Atheist Billboard Campaign in Italy Urges People To Drop the ‘D’ in ‘Dio’

The Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) in Italy has launched a billboard campaign to raise the visibility of atheists — which is no small task in country where more than 90% of the people are Christian (mostly Catholic).

The image features the word “Dio” (meaning “God”) with the “D” crossed off, leaving “io” (meaning “I”). The words at the bottom remind viewers that “Ten million Italians live well without D.” The billboards were professionally designed by the Zowart ad agency.

UAAR Secretary Raffaele Carcano explained why this campaign is so vital: We live in a society where non-believers are believed to be few in number and are often subject to unequal treatment. With our campaign, we want to remind people that approximately 10,000,000 people are (usually) good without God and that there’s a group committed to eliminating discrimination against them.

Three of the billboards can currently be seen in Milan while another ten are up in Bologna — more cities will join that list very soon.

This isn’t the first time UAAR has advertised for atheism.

In 2011, they put up billboards in Genoa and Venice knocking the tax money spent on maintaining the Catholic Church:

That roughly translates to: “With 6 billion Euro per year, Italy could work miracles” :)

In 2009, a more controversial bus campaign initially said “The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that you do not need him” (a mockup is below)

After ad agencies refused to participate, the campaign was reworded to: “The good news is there are millions of atheists in Italy; The excellent news is they believe in freedom of expression.”

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.

  • Stev84

    The Pope will just take that as proof that atheists are selfish

  • Chris Algoo

    Jeez, what do these people have against heavy metal?

  • Ilaria

    uh…. strange that I came to know about this from here :)

    One of the billboards should be 1 Km from my office. I think I’ll go and take a picture

  • Houndentenor

    Not just the pope. I know people are trying to be clever and provocative with these billboards, but it would be better if they didn’t reinforce negative ideas about atheists in the process.

  • Rain

    The Vatican spokesman would clarify the Pope’s statement.

  • CultOfReason

    I wonder how many people will get that post ;-)

  • baal

    Holy Divah! (You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean)

  • randomfactor

    Negative ideas like “we exist.”

  • randomfactor

    Doesn’t work in English, unless we want to be od.

  • Ateu, e dai?

    It does work in portuguese… but we need to cut the D and the S… Deus (god) could become Eu (I/me).

  • David Simon

    I’m quite proud to be od[d]. :-)

  • Anna

    I like these! They’re eye-catching, completely non-threatening, and the play on words is clever.

    Incidentally, what is the state of atheism in Italy? I know the Catholic church still has undue influence on the country as a whole, but I would have expected to find plenty of atheists, especially in urban and cosmopolitan areas. Is Italy not secularizing as much as other majority Catholic countries like France and Spain?

  • Anna

    Do you think it’s negative? I actually think it’s a really positive statement. I like the use of the word “I.” It seems like the billboard is taking a stand for autonomy. People being in control of their own lives vs. the Catholic church being in control of their lives.

    The message underneath also seems non-controversial. I’m pretty sure it says:

    “10 million Italians live well without God. And when they’re discriminated against, l’Uaar is by their side.”

  • fsm

    I couldn’t help but think that “living without the ‘D’” means something entirely different on the internet.

  • Spuddie

    Not the Man on the Silver Mountain!

  • Marco

    Well… but in italian the “D” word starts with “C” ;)

  • robberto

    It’s often said that in Italy 90% of the population is Catholic. This is an inaccurate statement, which is however made not only by the Church but also by those with no interest in propagating such data. In Italy, 88% of the people are baptised as Catholics: however, as they are baptised when they are a few days old, it is a meaningless figure. I live in Naples, and I know many people who have been baptised but have turned atheists, agnostics or other. The Church still considers them as Catholics, unless they get un-baptised (can be done, and in fact I did it) and thus cancelled from their parish’s register, a procedure that only an insignificant minority follows.

  • Marco

    Unfortunately Italy is where the vatican hive mind resides.
    The church is a parasite influencing his host mind, here every political and social decision is storngly influenced, if not driven, by vatican power elite.
    Plus you have to consider that the church arrives everywhere, even the smallest town or village has at least a church and a priest.

