FFRF Debuts ‘This Is What An Atheist Looks Like’ Campaign

Here’s the first billboard in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s new “This is what an atheist looks like” campaign:

Grace, a member of FFRF, won her place on the billboard by entering a submission in FFRF’s “virtual billboard” online app, in which atheists, agnostics and other nonbelievers place their photo, a short statement, and name in what looks like a billboard.

“We announced that we would choose a winner or winners from those who participate, and Grace’s statement, ‘This is what an atheist looks like,’ not only inspired the Nashville billboard, but one of FFRF’s most popular T-shirts,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “Many people have not knowingly met an atheist, and as a result negative myths and stereotypes proliferate. Freethought means using reason to analyze religious claims. There are so many religions all claiming to be the one true belief. An atheist simply believes in one less god than the typical Christian.”

That billboard is up in Nashville, Tennessee, just west of downtown Nashville on I-40 about a mile east of I-440.

What do you think? Is this an effective campaign? I kind of liked the FFRF’s Out of the Closet campaigns a little more — where a group of individuals from select cities would each have their own quotations featured on different-colored billboards. But having many billboards that look virtually identical except for the person featured on it has its advantages…

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.

  • Tim

    This is awesome, especially since I drive on that highway on a regular basis. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.carstensen Jon Carstensen

    I kinda like it as a response to the ‘I’m a Mormon’ campaign.

    • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

      I thought the “I’m a Mormon” videos were quite well done and that they were something we could learn from.

    • Anonymous

       please tell me I’m not the only one who has driven by those and thought for a moment, “You’re a moron?? and you’re proud of that?!”

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net/ Dianna

    I definitely thought that was one of the Kardashians until I saw the name. This particular billboard may have an interesting effect.

  • amyc

    I think the FFRF needs to share their graphic designer with the American Atheists.

    • Wild Rumpus

       First thing I noticed, too!  Finally, some good graphic design on an atheist billboard!

      • Wild Rumpus

         oh, except for the spelling mistake :(

      • Anonymous

        That’s considered good? I’m no designer, so maybe I don’t get it, but that pink color is heinous!

  • TiltedHorizon

    I would recommend using my image but since I look like a convict…. lol. 

  • Micah Caputo

    They spelled Clarksville wrong. :(

    I want to see this billboard. I may have to drive by there just to see it. Way to go, Nashville!

    • Vukota

      Argh,I know it seems like nitpicking but it’s things like this which take away from the effectiveness of the billboard.  There are 14 words on that billboard – it can’t be that hard to get them all spelled right!

  • Anonymous

    Much dislike of magenta/pink, here. Maybe they were saving money on print cost – just one non-black ink required!

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       Yeah I find this billboard pretty ugly. Nice new try though.

  • znk666

    No baby eating secular Jews?
    I am disappointed.

    • The Other Weirdo

       I feel left out.

  • Ashley Will

    I like this much better than the American Atheist billboards

  • Lynn

    I wouldn’t mind giving a picture of myself with my 18-month-old daughter to that campaign. A 32-year-old overweight mom who looks like a librarian? Your next-door neighbor who you see knitting at the park with her kid in a jogging stroller? Yep, atheist. And my daughter’s freaking adorable, too, if I do say so myself.

    • Anonymous-Sam

       While it may be technically true that your 18-year old daughter can be called an atheist, no offense to you or her, but I don’t think it’s due to much effort on either of your parts yet. Now, if you want to nominate her in about twelve years, once her abstract reasoning skills have developed and she understands what it is to be an atheist, by all means! I just don’t think it’s fair to call a child who’s just reached the age of imaginary friends an atheist — she might turn around tomorrow and introduce you to Jesus, her new playmate. Oh, her version of Jesus will eat at the dinner table and prefer peaches over spinach (and always needs you to tell him a story to get to bed), but you get what I’m saying. Before those cognitive skills develop, the world of children is not so unlike the world of religion.

      (Two caveats: I don’t buy into infant baptism either – you’re not formally religious until you understand what religion is. Also, I get what you and the whole ad campaign are about – atheists are ordinary people too, and ordinary people’s children. Let’s just be within reason here and restrict the headcount to people old enough to make that decision on their own.

      On the other hand, if Republicans want to claim embryos as people, then I’m good with calling embryos atheists until confirmed otherwise. That ought to skew the religious orientation polls enough to frighten a few people!)

      • atoswald

        Anonymous-Sam,

        I would say that it is inappropriate to call an 18 month old child anything but an atheist. We are all born atheist, and it is only by indoctrination that we do not remain so.

