Atheist billboard in SLC draws attention

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SALT LAKE CITY -- You may have seen a new billboard along I-15 at 3300 South. American Atheists have placed the billboard promoting their national convention scheduled for Salt Lake City in April, but some consider the billboard offensive, especially to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

FOX 13 covered the story last year when the group was having trouble placing their billboards because several companies refused to put them up, but now they have at least one of their ads on display and it’s drawing mixed reviews.

The billboard can be seen by thousands of drivers traveling on I-15. It shows a Salt Lake family proudly claiming they are atheists, and does so with the words "Mormons" and "Ex-Mormons" crossed out in red.

“I think it’s extremely important especially in such an insular culture around Salt Lake that we really try and get the message out that there are atheists among the Salt Lake City citizens,” says Kent Kingdon, Vice President of Atheists of Utah, the local chapter of American Atheists. “I think that it’s very important to put people in a slight state of discomfort so that they know there are other people out there who don’t necessarily subscribe to the same views that they do."

We showed the billboard ad to some Utahns, and their reactions were mixed.

“It’s your own choice. You can do what you want. I don't care, as long as [it isn't] intentionally against me personally, I’m fine,” said Emma Fotheringham.

Another woman we spoke with had a similar reaction, but began to sob part of the way through her interview.

“I think everyone needs to explore what you truly believe, whichever way that is, I think that’s an important thing for anyone to do," said Gwen Ruebush.

Elaine Emmi with the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, a group focused on religious inclusivity, also promotes self-exploration of one's beliefs.

“I love any conversation that has to do with faith or non-faith. I think it’s excellent when people are able to explore what they believe,” Emmi said.

The billboard was placed with CBS Outdoor after it was rejected by two other companies, YESCO and Reagan Outdoor.

"In rare instances, we reject advertisements that we find to be misleading, deceptive or offensive to the moral standards of the community," said a statement by a YESCO representative after FOX 13 News inquired about the rejection in October.

LDS Church representatives declined to comment on the billboard Friday.

The American Atheist convention will be held in Salt Lake City April 17-20, 2014.

43 comments

  • Michael Haskins

    I’m looking forward to the convention. Native-born Utahns do not realize just how “other – worldly” and strange Utah seems to outsiders. A convention for people who prefer Reason to Dogma is refreshing.

    “We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

    ~~~ Carl Sagan, Atheist
    The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

    • Eric Anderson

      You Evangelicals are as weird as any cult.

      Why can’t you just “not believe” and leave it at that? Conventions, books, services, lawsuits…….all the trappings of Scientology and the Moonies. You’ll be wearing special underwear next.

      I guess it’s just a basic human need to do things in groups. We’re herd animals, when it comes right down to it.

      • Michael Haskins

        There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dares not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.
        — Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics (1954)

      • Jordan Meier

        It simply begs the question “Why don’t you theists just believe and leave it at that?” Theists and Atheists may have differing beliefs, but their beliefs ABOUT their beliefs are much more similar.

        “when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity, when many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion”

        -Robert Pirsig

      • UR Wrong

        Regarding “Why can’t you just not believe and leave it at that?”

        Do you complain when Christians or Mormons put up a bulletin board of advertise on television? Why can’t you just believe quietly? Mormons and Catholics run lots of ads, and no one complains. But Atheists put up one billboard and people are up in arms.

        Please tell me how this is different.

  • Michael Haskins

    “It is time to refuse to tip-toe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, or any other kind of immunity, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having faith were a privilege-endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions. It is neither.” AC Grayling

    Religion sounds exactly like the dictionary definition of Delusion.

    Delusion: an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.

    In Psychiatry: A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence.

    A Thoughtful Honest Ethical Intelligent Skeptical Thinker

    • Eric Anderson

      One problem: Most human beings DO accept “god”, or “gods”, as reality. Therefore, YOU are the delusional one.

      You’ll never truly be an atheist until you stop worshiping at the altar of your own self-conceived superiority.