    The church has been operating a strong social and local control for more than 2000 (two thousand!!) years.

    Do you really think it would let his host country to secularize?

    We are so economically underdeveloped, and so retarded about civil rights (stem cells, gay marriage, euthanasia) also because of the church interference in our daily and political life.

    And his most remarkable skill is doing it by whispering in people’s head every sunday from thousands of altars in churchs… zombiefing the population, having an army of “defenders of the faith” fighting a silent civil war against “godless” people.

    Italy wil never get rid of Her parasite…

  • Luca Invernizzi

    That was my mainly objection to this campain. The second was this “the D” thing… you know, all the meme stuff on the internet and the sexual innuendo.

    Hope this works anyway… we really nead some less religion in our society in Italy.

  • CultOfReason

    Well certainly not The Man Who Would Be King.

  • WallofSleep

    *sniff* I love you guys. You made an old hessian very happy. *sniff*

  • John

    I see a new advertising campaign, trade in Bibles for metal CDs. “Dio for Dio.”

  • Michael

    And as we sail along
    I never fail to be
    astounded by the things we’ll do
    for promises

  • wmdkitty

    …oh. Wrong Dio…

  • sk3ptik0n

    I left Italy about 40 years ago, but at the time most of my family was nominally catholic, but no one actually went to church aside from Easter or Christmas.
    Of my circle of friends, no one was a believer.

    But… living in the US I was able to avoid baptizing my daughter. My brother, whom is not a believer either, wasn’t. The pressure from the rest of the lapsed Catholic in the family was too great.

  • sk3ptik0n

    How did you do it? I was baptized in St. Peter in Rome. I would not know the first thing about removing myself from the the rolls.

  • EllieMay

    Sad that your brother felt pressured by your family, especially if most of them are lapsed. I just don’t see the sense in it.

  • sk3ptik0n

    The way I see it each generation thinks that it’s a duty to the older generation and above all a good excuse to dress well and go stuff themselves at some restaurant.
    They tried to ask me what my plans were for my daughter, back in 1989. At the time I told my mother that both my wife and I were atheists. I had been one since the time I studied for my first communion (but could not avoid it) and that under no circumstances my daughter would be baptized. She actually took it pretty well, but I am sure she fibbed with the older generation.

    These milestones are part of the social fabric and the catholic church knows it all too well. They count on it.
    My Aunt is a deist at best, according to a very recent conversation we had, yet she always goes to Christmas mass.
    It’s probably not very dissimilar from the way even people that don’t care about soccer end up pulling for the “Azzurri” when they start to do well in the world cup (which has been frequently). It’s expected of you.

  • Tobias2772

    We could drop the JES and become us.

  • Rain

    Those would look great on a baseball cap or a tie.

  • EllieMay

    Guess I can see the point in just going along pretending to believe. It certainly makes life easier.

  • Katherine Hompes

    I think it’s fine to worship Ronny…

  • Anna

    Thanks for the insight! We had a thread a while back where a woman commented that she had a terrible time trying to find condoms in Rome. I remember being so shocked when I read that. I hadn’t realized that the Catholic church still had that type of power.

  • Marco

    I live in Roma and my personal experience about condoms is not so bad, you can find them in any pharmacy with almost no struggle, and I believe a woman wouldn’t have an hard time buying them…

    Anyway the church operates at a completely different level. It leaves you apparently free of doing whatever you want, while it convinces the society to blame you silently for not being a “good christian”

    And the same happens at a political level.

    Fortunately it seems that the church is loosing a little little grip… we hope it crumbles very soon!

  • Rilian Sharp

    Yeah, that’s what it says.

  • Rilian Sharp

    It works in romanian. zeu is god, eu is i.

  • Ilaria

    You have to write to the parish you were baptized in asking to be removed from the registry. In fact, they don’t remove you, but they put a note on it saying you don’t want to be part of the catholic church anymore. Don’t know if you can read italian, but the complete instructions (also, a model letter) can be found here

  • Marco

    It is exactly for this reason that people don’t bother too much about te church in Italy. It is subtle, people just think that the church leaves them alone and just speaks from some balcony or altar on sunday.

