Nine myth-dispelling billboards featuring Phoenix-area nonbelievers and families, plus two billboards in Tucson, are appearing this week for a month-long campaign, as part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s personalized “Out of the Closet” project.
The colorful billboards, organized with the local FFRF chapter, FFRF Valley of the Sun, feature the friendly faces of local atheists, agnostics and freethinkers along with their personal freethought “testimonials.”
“Atheists work to make this life heavenly,” says Dr. Stephen Uhl, of Tucson, a FFRF Lifetime Member, former Roman Catholic priest and author of Out of God’s Closet. Steve’s billboard will be on Speedway, 60 feet east of Main Avenue. His wife, Diane Uhl, a retired teacher, FFRF Lifetime Member and member of the local FreeThought Arizona, proclaims on her billboard at Ajo, west of Alvernon in Tucson, “I respect people for their deeds not their creeds.”
The nine billboards starting to appear in the Phoenix area are in Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa and Chandler.
Ronald Weinert, identified as an “Airline and USAF pilot” and atheist, notes: “Airplanes fly without faith and so do I.” Ronald and his dog, Tres, of Scottsdale, are pictured against a purple backdrop on a billboard at Cave Creek Road, half a mile north of Bell Road.
“Faith without reason is true blindness,” is the slogan of James Wood, a student from Chandler who is blind, posted on Apache Trail, east of 80th Street.
“Creo en la razon, no en la religion” [“I believe in reason, not religion” ], says FFRF Lifetime Member Zenadio Quintana, of Phoenix, self-identified in Spanish as “propietario de Nogocio [business owner]. . . Humanista”. His billboard is scheduled to appear on Glendale Avenue, 210 west of 25th Avenue (south side facing east).
The Schineller Family of Tempe, (Holly and Freddie pictured with their four smiling children Tanner, 12, Hunter, 10, Skylar, 9 and Jasper, 8) chose for their billboard message a slogan about their family values: “Love + critical thinking = open minds.” They identify as “Freethinkers” and their message can be found on Dobson, south of Main, in Mesa. Noted Holly, “We lead by example with love and exploration, and believe love and critical thinking create open-minded children.”
A green billboard featuring the smiling face of Joe Hernandez, of Phoenix, says: “Good for goodness sake — no gods required.” Joe is identified as “Vegan, Microbiologist . . . Atheist.” Joe’s billboard will be on 16th Street, 30 feet north of Grand Canal.
Kyle and Amy Ruby of Tempe, a young married couple, quip: “We’re too old for imaginary friends!” Their message will be on a billboard on Chandler Heights Road, east of Arizona Avenue.
Former Mormon Samuel Patterson, 33, of Sun City, advises: “Serve humanity, not a fictional god.” His message is scheduled to be on a billboard on Southern, east of Country Club.
Jim McCloud, of Avondale, identified as “Bus driver . . . Atheist,” notes on his billboard on US 60 Grand, north of Northern: “Morality does not require religion.”
Physician David A. Reichert, 69, a FFRF Lifetime Member, photographed in a trademark cowboy hat, notes on his billboard on Washington, south of 27th Street, “I’m a childhood Christian indocrination survivor and atheism convert.”
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 17,000 members, including more than 400 members in Arizona. Phoenix is FFRF’s fifth stop on a national campaign to introduce local FFRF members and “friendly neighborhood atheists” to their neighbors. FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in Madison a year ago, and has since visited Columbus, Tulsa and Raleigh with the unique campaign.
“The nonreligious are 17% of the Arizona adult population, yet there are many Arizonans 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.”
“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 with Barker. “It’s time to welcome atheists and agnostics into the American mainstream, and we think the best way to do that is to introduce them and their viewpoints to their communities,” Gaylor added.
FFRF most warmly thanks all 11 participating individuals and families; Anne Mardick, the volunteer director of its chapter, FFRF – Valley of the Sun; a benefactor who made the campaign possible; Jim McCloud, who spent hours approving billboard locations, and JB Wright, the talented volunteer photographer. “This was a complicated project, and it is made possible thanks to all of these generous people.”
Because FFRF can’t put all of its members on a billboard, it also offers an interactive web application as part of its national "Out of the Closet" campaign. Any nonbeliever may coin a phrase, upload their photo, choose an “out of the closet” appellation and post a billboard look-alike at FFRF’s website. Build your own “out of the closet” virtual billboard and spread the word!
Location of Phoenix-Area Billboards
Samuel Patterson ("Serve humanity, not a fictional god") Southern, 2,640 feet east of Country Club, south side facing west.
Kyle and Amy Ruby ("We're too old for imaginary friends!") Chandler Heights Rd., 1,375 feet east of Arizona Ave., south side facing east.
James Woods ("Faith without reason is true blindness") Apache Trail, 20 feet east of 80th St., south side facing east.
The Schineller Family ("Love + critical thinking = open minds.") Dobson, 500 feet south of Main, east side facing north.
David Reichert, M.D. ("I'm a childhood Christian indoctrination survivor and atheism convert.") Washington, 115 feet south of 27th St., north side facing west.
Joe Hernandez ("Good for goodness sake — no gods required") 16th St., 30 feet north of Grand Canal, east side facing south.
Ronald Weinert (with dog Tres) ("Airplanes fly without faith and so do I.") Cave Creek Rd., 0.5 miles north of Bell Rd., west side facing south.
Zenaido Quintana ("Creo en la razon, no en la religion") Glendale Ave., 120 feet west of 25th Ave., south side facing east.
Jim McCloud ("Morality does not require religion.") US 60 Grand, 2,112 feet north of Northern, west side facing northwest.
Location of Tucson Billboards
Diane Uhl ("I respect people for their deeds not their creeds.") Ajo, 700 feet west of Alvernon, north side facing west.
Dr. Stephen Uhl ("Atheists work to make this life heavenly.") Speedway, 60 feet east of Main Ave., south side facing east.