San Diego Billboard Reads: ‘Atheism: A Personal Relationship with Reality’

It’s been a few years since the San Diego Coalition of Reason put up their last billboard:

Now, they’re back with a new design (created by graphic artist Bruce Harris) and a new message that’s bound to get all sorts of publicity since it’s modeled after Christians who say they have a “personal relationship with Jesus”:

How awesome is that image?

“We want to express how using intelligence to free oneself of the god idea can open the curtain to a inspiring new outlook,” Said Debbie Allen, coordinator for the San Diego Coalition of Reason. “Atheism is positive and offers grounding in the real world.”

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, noted: “With many of our previous billboards, we’ve made it a point to challenge traditional religion. But this time we want to show the other side of our coin, that atheism is a breath of fresh air.”

The sign cost $4,000, will be up for one month on the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway (SR 94) near College Avenue, and was paid for by American Atheists and local donors.

It’s a great message, too: Raise the curtain, lift the veil, and see what lies beyond faith.

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.

  • observer

    “How awesome is that image?”

    Yeah, because it’s irrelevant, right? :p

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      It’s a well-designed image. But what I said before was that this message would get publicity regardless of the design. That message matters more. I stand by that.

      • SecularPatriot

        Well, from a design standpoint, that graphic is very hard to deface by simply blocking out one word.

        We should definitely set the bar high for vandals.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

          Nah, a bit of white over that first “A”…

          • SecularPatriot

            I see what you mean.

            Allow me to defend myself with wild flailing.

            Churches don’t advertise theism, and more importantly, the religious don’t think of themselves as theist. They think of themselves as “Christian,” or “Baptist,” or “Pentecostal.”

            • http://www.facebook.com/lindy.clarke.hall Lindy Clarke Hall

              “Allow me to defend myself with wild flailing.”
              Love it.

            • coyotenose

              I’m stealing that line. Probably a lot of us are.

              • SecularPatriot

                If this is the only thing I become known for I will die a sad man.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Rest assured, it will live on, attributed to both Albert Einstein and George Carlin.

        • Greisha

          Intended location is in more conservative and religious part of San Diego County, however it is not Texas. I have high hopes that billboard will stay intact.

          • SecularPatriot

            True enough. (Former SD resident here…)

      • mmcfee

        Publicity is publicity and not hearts and minds. And probably only for the first such sign in a given market. The message, as you’ve said before, is what’s important. Well, this image communicates a lot more message than just that of the words used. And it does it well because it’s done well (unless one disregards the artist’s in put as nothing but color and not also message and, yes, emotion). It does it well because the art is as intelligent and message-delivering as the words. More so, in this case. If this sign just said “Atheism” the message would still be strong.

        Art is the adjuvant to the vaccine that is words that make up ‘the message’. Good art is a better adjuvant than bad or dull art and far better than art whose purpose is only ‘it needs a background picture’. I really think it’s time you recognized that and stopped digging in (sound familiar?) to defend your previous and, IMO, short-sighted stand on this.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lindy.clarke.hall Lindy Clarke Hall

          “…short-sighted stand…” WTF?
          “good art is ~ better than bad or dull art”… well, duh.
          That sign is great. Period.
          The graphic, the words, the package.

          • mmcfee

            I agree. But Hemant does not agree. That was my point. He previously said that the art/graphics isn’t important, only the message (i.e. – The text) is. And despite subsequently praising some nice (graphically) work, he’s thrown in remarks that, despite the praise, he still stands by the ‘the art isn’t important’ stance.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

              Art/graphics are not important *ONLY* when it comes to getting publicity. The local media would be reporting on this sign whether it looked good or bad. You’re misrepresenting what I’ve said.

              • mmcfee

                I don’t believe I am.
                http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/12/30/the-case-against-better-graphic-design-on-atheist-billboards/

                You make a clear argument that good design is irrelevant and all that matters is that it draws publicity — presumably just for being an atheist billboard — by getting someone on TV or something called ‘radio’. You say that better design doesn’t change minds, well I would counter that having someone on the news for 15 seconds doesn’t either. What IS important is to engage the minds of people. Billboards aren’t for reporters and after they cover one atheist billboard, they’re unlikely to bother with the next. News is fickle. I agree with you that The Message is what’s important, but I don’t discount the power of art to increase the impact of that message.

                Hearts and minds. We include ‘hearts’ in that oft-used phrase for a very good reason. Engaging both is done by capturing their interest, piquing their curiosity and starting an internal dialogue. Decades of marketing and statistical science say your position is wrong. Design matters. The stolid intellectual view that “if they just hear me talk!” is largely a pipe dream when it comes to [capital letters] The Public. People are engaged visually far more easily (and with more retention) than with words.

                Look right below my reply if you need more proof:
                “This image would make an excellent bookmark.”

                “I would love to have a T-shirt with this image.”

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

                  I agree that a short soundbyte won’t help, either, but the goal is to draw people to physical meetings where they can get more of a personal connection. The publicity helps with that.

                  You’re right, though, that spreading the message via shirts/Facebook profiles pics is more likely to happen with a well-designed image — and that could help start conversations.

  • Cecelia Baines

    That’s a good one!

  • Tom_Nightingale

    Hands down best ad yet. Lots of meaning packed into a simple display

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    I really like that new message.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    well, i’m a dumbass. i had to read this post before i understood the design. but it is a nice message and i hope most people are smarter than me and will get it. breath of fresh air indeed. plus, books, which i love.

  • peter g

    LOVE the design! Simple, elegant and profound.
    p.

    • A3Kr0n

      I love how they’ve got the books (knowledge) lifting the curtain of (not black) clouds.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This is a very welcome positive message, and it is very well illustrated.

  • PhysicsPhDStu

    I would love to have a T-Shirt with this image.

  • ZenDruid

    Still not enough ‘reality’ for me…the grass and sky behind the veil need to be more brown.
    [/snark]

    But yes, a good design for a change.

  • Mario Strada

    Love it.

  • Patrick Dunn

    I think it’s a great design. Libraries should steal it, er, I mean ask the designer to lend it!

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Wouldn’t mind seeing it come up as an ad for AA on this and other atheist blogs I frequent. It would make a nice change from the plague of religious ones the content based algorithms choose.

  • A3Kr0n

    OK, that’s pretty damn good.

  • Philbert

    Brilliant. A simple, on-topic message that is also a great comeback to the “it’s a personal relationship with Jesus” trope. With a great visual metaphor to boot. And no Comic Sans. There is something for everybody.

  • Mark Moore

    That is pretty good! I like it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I’ve been using that one for sometime now but it is nice to see it on a billboard.

  • Keulan

    This is a good one. Nice message, good design. The books lifting the curtain is pretty cool.

  • Gina

    This image would make an excellent bookmark.

  • Roger

    Simple, yet effective. Very nice.

  • fredwords

    The graphic designer’s name, by the way, is Bruce Harris of San Diego. And not only are atheists liking this billboard, but so are graphic arts critics. See: http://madartlab.com/2013/01/30/good-design-san-diego-coalition-of-reason-billboard/

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    “A personal relationship with reality.” I like that. In fact, that sort of thinking led me to read the Bible and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord.

    • TheDudeAbides

      Dude, there is no Jesus Christ, nor has there ever. Why would some dude in a robe that walks around in sandals rule the entire universe? For real. Open your mind bro, it’s time…


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