The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) with 13,000 members and more than 300 in Ohio, is taking its irreverent billboard campaign to Canton, Ohio this month.
As part of a campaign to take freethought to the "unmassed masses," the Foundation has put up a colorful billboard boasting the John Lennon-esque statement "Imagine No Religion," set against a stained-glass window background. The billboard is about a mile from the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the south side of 12th, one block west of Market Street, facing west. It is illuminated and 10,000 people drive by daily.
The Madison, Wis.-based Foundation, a state/church separation watchdog, placed the same message in suburban Columbus earlier in the year. Its billboard messages also include the warning, "Beware of Dogma" with the same stained-glass motif, and an election-year message that said: "Keep Religion OUT of Politics."
It is aiming to place billboards in every state that allows them. Billboards have also gone up in Madison, Wis.; Atlanta, Ga.; Harrisburg, Penn., Chambersburg, Penn.; Denver, Colo., Phoenix, Seattle, and Colorado Springs. This December, the Foundation put up a seasonal and cheery "Reason's Greetings" billboard in Olympia, Was., and Madison, Wis. It has contracted to place 10 billboards in Portland later this month, one in Sacramento, three in San Francisco and one going up this week in San Antonio, Texas.
In late November, the Foundation filed a lawsuit against the City of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., for its interference with a billboard in that southern California city, which resulted in its 2-month contract being dishonored and the billboard torn down and destroyed after it had been up less than a week. The federal lawsuit is in district court in Los Angeles.
"We could have a 'heaven on earth' if people would stop investing their best energies in unprovable religious claims. The only afterlife that should concern us is a secure and pleasant future for our descendants," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Dan Barker, Foundation co-president and author of the new book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, said: "John Lennon got it right. No hell below us, nothing to kill or die for."