glad to see the outreach program of sorts, though. People need a place to go with their questions and we all know the churches don’t really want any doubters. Conform or be cast out.

    • Susan Creamer

      FYI: The word Mom or Dad (and grandparent titles as well) can be capitalized or not. Typically, if a personal possessive pronoun is before it, such as my or your, mom is NOT capitalized. English teacher here. ‘M just sayin.’ :-)

      • Johannsone

        yea, i figured as much. I just liked to cause a little more than my fair share of aggravation. I’m obviously no english scholar. I’ll claim english as a second language for poor grammar and sentence structure :)

  • Anonymous

    I would still prefer it if the billboards used “gods” rather than “God”.

    Greta Christina wrote the other day that coming out as atheist is confrontational by the mere fact that they disagree with the theist point of view.  We are saying that the theist is wrong by proposing a world view (if you can call it that) that does not include gods. 

    Good.  They are the ones who believe in something without evidence.  If something as understated as polite disagreement is enough to upset them then it might be enough to get a few of them to reconsider their views.  Maybe.

    • gsw

      “atheist is confrontational by the mere fact that they disagree with the theist point of view”

      Actually, no, they (theists) are being confrontational by disagreeing with me.

  • Fred Edwords

    Just to help out a little here on the “God” vs. “a god” question, I used the common noun “a god” on the American Humanist Association bus ad slogan that I helped write back in 2008. But I used the upper case form in the ad slogan here. Either is fine. But one must keep billboard slogans at seven words or less if they are to be readable and memorable to drivers speeding by.  Therefore, this time, we had to use the proper noun “God” to keep the words from going over the effective limit. 

    None of this sort of thing should pose a philosophical a problem for us. After all, names and name-titles of fictional characters are always supposed to be upper cased: Superman, Clark Kent, Peter Pan, Zeus, Jesus Christ, Bozo the Clown, etc. And some stand-alone titles are proper nouns too because they stand in for names, like when writing a letter that starts out “Dear Mother” (but not “my mother says”).

    We do, after all, want to stick to the common canons of style so we avoid making ourselves look cultic in print. This is why we should avoid upper casing common nouns like “atheist” and “humanist” (unless they are parts of the names of organizations) and should avoid lower casing proper nouns like “Jesus” and “God.” Unfortunately, some in our movement don’t see the wisdom of this policy.
      

    • Johannsone

      thank you Fred, and huge Duh at me, that makes complete sense, both from the way we write fictional character names to the “hey over here” advertising. I think the billboard is great. I’d like to see one around here ..

    • Dona Lynette Stewart

      I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and I do love Bozo, especially Firesign Theaters ‘ “We are all Bozos on this Bus”.  Are Christians allowed to be Humanists also?  Why can’t Atheists be Agnostics?  That leaves the door open for them, if they desire to change their own mind.  With the lack of genuine caring in our world, I can appreciate, and understand, why some are atheistic.

      As a Christian, I am opposed to the use of the word sin, and although this is mentioned often in the Bible, I believe no one is competent to make moral judgments on another.  There is room for improvement in the Christian spiritual understanding.  God, (and remember, none of us has that good of a relationship with), alone can use this word, because He has the solution, and answer.  Our struggles are with our own self, our human nature, and our pride.

      I would however, like to caution in taking away someones’ faith, insisting that your belief in your own intellect is superior.  You may not see, or experience God, in your own life, or mind, but, there is some kind of morality that prevails in our world.

      Thank you for your time, God bless, Dona

      • Rich Wilson

        Are Christians allowed to be Humanists also?

        Yes.  Not that you need anyone’s permission.

        Why can’t Atheists be Agnostics?

        Most are.  Theist vs. atheist refers to belief in gods.  Gnostic vs. agnostic refers to how one feels about the provability of the question.  Many theists are gnostic theists, in that they ‘know’ god exists.  Most atheists are agnostic atheists in that they don’t believe in gods, but understand the position can never be proven.

      • gsw

        “That leaves the door open for them, if they desire to change their own mind. ”
        It is not necessary for an atheist to be an agnostic in order to change her mind. Au contraire, atheists are far more likely to change their minds about something on the basis of new evidence.

        Oh yes, and you missed the point of the billboard, the prevailance of morality in the world does not prove the existence of any gods, although I am open for the argument that the prevalence of evil is an indication for the existence of a certain god.

      • Anonymous

        Are Christians allowed to be Humanists also?

        Sure, there are some broadly agreed upon tenets.  If you are a Christian then you may feel inclined to ignore the need to test beliefs.  Don’t.

        Why can’t Atheists be Agnostics?

