In Sacramento, an Astounding 55 Billboards with Atheist Messages Will Go Up

***Update***: You can view the full slideshow of billboards here.

There must be a sale on billboard space in Sacramento, California, because the Sacramento chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation just purchased enough of it to put up 55 billboards over the next month as part of a massive publicity push. I’m almost positive that makes this the largest group of atheist billboards to ever go up at once. Each billboard features a local atheist (or family) along with a quotation of his/her choosing:

“They are going up to let the fellow non-believers know they are not alone,” said FFRF Sacramento President Judy Saint of Roseville.

There are so many billboards to choose from but here’s just a sampling of them:

It’s really an amazing way to “sell” atheism: Showcase real people from the city — smiling, laughing, and happy — who aren’t afraid to wear their Humanism on their sleeves.

As you might expect, they’re already being mischaracterized:

Bishop Jaime Soto with the Cathedral of a Blessed Sacrament refers to the billboards as propaganda.

“While I’m not happy about these billboards, I am certain people still, when they look deep down in their soul and in their heart, find a spark. They believe in a higher power,” Soto said.

Soto told FOX40 he does not think the billboards will have a large impact on the community.

Soto doesn’t get it. These billboards represent more than 55 people, each of whom can say to him with complete honesty, “I have looked deep down in my soul and heart. God is nowhere to be found. I’m perfectly okay with that.”

I have no doubt these billboards will have a huge impact on the community. When that many people publicly declare their atheism, you can’t ignore them all.

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.

  • Mario Strada

    Since I live in Sacramento, this is great news to me. I really need to get my ass going and start meeting the local atheist groups. I get their emails but after a long day of work it’s hard to get in the car and go out to a meeting.

    But I am very glad to see this display. Sacramento is a minor “California Bible Belt” city. It is amazing how many believers you encounter here. I used to live in San Francisco and it was very different there.

    • pparf

      Mario, I’d love to see a billboard with your avatar. On the other hand, come on down to the Imperial Valley. You’ll feel like Sacramento is a haven of liberal atheism.

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

      i’m not gonna knock meetups. i live in the deep south and it would probably be a really uplifting experience to go to one (i moved here fairly recently and haven’t done much activism yet). but i am also really satisfied with just cutting a check to get more billboards up. 55 is like, a ZOMG moment in the ‘movement’ of atheism. i’m Impressed. it’s good to know that lazy, stick in the mud, armchair activists can make a difference in such an amazing effort just by forking over some cash. buy, buy, buy, my pretties!

      • SeekerLancer

        I know how you feel, I recently moved from the north to Texas, and it really is like “a whole ‘nother country” as they say.

        While in a sea of Jesus and ridiculous churches with cafes and McDonalds Play Places, I did run into a car with an atheist bumper sticker and like the desired effect of these billboards I suddenly didn’t feel as surrounded and alone.

    • Castilliano

      Mario, try this website:
      http://unitedcor.org/sacramento/page/home
      It was featured here by Hemant some months back and has listings for about a dozen local atheist, humanist, etc groups. Holidays may not be the best time to hook up, but the opportunities are there.
      What’s really great is the ease with which you can plan your own events. Social, activist, or educational, they’re all welcome.

      Cheers to Judy, pictured above, who’s one of the main coordinators regionally and her wife, Kathy, married a few weeks ago.
      Cheers, JMK

    • Sean Laney

      I have been trying to get a Sunday Assembly Everywhere group going in Sac.

      • Castilliano

        Really?
        What’s the scoop?

  • A3Kr0n

    These are awesome, but I’m a little confused. The Sacramento Coalition of Reason put them up? Are they working with the FFRF? I went to the sac.ffrf.org site they listed, and it said it was the “Greater Sacramento Chapter of Freedom From Religion Foundation”.
    Anyway, I wish I could be there to see them!

    • Dave DiNucci

      Yes, and no “sign” of these billboards on the Sacramento CoR website. It looks like a mistake in the post. (Though I’m affiliated with another local CoR, FFRF should get proper credit for their investment here.)

    • David Diskin

      It’s been corrected here now. The FFRF paid for the ads.
      (In 2009, a run of billboards in Sacramento were paid for by the United COR.)

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

      Sorry — My mistake. I corrected it in the post!

      • LutherW

        To err is human, to correct is rational.

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

    what would be your billboard, Hemant? or do you already have one someplace and i just missed it?

    i’d have a picture of me and my family (two cats, one large dog) and me smiling and saying “Nature is Awesome! Science is too! We’re big fans of fact and history, as well. All without belief in gods.”

  • LutherW

    If it wasn’t for belief in God, I would be running around stealing, killing, and pedophileing. Francis Pope, Vatican, Italy

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    I like this campaign, it has integrity.

  • Claire

    Love the bit from the Bishop. He disagrees with the message so obviously it’s propaganda.

    • Guest

      Propaganda has almost become a pointless word that’s just a rhetorical tool that boils down to, “if you say it then it’s propaganda, if I say it then it’s educational.”

  • Kayla Michelle Kardokus

    I live here as well, can’t wait to see these!! Super exciting!

    • Carmen

      me too!

  • GeraardSpergen

    I wonder if the aerospace guy would link me on Linkdin… would that be a weird request?

