Skip to comments.A word for nonbelievers (Billboard reaches out to atheists)
Posted on 06/05/2008 7:57:03 AM PDT by Between the Lines
With its image of blue sky and fluffy clouds, the rectangle floating lately over I-95 near Allegheny Avenue suggests something dreamy, almost heavenly.
At least from a distance.
Drivers headed north toward the giant billboard might first discern the words God and Believe and suppose this to be the work of a fundamentalist church.
But this is the work of no church.
"Don't believe in God?" it asks. "You are not alone."
Think of it as a sign of the times.
Mounted by a consortium of local atheists, it is an invitation to the area's atheists, agnostics, skeptics, rationalists and religious freethinkers (no one label fits them all) to overcome their differences and form a coalition.
"Hundreds of thousands of your neighbors in the Delaware Valley feel the same as you do," according to the Web site www.phillyCOR.org, to which the billboard directs passing motorists.
"Our mission is not to convince fundamentalists to change their position," Steve Rade, a Huntingdon Valley businessman, said last week. He donated the $22,500 needed to mount the billboard, which appeared May 1 and is to remain until the end of August.
"What we want to do is give people questioning their beliefs a place to go for more information and to meet like-minded people."
No horns poke through Rade's wiry gray hair. He is tall and bony, quick to laugh, and dressed for the office - he is president of Wireless Accessories Inc. - in shorts and sneakers. He has the restless energy of a teenager. He is 70.
"I'd like everyone to believe what I do," he said, referring to his "absolute certainty" that there is no divine being running the universe and no life after death. "I think it would be a better world if they did."
The son of a West Oak Lane synagogue president who insisted that his children attend Shabbat services every Saturday, Rade was bar mitzvahed at 13 and confirmed at 16. But his youthful doubts about God and supernaturalism hardened while an undergraduate at Pennsylvania State University, where he was a finance major.
"It was just my own critical, rational thinking," he said Thursday with a shrug. "I accept that the universe began with the Big Bang, but I don't believe there were snakes talking in the Garden of Eden. . . . If God shows himself to me, I'll believe."
His grand plan - organizing the region's religious skeptics - began just three months ago, when he asked the American Humanist Association in Washington how to find its local chapter.
In March, he met for dinner with Joe Fox, president of the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. Fox told him that there were many atheist groups in the region, but that few communicated with one another.
"Joe saw it as a lack of focus," Rade recalled. "I saw it as disarray."
Days later, he invited Fox and the heads of seven other like-minded organizations to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and asked if they wanted to expand and unify.
They agreed to create an umbrella group called the Greater Philadelphia Coalition of Reason (PhillyCOR), and Rade agreed to pay the salary of its half-time executive director.
After that, "the idea for a billboard was easy to come by."
The 20-by-60-foot sign has generated 7,000 hits for the Web site, which offers links to such member organizations as the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia, the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia Atheists Meetup, and the Secular Society of Temple University.
The sign's original, geographically limited toll-free phone number generated only about 300 calls, however. The new number, 1-877-99HUMANIST, is reachable from any area code.
A recording describes PhillyCOR as a "local free thought group" for "those without supernatural beliefs."
"I'm so appreciative of Steve," Sally Cramer, president of the 300-member Freethought Society, said Friday. "I love the message. I'm really pleased we're able to be a part of this."
At age 24, she has no way to know if it is easier for today's atheists to be "out of the closet," but she said she had encountered hostility. The mother of a previous boyfriend "wouldn't talk to me when she found out I'm an atheist," she said.
No one knows how many American adults identify themselves as being in the atheist spectrum, but surveys suggest between 4 percent and 9 percent, the lowest of any industrialized nation.
Fred Edwords, spokesman for the roughly 10,000-member American Humanist Association, said he thought it was easier for atheists and agnostics to be public than in previous decades.
"In the 1980s, people were saying we're part of a great conspiracy, trying to take over the schools and courts."
The recent spate of best-sellers bearing such titles as The God Delusion, God Is Not Great and The End of Faith suggests a broader public interest in religious skepticism, Edwords said. "But we still feel we're the last minority group it's OK to say bad things about."
Promoting a faith in nothing.
How New Age.
He wants God to show Himself then he will believe......lets see the guy is 70 - wont be long now.
Yes, but how many will be mislead before he meets God?
“Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.” Ezekiel 12:2
Interestingly, the latter statement could be read as an assertion that God exists.
I just don't believe in atheists.
Inspirational Songs for Atheists
“I Can’t Even Imagine”
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our Dodge”
“If We Aren’t The Body”
What atheists try to deny is that their non-belief is an
choice to not believe in God.
Since it is an active choice concerning the existance of the Deity, it is a THEOLOGY.
No, cabbages and babies are not atheists, as they have not made the ACTIVE CHOICE to disbelieve in God.
Use the same billboard but right under the “you are not alone” line put pictures of Hitler, Mao and Stalin.
Not many if people care about truth...However disturbing this may seem.
The responsibility to seek the truth is the individuals.
And they mock me for being a Christian?
“Interestingly, the latter statement could be read as an assertion that God exists.”
Had the same thought.
I am seldom alone, and when I am, I know I’ve done something repugnant to God and ask forgiveness.
Heh. I saw this billboard on the way home from the Phillies game the other night and thought it was a joke. It’s on the northbound side of 95 near Bridesburg. Now I figure it’s just a sneaky Democrat ad for Obama.
Believers refer to such places as "church." :)
Then our prayer should be that the seekers find truth, not just a pleasant sounding alternative.
Critical rational thinking????
As former atheist C.S. Lewis once said: There was a time when matter did not exist, but there has never been a time when nothing existed. Otherwise nothing would exist now.
I listened to Dr. Jeremiah today talk about the parallels between the fall of Israel for not following God’s command to extinguish the Baal worshipers when they came into Canaan with Joshua but instead they tolerated them and it caused issues during the time of the Judges and what is happening today with the Pluralism of today. Very striking similarity.
Shouldn’t you be over here carrying the water for the athiests?
**form a coalition. **
Not a good sign. Prayers that all of them will suddenly one day, realize the magnificance of God and come back to HIM.
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