Atheists rejoin billboard battle in Colorado

An atheist group in Boulder, seeking to stir conversation and encourage Coloradans to support strong safeguards against mixing Church doctrine and public policy, has launched a provocative billboard campaign that takes a cutting, Bill Maher-style approach to the question of faith. “God is an imaginary friend. Choose reality, it will be better for all of us,” will read signs in Denver and off I-25 in Colorado Springs.

Boulder Atheists co-founder Marvin Straus told the Daily Camera the group didn’t mean to insult anyone with its signs and that sparking dialogue was the main goal.

Public messages promoting an atheist worldview, offering support for budding atheists or refuge for falling-away believers tend to spur strong reaction. A similar campaign launched in 2008 in Colorado saw TV news people reporting the signs as “divisive” even before they went up.

An atheist ad campaign targeted at city bus riders in Des Moines, Iowa, generated an avalanche of complaints, saw Democratic Governor Chet Culvert refer to the campaign as “disturbing” and the Des Moines transit system shut down the campaign after just three days.

A 7News report on the 2008 atheist billboard campaign:

Christian billboard campaigns are a routine part of the Colorado landscape, as they are throughout rural parts of the country. This one, for example, broadcast its “Christ the Healer” message with LED-enhanced blazing letters all night in Security, Colorado, to the chagrin of nearby residents.

By contrast with church groups, atheists don’t enjoy much organizational financial support, and they are right in believing the atheist movement, such as it is, could use a boost.

According to a 2009 Pew Research study roughly 5 percent of U.S. adults say they don’t believe in god but only about a quarter of those adults call themselves “atheists.”

A 2006 University of Minnesota survey found that atheists are “America’s most distrusted minority.”

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