      A real atheist will sleep in, and then change the spark plugs in his motorcycle. And shoot the breeze with his Mormon neighbors, and talk about crab grass.

      But have fun at your little “convention.”

      • JacobBe5 (@JakeBe5)

        Majority rule does not decide if a thing is rational. Forgiving that for the moment let’s examine your claim from that perspective.

        100% of humans have stated that the evidence is insufficient to prove particular gods are real. Muslims deny Nu-wa, Jews deny Jesus, Christians deny Thor, etc… Atheists deny there is sufficient evidence for only one more than any believer does.

        But what we do know is that 2/3rds of the population of Earth are not the same religion as any given believer since the greatest sized religion only entails 1/3rd of humans. So the majority of humans think the particular beliefs of any given human are wrong, or not to put too fine a point on it, irrational.

        You can’t say “well at least they believe in at least a god” because they disagree on what that god is, or how many, or what exactly it even is. So they don’t agree on what it is, they use the same word for different concepts, different beings. In short, they introduce confusion and you seek to profit from it.

      • Michael Haskins

        Re: “Most human beings DO accept “god”, or “gods”, as reality.”

        The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
        — Bertrand Russell, “Christian Ethics”

        Again, Please learn the MEANING of words – This avoids their misuse.

        Delusion: an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.

        In Psychiatry: A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence. – Mirriam Webster

      • Darwin Tyson

        So interesting…your belief that because a majority of people believe in god that it’s some proof. A majority of people thought the world was flat. A majority of people thought the planets revolve around the sun. Time proved them wrong. I will feel good about our little convention, you feel good about your imaginary guy.

  • Dave T

    What is it about a nice smile or someone letting you in traffic, you feel that Goodwill. The same can be true if someone is rude, it will ruin your day. Does it seem after you drive across this nation, you will find some drivers in various towns more aggressive than others. Can this be due to Newton’s Laws of physics?.. For every action there are like but opposite reaction. Yet another law gets into the theories of momentum. Perhaps these emotions, whether hate or goodwill, are governed by these. These emotions can be between individuals, nations and groups of people. To change the momentum of hate to that of goodwill it will take energy. Sort of like if you were to change the direction of a huge ship 180.
    You have seen that famous picture of God reaching towards Adam at the Sistine Chapel , though the fingers not touching. Perhaps this represents how emotions can be between people, you can affect it towards others without actually touching as noted above. As it is written only God can judge. Therefore, all we can do is to bring Goodwill towards others, no matter their religious beliefs.

  • Chelsea Bair

    “What, indeed, is an atheist? He is one who destroys delusions which are harmful to humanity in order to lead men back to nature, to reality, to reason. He is a thinker who, having reflected on the nature of matter, its energy, properties and ways of acting, has no need of idealized powers or imaginary intelligences to explain the phenomena of the universe and the operations of nature.”
    Baron d’Holbach (1770)

    1770! What would he think of this, in 2014? One atheist billboard causing offense and making the news.

    This Mormon-influenced society has lauded magical thinking while critical thinking skills are suppressed. Members are taught thought control techniques to keep them from doubting these out-of-touch old men who lead them. Still encouraging discrimination and bigotry even today (you’d think they’d be sure to stay ‘ahead of the times’ this time, after lagging behind with blacks and priesthood). Their involvement with Prop 8 was embarrassing. And this is just one example on a long list of harm caused by its ever so humble and inspired teachings.

    The national atheist convention in my home state of Utah is exciting! Yes, always great to meet others who prefer reason over dogma.

    “It is certain that organized religion and prayers to their almighty deity have not been the means of saving humanity from want or from wars, a large proportion of which have been wars for power between conflicting religious dogmas. Nor have the principles of morality taught as a part of religious doctrine, become prevalent by that method. Witness the extent of selfishness, greed, opportunism, hypocrisy, and crime which now permeates our society.”
    – Culbert Olson (1961)

  • Michael Haskins

    Herer’s my suggestion: Dont let your prejudice cause you to be offended. Instead, accept our offer, Overcome ignorance. Get Educated. Learn to Think Clearly and Critically. This will HELP.

