Atheist Billboard in Salt Lake City Features Ex-Mormon Family: ‘We’re Atheists’

A new billboard launched by American Atheists this week to advertise their upcoming convention in Salt Lake City hits the residents where it hurts.

The ad features parents West and Lennie Monnett along with their two sons and niece (of whom they’re guardians) — declaring that they’re not Mormons and not just “ex-Mormons”; they’re atheists:

“Many atheists still call themselves Mormons or ex-Mormons,” [AA President David] Silverman continued. “Our message is this: If you don’t believe anymore, you don’t have to continue to base your identity in Mormonism. You’re not an ‘ex-Mormon’; you’re an atheist, and you are very far from alone. You should be proud to be an atheist — we are. We want to celebrate being an atheist with you.”

The billboard could use a little more clarity since it’s unclear whether just the parents are Mormons-turned-atheists or if the kids, too, left the faith at some point as well. But, you know, it’s a road sign. Not a lot of room for nuance.

So far, I have yet to see any backlash against the ad. Which is exactly as it should be, as the billboard doesn’t even denigrate Mormonism. All it does is show people — plenty of current Mormons included — that there are those who left the religion and are doing just fine. So if you’re worried that leaving Mormonism cannot possibly end well, think again.

I absolutely love these billboards featuring real people from the community, declaring their atheism proudly and with smiles on their faces. More of this please.

American Atheists said in a press release that when they were looking for families to use for this ad, they were “overwhelmed with responses.” No reason they can’t use a few more of them in ads before the April convention…


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  • diogeneslamp0

    But… when I read the Book of Mormon, I feel closer to Jesus! (Says FA’s ubiquitous website ad.)

    Also, when I read the Dallas phone book, I feel closer to Baal and Moloch.

  • Malcolm McLean

    An advert for a Chrysler is in a sense an ad against Ford, because few people will be able to afford both models. But normally the message is “Detroit is back”, or something pro-Chrysler, that just doesn’t mention Fords at all.
    Now say I don’t believe in automobile ownership at all. So I run an ad “the Monnett family used to own a Chrysler, they got rid of it and are now an eco-friendly family with much more spare cash. Explore your doubts about the real value of your vehicle with us”.
    Chrysler could legitimately protest. It’s not a pro-bus and walking ad. It’s an anti-Chrysler ad. What they call in the trade “knocking copy”.

  • Dave

    A difference is that we are defined by what we are not. Atheist or anti-theist. Ford owners and anti-Ford owners. No Chrysler option. By definition the add would be anti-Ford.
    And a Ford vehicle is a valid option.
    IMO a better analogy would be Chrysler and an imaginary car that only the dealer can see which you buy on faith.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Wouldn’t Ford be some other denomination? When I was car free I wasn’t a-Fordist, I was a-carist. This ad isn’t anti-Mormon, but it does reference Mormons in particular.

  • Matt Ranson

    LOL, I think some people are reading too much into this

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    It’s also using the exact phrasing and font of the “and I’m a Mormon” campaign. Mormons and atheists have much the same PR problem, perhaps to different degrees.

  • momtarkle

    Do you have something that you want to tell us, Malcolm?

  • Honest babe

    Wait, the billboard “doesn’t denigrate Mormonism,” yet “hits them where it hurts?” Hmmm . . .

  • poodlescoot

    do you have a problem understanding nuance? You can question an institution without denigrating it. The billboard doesn’t say “Mormonism sucks because…” It says “if you’re struggling with questions, you’re not alone.

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

    you must be home schooled.

    “hits them where it hurts” is a way of saying “placing a powerful message in the middle of a place where lots of people might never have heard it before, and upon an issue that gets to the heart of the question of mormon belief.”

    i hope that wasn’t too many big words for you.

  • Leah

    Why the knock on home-schooling? I wasn’t home-schooled, but I know many people who were, and they are very intelligent, well-spoken, culturally attuned people. Your reply seems to be an over-reactive ad hominem attack.