        • Anonymous-Sam

          That’s why I said it’s technically true, but for practical purposes, children are incapable of truly understanding religion or the lack thereof. One might as well say that children who believe in Santa Claus are Santanists for believing in an imaginary being who rewards them for being good or bad — are those letters to Santa really innocent, or are they a form of prayer ritual? Hmm, must remember to investigate this North Pole business further — possible homoerotic sublimation…

          Ahem. It’s not until abstract reasoning skills kick (which Piaget estimated to be in the 11-16 age range) in that a child can make decisions and understand why they’re made, rather than simply accepting “Because Mommy/Daddy/Teacher/Priest told me so.” Moreover, if the child in question hasn’t made that decision on their own and is only parroting what their parents have told them about the nonexistent god, then how is that different from indoctrination?

          That’s why I’d say it’s more reasonable to wait until you can be truly sure that what the child is telling you is of their own mind, and that they’re aware of the meaning of it. I’m not even sure that 12 or even 16 is a safe age for that, to be honest! That’s the age when we’re still figuring out who we are. Even at my age, I’m still occasionally picking at a realization and discovering something about myself that I hadn’t been fully conscious of, which is why I wound up going from a full blown atheist when I was 16 to a sort of pantheist as of about a month ago.

      • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

        You need a better justification for your Age of Reasonable restriction. “No true understanding” cuts both ways; you haven’t distinguished between the plasticity of a healthy skeptic and the inconsistency of the lazy, nor between confidence born through research and the fossilization of beliefs in the elderly.

        • Anonymous-Sam

          True, and this is real criticism that’s been applied to Piaget’s stages of development, especially in recent years when some have argued that the age of adolescence is growing beyond 18 (when it was the norm that the teenager would move out on their own and begin living as an independent adult) well into the  mid-20′s. For that matter, some people never seem to fully learn how to reason and remain in what Piaget called the concrete operational stage for much of their lives. For that matter, there are earlier stages that Piaget never touched on, such as the age when infants begin grasping basic world logic (what’s dropped will fall down, what changes color from red to blue may turn back to red again, etc.)

          On the other hand, I don’t think it’s illogical to draw a distinction between a child who still believes in Santa and a young adult who believes in Jesus (let’s be fair here and NOT say they’re on the same page), or the other side of the coin – a child without imaginary friends and an atheist. Different stage of development, different cognitive abilities.

          Does that mean we shouldn’t start educating our children early on about religion? Mmm, still thinking on that one. Young kids can retain facts, but they’re a little fuzzier on why they need to retain facts. I don’t  know how you’d approach the subject and know that your child fully grasped what it was you were talking about, but I think I’d want my children to have at least a basic understanding of why religions exist and how the Abrahamic ones conflict with science, at the very least.

  • Ftfkdad

    Isn’t awesomely ironic her name is Grace? Any chance the next picture can be of somebody called … Mary? Paul? Peter? …. Jesus even? (there has to be one somewhere, c’mon!)

    • Anonymous-Sam

      Might be, but what are the odds that an atheist named Jesus would want to keep that name?

      • Alex

         Hmm… Gives me an idea about legally changing my name to Jesus Christ :)

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

          Jesus Christ, I’m an atheist!

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

           If you are going to change your name to “Jesus Christ”, you would DEFINITELY want to have just the letter “H.” as a middle name, so that you would officially be “Jesus H. Christ”!

      • John Brockman

        Yeah, what kind of fucker goes around with a name like “Josh” when he doesn’t even BELIEVE in Josh?

        • Anonymous-Sam

          I’ve known a couple Catholic kids who got stuck with Jesus as a middle name purely because their parents pushed them through religion until they were old enough to be thrown out of the house. Both of them had their middle names changed as soon as they could afford it. I have a hard time imagining an atheist (at least in the US) with the first name of Jesus being particularly happy about it, although I suppose someone might keep it purely for irony’s sake.

        • Anonymous

          I know an atheist whose name is Christian. Seriously.

      • rhodent

        Pretty high, if he happens to have a sense of humor that leans toward the ironic.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think that people who name their kid Grace intend the name to mean “an indulgence”. More likely they have “effortless beauty” in mind which has zero to do with religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5736566 Scott Maddox

    Grace = Atheist name FAIL

    • Angel Nickens

      I’ve got a bigger atheist name fail. My name is Angel.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think that people who name their kid Grace intend the name to mean “an indulgence”. More likely they have “effortless beauty” in mind which has zero to do with religion.

      • Anonymous

        I went to a Christian college. Lots of Graces and Faiths there, and they were all definitely for religious reasons.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

    Still got that aggressive “a-word” and that in-your-face punctuation, though…

  • Anonymous

    Jack Chick thinks that atheists look like this:

    http://media.chick.com/tractimages60373/0055/0055_06.gif 

  • Crundy 12

    Is it a coincidence that she’s hot?

    • Anonymous

      Point proven.

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I’m not sure I like the emphasis to be on how people *look*.

  • Kate

    Were there people in Nashville involved in this? Because Clarksville is like an hour away. Come on guys. Is it that difficult?


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