A new atheist billboard campaign launched in Salt Lake City is looking to parody the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' "I'm a Mormon" ads, encouraging nonbelievers to stop identifying altogether with faith denominations and feel pride for their non-belief.
"Many atheists still call themselves Mormons or ex-Mormons," said American Atheists President David Silverman in a statement on Thursday. "Our message is this: If you don't believe anymore, don't continue to base your identity in Mormonism. You're so much more than an 'ex-Mormon'; you're an atheist! And you are very far from alone. Be proud to be an atheist – we are, and we want to celebrate being an atheist with you."
The billboards feature a Utah family with the heading "We're the Monnett family, and We're Atheists," with the words "Mormons" and "ex-Mormons" written and crossed out. The atheist organization, one of the largest in America, says that it searched for real Utah atheist families to appear in the ads.
"American Atheists is reaching out to people who are on a journey away from indoctrination, even if they're not ready to be open about that. Countless Utahns are already free from religion but remain 'in the closet' about their beliefs. They are surrounded by religion and as a result, feel like they are alone," Silverman continued.
The same atheist organization has taken aim at Mormons before. In October 2012, it launched a campaign seeking to criticize the church for its treatment of black and gay people. The ads sought to "shame" Mormonism by reminding Americans that the LDS church did not accept black people as church leaders until 1978, and that currently no practicing gay people are allowed in its membership.
The effort was also aimed at warning potential voters in the 2012 presidential election of the implications of a Mormon president in GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
MormonVoices, a leading organization working to shed light on questions surrounding the LDS Church in the media, criticized American Atheists for the billboards in an interview with The Christian Post at the time.
"Despite a history of never having segregated congregations and numerous ordinations of black males to the priesthood from its earliest days until the 1950s, like virtually all other identifiable groups (including atheists), the LDS Church has not been perfect in its treatment of blacks," John Lynch, managing director of Mormon Voices told CP.
"MormonVoices condemns divisive political grandstanding, as is evidenced by these mobile billboards, which serve only to prevent progress in the church's relationships with African Americans and members of the gay community."
The new atheist ads also promote the organization's upcoming convention on Easter weekend, April 17-20, 2014.
MormonVoices did not respond to request for comments on the new ads at the time of press.