    And it is how the church prospers, it doesn’t bother people enough to be opposed but it just creeps at their side enough to say to the Italian state: “look, 90% of Italians are Catholic, i’m the state religion, you owe me support”

    It’s not a case if they have been on the top of the food chain for 2k years…

  • Ilaria

    Really? I live in Italy (not in Rome, though) and I never had any problem buying condoms. You can find them in any pharmacy or supermarket..

  • Anna

    Oh, good. The only part I had to look up was “al loro fianco.” The rest was easy to read if you’ve taken high school Spanish.

  • Anna

    That’s what I would have thought, but apparently this woman had a tough time.

    Managed to track down the original comment:

    During a recent vacation in Rome, I found myself unexpectedly in need of condoms. Knowing that my new Italian friend wouldn’t bring any to the party, my (also female) travel companion and I set out to buy some. In Rome. At midnight.

    Finding condoms in Rome at midnight ought to be a challenge on the Amazing Race.

    We’d only seen one condom dispenser in the city, outside a pharmacy quite some distance away from our apartment. (The only condoms we saw during the entire trip were in coin-operated dispensers outside pharmacies.) None of the pharmacies in our area had said dispensers, and the shops were closed so there was no one to give us directions to somewhere that did.

    That led us to big hotels, thinking it’d be like back in Canada and there would be dispensers in the washrooms. Nope. Not even in the mens’ rooms, which I ducked into just in case.

    Finally my friend approached the bartender in a hotel bar. First mistake: asking for condoms. The shock and horror in his reaction were … apparent. He sent her to the piano player, where she changed her tactic and asked for a pharmacy, but he knew what she was looking for and refused to help. She finally got mumbled directions from the concierge and collected me from the washroom. I wondered why every employee in the place was staring at us as we crossed the lobby.

    Being middle-aged women who don’t much care what anyone else thinks, we laughed at the whole ridiculous ‘quest’. I can’t imagine myself laughing had it happened to me when I was 20, though, and I can see how easy it would be to opt for unprotected sex rather than the continued humiliation of the search.

    I thought I understood the influence the Catholic Church has. But after this experience, as someone who’s used to being able to find condoms everywhere – grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, corner stores, public washrooms, sex shops, etc. – I realize my ‘understanding’ was just words.

    It’s disgusting what I had to go through to be responsible.

  • Ilaria

    ah ok. Yes, that is absolutely correct. No dispensers around here. And, if you can find condoms in any pharmacy or supermarket, those are the only places where you’ll find them. And… at night it’s almost impossible,

    Also… yes, i’m familiar with the people’s reaction…

  • Rilian Sharp

    If you’re looking for a cognate between italian and spanish/english, one of the tricks is to replace i’s with L’s, so that fianco becomes flanco, which looks like the word flank. :D

  • Robyman4

    I love it! As I often say, behaving as a grown-up, with maturity and character, is NOT in any way something that ONLY comes from having/practicing a religious faith. In fact, the way I see it, it’s easier to be a responsible adult once you’ve let go of all the fairy tales, miracles, dependence on God for everything (or almost everything), etc.

  • David Tiffany

    As I was thinking about the “You can be good without God” slogan this morning, it occcured to me that at least on two points this slogan is Scriptural, and I want to commend the people who came up with it. First, in Matthew 7:11 Jesus says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,…”. Jesus, the Son of God, states that a person who is evil knows how to give good gifts and knows how to do good things. Second, you make the statement that a person can be good without God, not that a person is good without God. This implies you are not there yet and have some work to do to become good. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”. So, in your slogan you say that a person can do good things without God, and that you fall short of being good…both of these points are Scriptural.
    As far as your hating religion? Jesus hates religion as well. There are those who want to give you a list of things to do and a list of things not to do, and by following these things God will accept you. That is not Scriptural. What Jesus wants is to give you life and a relationship with Him that is free to you. He paid the price. He went to the cross to take away your sin and He wants to credit you with His righteousness, something you cannot earn. That’s what the Apostle Paul means when he tells us that salvation is by grace and not by works.