        Atheismtheism is about belief in gods.  Atheists have none, theists have some.  Agnosticismgnosticism is about knowledge of gods.  Agnostics have none, gnostics claim some.  It is perfectly possible to identify as an agnostic atheist (like me), as a gnostic atheist (so called “strong” atheists”) as an agnostic theist (like most honest believers) or as a gnostic theist (bible bashing, hellfire and damnation spewing fundies).

        With the lack of genuine caring in our world, I can appreciate, and understand, why some are atheistic.

        This is a non-sequeur.  I don’t believe in gods because I have no evidence for gods, the arguments for gods are not convincing, “god” is a meaningless concept and I see no reason to accept the hypothesis that gods of any kind exist.  It has nothing to do with the attitudes of people in the world.

        I am opposed to the use of the word sin

        Me too.  I find the entire concept of sin to be meaningless and silly.  It seems to be an invention by religious leaders to bait people into buying a form of redemption that they really don’t need.  Sin is snake oil.

        God, (and remember, none of us has that good of a relationship with)

        I don’t believe that anyone has a relationship with their gods.  I believe that you just imagine that you do.  The evidence from brain scans supports this hypothesis.

        I would however, like to caution in taking away someones’ faith, insisting that your belief in your own intellect is superior.  You may not see, or experience God, in your own life, or mind, but, there is some kind of morality that prevails in our world.

        From my point of view theists believe errant nonsense about reality.  They believe that gods (no matter how ill defined) exist in some kind of undefined spiritual realm that we have no evidence of.  These gods or God taker an interest in humanity for some obscure reason that is never explained or thought out and insist on archaic and ridiculous rituals and moral rules that fit oh so neatly with that of the people of the first century middle east.  Getting people to recognise this and join us in the 21st century is important if we want society to evolve past such primitive concepts.
        As for the question of morality existing I fail to see what that has to do with gods at all.  The holy books of various religions paint their gods in terms that an objective reader would find monstrous.  Zeus sends monsters to destroy cities, Yahweh sends angels to destroy cities and drowns the world, Shiva eats people.  Yeah, great example for morality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carissanv Carissa Snedeker

    Removed by me…I had the sort mixed up. Comment is below.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carissanv Carissa Snedeker

    First, thanks for the plug! We really appreciate it. One thing to note, contrary to the perception generated by our brothels and casinos, Nevada isn’t full of godless libertines.  While there is this weird symbiotic relationship between county (rural) goverments and the brothels, there is also a huge amount of religiosity / god bless america stuff here. We non-believers get god shoved in our faces all the time.  Coming out here is just as hard as it is in a lot of other places.  Fred will tell you about the problems they had in Vegas regarding the “No Virginia, there is no God” campaign.

  • JoeBuddha

    I’ve had it explained to me that the Christian “God” is the god whose name is God. Repetitive Redundancy at its finest.

  • http://www.colormeatheist.com Color Me Atheist

    I don’t think we’ll see much controversy over the billboards, but our parade sign says the same thing the billboard does.  I don’t know what to expect, but this parade is putting faces to the group.  At this point the public can’t put a face to the name (no news coverage yet), so as soon as they see the sign it might become a reality to certain types of people that atheists do exist and they might react some how.  It’ll be interesting no matter what happens.  I can’t wait to march!

  • guest

    I think “Are you good without gods? Millions are.” would have kept it within the 7 word rule and not handed Xians the “proof” of their contention that atheists merely reject a God that exists, rather than the truth which is that atheists reject the concept of the existence of any of the human mythological gods.

    I find these campaigns incredibly frustrating.  On the one hand, I want to see billboards go up,  but on the other hand, when the billboards play right into the Xian narrative about atheists “choosing not to believe”  or “choosing to reject a God they secretly know exists”,  I am just so disappointed.  Is the atheist/skeptical movement so blind and deaf to the way Xians and other theists think and have been slapping down unbelievers for centuries?

  • http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-las-vegas/rose-schwartz Rose Schwartz

    I didn’t even know there was a Reno Coalition of Reason. Awesome!

  • SJH

    I don’t quite get this atheist movement which expresses this belief as some sort of rhetorical argument. I would guess that, of all the Christians I know, none would disagree with the statement that you don’t need God to be good. It is rather obvious that a belief in God is not a prerequisite to be good as much as being an atheist is not a prerequisite of being smart. It seems that the atheist community is choosing to pick a fight with those few Christians who choose not to observe the obvious. Wouldn’t it be more productive to counter real arguments rather than silly ones?

