Tucson FFRF members (left) Jerry Karches, Bob Swango, Carole Karches, Richard Johnson, Diane Uhl, Steve Uhl, Glenn Hoover and Garry Loucks pose in front of Diane’s freethought statement.
Nine myth-dispelling billboards featuring Phoenix-area nonbelievers and families, plus two billboards in Tucson, went up for a month in November as part of FFRF’s personalized “Out of the Closet” project.
Phoenix and Tulsa are the fifth and sixth cities in the “friendly neighborhood nontheist” PR campaign.
The colorful billboards, organized with the local chapter, FFRF Valley of the Sun, and its director Anne Mardick, feature the friendly faces of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers along with their personal freethought “testimonials.” Members in Tucson, Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler, Scottsdale, Avondale and Sun City composed their own thoughts. They are identified by name, profession and location so they are truly “out of the closet.”
“Atheists work to make this life heavenly,” says Dr. Stephen Uhl, of Tucson, a FFRF Lifetime Member, former Catholic priest and author of Out of God’s Closet. His wife, Diane Uhl, a retired teacher, Lifetime Member and member of FreeThought Arizona, proclaimed on hers, “I respect people for their deeds not their creeds.”
FFRF is indebted to Dr. Uhl for a $25,000 contribution to the national campaign, which not only paid for the Arizona campaign but helped FFRF with its “Out of the Closet” campaigns in Raleigh, N.C. (with its Triangle Free-thought Society chapter), and in Columbus, Ohio, earlier in the year. Steve and Diane were interviewed by two TV stations in Tucson with very positive coverage.
The Arizona Republic put the campaign on its front page Dec. 10, focusing on the Schineller Family of Tempe. Holly, a stay-at-home mother, and Freddie, a math professor, are pictured with their four smiling children, Tanner, 12, Hunter, 10, Skylar, 9, and Jasper, 8. They chose a slogan about their family values: “Love + critical thinking = open minds.” They identify as “Freethinkers.”
Noted Holly, “We lead by example with love and exploration, and believe love and critical thinking create open-minded children.”
“I don’t necessarily want to change minds. I just want to dispel some of the myths,” Holly told the Arizona Republic.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, told the Republic she hopes the campaign will bring nontheism into the mainstream and help people understand that atheists are regular people. “We’re saying, ‘This is your friendly neighborhood atheist.’ It’s harder for people to be hateful when they know you. Would you be hateful to the Schineller family, to their lovely children?”
This is the first time FFRF has placed a billboard in Spanish. “Creo en la razon, no en la religion” (“I believe in reason, not religion”), is the statement of Lifetime Member Zenadio Quintana of Phoenix.
“Faith without reason is true blindness,” is the slogan of James Wood, a blind student from Chandler.
Ronald Weinert, identified as an “Airline and USAF pilot” and atheist, notes: “Airplanes fly without faith and so do I.”
A green billboard features the smiling face of Joe Hernandez of Phoenix, who says: “Good for goodness sake — no gods required.” Joe is identified as “Vegan, Microbiologist . . . Atheist.”
Kyle and Amy Ruby of Tempe, a young married couple, quip: “We’re too old for imaginary friends!”
Former Mormon Samuel Patterson, 33, of Sun City, advises: “Serve humanity, not a fictional god.”
Jim McCloud, of Avondale, identified as “Bus driver . . . Atheist,” notes: “Morality does not require religion.”
Physician and Lifetime Member David Reichert, 69, wears a trademark cowboy hat and notes: “I’m a childhood Christian indocrination survivor and atheism convert.”
FFRF, 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 in Arizona. “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, is a former 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.
FFRF most warmly thanks all 11 participating individuals and families, Stephen Uhl, Anne Mardick (volunteer director of FFRF Valley of the Sun), Jim McCloud, who spent hours approving billboard locations, and JB Wright, talented volunteer photographer.
“This was a complicated project, and it was made possible thanks to all of these generous people,” Gaylor added.
Because FFRF can’t put all of its members on a billboard, it offers an interactive web application as part of its 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 virtual billboard and spread the word at