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On Faith: Atheism on a billboard

August 19, 2011|By Bruce Gleason
  • Members of Backyard Skeptics group under their new billboard along the 55 Freeway in Santa Ana.
Members of Backyard Skeptics group under their new billboard… (Don Leach, Daily…)

If you could, what would you do to get people to examine their life in a way that would lead to a better world? That question crossed my mind when I was offered the opportunity to place a 48-by-14-foot atheist billboard close to the town I grew up in.

The billboard I'm referring to is off the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway and Edinger Avenue. The billboard says, "Atheism is philanthropy without mythology, peace without superstition." Now that the billboard is up, it won't be too long before I receive the multitudes of opinions in my inbox.

So far, I've received many "attaboy" emails.

I am an advocate of atheism. I know that a reason-based world view trumps a faith-based world view when trying to make a better world, and I have the stats to back it up. Just look at the secular countries with the least amount of religious belief and how well they are doing. Look at the negatives of believing in a supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient sky-daddy, and there is no way anyone can argue that the positives outweigh the negatives.

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But you have to look because religion always says it's the truth and the light, right?

So I decided to support those who are not too hot on praying, but doing — doing things that affect our world for the better. For those believers who notice the billboard, maybe they'll think I'm crazy, but I bet they'll visit the website and read more about the negative effects of religion.

Science makes the world better by improving our lives. If one looks at history, science has contributed the most improvement to the human condition: better fertilizer that makes crops grow reliably; medicine that cures, improved communications between nations.

Prayer might comfort people, but what's the use of praying when one can actually do something that would make one's life easier? Prayer doesn't work, or at least it works the same as coincidence, or the same in all parts of the world within different religions.

Another reason I put up the billboard is because there are no churches for atheists. We have to organize our own events if we want to socialize — and we do.

There are more atheist groups in conservative Orange County than in Los Angeles. There are more than 15% of Americans who do not believe in a god. That's 54 million people, a larger minority than African Americans, gays and Jews put together.

So why an atheist billboard? I believe it will make people examine their faith. Maybe it takes a controversial idea to whack someone's mind-numbing ignorant bliss to make them at least peek at the other side and ask some questions.

And just maybe, they'll do less praying and more doing to make this world a better place.

BRUCE GLEASON is the director of the Freethought Alliance, an atheistic group in Orange County.

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