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Sacramento atheists spark debate with billboards

Holidays Non Believers

This photo provided by the Greater Sacramento Chapter of Freedom From Religion Foundation shows one of the 55 billboards featuring Sacramento-area atheists being displayed in Sacramento, Calif., starting Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. Judy Saint, president of the group, says the messages are not intended to be anti-God but rather an effort to let atheists know they are not alone.(AP Photo/ Greater Sacramento Chapter of Freedom From Religion Foundation)

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December 03, 2013 | 25 Comments

SACRAMENTO — Amid the barrage of Christmas advertising, a group of non-believers is blanketing California’s capital city with billboards proclaiming their lack of faith – and that atheists can be “good moral people, too.”

The 55 billboards, which began going up Monday, feature local atheists with different messages, including “Live for now, not for after,” ”I worship nothing and question everything” and “We can ALL be good without God.”

The messages are not intended to be anti-God, said Judy Saint, president of the group behind the billboards, the Greater Sacramento Chapter of Freedom From Religion Foundation. Instead, they’re an attempt to welcome atheists and let them know it’s OK not to believe, even at Christmastime.

Saint said many non-believers are alienated and some are cut off from family if they do not share their religion.

“There are thousands of us here, and we are reaching out to them because it’s such a maligned minority,” she said. “If the message at all is to believers, it would be that we are good moral people, too.”

The national Freedom From Religion Foundation is paying for the billboards, but Saint declined to say how much they cost.

While some believers may be offended by the messages, Monsignor James Murphy, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, said he likely will talk about them in an upcoming sermon, reminding parishioners to “live your faith. Be a light to others.”

Murphy said he believes many people who become atheists or are skeptical of religion do so because Christians do not always practice what they believe.

“What they would say is we’re in church on Sunday, but there’s not much evidence on Monday,” Murphy said. “That’s a fair criticism; that’s something we should take seriously. To me, they’re not a threat. They’re simply a reminder to live my faith.”

Saint said she does not oppose the holiday celebrations that accompany Christmas, and she even has a “Peanuts”-themed manger display. Her family’s celebration also includes acts of charity, such as paying off the layaway plans of people at risk of forfeiting payments on children’s clothes or educational supplies, she said.

In addition to using the holiday season to draw attention to atheism, supporters also feel compelled to advocate their message because of what they believe are increasing efforts by religiously based groups to influence public policy in areas such as birth control, school vouchers and school curriculum.

“People really don’t understand that a lot of the arguments, pro and con, are based in religious beliefs,” she said. “It’s the separation of church and state that is basically calling us to the forefront to come out.”

The December advertising is not the first time Sacramento atheists have made their views public. In 2010, the Sacramento Area Coalition of Reason put up 10 area billboards with the message, “Are you good without God? Millions are.” Several of the signs were vandalized, leaving some illegible and others with graffiti, including the words “Christ Loves U.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 25 comments

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  • CD BrooksDecember 03, 2013 - 6:21 am

    It is pathetically mor*nic to presume anyone is not a good person just because they do not believe in a god or any other alleged supreme being. In fact, there are plenty of examples proving that many who do believe commit the most heinous of acts. The hypocrisy and evil are best represented in the latter group, no doubt about it

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  • Or Prohibit the Free Exercise ThereofDecember 03, 2013 - 6:53 am

    CD, you mean Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Che, and Mao? Or do their "most heinous of acts" not count in your book?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • xt4brxDecember 03, 2013 - 7:27 am

    Or Prohibit the Free Exercise Thereof, do you really want to go there?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksDecember 03, 2013 - 7:45 am

    OPtFET, sorry I wasn't clear. I was of course referring to the very large number of "church employees." Not to mention assorted loons throughout history committing the ugliness in "the name of god."

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  • FDCDecember 03, 2013 - 7:02 am

    CD conflates evil with the belief in a higher power. False and deliberately offensive statement, CD. I don't object to your not believing in something larger than yourself, why should you object to my doing so?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksDecember 03, 2013 - 7:18 am

    FDC, I just like rattling the cage. Atheists are just getting equal time and Christians don't like that. Just another example of the hypocrisy in play.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BaseballmomDecember 03, 2013 - 6:44 am

    Former atheists and agnostics, the seeking, intelligent ones, often become the best and most articulate Christians. C.S Lewis comes to mind.... And Malcolm Muggeridge.

