With New Billboard, American Atheists Urges Non-Believers To Come Out to Their Families

Dave Silverman didn’t get to make this announcement on Mike Huckabee‘s show as he planned to, but it’s still exciting news:

“Tell your family you don’t believe in gods… they just might agree.”

That’s the new digital billboard American Atheists is putting up at the foot of the Lincoln Tunnel beginning on Monday.

The Final graphic for the Lincoln Tunnel this year is a direct call to action for the church-pew atheists — those who pretend to believe what they know is a scam for the benefit of fitting in. So often we hear of people who are afraid to come out of the closet to their loved ones, only to find out later that those very same loved ones are also atheists, closeted from the closeted! Closeted atheists often feel alone because of being closeted. Coming out will inspire the others in your life to do the same.

It’s amazing how good it feels to be honest with your loved ones. That’s why American Atheists is inviting all atheists to give the gift of honesty this year. Tell those who love you that you’re an atheist. We bet you’ll find company in your very own family.

The new billboard replaces the prevone that was up for the past few weeks:

Last week, the New York Times teased us about the billboard that would be replacing it:

On Monday, Mr. Silverman plans to replace this billboard with a more controversial image for the last two weeks before Christmas, and he is still hoping that the Catholics will respond.

“It will be a call to action,” he said. “And both Poseidon and Jesus will be on it.”

That’s exactly how it panned out — it’s a call to action. One that people may hesitate to follow through with, but one which may lead to very surprising results.

Whether or not people take the advice, this one is much more likely to get more press.

It specifically calls out closeted atheists. (Take that, anyone who said they’re mocking believers. This isn’t about you.)

It contains the word “gods.” (Lower case and plural. Checkmate!)

It juxtaposes Poseidon and Jesus. (Tell me why you don’t believe in one and I’ll tell you why I don’t believe in the other.)

It’s exactly the kind of campaign you want to see when you know people are visiting their families for the holidays. And it’s just edgy enough that even some atheists might be taken aback by it.

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/Buffy2q Buffy2q

    Good idea.  After I came out to my family I found out one of my sisters was also an atheist. 

    • Anonymous

      I “came out” recently and, like you, found out that 2 of my 4 siblings had quietly shed their religious skin *decades* ago!  They both welcomed me with open hearts! One of my other siblings still clings to our RCC upbringing, going so far as to say she “doesn’t believe in all this evolution crap”…and she’s a school teacher!  Arrrrrggghhh!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UB7OYLLB5HAFYNEMZH7HVX5QIQ smellygirl

        you should point out to her that the RCC accepts evolution.

  • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

    I knew that my younger brother would come around sooner or later, but I didn’t know if he was at that point in his emotional maturity yet. Fortunately we had a fairly hilarious mutual coming-out about being atheist AND bi. 

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Sadly most people would rather read or hear you are bi-sexual than an atheist.

      • Chris

        What do you mean by that?

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          Being an atheist is a lot worse than being bi-sexual.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UB7OYLLB5HAFYNEMZH7HVX5QIQ smellygirl

            yeah, but i think Chris’s point is — you said “sadly” as if it is obvious to all us reasonable people that it is OF COURSE much worse to be bi than to be an atheist.

  • Meathamper

    Would families be more angry that their relative (or son or daughter or whatever) came out as gay or as an atheist?

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy2q

      I guess it depends on the family.  Mine wasn’t perturbed by either revelation (I’m both lesbian and atheist).   I’ve heard some are more upset to hear their relative is an atheist because of all the negative connotations (we worship Satan, we’re amoral, we can’t be trusted, etc).   Some might be just the opposite as they see being gay as perverted and dirty. 

    • Rich Wilson

      Well, if it’s any indication, the “would vote for a qualified candidate who was X” poll puts ‘Atheist’ lower than ‘Gay’.  As in fewer people would vote for an atheist presidential candidate than a gay presidential candidate.

    • Bryan

      My wife’s mom wasn’t too happy when she came out as an atheist, but all my mother in law really had to say was: “Well, at least you’re not a lesbian.”

      Guess it depends on the family.

  • Benjamin Kay

    I think the demon in the second billboard looks silly. Doesn’t American Atheists have graphic designers?

  • Trace

    I think the message is actually fine, although the graphics could perhaps be more effective/professional looking

    What I really like, and I am not completely sure why, is the inclusion of “since 1963″. Maybe it lends credibility, ads to the idea that we have been around for almost 50 years as an organized/”visible” group….as I said, I am not sure why, but I like it.

  • Outie

    My family knows and have pretty much eradicated me from their lives. I’m now as invisible as the gods they worship.

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

      It feels awkward to click “like” on this, because obviously I don’t like it at all, it makes me feel absolutely terrible. But it’s important and needs to be read: many people absolutely are in a situation where coming out is not healthy for their relationships or even not safe. 

