Seven myth-dispelling billboards featuring Spokane-area nonbelievers and families are appearing this week for a month-long campaign, as part of an “Out of the Closet” project by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Spokane chapter, the Inland Northwest Freethought Society.
The billboards feature the friendly faces of local atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers along with their personal freethought “testimonials.”
Joshua and Chandra Alto, a family in Spokane, are featured with their children, incuding a baby, and the slogan: “Atheist family: Good without a god.”
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Participants include nearby Idaho FFRF members who are active with the Spokane chapter, such as Harlan and Kay Hayes of Coeur d’Alene, who self identify as “great grandparents . . . nontheists.” The couple chose as their slogan: “Evidence and science trump myth — reason wins.”
“Truth is real; God is imaginary,” states Sharon Mease, from Spirit Lake, Idaho, who is retired and identifies as an atheist.
David Roeder, president of the chapter, appears with his statement, “On bended knee? Not for me.” Roeder calls himself an “inquisitive atheist.”
Stacey and Amanda Schafer of Spokane, a married couple who are atheists, share a board reading: “Our morality comes from reality.”
Former minister Ray Ideus, now an atheist living in Nine Mile Falls, says on his billboard: “Now preaching reason, not religion.”
“Freedom from religion lives,” proclaims Spokane salesman Frank Bender’s billboard.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 18,500 members, including about 1,000 members in Washington. Spokane is FFRF’s seventh stop in its campaign to introduce its members and “friendly neighborhood atheists” to their neighbors. FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in Madison, Wis., in 2010, and has since it visited Columbus, Tulsa, Raleigh, Phoenix and Nashville (one billboard) with the unique campaign.
“The nonreligious are at least a quarter, 25% of the Washington adult population — claiming conservatively 1.2 million state citizens, yet there are many Americans who have never knowingly met an atheist or unbeliever, much less someone who is proud to advertise their nonbelief,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. Barker, author of Godless, was formerly an evangelical minister who “just lost faith in faith.” He works with Ron Ideus on the new Clergy Project, a support group for clergy who have lost faith and are trying to leave the ministry.
“We are your neighbor, your classmate, your colleague, the person who opens the door for you at the grocery store, the parent you meet at the playground,” he said.
“Our members are FFRF’s greatest asset, our best advertisement for freethought,” adds Annie Laurie Gaylor, who co-directs FFRF. “It’s time to welcome atheists and agnostics into the American mainstream. Freethinkers are respectable and have much to offer our nation.”
FFRF warmly thanks the Inland Northwest Freethought Society chapter, director David Roeder for all the legwork, and participating individuals and families.
Because FFRF can’t put all of its members on a billboard, FFRF offers an interactive web application allowing any nonbeliever to place a “virtual billboard" at FFRF’s website.
Click on map to enlarge.
1. 1800 W. 3rd Avenue Spokane, WA 99201
2. 1217 N. Washington Street Spokane, WA 99201
3. 1708 W. Northwest Boulevard Spokane, WA 99205
4. 6010 N. Market Street Spokane, WA 99208
5. 8016 E. Trent Avenue Spokane, WA 99212
6. 7326 E. Sprague Avenue Spokane, WA 99212
7. 4105 N. Sullivan Road Spokane, WA 99216