      • Michael Haskins

        Reply to Eric Anderson: Comprehension a bit weak?

        I said “Learn to Think Clearly and Critically. This will HELP.”

        Aparently learning to comprehend what you read is also in order.

      • Michael Haskins

        Sorry – I left out “Dont let your prejudice cause you to be offended. Overcome ignorance. Get Educated.” on my reply.

        Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centures since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.
        — Isaac Asimov,

    • Michael Haskins

      Learn the definitioon of words before use:
      pros·e·ly·tiz·ing
      1. To induce someone to convert to one’s own religious faith.

      con·ven·tion (kn-vnshn)
      a. A formal meeting of members, representatives, or delegates
      b. The body of persons attending such an assembly

      Education Cures Ignorance. If you think that by suggesting education, I am pros·e·ly·tiz·ing – Education is in order. Try some.

      atheists.org/convention2014

      General Admission (non-members): $329
      Member Admission: $299
      Life Member Admission: $249
      Silver, Gold, and Platinum Life Members receive free admission to our National Convention for life. Become a Silver, Gold, or Platinum Life Member today and get your convention admission for free.
      Student Admission: $40 (includes a one-year membership in American Atheists, must show student ID at check-in)

  • Dave

    Good for them. I hope this convention sparks a wave of free thought and real exploration of the psychology behind belief. I hope my fellow atheists can find like minded support, and that those who have already felt the absence of God, and are beggining to understand how impossible such a thing is can find safe haven here. L

  • Eric Anderson

    Evangelical Atheism is a religion. Nay…..CULT. They have scriptures and everything.

    I’m an atheist with a small “a.” I’m not bothered by religious expression, religious people, etc. I don’t consider myself “smarter” than they are. I don’t feel a need to proselytize.

    I’ll be sleeping in while the numbskulls attend their little “Atheist” church service.

    • Michael Haskins

      “Scriptures” : ( and everything! )

      Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them.
      — Thomas Jefferson,

      The priests of the different religious sects … dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live.
      — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

    • Ellen Wingrove, American Atheists life member and board member

      There are no scriptures – that’s just silly. The main focus of American Atheists concerns separation of church and state. We are NOT about proselytizing – that’s also just silly and a waste of our time.

  • Michael Haskins

    This Quote seems Appropriate here:

    Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation.
    — Oscar Wilde,

  • Mike Ferrin

    All this debate, or whatever you call it, is rediculous. Believe in what you want to, and let others believe, or not, the way want to. A sign along the road doesn’t chang how I live my life, just take of youself.

  • TEA PARTY MEBER

    This is wat hapen with Obama in ofice. The atehiests spewing there hate 2 God and all good Christans

    Praise the Lrod

  • Jennifer

    Food for thought: I see most of the comments about religion vs non-religion. What I see wrong here is that a billboard is calling out a specific religion and no-one seems to care. If the reverse happened, If the called out religion (Mormons) put up a billboard saying we are not X religion come to our convention there would be an uproar of how Mormons are rude and demeaning and have to have everything their way. I am all for free speech, but I find this billboard offensive because they put-down, cross-out, or demean another religion. I don’t care if they put Christian or Jew in place of Mormon, It is still rude.

  • Disgusted

    Wow 326.00 and I can be at peace within myself? Disgusting billboard!! All I see is a group who takes your money for ? You promote intolerance,ignorance, and hatred towards other beliefs. You can only quote great men of the past, which do them a dishonor because you have no class ,dignity or honor..Jefferson was a true gentleman..I believe in treating men equal,,But I detest groups like yours that promote contention……..you are a disgraceful people! ( Just a helpful note..Learn and actually know what Roosevelt stood for before you quote him!!!)

  • James J. Grimes

    Because someone doesn’t believe in Jesus doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exist. Jesus has been Lord, is Lord today, and will be Lord forever.

  • Annie

    A convention promoting a belief in nothing…? Sounds kind of sad and depressing to me. I feel sorry for them.

Comments are closed.