Thursday, February 14, 2008

Free Thought Takes on Organized Religion in National Billboard Campaign

BBSNews 2008-02-12 -- In early February, the freethinkers group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) debuted its 14 X 48-foot stained glass style billboard with the message "Imagine No Religion" in Columbus, Ohio.

The national campaign is an effort to let Americans know that there is room for reason and clarity of thought, free from the dogma that organized religion uses to keep its flock in line; as well as donating.

Dan Barker, Foundation co-president and author of 'Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist' said "Many of our members, including generous sponsors in Ohio, want to balance all that religion on the roadside with some reason on the roadside."

According to the FFRF, one of the local Ohio donors to the new nationwide sign campaign said, "Gov. Ted Strickland apparently needs to be reminded that many wonderful, patriotic, hard-working Ohioans do not 'support churches.' In fact, they believe that too much religious influence over state government is harming the state. In recent years, state officials have caved to the religious right on issues such as gay rights, the right of other consenting adults to live as they wish, and the display of Christian symbols on state property. These divisive actions have driven people from Ohio and distracted the state from the serious economic problems it faces."

Ohio faced pressure from FFRF last year over nativity scenes on state public property, and Governor Strickland was accused by the group of giving an unlawful order to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, putting back the contentious nativity scenes on public property after DNS had ordered them removed.

Drama Rises Over Billboards In Pennsylvania

A billboard company contracted to run the "Imagine no Religion" signs in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, put up the first of the signs, scheduled to rotate between three locations, and then followed that run with a sign of their own with a disclaimer - "In God We Trust: Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising LLC.." Underneath are the words: "The previous sign posted at this location does not reflect the values or morals of our company. Thank you."

According to an article in The Chambersburg Public Opinion, Dusky A. Chilcote, senior account executive for Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising, Chambersburg, said "We received only a couple of negative calls about the (first sign)," Chilcote said on Monday. "We were concerned about the impact of how people see our company."

She claimed that there was some sort of deception on the part of the FFRF donor who sponsored the sign, FFRF denied that allegation yesterday saying "The Freedom From Religion Foundation did not (needless to say) deceive the billboard company's agent or pretend to be a local church!"

In God We Trust

A national group that bills itself as "In God We Trust" (IGWT) has jumped into the fray with familiar divisive language. Anyone who has ever had to sit through an anti-gay diatribe, strident calls to suppress woman's rights, or the ever popular among the right-wing crowd, 'let's move twelve to twenty million Hispanic immigrants out of the country and construct a huge wall to keep them out', will recognize the rhetoric.

IGWT has done the world of free thought a valuable favor, by publicizing during their campaign the very essence of free-thought and a wide ranging breakdown of the issues surrounding the stranglehold that organized religion currently has on America. On their Web site where they are also soliciting for donations (of course) they've posted a nice list, comprised largely of Dan Barker's writings as well as founder Laurie Gaylor and a sprinkling from FFRF press releases.

It's a must read these writings from the FFRF that IGWT has provided, and very hard to dispute. IGWT is to be commended for helping to get out the message that sanity and reason can replace religious dogma and the knee-jerk fundamentalist Christian philosophy that has driven American domestic and foreign policy throughout George W. Bush's two administrations, much to America's detriment.

Trying to foment "Armageddon" and the discredited "Crash of Civilizations" theory has squandered America's image as a major player in the world that follows the rule of law and maintains religious freedom as well as freedom from religion. Instead of the entirely false notion that the United States is somehow a Christian theocracy, hopefully reason and fact-based reality will root in its place.

A message from on high, in the form of a well placed billboard, can at least get the conversation started.

Imagine no religion. A world free from dogma. It's a beautiful and long overdue freedom of thought.

Original here

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