    • http://twitter.com/CoboWowbo Cobo Wowbo

      I’m in the same situation as you. My family doesn’t even acknowledge i’m alive.

      • Piet Puk

        We know you are alive. You are not alone.

      • Guembes

        The only person in the world that really need to acknowledge is alive, is yourself. You do not need permission, acknowledgement or grants to be alive. You just are alive, build everything else from that fact. The next step: Ypu are alive, conscious of yourself and you can think… Nice, uh?

  • Annie

    I love that these billboards are becoming less accommodating to the religious.  This one assumes the reader is an atheist… and that’s what I love about it.  Frankly, the ultra religious will have a problem with any billboard put up by atheists.  I’m glad to see we’re done with the sugar coating.

  • Anonymous

    I advise that young atheist adults live frugally, get out of debt and have enough money for about a year’s worth of basic expenses saved up in the bank (commonly known as an FU Fund) before they announce their atheism to their religious-obsessive parents. The FU Fund will protect you in case you lose your job, because you don’t want to have to move back in with these parents after informing them of your apostasy.

  • GodVlogger (on YoutTube)

    Have I been missing out on media coverage, or does it seem like the mainstream news is covering the atheist billboards WAY less this year than last year? 

  • Lucifer357

    I don’t think it’s direct enough. How about saying, “religious folks, your stupidity hurts us as a species. Cut it out already!”

  • Miguel

    Well I think gay people had made more noise than atheist so a big part of the western population are used to them, people on the communities could be more likely to coexist with an indentified gay or lesbian person than with an atheist (we are not walking around dressing, talking, moving in certain ways) and as part of the human nature we are more affraid of what we don’t know or what we don’t undersand than with we are more used to, even if we disagree. I think religious people don’t understad what an atheist is, they immediatly link atheism with damnation or with devilery,they think those atheist live in foreing countries away from their communities. And please don’t take me wrong I’m not trying to stereotype gay people is just what I see, our initial reaction is to stereotype people, if you see an irish or latin american person you immediatly think that is chatolich, if you see an aribic like guy you think is muslim, but how an athesist looks like? They are red and with horns in their forehead? mmmh no I don’t think so.

  • Dan W

     I think this is one of American Atheists’ better billboards. Of course, if you do choose to come out as an atheist to your family, I think you should be aware that some family members will take it better than others. There are plenty of examples (many mentioned on this very blog) of atheists who came out to their parents or other relatives and were treated very poorly as a result. So come out if you choose to, but be prepared for potential negative reactions, especially if the family members you come out to are (or appear to be) more religious.

  • ThereMightBeASecond

    I appreciate that these ones don’t feel like they’re stabbing me in the eyes. Good work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    I was so nervous about coming out to my mom and then it turned out my niece had already outed me.

    • Valhar2000

      How did your mother react?

  • Anonymous

    As an English person I see this as really strange.  I assume that everyone is an atheist unless they tell me otherwise.  The idea of “coming out” as an atheist seems somewhat superfluous.

    Except, of course, in America.

    • Tim

      I agree.  We are ahead of the US on this one.  But it is good to see that they seem to be moving in the right direction.  And I can see how this Ad might help that.

    • Trace

      I grew up in Spain. Had no problem over there telling people I was not a believer. Now I live in rural New York and keep it to myself. :(

    • Sulris Campbell

      i grew up in alabama, and i assumed most people my age were athiest unless they made a big display about believing….  it never really occured to me that we were such a small minority until i started reading this site….  weird.

  • Anonymous

    Finally an AA billboard I can support. Graphic design could still use some work. In fact, a cursory check of the website shows that they need a full-time design professional ASAP.

    Still, I’m relieved by the message, which is a whole lot better than the previous one. Though not really appropriate for a billboard a good disclaimer is **Minors and young adults financially dependant on family should approach decision with caution.

  • Stacy

    Campaigns like these warm the atheist heart.

  • Chas, PE SE

    I’m a nontheist and a ationalist, but I’m also a sailor — And I’m not gonna tick off Posideon and Aeolus…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UB7OYLLB5HAFYNEMZH7HVX5QIQ smellygirl

    I like it, but AA stuff still comes off as amateurish. The graphic design is maybe up a notch from last year, but they need to find a professional designer.

    And while they’re at it, maybe they need a professional writer. Not to be a grammar nazi, but when you’re only writing one sentence and you’re buying  billboard space, I think you can take a little time to be careful…

    Look at this: “Tell your family YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD… they just might agree.” Agree with what? Agree that YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD. Of course they’ll agree with that.

    I know the point AA is trying to make, but this is sloppy.

    Still, I applaud them for doing something!

  • http://twitter.com/Davidscole David Cole

    One of my friends told me “Go ahead and tell them, they might surprise you” – So far so good. Never miss a chance to let people surprise you. I’ve found they are usually much more accepting than I was giving them credit for.


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