The Freedom From Religion Foundation, one of the largest secular groups in America, announced it is erecting 11 different billboards across Chicago this week with various messages. Some of the ads ask people to "think for (themselves)," while others argue that kindness "comes from altruism" and not from "seeking divine reward."
"Research shows that atheists and other nonbelievers remain at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to social acceptance. One reason for that is that even though at least 20% of the population today is nonreligious in the United States, many Americans have never knowingly met an atheist," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. "We're trying to change that."
The ads feature several atheist writers, bloggers, speakers and activists from FFRF and its chapter, FFRF Metropolitan Chicago.
The billboard presenting "Friendly Atheist" blogger Hemant Mehta says, "I'd rather put my faith in me," while another one with social justice activist Kimberly Veal reads, "We are here to challenge you to think for yourself."
An ad with Tom Cara, an atheist volunteer and FFRF chapter director from Niles, argues: "Kindness comes from altruism, not from seeking divine reward."
The 11 different billboards and their messages are featured on the FFRF website. The organization, which describes itself as a "state-church watchdog," says that it has more than 21,500 members nationwide, including 800 members in Illinois.
There have been a number of secular billboard campaigns that have been launched in December throughout the nation. American Atheists launched its holiday ads this year across several Bible Belt states, with a message to "skip church" this Christmas.
AA President David Silverman told The Christian Post that the group's billboards are aimed at atheists who are under pressure to participate in religious activities.
"We are using these billboards to spur intra-family communication because we believe the communication is desperately needed," Silverman said.
A separate FFRF holiday ad featuring an anti-nativity scene display at a city park in Arlington Heights, Illinois, was vandalized earlier in December.
The group issued a $2,000 reward last week for information on who vandalized the display, which featured a solstice sign and a large "A" for atheism light display. A metal sign depicting a "nativity" Bill of Rights scene in celebration of the freethought point of view was also damaged.
"It seems there is no peace, good will to all in Arlington Heights," said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. "This is not just a heckler's veto, it's an attack on free speech in a public forum that is supposed to be open to all. This vandalism says the park belongs only to Christians — everyone else is an outsider."