    • Aaron Scoggin

      I think it’s most productive to counter the argument that the majority of your opponents hold. And the majority of Christians (at least, the ones that are speaking publicly about it) think that you need “God”, partnered with a religious upbringing, to be a good person. As for Christians that don’t talk about it, I think we can agree this ad isn’t about them. 

    • Sara_dingel

      I wish I could agree, I have encountered many people questioning my morality because I am an Atheist and since I don’t believe in god “can do whatever you want to whoever you want’”. It’s ridiculous, but true.

      • SJH

        You may have encountered many but I bet the vast majority would agree with the billboard. I would guess that, due to the shock value and polarization of the discussion, you might be talking past each other. I do not think that they truly believe that you must believe in God in order to be good. Certainly those Christians know atheists that are good people. They are probably simply trying to make the philosophical argue that if God did not exist then we would not care about being good. This would be a valid discussion because I think that both sides could have sophisticated view points.
        Making the argument that God does not exist because we don’t need God in order to be good is inadequate.
        On the same token, making the argument that God exists because we are moral is also inadequate.
        This should be the real discussion. Snide comments on billboards don’t do anything but further polarize and build frustration and anger and that is not “good”.
        If you want to prove that atheists are good then perhaps it would be best to be sophisticated, humble and gracious and, of course, Christians should do likewise.
        After all, we are all claiming that we are good but it is our actions that provide the evidence to that fact.

    • Rich Wilson

      Perhaps you don’t live in the US?

      http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/5125.html

      • SJH

        This is interesting but I do no think that it necessarily means that the mass of the population believes that atheists are bad people. It more likely means that they don’t think that they can relate to them very much. There is likely to be some reluctance to vote for an unnamed individual who does not have the same foundation for their values and one is left to assume what their values would be. Since they do not espouse any religious belief then there is no way to know what they believe without knowing the person.
        Also, since most Christians believe that the US is a Christian country there is probably a lot of reluctance to vote for someone who is not Christian and may move the country away from Christianity. Again, none of this implies that Christians believe that atheist are not good people.

    • tony (www.humblewonderful.com)

      I recently read an odious little book, The End of Reason, that makes exactly the case that sans God is sans morality.
      I have theist friends and family who wouldn’t agree with the argument including some Calvinists who don’t think they can be “good” either (!) But its definately out there.
      It’s certainly a factor in those who believe that disbelief in a theos leads to barbarism, nihilism or facism.

      • SJH

        I like your comment, this is the discussion that we should be having. 

        I would agree that I think that if God is ignored then morality will eventually fade. This does not necessarily mean that atheists are not good. Nor does it mean that Christians are exempt from this fact. If they ignore God (which we do quite frequently) then their morality will fade as well. I believe that the Law of Entropy applies to morality and our social well-being. Without external forces acting on the system the society will fade into moral decline and our actions towards each other will reflect that. Disorganization and chaos would increase and benevolence and order would decrease. 
        All of this, of course assumes that God exists.  looking at it from the other perspective is the question: If God does not exist, then would free will and, by extension, morality exist? Would we, as a species, have developed free will and morals on our own? I would say no. I think we would live as animals, running on instinct, forming no moral decisions, beliefs or opinions (which is how many atheists claim to live their lives, though I think they are not very successful).
        This question is likely impossible to answer with any certainty but it is fun to talk about.

    • gsw

      To a theist, (their) god is the radar trap on the road of life.
      If you don’t believe it exists, you race at high speeds killing animals, and possibly also the environment, on the way, while they chuckle at the thought of the huge fines you have waiting for you at home.

      Imagine the havoc they would create if they stopped believing! 

  • Alex

    Controversy? Just think about an LGBT organization putting up a sign reading something like “It’s okay to be gay”, and chorus of indignant fundies screaming “persecution” and “indoctrination”. I think it’s very similar.

    As long as close-minded bigots exist, of course there will be controversy.

  • Anonymous

    I think the wording flows nicely and it wouldn’t sound right if it were changed, and most of the people in America are some sect of Christianity so it’s apt.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    There were similar billboards in Las Vegas in 2009.
    Sin City has a big,big Mormon Temple and 50,000 Mormon
    specimens (I mean citizens.)

    How about- – - “With Friends Like God, Who Needs Enemas?” 

  • Dan W

    I’m sure there’ll be theists complaining about this billboard any minute now. After all, reality is incredibly offensive to so many of them.

  • Michael S

    These billboard previews have funny transparency effects in them.

  • Newavocation

    Of course true believing Christians should be upset with this propaganda. It challenges  their best marketing tool. Feeling no guilt for sleeping in on sunday mornings lightens that collection plate. Also can you imagine an atheist president! 


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