RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – An atheist coalition is behind the new billboard that is turning plenty of heads and stirring fierce debate about God and the Godless.
“Celebrate living without God!,” are the words prominently displayed on a new 12 x 40 foot billboard on I-64 near the Staples Mill exit.
The ad, put out by a group of atheists, agnostics and self proclaimed skeptics, is to announce a March 24 rally that will be held in Washington D.C. on the National Mall.
“It’s going to be the largest atheist event ever,” proclaims organizer David Silverman, in an online advertisement.
Silverman says the “Reason Rally” is an event to bring together others who believe in secular values and science over religion and God.
“If we don’t organize, they win and we lose,” says Silverman. “That means we become a religious nation.”
It’s safe to say religion is always a hot topic in Richmond, which is considered the beginning of the Bible belt.
Don Blake, President of the Virginia Christian Alliance, says he’s surprised and upset by the image.
“They say it’s going to be a glorious, godless gathering,” Blake says. “Can you imagine that?” “ A glorious, godless gathering,” he repeated.
Blake argues a majority of people believe in God, but acknowledges that many Americans, especially young people, are becoming confused because religion is being attacked by the media and liberal leaders.
“Faith gives hope,” says Blake. “A person who’s Godless has no hope because they have no future of everlasting life.”
Richmonders have mixed reactions.
“I would say I’m encouraged by it,” argues Karen Kersteing. “It’s scary to step out as an atheist, so it’s important for those groups to have an identity in our community.”
“I don’t think it’s a godless nation,” argues Megan Meyer. “People have the right to say whatever they’re going to say but I think I would be a little offended.”
While the Reason Rally Coalition say it brings a message of peace, others, like Gary Cuff, say they’d like to see the message somewhere other than Richmond.
“This country was founded on the freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
The press release states that the rally features a lineup of prominent nonreligious speakers and entertainers, including scientist Richard Dawkins, musician and comedian Tim Minchin, “Mythbusters” Co-host Adam Savage, magician James Randi, high school activist Jessica Ahlquist, and the band Bad Religion.
You can learn more about the event here.
The organization lists three goals for the rally:
To encourage attendees (and those who can’t make it) to come out of the closet as secular Americans, or supporters of secular equality.
To dispel stereotypes – there is no one “True Atheist”. We will have non-theists from all political persuasions, ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds. We will show that there are secular Americans in every American demographic.
Legislative equality. Secular Americans can run for office and adequately represent theists, just as theists in office can represent their secular constituents proudly and openly. We deserve a seat at the table just like theists, and we hope this rally can put our values in the radar of American voters.