Infidel Billboards

Billboards advertising churches or proclaiming a Christian message are ubiquitous in American roadsides. But there are now some newcomers. I haven’t yet seen one in person, but billboards by atheistic and skeptical groups seem to be sprouting up as well. They usually appeal to the fellow nonbeliever, pointing out that they’re not alone.

The reason I know about the infidel billboards is that I invariably hear news about controversies and strongly negative local reactions. In fact, very often they seem vandalized. Just recently, I’ve read about repeated defacements of an AHA billboard in Idaho, threats against an atheist billboard in Cincinnati, and controversy stirred up by the presence of a nonreligious billboard in Nashville.

What is very hard to tell from such stories is whether those people quoted who express offense at any acknowledgment of the presence of nonbelief are representative of their community. Nasty attitudes make for good news copy, so presumably ugly reactions will get highlighted regardless of whether they reflect common sentiment or are just a few bigots you’ll always find everywhere.