Ohio Billboards Feature Local Atheists; Urge Others to 'Come Out of the Closet'

About a dozen billboards that are part of an atheist campaign sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation have come up in Northeast Ohio, showcasing local nonbelievers and urging others to "come out of the closet."

At least 11 billboards went up recently in Cleveland and Akron in Ohio as part of a national campaign by the Wisconsin-based FFRF and its Northern Ohio Freethought Society chapter.

The goal is to encourage other nonbelievers to "come out of the closet," Mark Tiborsky, a spokesman for the Cleveland-based freethinkers group, tells Beacon Journal.

A photo of Tiborsky and his wife, Marni Huebner-Tiborsky, who is director of the freethinkers group, is also on one of the billboards, which reads: "We are awed by nature, not by the supernatural."

"We just want to let other nonbelievers, or those on the fence about their religious belief, know they're not alone and that the local nontheist community is both welcoming and growing," Tiborsky adds. "Research shows that there is distrust for atheists and other nonbelievers. Hopefully, when people see our faces on the billboards, they will see that we are just regular people."

The FFRF started the "Out of the Closet" campaign in Madison, Wis., in 2010 and has taken it across the country, including to Columbus, Tulsa, Raleigh, Phoenix, Nashville, Portland, Spokane and Sacramento.

"We also try to alleviate some of the stigma, especially for those of us who identify as atheists," Cleveland.com quotes Tiborsky as saying. "We're your neighbors and co-workers, we're your family. Putting our names and faces out there should make the rest of the community more comfortable."

The billboards feature about 20 members of the Freethought Society and their messages. One of them reads, "Doing good is our religion." Another one says, "Not immortal, just a caring mortal." Others read, "Freedom comes within, not without," and "I believe in science, reason and secular values."

"One thing that ties us together is secularism. We would prefer church not to intermingle with state," Tiborsky says.

"This campaign introduces the community to the atheists and skeptics in their midst," FFRF co-president Laurie Gaylor tells the Cleveland portal. "Research shows that atheists and other nonbelievers are still at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to social acceptance. One reason is that even though at least 20 percent of the population is non-religious in the United States, many Americans have never knowingly met an atheist."

FFRF claims to have more than 20,000 members, including about 550 in Ohio.