December 6, 2014

American Atheists' Skip Church Billboard

American Atheists billboard

In what is rapidly becoming a holiday tradition, American Atheists has a new billboard this year. Here is the billboard they have placed in a few locations in the South to promote their 2015 national convention in Memphis, TN. The story here probably should be the convention itself, especially how nice it is to provide atheists living in the South with a rare opportunity to attend a convention so close to home. But not surprisingly, the story has become the billboard.

I have read a fair amount of criticism of the billboard from both Christians and atheists, none of which I could characterize as unexpected. After some brief consideration, I decided not to dig through it all here. It is out there if you want to find it, and many of you have probably already found some of it. Instead, I think I'll be content merely to share my own thoughts on the billboard and the convention in Memphis.

I like the billboard. It is provocative, has people talking, and has generated quite a bit of publicity for American Atheists. Thanks to the media coverage these billboards have received, it is tough to imagine that anybody won't know about the Memphis convention. I think that's the point here. Beyond that, I appreciate the billboard's message. We adults are too old for fairy tales, and we should think twice about compelling our children to believe them.

I'm not terribly worried about how the billboard's message will be perceived by Christians throughout the South; they are not its audience. This is not a billboard aiming to persuade Christians of anything. It is a billboard that seems aimed at generating buzz, and it has certainly been doing that. I just wish Mississippi had allowed one of these billboards. I would have liked to see one in person.

I applaud American Atheists for holding a convention in Tennessee. There are many parts of the United States where atheists are relatively free to be open about their thoughts on religion; this is not one of them. I'd really like to see more atheist, humanist, secular, and skeptic meetings like this taking place throughout the South. There are many people here who cannot afford to take off work and travel long distances to such meetings. Many of them in this region have never had the experience of being in a room full of atheists where they can express themselves without fear. I'd suggest our region needs this sort of thing at least as much as any other, if not more so.

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