Tulsa, Columbus exit nonreligious ‘closet’

Tulsa, Okla., and Columbus, Ohio, are the third and fourth locations for FFRF’s national “Out of the Closet” billboard campaign to introduce local nonbelievers to their neighbors. FFRF debuted the campaign last fall in Madison, Wis., and Raleigh, N.C., was the second stop in April.

Ten billboards featuring Tulsa-area nonbelievers and families went up for a month in May. “I can be moral without religion,” said psychology student Sabina Ewbank, of Muskogee.

“I don’t need an eternal reward to be moral,” was the statement offered by Ric Nourse of Tulsa, describing himself as “husband, dad, artist . . . atheist.”

“Another atheist for peace and world harmony,” said Venessa Hayes, a Tulsa mother of three.

“Reality is my god and my religion,” asserted Melissa Robbins, of Tahlequah, “entrepreneur and atheist.”

“People of logic don’t belong in the minority,” said freethinker Lamar Kernes, 22, a Tulsa student.

“Heaven is a state of mind,” declared agnostic Sara Sharp, 24, of Tulsa.

A Tulsa student, Hilary, 25, explained the secular perspective of morality: “Humankind = Humans + kindess. No gods required.”

Two nonbelievers chose to be photographed with their small children, including William Poire, 29, of Broken Arrow, shown with his children, Jacob, 5, Aiden, 3, and baby Sophia. Poire described himself as “Atheist by default.”

“I have a personal relationship with reality,” said Paul Sanchez, of Glenpool, pictured with his daughter Adrianna. Paul is a “polyatheist” (rejects all deities).

Campaign coordinator Rhonda Dorle, Silver City, chose the statement “Born again skeptic.”

“We’re very proud of our Tulsa membership for coming out of the closet in a city which possibly has more visible religion — in the form of church-owned billboards and megachurches, and the notorious Oral Roberts University — than any other U.S. city,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

Next stop: Columbus

Seven “Out of the Closet” billboards featuring local nonbelievers went up in June for a month in Columbus, Ohio, with several students participating.

“I can be good without God,” said Dylan Galos, a Columbus student and atheist.

“Reason over faith, always,” was the affirmative message chosen by Nick, another Columbus student and atheist.

Columbus student and atheist Ashley Paramore was pictured with her telescope: “I see beauty in the universe — without God.”

“We value reason & compassion,” said Amanda Metskas and August Brunsman, Camp Quest directors and atheists. August is also executive director of the Secular Student Alliance, based in Columbus, which supports campus secular student clubs nationwide. Camp Quest offers younger students religion-free summer camp enrichment experiences.

“Personal gods don’t compute” for FFRF member Jeremy Harris, of Worthington, an engineer and atheist.

“I don’t believe in Zeus, either,” quipped Ed Sweeney, a Columbus accountant, FFRF member and atheist, who served as local campaign coordinator.

Olivia Chen, Columbus student and atheist, explained: “Compassion is my religion.”

“We atheists and agnostics are your neighbor, your classmate, your colleague, the person who opens the door for you at the grocery store,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “We’re your friendly neighborhood atheists and agnostics.”

“Our members are FFRF’s greatest asset, the best advertisement for freethought,” added Gaylor. “We are delighted to introduce them and their viewpoints to Columbus. It’s high time to welcome atheists and agnostics and our point of view into the American mainstream.”

Since FFRF can’t put all of its members on a billboard, it has unveiled an interactive Web application, allowing any nonbeliever to coin a phrase, upload a photograph, choose an “Out of the Closet” appellation and post a virtual billboard at FFRF’s website. Build your own billboard at ffrf.org/out/ and spread the word!

The campaign is paid for by donations to FFRF’s billboard fund, which may specifically be earmarked for the campaign. Your contribution will make it possible for FFRF to take the campaign to new locations. FFRF plans to visit two new cities by fall.

If you’re interested in helping to subsidize a billboard or coordinate a campaign in your area, please contact Annie Laurie Gaylor. FFRF depends on help from a local coordinator to book the digital photos and work with local participants.

Freedom From Religion Foundation