50 billboards touting non theist sentiments blanket the city of Atlanta for the month of September 2010. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, believing religion causes more harm than good, hopes to increase their visibility and perhaps promote a less theistic view in the Bible belt south. At the very least, the billboards may show southern atheists they are not alone and that the separation of church and state, which is the goal of the foundation, is not a forgotten or impossible proposal.
They have a long way to go, despite the fact that atheism is far more visible now than ever before. Typing “atheist” in Yahoo Groups’ search engine brings up page after page of non theist groups, ranging from exmormon-atheists to homeschool_atheists, suggesting that this minority group no longer wishes to hide in the non theist closet. Still, there can be little doubt that theism has the lead in the south.
Blue laws are just one indication of a religious centered culture. A parent in Georgia who wishes secular interactions for children must wade through a predominance of religious daycares, play groups, and even play centers, such as LaGrange’s Water Wiz, which frequently plays contemporary Christian music through radio speakers directed at its pool and water slides. There is no shortage of reminders of the dominant worldview on many public road sides, where signs remind motorists of Biblical quotes and the importance of church attendance.
With a church on every corner, there’s no doubt that the south’s cultural center is within religious spheres. In the small town of Hogansville, where the Hogansville Home News routinely reminds readers to support their place of worship, the 2008 census counted 2912 people (city-data.com). A Superpages.com search reveals thirty-two churches with addresses in Hogansville. Northern towns of comparable size such as Alpine, New Jerseyand Berlin, Massachusetts, yielded far fewer results and sometimes no results within town limits.
Still, atheism is growing, even in the south. The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims over 14,000 members, and more than 200 of those live in Georgia. The Atlanta Freethought Society, Council For Secular Humanism, and American Atheists groups swell those numbers. Though the foundation’s billboards may meet with derision and possibly vandalism, their message remains. Non theism is not going away, and nonbelievers will not remain in the closet.
Freedom From Religion Foundation