Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 3 April 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

North Carolina gets non-religion


View the billboards

A dozen eye-catching billboards are blanketing Raleigh, N.C., and dispelling myths about atheists and agnostics in FFRF’s exciting “Out of the Closet” campaign with its chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society.

The Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is also the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 16,500 members, including about 350 in North Carolina.

Motorists in Raleigh, Pittsboro, Durham and Smithfield are whizzing past colorful billboards bearing the friendly faces of local nonbelievers and their freethought “testimonies.” The billboards are creating quite a stir, with lots of media coverage.

“I’m saved . . . from religion!” announces Curtis Clayton, of Raleigh, identified as a “truck driver and atheist” on the billboard.

Colette and Sophia Winkler, two pretty teenage sisters from Orange County, smile and hug against a purple backdrop and say, “We put all our faith in science.” Colette says she was harassed in elementary school by another student over evolution.

A bright yellow billboard proclaims “Another happy humanist family” and features big smiles from “Allison, David & Kids” of Chapel Hill. A billboard featuring the Zepp family — father, mother and toddler — identifies them as “Raleigh Secular Humanists” and says, “This is what a secular family looks like!”

FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in Madison last fall. Raleigh is the second stop for the national campaign which introduces, one region at a time, local “friendly neighborhood atheists and agnostics and skeptics” to their neighbors.

“It worked for the gay rights movement. It’s time for atheists and agnostics to come out of our closet,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, who co-directs FFRF with Dan Barker.

“Many faces make enlightenment work. We know many people in North Carolina have never knowingly met an atheist or unbeliever, much less someone who is proud to advertise their nonbelief. We are so proud of our North Carolina members and participants,” added Barker.

Kim, a smiling young woman who identifies herself as a “stay-at-home mom and nontheist,” proclaims, “I don’t need a higher power to have a higher purpose!”

Triangle Freethought Society President Mark Zumbach, of Cary, says: “Science is my co-pilot.” Zumbach notes, “Our target audience is made up of freethinkers in the Triangle, and we want to let them know they are not alone.” Some billboards reach into smaller towns where freethinkers “feel particularly isolated.”

The chapter was founded in 2009 and serves religious skeptics in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas.

Robin, identified as “Parent . . . Nontheist” from Raleigh, smilingly declares: “Freethinking moves America forward!” On the intellectual side, an engineer named Rodrigo of Raleigh notes: “The path to truth: Science and Reason.” Dale, a writer and agnostic from Raleigh, jokes: “I write fiction. I don’t believe it.”

The secular message of Eric Thomas, a retiree from Durham, is: “We’ve got the whole world in our hands.” A Raleigh artist named Chris identifies as an atheist and says reassuringly: “Your faith feel wrong? It’s OK to leave!”

“We are grateful to the Triangle Freethought Society and our Raleigh-area members for coming ‘out of the closet’ and making this campaign so fun and successful, and particularly wish to single out Amy Glenn, who coordinated this amazing project so adroitly,” said Gaylor.

FFRF is working on two other campaigns now in the Midwest and Southwest.

“Our members are FFRF’s greatest asset and we want to introduce them to their communities,” Gaylor said. “Freethought is an intellectually respectable position. Yet atheists and agnostics are often treated like lepers. and put on the defensive. It’s time to reward people for using reason in forming our opinion about religion, and it’s time to welcome atheists and agnostics into the American mainstream.”

FFRF warmly thanks Lifetime Member Steven Uhl for his generous $25,000 “Out of the Closet” gift, of which he specified $5,000 to help the Raleigh campaign. The other $6,000 spent on the campaign was taken from the pool of many smaller donations received from members nationwide.

What does it take to bring this campaign to your area? FFRF is looking for an organized local volunteer to coordinate finding a photographer and a billboard company to work with. FFRF is grateful for continuing support for this campaign, particularly donors who may wish to sponsor a campaign in their area.

Donations small or large may be earmarked for the “Out of the Closet” Campaign. Donate online at ffrf.org/donate/out, or by mail: FFRF, Box 750, Madison WI 53701.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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