Controversial Bus Signs Pop Up in San Francisco

Atheists/Agnostics Urge “Imagine No Religion”

Why would the nation’s largest group of freethinkers spend good money to put ads that make light of religion on buses in San Francisco?

“If there’s any group of people overall that will take our message to heart, it’s San Franciscans,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the ad sponsor. “The city has a well-deserved reputation for open-mindedness and tolerance,” Gaylor adds.

The Madison, Wis.-based association, representing nearly 14,000 nonbelievers nationwide and more than 2,000 in California, is putting its messages on the outside of 75 buses. Messages like “Imagine No Religion” and “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” (Mark Twain really did say that, but he never said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”)

Additionally, 200 interior bus signs are going up, featuring six provocative quotations by five famous skeptics of history, plus a quote from perhaps the world’s preeminent atheist, Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling “The God Delusion.” The ad features Dawkin’s comment from the book: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”

The ads also feature quotes from Emily Dickinson, Butterfly McQueen, Katharine Hepburn and Clarence Darrow, who famously said, “I don’t believe in God, because I don’t believe in Mother Goose.” Actress Butterfly McQueen, who played Prissy in “Gone with the Wind,” said: “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.” McQueen was a nearly lifelong atheist.

The Foundation launched a national billboard campaign in late 2007, which has now visited more than 20 states and 30 cities (including San Francisco last December). Billboard messages include “Imagine No Religion,” “Beware of Dogma,” “Keep Religion OUT of Government,” and “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief.”

“These bus signs are ‘a sign of the times,’ ” says Dan Barker, Foundation co-president. “Those of us who are nonreligious are a growing force in America.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is a national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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