New Atheist Billboard in San Diego Urges 'Personal Relationship With Reality'

A large new atheist billboard has been unveiled along a San Diego freeway, the result of co-operative work of over 18 atheist and secular groups, which reads "Atheism: A Personal Relationship with Reality."

"We want to express how using intelligence to free oneself of the god idea can open the curtain to a inspiring new outlook," said Debbie Allen, coordinator for the San Diego Coalition of Reason, in a statement. "Atheism is positive and offers grounding in the real world."

Eighteen or so atheist groups besides the Coalition of Reason helped American Atheists, the largest atheist organization in America, keep the $4,000 billboard up for the next four weeks. The billboard features a curtain with a painting of a sky exposing a stack of books, and was designed by graphic artist Bruce Harris for the San Diego Coalition of Reason.

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"When you raise the curtain between the known and the unknown, there is nothing there but the natural world. No wizards, no spirits, no deities," Allen explained.

The effort, part of an ongoing nationwide campaigning of both American Atheists and the United Coalition of Reason, seeks to place atheist-minded billboards across a number of major U.S. cities. This past Christmas, AA launched a massive billboard in the popular tourist spot Times Square in New York City, which urged people to abandon the "myth" of Jesus Christ.

David Silverman, president of AA, said in a statement: "With many of our previous billboards, we've made it a point to challenge traditional religion. But this time we want to show the other side of our coin, that atheism is a breath of fresh air."

Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason, which is the parent organization of the San Diego Coalition of Reason, said that religious people should come to accept that atheists are a regular part of local communities everywhere.

"Non-believers like us live all over America. We're your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers and family members. You should get to know us," Edwords added.

The AA billboard campaigns often try to encourage atheists to come out about their lack of faith and realize that they are not alone. A poll in July 2012 found that most atheists in America come from a religious background rather than having grown up in an atheist household. In fact, the study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) found that only 30 percent of people who are raised in an atheist household retain those same worldviews later in life – the lowest retention rate out of the 20 separate categories in the study.

"What these findings reflect is that in the U.S. atheists are for the most part 'made' as adults after being raised in another faith. It appears to be much more challenging to raise one's child as an atheist and have them maintain this identity in their life," Dr. Mark Gray wrote on CARA's blog.

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