An atheist group in Minnesota has put up billboards featuring pictures of babies and attacking religion in the Twin Cities and its members say they are inspired by pro-life ads across the country.
"Please don't indoctrinate me with religion. Teach me to think for myself," says an illuminated 14 x 48 foot billboard, installed at 725 Washington Ave. N. in Minneapolis by the Minnesota Atheists, a group affiliated with the national organization American Atheists.
"We are all born without belief in gods. Learn how to be a born-again atheist," reads another ad, which measures 10.5 x 36 foot and has been installed at the corner of University Avenue and Lexington Avenue in St. Paul. The billboards, which went up this week and will remain in place until Feb. 19, carry images of smiling babies.
"It's (billboards) turning out to be a pretty popular way to get the message out," the Star Tribune quoted the atheist group's president, August Berkshire, as saying Friday. He said the billboards were in response to a nationwide anti-abortion campaign using pictures of cute babies by the Minneapolis-based group Prolife Across America.
"They use a lot of images of children and that got us thinking: religious indoctrination begins with children as soon as they're old enough to learn," Berkshire said. "If they weren't given this indoctrination, they probably wouldn't believe. It's for people to realize, where did this religion come from? You weren't born with it. It was taught to you. And it's possible to unlearn it."
Eric Jayne, a board member and project leader of the atheist group, said the billboards seek to inspire "those who already identify as atheists to become aware of and join Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists." He said in a statement Friday that the two atheist groups wish to challenge "the practice of indoctrinating young, impressionable minds with religious dogma that cannot be substantiated with evidence."
"The billboards let our fellow atheists know that there are local and national organizations out there that support them," Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, stated. Silverman also said it was to promote the "Reason Rally" event planned for March in Washington, D.C.
The Minnesota Atheists received some financial help from the national organization it is affiliated with, but the billboards "are not fully paid for with donations," the group's website says.
Mary Ann Kuharski, the director of Prolife Across America, is not concerned, as she finds the atheist campaign "flattering." "Imitation is the highest form of flattery," she said, according to the Star Tribune. "They're (babies) eye-catching. We can't help noticing them. Frankly, they (atheist billboards) may be helping us. They're still identifying babies for what they are, which is precious."