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

    just being sassy, no offense to properly home schooled folks intended. i actually support home schooling very much, just not the religious kind. i’m an educator and i know too many horrible truths about public schools right now to be anything but supportive of proper and comprehensive home schooling. (and no, i am not bashing teachers nor blaming them for the miserable excuse for education that takes place today in american public scools. i blame politicians and greed heads who’ve joined together to destroy what was once a crown jewel of american democracy).

  • jshakespeare

    I’m in Texas. Let’s do a billboard along I-20! Pppllleeeaaassseee!! :-)

  • dorcheat

    I hear you. Between DFW and Shreveport would be interesting, especially in and around Tyler through Longview in eastern Texas.

  • jshakespeare

    Yes! The East Texas area is exactly what I had in mind. I was born and raised in E.T. (there no longer), and there are a myriad of people who need to hear/see that Atheists exist: those die-hard fundamentalists who refuse to think there’s a worldview outside their own, and those closet atheists (like I once was) who need to know they aren’t alone. Honestly, who are these billboard people? I REALLY need to talk with them!

  • Speedwell

    Houstonian here… we really, REALLY need one around the Beaumont area. Pleeeeeeeeeeze. :)

  • Jeffrey Zamora

    Fellow Houstonian and atheist here as well. Nice to meet you. And I would gladly volunteer to have my face on a billboard in this area. Love what this group is doing!

  • Cris Bessette

    Yeah, I grew up in East Texas , it’s practically a theocracy.
    My parents and other family members are all evangelicals or pentecostals. We attended mega-churches you could have parked a 747 in.
    It took moving away for me to be able to question my beliefs, though now the internet crosses borders and helps people be able to gain the logical skills and have the chance to debate ideas, regardless of where they live.

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

    i think it’s perfectly clear, Hemant. they say “the monnett family.” it didn’t say parents, and there’s no reason not to think that the children came to atheism along with their parents, or even on their own. i guess we’ll just have to go to SCL and ask them! anybody wanna buy me a plane ticket? 😉

  • Malcolm McLean

    The ad certainly implies the whole family probably converted to atheism in one go. It’s hard to do otherwise, children must follow the religious practices of their parents, at least until they are old enough to go to church under their own steam. Which in the States often means owning a Chrysler.

  • allein

    I have a Hyundai. I guess that’s why I don’t go to church… 😉

  • Ibis3

    One doesn’t generally “convert” to atheism, one deconverts from religion (or accepts atheism). Most freethinking atheists don’t believe in forcing their children to follow their irreligious practices (whatever those would be). And no, kids can always go to church (or temple or mosque, or synagogue) with extended family or friends’ families if the parents consent.

    I grew up in a largely non-religious home environment (I think my mother was a believer in God, but not in organised religion; I have no idea what my father or step-father thought about religion), but I went to both Catholic (was even confirmed) and Protestant churches and Sunday schools of various denominations, and also went to a Hindu temple, and Wiccan circles all before I graduated highschool. It’s only by chance that I never attended a synagogue or mosque or Buddhist temple as a child.

  • CraftLass

    Agreed! I was very much raised Catholic, but I attended services at many churches of many sects and synagogues, never did get to a mosque but did participate in a few Muslim holidays. Then there was paganism, which was a big part of junior high and high school for me, from Wicca on down the line. I explored every religion I could find an adherent to. I went with friends’ families as a kid and could walk to many types of religious buildings in my suburban town easily. Heck, in my Catholic school class we never had less than 5 religions represented.

    I imagine that is harder if you live somewhere more rural, but I have never found a person who wasn’t more than happy to share their religion with me, even with the understanding I was unlikely to convert. People like sharing!

    I think, for many, exploring various faiths is a big part of the deconversion process. That said, for many, they would never have had faith at all if it weren’t for parents choosing it for them. Whether parents allow their child to explore other faiths or not is a whole different thing.

