See more photographs at end of press release.
A dozen beautiful billboards will be blanketing Raleigh, N.C., in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s first foray to the South with its myth-dispelling “Out of the Closet” campaign, organized in conjunction with its chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society.
Motorists in Raleigh, Pittsboro, Durham and Smithfield will be whizzing past colorful billboards bearing the friendly faces of local nonbelievers and statements bearing their freethought “testimonies.”
“I’m saved . . . from religion!” says Curtis Clayton, of Raleigh identified as “truck driver and atheist” on the billboard. Two teenage sisters from Orange County, Colette and Sophia, smile against a purple backdrop and say, “We put all our faith in science.” A bright yellow billboard proclaims “Another happy humanist Family” and features “Allison, David & Kids” from Chapel Hill. The 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!”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is also the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 16,000 members and about 350 members in North Carolina. FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in its hometown last fall. Raleigh is the second stop on FFRF’s national campaign to introduce, 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,” says 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.”
Kim, a young smiling 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.”
Robin, identified as “Parent . . . Nontheist” from Raleigh, smilingly notes: “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 members for coming ‘out of the closet’ and participating in this campaign, and particularly wish to single out Amy Glenn, who coordinated this amazing project so adroitly,” said Barker.
FFRF is working on two new Out of the Closet campaigns, one in the Midwest, the other in the Southwest.
“Our members are FFRF’s greatest asset and we want to introduce them to their communities. It’s time to stop stigmatizing people for using reason in forming our opinion about religion, and it’s time to welcome atheists and agnostics into the American mainstream,” Gaylor added.
Locations of Raleigh-area billboards:
Eric & Kim (Raleigh): 1405 Capital Blvd. (front and back)
Curtis (Raleigh): 906 Capital Blvd.
Chris (Raleigh): 2419 Atlantic Ave.
Mark (Raleigh): 4554 U.S. 64 Business (.2 miles east of New Hope Rd.)
Zepp Family (Smithfield): 5718 U.S. 70 Business (front and back)
Robin & Rodrigo (Smithfield): 3550 U.S. 70
Dale (Pittsboro): 1600 U.S. 64 Business
Sam (Pittsboro): 1881 U.S. 64 Business (250' west of SR 1943 on US 64)
Collette and Sophia (Durham): 4950 U.S. 70 Business