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  • CD BrooksDecember 03, 2013 - 5:02 pm

    I wrote this at like 7:00 this morning. Not sure what the problem is?? Baseballmom, your inference is hysterical! Albert Einstein: "Thus I came to a deep religiosity, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of 12. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached a conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. Suspicion against every kind of authority grew out of this experience an attitude which has never left me." Sigmund Freud: "In the long run, nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction religion offers to both is palpable." Ernest Hemingway: "All thinking men are atheists." Mark Twain: "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."

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  • The MisterDecember 03, 2013 - 6:54 am

    Atheism is man-made belief structure. Organized "religion" is also a man-made belief structure. By definition, atheism is a religion... with an alternative set of precepts from "normal" religions (whatever that is!).

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895December 03, 2013 - 7:08 am

    Well, not by all definitions. But what's most relevant to us Americans is the Constitution protects atheism as is it were a religion as that word is used in the First Amendment.

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  • S KDecember 03, 2013 - 7:07 am

    Well it is their freedom of expression, but IMO, you can't fix stupid. All one has to do is look around, take a few minutes. Look at everything around us, every day, from the beauty of a blade of grass, to the miracle of life in something as tiny as a gnat. Then take a look at something as complex as the human eyeball, all the parts that make it properly function, each and every one having to be properly sized, placed, etc., not to mention all our other organs. Everything around us, the entire universe couldn't just have happened without someone's, "Intelligent Design!!!"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksDecember 03, 2013 - 7:25 am

    S K, in the immortal words of my Mother-in-law, a life-long devout Catholic during one of our discussions: "So do you think the world just sh*t itself?" Classic, what a wonderful woman she was! :)

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  • S KDecember 03, 2013 - 7:31 am

    I once read this great, "Readers Digest, " story, where this guy invites his friend into a room, showing him a model size display of the solar system hanging from the ceiling, beautifully detailed. His friend asks, "Nice, who built it??" The owner said, "No body." Again his friend said, "Really, who made it?" Again he was answered, "No body." Well he responded by saying, "Well someone had to make it!." "EXACTLY," the owner responded.

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  • rlw895December 03, 2013 - 7:55 am

    Readers Dugest, naturally. Not Astrophysics Today. Where do you place scientific explanations for the complexity around you?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KDecember 03, 2013 - 10:54 am

    That article was just making an analogy to get a person to think. As to science, I believe in science, but also do not see any contradiction with science recognizing a higher Intelligent designer. For example, I do believe evolution happened, but I see it as one of the Intelligent designers tools. Science and the Intelligent Designer can and did work hand in hand. I feel sorry for the non believer because he or she has one heck of a surprise coming the moment their time ends on this side. I know for 100% a fact that it ain't over when it's over. I believe that I shared my experience I had once with CD.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895December 03, 2013 - 12:45 pm

    So God begins where science ends?

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  • chrisDecember 03, 2013 - 7:07 am

    "Like" @ baseballmom. EVERY knee shall bow and every tongue confess. It might be their last confession, or a plea for their life. I take no chances and I'll bow and confess right now :).

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksDecember 03, 2013 - 7:21 am

    Awaiting the moderation machine to clear my comment...apologies for duplicates.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mary K. Baxter Describes Horrors of HellDecember 03, 2013 - 8:21 am

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx22lpyxlQs

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KDecember 03, 2013 - 10:55 am

    Dang>>how did you get a URL past Glen?? I never can :-)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Russell V KinzDecember 03, 2013 - 8:56 am

    God is Nature, Nature is God...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • May an Angel touch your Heart....IMPORTANT to plead the blood of JesusDecember 03, 2013 - 9:02 am

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Itpha6REVms

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • P. J.December 03, 2013 - 11:53 am

    Actually, I do believe that "yes", you can be a good, loving, caring, plus have many other excellent qualities and not believe in any God or any eternity, but I also believe that Satan's greatest victory is to have people believe that "he" doesn't exist.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • LucyDecember 03, 2013 - 2:31 pm

    One of their billboards states "We can all be good without God". Anyone can choose to be good. That is obvious and possibly a big waste of money.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacDecember 03, 2013 - 5:32 pm

    God made zebras to confuse us and rattlesnakes because they taste like chicken.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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