  • James

    As a native Sacramentan, I applaud my former hometown. It is ironic that this is happening in a city whose name in Spanish means sacrament.

    • AgentBaa

      Let it be the sacrament of reason then.

  • Mike Baker

    What is a soul? How does one search a soul? Does it have a lid or a locking mechanism?

    • usclat

      Excellent
      question Mike.

      And for that matter, how do you look into your heart?
      Unless of course you’re talking about using a stethoscope an EKG, CAT
      scan, an MRI or an MRA. At any rate, how do any of these procedures help discover what
      is plainly produced in your brain? You know, ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and so on. The idea of a person’s ‘soul’, ‘spirit’ (whatever they are) or heart having some thought-process capabilities seems baseless and funny to me. [Bravo for the Sacramento Freedom From Religion Foundation!!]

    • pbamma

      Google.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    FFRF National is actually footing the bill. And they’re not all going to be full size, some will be bus stop displays etc.

    Still waiting to see my smiling face :-)

  • Lee M Anderson

    I love the billboards! I wish they were here in WA!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Bishop Jaime Soto with the Cathedral of a Blessed Sacrament refers to the billboards as propaganda.

    Bishop Soto, if a billboard showed a nice looking person and the caption was, “I found God and happiness at the Cathedral of a Blessed Sacrament,” would you call that propaganda? No? Why not?

    • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

      It’s only propaganda if you don’t agree with it. Or something like that.

    • pbamma

      Hey Richard! For some reason I don’t have your info, but next time I see you at AU/CFI, I’ve got some Camp Quest pictures for you. :) -the blond AU guy.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Hi! Email me at AskRichard (at) ca (dot) rr (dot) com and we can exchange better communication info.

  • Rain

    Great billboards.

  • joe di lellio

    Countdown to defacement in 3, 2, 1 … I drive through the area on business often enough, so I’ll keep my eyes open.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Since David Diskin’s comment when to moderation, probably for having links:

    If you live in, or near Sacramento, I hope you’ll join us at any number of upcoming events.

    On December 21, at 10am, we’re having a Media Meet n’ Greet at the Arcade Library. The billboard “faces” will introduce themselves, talk about life without religion, and be available for interviews or Q&A (healthy snacks, too!).

    Details about that and many other Sacramento events can be found at

    I’ll try adding the links in a reply to this.

  • pbamma

    Interesting… I wonder if the FFRF is working to capitalize on the current ‘parsonage exemption’ win. http://ffrf.org/news/news-releases/item/19361-ffrf-gaylor-barker-overturn-%E2%80%98parsonage-exemption%E2%80%99-clergy-privilege

  • ca3799

    Great job! You never know when that “just right” message will meet that “just ready” person.

  • Mick

    Hey Bishop Jaime Soto:

    The chance that I will one day believe in a “higher power” is exactly the same as the chance that you will one day believe in the Tooth Fairy.

  • Nate Tillery

    If I could give this a thousand “likes” tell me how

  • SeekerLancer

    The only message I don’t like here is, “Science is my sacred.” It plays into the theist view that atheists are religious and worship science, even if that’s not what Elizabeth Porter meant I know it’ll be misconstrued.

  • kickstand

    Wish they had used real typographic quote characters instead of the “dumb quotes”, though.

  • allein

    Am I the only one amused by the fact that one of these people is named “Saint”?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Judy gets that a lot :-) And she is the driving force behind this campaign, the Sacramento chapter of FFRF. The ‘likes’ and thanks largely belong to her (and to everyone who donates to FFRF to help things like this happen in the first place)

      http://ffrf.org/donate

  • ConureDelSol

    Dayum. Wish we could get that many billboards over here in VA.

  • guest

    It’s nice that they’re all smiling and look so friendly, that will contradict the stereotype of the ‘grumpy atheist’.

    I’m not sure I agree that ‘reasonable faith is a contradiction in terms’- I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow and that seems reasonable, because it’s based on past experience.

    The other messages are good. It’s nice to see a mixture of professions, ages, races and genders representing atheism.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Fox coverage: (warning, the comments may not be good for your blood pressure)

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/11/26/anti-religion-organization-deploys-billboards-in-sacramento-area

  • SansDeus

    Interesting how people like Bishop Jaime Soto have such strong belief that they can’t fully accept that other people are capable of non-belief.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
  • James Garth

    Nice photos. I’m an aerospace engineer too, so how about I put my quote below on a billboard. Perhaps we would cancel each other out? ;)

    “Intelligent faith is putting your trust and commitment into something you have good reasons to believe is true.”
    - James E. Garth, Melbourne
    Aerospace Engineer…Christian

    • Drakk

      Do share some of that evidence for the veracity of religious truth claims we’ve all been waiting for.

  • Ralph

    They do the same in my country of birth, Poland. This is the only way to reach the masses when the tv and other traditional media are tied to obligation of political correctness of no speaking out against religion.
    Where I live, in the UK it’s not necessary to make these billboards about religion but some billboards against racism would be quite beneficial.

  • Andrea Griffith

    I am so happy with the billboards. Any way to get the word out that atheists are alive and well… thank you very much. I haven’t had a “death threat” in a couple of years so I’m bracing myself. – Andrea “Andi” Griffith

  • John

    Religion only masks your evilness to those who are equally blinded.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X