A digital billboard that features a Christian ad telling atheists, "Thank God you're wrong," in New York's Times Square is now being used by a secular group to spread the message, "OMG, there is no god!" alongside the face of former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Julia Sweeney.
The billboard has been placed by the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation at the intersection of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.
The atheist ad was unveiled Friday, four days after an evangelical group, Answers in Genesis, used the same spot to run a 15-second video with the message, "To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you're wrong."
"A fifth of the U.S. population identifies as nonbelievers," FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor says in a statement. "We don't thank a nonexistent god, we put faith in each other and human ingenuity. We believe in deeds, not creeds. We believe the only afterlife that ought to concern us is leaving our descendants a secure and pleasant future."
Sweeney, whose picture has been used in the billboard along with the atheist message, left the "Saturday Night Live" show in 1994, and began writing and appearing in autobiographical solo shows. One of the shows, "God Said Ha!" was about her battle with cervical cancer and her brother's death from blood cancer. Another show, "Letting Go of God" talks about how she became a nonbeliever though she was raised a Catholic. She also appears on National Public Radio's news quiz, "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!"
The atheist group has had three billboards in Times Square. In June 2012, a sign said, "Put women's rights over Bishops' wrongs," in response to a campaign by the Catholic bishops against the Obama administration's contraception mandate. Another billboard placed earlier read, "Reason's Greetings."
Apart from Times Square, the creationist group Answers in Genesis also placed two more billboards in the San Francisco Bay area this week.
"The atheists have been pretty aggressive in putting billboards up across the nation and some of the billboards have been very much focused on attacking Christianity," Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, told The Christian Post earlier. "Not just promoting their atheism, but attacking Christianity. And they put one in Times Square last Christmas that said 'Keep the Merry' with a picture of Santa Clause, 'and dump the myth' with a picture representing Christ."
Ham also said "we as a ministry felt that the Bible tells us in Jude to contend for the faith and we need to be soldiers," as described in Ephesians 6. "We're in a battle. We're in a spiritual war and we're to be out there wielding our swords, the Word of God, and so we thought, you know, people should see us publicly make a statement."
The message by Ham's group angered atheists. "As expected, many atheists showed their real anger against God by some very nasty, vile comments (so they were deleted and banned). Some secularists (after some investigation) were pretending to be Christians and complaining about the campaign," Ham wrote on his Facebook page earlier. "It was sad to see many others who I presume are Christians (or at least church attenders) making all sorts of quite ridiculous accusations against AiG because of this direct challenge to atheists."
Ham's group started a $27 million Creation Museum in Kentucky in 2007.