  • Anna

    Sure, you can do otherwise. My parents believe in the supernatural, but I’m a lifelong atheist. There are many people who don’t raise their children to share their religious beliefs. Sometimes it’s because the parents are apathetic; other times it’s because they have a conviction that children should find their own path in life. Wiccans and other neo-pagans seem to prefer that route. Most don’t consider their children to be members until they are old enough to choose and profess that faith for themselves.

    Generally it seems like Christians, Jews, and Muslims are fond of making children claim the religious identity of their parents. They don’t give their children a choice in the matter, telling them they are a member of the religion and signing them up for baptisms, confirmations, and whatnot. Atheists, I think, are generally quite unlikely to demand that small children identify themselves as atheists just because that’s what their parents are.

  • A3Kr0n

    I think putting up a billboard letting people know you should be shunned now shows good sportsmanship on their part.

  • Speedwell

    My therapist says that it’s easier to bring the right sort of friend into your life if you divest yourself of the wrong sort first. I’d put myself on a billboard in a New York minute if it helped me sort the people who love me for myself from the people who hang with me out of a sense of obligation to Jeezus.

  • A3Kr0n

    I agree letting people know, as long as the wrong sort don’t try to kill you. The stuff I’ve been reading about Pakistan today is pretty bad.

  • cary_w

    I just got home from spending Christmas in Salt Lake. I didn’t see this billboard, but I didn’t know it was up, so I wasn’t looking for it. From a Utahn perspective, I really like it. There are an awful lot of Utahns who describe themselves as ex-Mormons, whether or not they are non-religious or practicing another religion, so a gentle nudge to take the next step and call themselves atheists doesn’t seem disrespectful. It’s very unlikely that it will get vandalized because it’s probably somewhere along the I-15 corridor where all the billboards are very high up and nearly impossible to get to.

    Honestly, this might not cause much of a stir right now because everyone’s head just exploded with the gay marriage thing. Needles to say, it’s been a very festive holiday season in SLC this year! Or, as the local Unitarian minister proclaimed,”IT’S A SOLSTICE MIRICLE!!!”

  • Chris Winstead

    It’s great that the billboard is finally up. There was a bit of a saga with billboard companies rejecting this ad for being “offensive” and “contrary to community standards.” The Deseret News has published several articles on the topic, and the comment threads are sadly predictable.

  • Greg_Clark

    Actually, there was a bit of backlash, in terms of getting a billboard to begin with.

    · Clark, G.A. Atheists’ billboard should offend no one. Op-ed column. The Salt Lake Tribune, October 26, 2013.

    It’s atheism itself that’s considered offensive. But it’s religion that should be rejected—as, in fact, theists themselves also often do.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/57039695-82/atheists-http-www-american.html.csp

  • Craig S.

    I identify as ex-Mormon and atheist. Saying ex-Mormon is informative, it immediately gives people the idea that I came from a fringey religious tradition with some pretty weird beliefs, as opposed to the mainstream Christianity most Americans are most familiar with. That said, I love the billboard and I’ll be on the lookout for it on my way into work.

  • Finny Wiggen

    We are not libs… why would we complain, or give any “backlash?”

    I drive that road regularly and haven’t even noticed the supposed billboard. Even if I had, it would do zero to effect me emotionally. I doubt I would even remember it by the time I got home.

    Liberals tend to think that everyone is like them. ie, that we are all eager to be victims, or be offended. While little things like this get under the skin of libs, the rest of us are too busy living our lives…

  • Richard Thomas
  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
  • Richard Thomas
  • Richard Thomas
  • Richard Thomas

    There are PLENTY more, but I’m hoping you can see the pattern and realize what a ridiculous statement you made.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/18/last-night-the-keep-saturn-in-saturnalia-billboard-was-nearly-set-on-fire/

  • Finny Wiggen

    Your posts help me, while hurting you. Was your intention to look as though you are obsessed with attempting to prove that you are right?

    I would suggest that you “grow up” but… I really don’t care how childish you behave.

    If you want to spend your time trying to, in your own mind, cut others down to size, then have at it. But let’s be clear, that it is all just in your own mind.